Interviewing entrepreneurs in China: Establish an O2O platform for start-ups in China: connect all entrepreneurs and make progress together

China Paradigm interviewed Luis Sarre, the co-founder of Free Entrepreneurs and chief innovation officer at Innovatio, to get a clue on his impressive O2O platform for start-ups in China, and learn about his prospect for technology innovation in China.

Luis Sarre, boost technology innovation in China

Luis Sarre is an expert in mechanical engineering: he graduated from Ibero-American University in Mexico, with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical and electric engineering. Apart from an academic professional background, he has more than 25 years of practice in engineering at various automotive companies.

Technology innovation in China
[Source: a portrait from his LinkedIn page, « contribute to technology innovation in China »]

His strong experience in engineering led him to Innovatio, a company aiming at empowering success through innovation. As the chief innovation officer, he is dedicated to delivering high-end engineering technology innovation in China to support mainly automotive, electrical, and mechanical industries. As for his own company, Free Entrepreneurs, Luis is also in charge of the engineering field, where he is more concerned with mobility, IoT, and technology industries.

Free Entrepreneurs, a community of entrepreneurs in China

Free Entrepreneurs provides O2O platforms for start-ups in China to collaborate with each other through regular innovation workshops and strategic networking. They are basically targeting foreign start-ups coming into the Chinese market, which may need someone to help them understand the Chinese market and seek for potential customers.

“They arrive in China and we help them to understand the market, we connect them with potential customers, we actually facilitate the relationship with them and then they actually get contracts or service requests in China and then it is when we are participating.”

O2O platforms for startups in China
[Source: the home page of Free Entrepreneurs: « O2O platforms for startups in China »]

By helping various start-ups and launching innovation workshops, Luis has built a community of entrepreneurs in China. They are in touch with a lot of different players, whether it is start-ups or big companies, to help them with networking and technology innovation in China. By helping those companies, Free entrepreneurs get a share from their profits. According to Luis’ explanation, this is a relationship of trust: on the one hand, companies have faith in their service in Chinese market research; on the other hand, Luis also need to trust them in profit sharing.

“If they trust me, I will help them to develop their business. I will connect them with my personal network. I will put my reputation and my work in the different fields or things that I am doing here and I expect the same thing on their side.”

How to organize a community of entrepreneurs in China, coming from various industries

As we mentioned, according to Luis, trust is the only way to establish long-term relationships. Free Entrepreneurs demonstrated it with significant figures showing that more than 3 000 members registered in the community, 35 cross-border programs have been successfully developed, and 25 entrepreneurship projects have been launched since September 2017. In some way, the community is strengthened through those projects. Luis has witnessed the Chinese market development and he has emphasized that it is important to keep promoting technology innovation in China in order to develop a promising start-up.

The community has its influence in various fields because many actors are involved in it: incubators, accelerators, and even universities. It is a well-connected community of entrepreneurs in China and maintained through online and offline activities. Apart from the active connection, Free Entrepreneurs is also good at helping refine and execute ideas from start-ups:

“We are executing a lot of open innovation workshops where we sit down at the same table to talk around a specific idea and facilitate the conversation in order to generate ideas or the concept.”

Chinese smart city, a major aspect of technology innovation in China

When talking about the unexpected success in China, Luis said that he is amazed at all the Chinese smart city solutions and actions made by Chinese governments and entrepreneurs. We can currently notice a strong presence in Chinese smart cities:

“You can really see not only cameras; you can see how they are managing the traffic, managing different energy supplies and different things in the city.”

As Free Entrepreneurs has its focus on Chinese smart cities and IoT, Luis is excited to see the large-scale development of Chinese cities to be smarter and more digitalized. In the interview, he has also discussed a specific example with Matthieu David: a smart umbrella that can connect to our phone and send notifications automatically when it too far away from its owner. Luis admitted that he may not be able to support every single product because there will be a specialist in every field. However, what he can help with is that:

“To define the technical requirements to translate the needs; the needs from the market, the wants from marketing into technical specifications or technical approaches.”

Luis is the link between specialists and the Chinese market. Based on the network, he can always find the right partnership to deliver a market solution. In fact, being sensitive to the market’s needs is necessary for Chinese smart city and technology innovation in China, as every technological progress comes from customers’ pain points.


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