Shenzhen is the Silicon Valley of China, the epicenter of its growing array of homegrown tech titans. But the city also serves as a sort of brain for the massive supply chain that stretches across the country, the place where ideas become prototypes, and prototypes become products.
We took a tour through the Huaqiangbei market, a massive collection of vendors who are selling everything from imitation iPhones to circuit boards and soldering irons. This is the place you come to figure out how your next gadget will get made, haggling with vendors who act as a front office for component suppliers and manufacturing facilities spread across China.
Our guide was David Li, director of the Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab. As we wandered through hallways he explained that the nature of the marketplace was changing. It was still a place where merchants, inventors, and entrepreneurs came to shop for components when they wanted to build something new. But increasingly the market was also the source of its own creations, spinning up new takes on hoverboards, drones, and selfie sticks with unique modifications that might just prove to be the next big seller around the globe.