Cambridge

BRIDGE to China: CIC partners with CUBIC to create the China Business Hub

Over the last 20 years, CIC has hosted companies and government entities from numerous countries to inspire international collaboration. Today CIC is pleased to have launched its first floor dedicated to collaboration with a particular country: the China Hub in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Occupying the 12th floor of CIC’s newest building at 245 Main Street in Kendall Square, the China Hub is a specialized workplace designed to increase collaboration and growth for US companies seeking to expand to China and for teams from Chinese companies aiming to expand to the US. 

Anchoring the China Hub floor is Bridge12, a new initiative that facilitates cross-border collaboration between the US and China. Managed by CUBIC Inc. in partnership with CIC and Innobridge Boston, Bridge12 provides guidance to American startups and growth companies interested in bringing products and services to Chinese markets, as well as to Chinese companies seeking to expand and hire in the US. Industries of particular interest include life science, urban tech, new materials, and clean energy. 

“We’re thrilled to have launched the China Hub at 245 Main,” says CIC Founder and CEO Tim Rowe. “Our view is that China is playing an ever more important role in the world of technology, and it is critical for long-term Massachusetts competitiveness that we build strong connections to that part of the world.” 

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China’s economy has grown exponentially in recent years: Since 1999, the country’s GDP has exploded from $1.094 trillion to $5.11 trillion in 2009 and over $12 trillion today, making it the number two economy in the world after the US. 

Already a longtime CIC resident, CUBIC has long recognized foreign companies’ desire to expand into China and take advantage of the 1.4 billion population market. However, lack of knowledge of the local Chinese market mechanics and culture represents an impactful barrier to successful entry. With its extensive Chinese roots, CUBIC serves as a local guide for companies and works with them in Boston and China to assess market entry strategies and identify potential local partners, clients, or suppliers.

One CUBIC client, a Harvard spinout that develops medical devices, worked with them to get connected with a top surgery device company in China, develop an on-the-ground team with a local partner, and to navigate local government grant opportunities. Another client, a clean energy spinout from University of Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, found its niche market through CUBIC’s China program, successfully raised funds, and went on to join the Thiel Foundation’s Breakout Labs. 

Now with the new Bridge12 partnership, CUBIC believes they will be able to recruit more China-US enterprises to Kendall Square and increase the volume and scope of programming. An array of community programming has already been planned that functions both to advise and educate, as well as to help participants meet each other and potentially even work together — office hours, seminars, workshops, panels, pitch events, and monthly afternoon tea seminars featuring leadership from various corporations, each focused on a different topic or industry. 

CIC houses several international soft landing programs and consultancies that help companies navigate new markets outside of their home countries. Among these is the CIC Japan Desk, which connects Boston’s and Japan’s innovation ecosystems. Thirty Japanese innovation companies now operate offices within CIC’s Boston and Cambridge campuses. However, the newly-opened China Hub is the first international business initiative in which participants specifically take residence side by side within CIC workspaces. 

The power of proximity is a cornerstone of CIC’s mission to improve the world through innovation. When companies with shared interests or common values work alongside each other, they inevitably forge relationships, exchange knowledge, and build trust. This results in increased collaboration and faster innovation output

“China has undergone incredible change, and we anticipate the coming years will bring even more change. China today has become an industrial powerhouse and is moving from a manufacturing focus to an innovation focus,” says Rowe. “It is important for both the US and China to capitalize on each other’s innovation capabilities as we jointly seek to address the problems facing the world. We’re optimistic that these efforts will deepen the possibilities between our two countries.” 

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Want to assess your company’s market readiness in China? 

Apply to BRIDGE12’s Shanghai Week, a five-day program for startups and growth companies looking to expand into Chinese markets.

Photos by Benjamin Cheung

Moving from Idea to Minimum Viable Product: Enroute Hustle

This guest post was written by Varun Bihani, CTO of Galaxy Weblinks and CIC Cambridge member.

Building the MVP the right way

After ages of working on the idea and dreaming the dream (impostor syndrome is cruel, ain’t it?), you have decided to go ahead for the MVP. You have a clear idea of what it should do and how you want it to look. The narrative is ready. All good and great. Your obvious next step–to get ready for shipping.

You need to get the idea in the hands of the real user for validation. To ship a product soon is to complete half the race. Easy? Kinda sorta. How are you going to do it? By getting the MVP out soon.

Now, before getting all hyped up with the jargon, here is the thing: an MVP is a highly misconstrued concept.

A. It is not your final product. Your MVP is not what you give to all your beta users.

B. It is not just basic wireframes or prototype. It is not non-functional or purposeless.

Simply put, the MVP is your idea turned into a product with all the ‘minimum necessary’ features providing ‘maximum value’. The latter is the key ingredient. You have to decide on what to keep and what not to keep because the primary aim is to ensure optimal tangibility and functionality.

It’s all about decisions and iteration. What you choose is what the product becomes. Your MVP needs to have some key characteristics. Here is a quick checklist:

  • it should serve one–just one–specific audience
  • it solves at least one problem
  • it has a functional and usable UX (does not need to be aesthetically pleasing)
  • it can be built and launched quickly

Have you completed this checklist? Great! Here’s what you do next:

A. Brainstorm your idea

What, again? Well, yes! But hear me out. This is not the I-will-stay-awake-untill-I-get-a-revolution-out ninja brainstorming. It’s time to get out of the bubble and talk to people. People who think like you, people who might shun the idea, people who are your customers, and people who might help you build the product (take deep breaths because that is almost too many people to talk to). Get your idea out and start conversing about it.

You need this feedback to refine the blueprint. Sit with other entrepreneurs and discuss your initial challenges. Speak to prospective customers and ask them about their problems and desires. The more you iterate in this zone (let’s label it the ‘buffer zone’), the better it is for later stages.

 

B. Find a techie

There are two ways to go about it. You can either hire a development team or you can get a co-founder & CTO. Finding the right person or team will take time. Do not try to save money here. First of all, you need someone who gets your vision. You will need absolute synchronicity to go ahead with the technical partner. Find people who share your zeal.

Their expertise and technical skill are crucial for further consultancy. Even if you know the nitty gritty of coding and design, getting the right techies on-board is important for technical feasibility. They will help with making better decisions about technology and a proper development schedule. They can point you in a better direction, you can define budgets clearly, and you will stick to the timeline.

 

C. Budget, budget, budget

You are going to spend money. In fact, quite a good sum of money. Better do it wisely. Design a milestone blueprint and allocate funds accordingly.  Your expenses will include the legal costs, fee for technical assistance, product development costs, and sundry expenses. Anything that does not directly help the MVP should be removed from the loop.

Money is no cakewalk. Be extremely wary of what you choose to be the source. Be more aware of which channels get a portion of your share.. Only overburden yourself if you have a knack for constant regret and constant fuss and stress.

 

D. Iterate like your life depends on it

This is a brilliant life hack that seeps right into the development process. Follow the Build-Measure-Learn routine. Get the first draft of the MVP out soon and lock in the first development cycle. Past this, get to alpha testing, and begin the fine tuning. The more you analyse and iterate, the better your MVP is. Build user stories, evaluate performance, spot the discrepancies, and work on it.

It is not an easy loop but a very crucial one, and the one worth spending time on. Conduct functionality tests, usability tests, and a funnel analysis. You will have areas to work on and specific sections to improve. You will need complete coordination with the technical team and a lot of patience. Issues will pop up at the last second and you will need real-time iteration.

 

E. Don’t jump in the jeopardy

Your MVP looks ready and you are hyperventilating. There is panting and breathing and you cannot contain the joy. You want to send the product out there into the universe to rise and shine. Hold the thought, and count to 10 (okay to 50 if you are *that* excited). Do not jump in for the roll-out. Rather, gather your trusted peeps and let them test the product. Take feedback, know the flaws, tell the technical team to fix all the bugs, and let a quick QA happen.

This is the most important step.This ensures functionality for initial customers and a perfect user experience. When you take feedback from real users, you can make substantive improvements in the comprehensive blueprint. Your MVP should drive the product ahead. Take two steps back if it’s not.

Next up, we discuss the elephant in the room: The Pitch. Getting ready for putting your idea out there, showing up, shipping the MVP, and moving ahead. The struggle is real but so is the adrenaline rush!

I am Varun Bihani, CTO at Galaxy Weblinks Inc. I have been in the business for a good 15 years and it has been an exhilarating gig. I love working with startups and hearing new ideas. You can find me in Boston around CIC. I like my coffee strong :)