The Times|May as well talk to the post-95s about the Greater Bay Area

From Time Weekly Reporter: Li Guang

For Zhiqian Zhang, the successful experiences as a young man are quite "ordinary": being admitted to Zhongshan School of Medicine, SYSU with the highest enrollment scores of Shandong Province; choosing the most cost-effective master's degree; starting a business without getting his Ph.D., and making profits in the first year as a result. His company does not need financing because there is enough money... 

This young man born in 1995 opened his company in Baiyun New Town, Guangzhou.

Baiyun New Town was originally the former Guangzhou Baiyun Airport. In 1998, Guangzhou Province decided to build the relocated airport to an "extension of the central area of the old city". In a common language, this means to turn the original Baiyun Airport into the CBD of Baiyun District.

In this way, Zhiqian Zhang and Baiyun New Town are "youths" in the era, which respectively represent the curiosity of young people and the inclusiveness of cities to new things.

This is the nature of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area where Guangzhou is located: age is not important, instead, a young and interesting soul is what matters.

The Story of Tidetron’s Birth

If technical terms are not introduced, it would be very difficult to explain what Zhiqian Zhang 's research results are. A popular understanding is the process of directly and efficiently producing target substances by extracting different modules from different bacteria to synthesize engineering strains 

It is similar to the discovery that rice can be combined with distiller's yeast to get wine. Zhiqian Zhang synthesized new substances in a similar way. It can be used in the field of mass consumer goods such as cosmetics, food and beverage and household cleaning. It can also change the production mode in medical treatment and even traditional industries.

Now, his products are used in cosmetics that everyone is familiar with.

For a Ph.D. who has not graduated yet, the story consists of key words of success——young, top student, daring, open-minded and budding. Such stories are destined to happen only in economically developed areas.

The story was originated in 2014. After the college entrance examination, Zhiqian Zhang , whose ancestors were from Shandong Province, found that his scores were the best in Guangdong Province, so he had the right to choose schools and majors.

When was asked why he chose clinical medicine, Mr. Zhang said that it is the best choice to study for bachelor’s degree, master's degree and doctoral degree consecutively, because some exams can be avoided.

Academic environment is essential for academic success. According to him, after entering Zhongshan School of Medicine, SYSU, he was fond of carrying out experiments. Especially after studying Ph.D., he began to learn about synthetic biology, and became a "crazy fun" of synthetic biology, so he set up a laboratory to study biological mechanism with great concentration.

“I am quite independent and different. After being attracted by biology, I don't like to go to class very much. I have been doing experiments in different laboratories and reading and studying by myself.” The university did not stop his research. On the contrary, his doctoral supervisor guided him a lot in his experiments.

Gradually, he realized that the achievements in the laboratory did not mean that mass production could be achieved in factory. After all, the industrial environment of the latter was not as strict as that of the laboratory, so Zhiqian Zhang began to conduct biosynthesis experiments outside the school, and invested 2 million yuan in total. He said that the money at first was prepared by his parents to buy him a house.

The gamble paid off. When the products were synthesized, he found that they were different from that of others in market. In order to sell his products and realize their value, Zhiqian Zhang chose the road of starting a business.

Just like most movies having a happy ending, maybe it's because Zhiqian Zhang didn't amplify setbacks in the process. In 2021, he founded Tidetron in Beijing and Guangzhou, and built a factory in Shandong Province which could realize mass production, because raw materials are from in Shandong Province .

Within 10 months after the establishment, the company attracted investment from Unity Ventures, ZhenFund, Legend Capital, IDG Capital successively. Tidetron also became one of the first bio-manufacturing platforms in China that realizes mass production and scale commercialization of various substances. 

At the moment when Tidetron is getting bigger and bigger and more and more capital plans are invest, Zhiqian Zhang plans to move the company back to Guangzhou and temporarily decline all financing.

Choose Guangzhou

The reason why Zhiqian Zhang put his focus in Guangzhou is from two considerations. Although Beijing has high-quality business environment and is advantageous in talents, the space that can be used for Tidetron, a startup to pay attention to transformation and application at the same time, is not enough.

On the contrary, Guangzhou, with the help of the policy of developing Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area, is extremely attractive to startups full of new technologies and ideas, and Guangzhou "has a higher acceptance of new things than any other cities in the country."

Zhiqian Zhang explained and summed up the common points of enterprises in Guangdong Province: enterprises including not only startups, but also traditional manufacturing industries have always been seeking new technologies.

He took cosmetics manufacturers as examples. In the cosmetics market, brands will specify what main substances the producer should have in the products provided, and the producer will purchase raw materials according to the requirements of the brand. Therefore, the synthetic biological enterprises, such as Tidetron, mainly connects with the production enterprises.

“Compared with other similar products, our products is high-quality, environmental and low carbon. For example, if other chemical enterprises produce our products, their emissions per unit would be much higher than those of synthetic organisms.”

The advantage made them quickly recognized by manufacturers, especially those of cosmetics industry. In addition, since 1989, Guangzhou has held CIBE every year (sponsored by China Haidressing & Beauty Association). There are many cosmetics manufacturers in it. The commercial reputation of the South is relatively mature, and the funds are paid back quickly, so it is profitable in the first year of starting a business. Zhiqian Zhang said proudly, "There are still many companies taking the initiative to find us."

This strengthened his plan to take root in Guangzhou. With the confidence given by the Guangdong market, he plans to enter the biomedical sector and even the industry in the next step, but compared with daily consumer goods such as cosmetics, the period of these commodities is longer, and the funds needed are relatively huge.

But Greater Bay Area's creative environment gave him such confidence, "As a startup, we still didn’t learn many policies, but as far as the present atmosphere concerned, there is great support especially in places like Development Zone and Huangpu. We also felt that the government not only supports young people to start businesses, but also supports some enterprises to innovate, and professors from universities to engage in R&D of new products. This gave support for the creation of atmosphere in the whole Bay Area. "

From Ordinary to Great

Guangzhou's curiosity about new things has existed since ancient times. From the thirteen-hong of canton opened up by the prosperity of ancient business, to the fashionable Cantonese people to study abroad, Guangdong opens China's southern gate to the world. Various cultures and economies are intertwined and integrated in Guangzhou, and eventually become unique Lingnan culture.

The culture is pragmatic and flexible.

In 1998, when Zhiqian Zhang was 3 years old, the old Guangzhou government made a plan to change the urban layout: planning to turn the former Guangzhou Baiyun Airport into Baiyun New Town, which was positioned as "an extension of the central area of the old city", a hub connecting the "North Wing Group" and the "Central Group", and a new town that can show the style of Baiyun Mountain and modern city.

Before that, Guangzhou Baiyun Airport, as the south gate of Guangzhou, was one of the busiest airports in China surrounded by villages in cities.

It took only over 20 years for Baiyun Airport to be transformed into Baiyun New Town.

It took over 30 years to educate a generation. Zhiqian Zhang was also full of ambition. He chose Baiyun New Town as the headquarters of the company. 

Excluding the factory in Shandong Province, Zhiqian Zhang 's company in Baiyun New Town has more than 60 employees, including more than 20 employees in the R&D team. Doctors almost account for half of the total R&D employees. For Tidetron, this is a remarkable achievement.

According to the interview of a co-founder of Tidetron, the reporter of Times Weekly learned that Guangzhou is not the only city that has preferential policies for doctors to settle down, and some cities even have millions of subsidies for doctors to settle down. However, the atmosphere formed by thousands of years of life in Guangzhou has given doctors a chance to seek a balance between life and work.

As for a Generation Z as well as a founder whose study was all about technology, he also realized the working atmosphere in Guangzhou: what is important is not age but ideas during the leading.

"At first, I would think that our boss is feeding us with illusions, but later I analyzed that Mr. Zhang is a student who has not graduated from Ph.D., so he should maintain the purity of the essence similar to making great out of ordinary, otherwise he would lose the bright spot of young people." the aforementioned co-founder said.

Later, Zhiqian Zhang also admitted that there may be some differences in the way of thinking, "For example, if I want to do something, I would think of the essence of it. Since there is no starvation in the society, the result is nothing more than the difference between a little better or a little worse, but I think what is more important is whether I can do something of my own in this era so I can improve the value of life.

For the ancient Guangzhou city, the age of entrepreneurs does not matter. However, young souls can extend the innovation boundaries of the city infinitely. Let's Talk about Greater Bay Area with Generation Z

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