China's capital stands out ahead of its Asian peers in terms of the scale and valuation of its start-up scene. Home to as many as 7,000 start-ups and more than 40 unicorns — businesses with a valuation of more than $1 billion — opportunity and talent abound in the sprawling megacity.
Tech hubs such as Zhongguancun, China's answer to Silicon Valley, house some of Beijing's estimated 300 coworking spaces. The wider Haidan District remains the headquarters for some of the city's greatest success stories, such as Xiaomi and Baidu.
One of the world's most populous cities, Shanghai enjoys a generally affordable cost of living. It has also made strides to nurture its start-up scene, and some districts provide housing allowances or free rent if businesses choose to register there.
With 2,000 to 3,000 start-ups currently in the city, Shanghai lags behind Beijing in terms of the relative size of its ecosystem. However, the city tends to enjoy a higher success rate in terms of businesses' abilities to expand internationally — aided by its approximately 500 incubators and accelerators — according to the South China Morning Post.
Shenzhen has undergone a meteoric transformation in the past three decades, growing from a small fishing village with a population of 175,000 to a metropolis of more than 12.5 million inhabitants. That sudden growth has also spawned a thriving start-up community, boasting global names such as Tencent and OnePlus.
A haven for hardware developers, the city attracts some of the largest volumes of research and development investment of anywhere in the country.