Young, bright lights in the valley of dreams

In the valley, a group of young entrepreneurs run at full speed toward the realization of their dreams.
Ti Gong

The site housing Tongji Venture Valley, where college students are nurtured as entrepreneurs

Ti Gong

Tongji University’s 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Summer School, launched in conjunction with universities in Germany, Mexico and South Africa, brought together young, creative minds. Last year’s winner was a project related to recycling material-infant care products. 

We are running at full speed toward the realization of our dreams,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping in his New Year’s speech. 

Among the most dedicated runners are young entrepreneurs, eager to pursue their creative ideas in a realm where so many well-intentioned startups fail to reach the finish line. 

Their determined exuberance to shoot for the stars permeates Tongji Venture Valley, a hub where students and graduates can work on innovative projects, share office equipment, meet potential investors, attend sessions on business law and finance, and exchange ideas and experiences with other “dreamers.” 

“Last year, I grew up and realized my limitations,” Yeernuer Shahatibieke, a Kazak born in 1991 and a participant in the valley, shared on Wechat moments.  “And 2019 begins with a business trip. Bring it on!” 

For all participants, Venture Valley opens their eyes to realities and possibilities. 

“We didn’t realize the significance of intellectual property rights protection, for example, until we came here,” said Wu Ruichang, a sophomore majoring in mathematics. 

Wu is one of four members of a team called Vortex, which is focused on designing lightweight, carbon-fiber wheels for racing bikes. 

Located on the Siping campus, the main branch of Venture Valley offers 42 free spots for students and recent graduates, while the branch in the Jiading campus provides 36 spots. Established in 2013, the creative hub seeks to “build the last kilometer between the university campus and the science and technology park.” 

The projects nurtured here span an array of disciplines, such as virtual reality in architecture, electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, neurosurgery robots, waste treatment technology and medical nanotechnology. 

Wang Rongjiang

Yeernuer Shahatibieke, a Kazak born in 1991, works on cultural exchange among Belt and Road countries. 

Most of the projects are associated with science and engineering. Yeernuer’s is an exception. He earned an undergraduate degree in cultural industry management in 2015, and now owns Liejiao Culture Communication Co, along with his wife. The company focuses on cultural exchange among Belt and Road countries. 

The couple manages a social media site that covers the history and culture of the Kazak people, offers business consulting services, and deals in the import and export of cultural products like books. 

“Entrepreneurship trains my mind, transforming my fragile heart into an ‘iron’ heart,” said Yeernuer. “I have become tolerant and cautious, and I pay more attention to my own matters rather than other people’s comments. Entrepreneurship is a process of continuous learning. I was poor in English and finance, so now I am studying them.” 

Born in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of northwestern China, he has been away from home for 11 years. 

No matter what the stresses of plotting his own course, Yeernuer always paints a rosy picture in communications with his family back home. 

“If I could go back in time, I would not choose to start a business,” he explained. “I wasn’t not fully prepared in terms of capital, social networking and mindset. But more importantly, I didn’t have the support of my family. But now I will not give up unless I fail completely.” 

Yeernuer said Venture Valley provides a positive atmosphere. 

“We encourage and learn from each other,” he said. “I am always stimulated when I see the people around me work so hard.” 

Wang Rongjiang

Zhu Yingbo, who holds a doctorate in clinical medicine, established a studio called Readmind in Tongji Venture Valley, to popularize psychology and brain science through articles and videos.

Zhu Yingbo, who holds a doctorate in clinical medicine, is a fresh entrepreneur. 

Instead of becoming a doctor, she established a studio called Readmind in Venture Valley about two months ago. Her aim is to popularize psychology and brain science through articles and videos. 

She began that dream in 2015 through the official Wechat account of a hospital and later Zhihu, a Chinese question-and-answer website. Many netizens left messages for her about their mental disorders. 

“I always suggest they seek professional help, but many are reluctant to do so,” she said. “They see any form of mental illness as a shameful thing.” 

Zhu once encountered a high school girl with severe depression online. They kept in touch for half a year. With Zhu’s gentle persuasion, the girl finally went to a doctor, and now her condition has improved. 

“I think what I am doing is very meaningful,” she said. “The messages encourage me to continue.” 

This outgoing woman in her 20s confessed to me that she was once a sociophobe suffering from depression. Her mother requested the teacher in charge of her daughter’s class to try to help Zhu form friendships with classmates. That gradually lifted Zhu from her black hole. 

She was born into a Hangzhou family of academics. The curiosity to understand her experience of mental illness led her to study psychiatry. Her family disapproved of her choice, let alone her decision to start a business. But Zhu persevered. 

She said it’s particularly difficult to be a women entrepreneur. 

“Many investors told me flat out that they don’t invest in the projects led by females because they believe none will succeed,” she said. “The investors think that women are too easily distracted by family matters.” 

Zhu has published a novel about the psychological awakening of a modern, independent woman named Baiou. 

She leads a team of 13 people, with majors in medicine, finance, radio and television editing and directing. It puts a lot of pressure on her. 

“Even if the business fails, I will stick to my goal of popularizing knowledge,” she said. “I really enjoy the process of entrepreneurship. I normally get up at 9am in the morning and go to bed at 3am.” 

Wang Rongjiang

Wu Ruichang, a sophomore majoring in mathematics, shows a racing bicycle wheel created by his Vortex team. 

For Wu of the Vortex team, time is at a premium. He has to both continue his studies and work on the startup project, which was founded by a doctor of civil engineering named Huang Chuan. 

As an avid cyclist, Wu used to ride over 10,000 kilometers a year, but the tally fell to 3,000 last year because of work on the project. 

“I am now 10 kilograms heavier,” said Wu. 

Tongji Venture Valley has given him insight and opportunities in entrepreneurship. 

“The experience widens my vision and shows me multiple possibilities,” he said. “It is good to try different things and then choose the best one as a career.” 

Wu is not the only one filling out in the valley. Wang Kun, 27, said he has gained 35 kilograms in a year. He is working on a fusion of nanotechnology and medicine. 

“I am dedicated to creating a truly useful product to purify indoor air,” said Wang Qunlong who is nicknamed Brother Long by the young entrepreneurs in the venture valley. 

Wang quit a job with a foreign company to establish a company called Joy World. As one of the more experienced entrepreneurs, he usually devotes a half day every Friday to hold discussions with valley participants who need help.

Ti Gong

Students listen to a presentation of developing innovative projects. 

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