On September 10th 2014, swissnex China had the pleasure to co-organize the first LIFT conference in China. The Lift conferences, for those of you who don’t already know about it, have welcomed more than 15’000 participants from over 40 countries since 2006. These conferences explore the business and social implications of technological innovation. They allow explorers, makers, builders and observers to come together during one day and share their creative and innovative ideas through different workshop, master classes and roundtables.
For their first leap in China, Lift chose the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai and its bustling innovation sector. The selected location to host it was the Power Station of Art, a popular space among the Shanghainese community. This museum/exhibition center is situated on the banks of the Huangpu River in a former electric power station that has been remodeled into an art center.
The conference was scheduled to open at 9:30am, although some of our great visitors started arriving as early as 9:00am, eager to not miss one second of the amazing day that was about to unfold in front of them. The kick-off of the conference was given around 10:00am by the President of Lift Events, Abir Oreibi, who gave more insights to the audience about the mission of Lift, and by Pascal Marmier, CEO of swissnex China, who presented the organization. The visitors then had the pleasure to listen to two guest speakers. First, Thomas Landrai, co-founder of the world largest Do-it-yourself biology lab, called “La Paillasse”, followed on the by David Li, the founder of XinCheJian, China’s first hacker space. Two great speeches, that both put the focus on the idea that there is no need to be an expert in an area to challenge the status quo and create new innovative products or processes.
The rest of the day was two-fold. First, an interactive design exhibition in partnership with HEAD Geneva, which was open all day long for the visitors to enjoy. It regrouped works of young talents from China and Switzerland that all used the interactive potential of mobile computing and augmented reality interface. Among other very creative projects , “Traces”, a table that changed color when in contact with heat, by Liu Yi, and “Binary world”, a physical book made interactive by the use of a smartphone, by Baptiste Milési.
The second fold of the conference was a series of Workshops and Master classes given all along the day in different part of the Power Station of Art. Overall, more than 15 speakers shared their ideas and engaged with their fellow lifters. The topics were varied and interesting and received a very good response from the audience. Among them, a round table about “Chinese Startup Scene; Ingredients for Success”, opened by a presentation by David Ben Kay, a pioneer in China and the founder of Yuanfen Flow, on the entrepreneur’s mindset. It was followed by an open discussion between him, entrepreneurs, angel investors and the audience on the current state of the startup scene in China and their thoughts on its future. A quite insightful discussion for anyone interested in China or entrepreneurship, that led to the conclusion that the startup sector is still very young here and full of space for future ventures. Thomas Landrai from “La Paillasse” gave a very interesting workshop on “Biohacking to Change the World” where the audience was asked to brainstorm about health, environment, energy and architecture. They were then separated in groups to further create crazy stories based on three keywords, for example genetic sequencing, wave and dream. Throughout the day, workshops included topics such as “Open Data for Business”, “Green Energy in Urban Spaced” and “Designing Smart Cities in Asia”, among many others.
To conclude this great day, a Global Pitchfest was jointly organized by swissnex China and VentureLab. The contestants were composed by a selection of Chinese entrepreneurs and by the Venture Leaders, a group of 10 selected Swiss entrepreneurs that traveled to Beijing and Shanghai for 10 days in order to better analyze the Chinese market and plan effective development strategies. Each team was asked to pitch their company for 1 minute to convince the audience, who was in charge of voting for their favorite startups by test messages. In the second round, the 4 startups who received the most votes in the first round pitched again, to see who would be declared the final winner. The night ended with dinner and networking on the rooftop of Power Station of Art.
Overall the day was a great success. The 450+ visitors all took home with them new ideas, new contacts and greater knowledge about fascinating topics. The day was filled with knowledge, innovation, creativity and interactions, and we surely hope to renew the experience next year again!