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大学毕业生的科技创业之路 - 2017年05月05日

‘Best growth company’ was a gamble at the start

UPON receiving his master’s degree a decade ago, Dai Tiantian didn’t join the usual lines of job seekers. Instead, he took the risky plunge of starting his own company from scratch.

His decision proved to be the right one. Shanghai Bochu Electronic Technology Co in Minhang District has become a leader in China’s laser-cutting industry.

Dai said it was always his dream to own his own company and he began paving the way while studying at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

“Apart from the first year’s tuition, I never asked my parents for money,” said Dai. “I took several part-time jobs and developed sales programs.”

While in post-graduate study, Dai and several schoolmates received financing through a city government entrepreneurship fund with a robot-controlled dispenser system they developed. After graduation, the money was used to rent an office near the Jianchuan Road Metro Station and buy equipment. Bochu was on its way.

The founding circle of about 10 people were all former schoolmates, and the company continued development of the robotic dispenser system. At that time, it had only two clients, and every month, net profit was only about 300 yuan (US$43).

“For a long time, we lived on celery lettuce,” he said. “Celery lettuce soup, salad and sautéed leaves, meal after meal.”

Despite the hardships, the company persevered. It soon won a series of city, district and national awards, obtaining prize money of more than 200,000 yuan.

“It was then I knew that this company could really survive,” said Dai. “So many young people have career dreams, but if you can’t keep them alive, you have no future.”

Like so many startup companies, success created divisions among the original founders.

Part of the group believed that the company should develop new products; the other part believed it should transform itself into a dispenser solution company and pursue projects within that realm.

The creation of new products prevailed, and only three of the original group stayed with the company.

“In retrospect, I think the decision was correct,” said Dai. “Operating a company is a lot more than just doing business. We need to pursue profits, but we also need a direction so that we don’t lose ourselves in profit obsession.”

With two additions, the company of five remains at the core of Bochu, handling development, production and marketing.

“We have very different personalities — some radical, some conservative, some thoughtful and some bold,” said Dai. “But somehow we manage to complement one another.”

The company today has 89 employees and annual revenue of 100 million yuan. It has chosen a slow growth path, criticized by some but crucial, Dai said, to adapt quickly to an ever-changing market environment.

In 2010, Bochu started to develop digital control systems for laser cutting facilities. Within two years, its products were sold to more than 300 clients around the world.

The company won the award as the “best growth” company in Minhang for two straight years.

“I think Minhang one of the best places in Shanghai to start a business,” said Dai. “The circle of my life is just a one-kilometer radius within the Zizhu industrial zone. The company has really developed well here.”

Dai said Bochu’s ultimate goal is to become an international leader in digital-control equipment. To do that, he said, the company has to recruit fresh blood and young people with broad visions and creative instincts.

“Nowadays, new graduates seem to prefer Internet companies with big names,” he said. “They don’t realize the ground-floor career opportunities we offer. We have to keep our salaries competitive to build a strong team.”

 

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