Shenzhen superstars: Bristol grads head to China’s Silicon Valley

Four Bristol University grads are heading to China where they will receive investment, mentorship and workshop space to develop their Omni Invent ‘workshop in a box’ and grow their business.

Meet the team (left-to-right): Ed , Glen, Jack, Alex
Meet the team (left-to-right): Ed , Glen, Jack, Alex

The engineering graduates – Alex Michaels, Ed Cooper, Jack Pearson and Glen Cahill – have gained a place alongside the top three per cent of applicants to the Hax Accelerator programme for their invention that enables users to create smart products on demand.

The idea is said to have started as a Bristol University Engineering Design Masters project, which was supported by the Manufacturing Technology Centre.

The team was asked to look at how 3D printing can be improved in relation to strength, speed and functionality of the technology. The end product was an automated machine that combines manufacturing, assembly and electronics fabrication.

“This project began with the aim of elevating 3D printing above making crude ‘looks-like’ items. Over time it has grown into the Omni Invent, a desktop ‘workshop in a box’ that brings together the benefits of printing, assembly and electronics fabrication. We hope it will empower inventors to create custom products without needing a factory or a team of experts,” said Ed.

After graduating from Bristol, the team was supported by Jisc Supporting Technology Startups scheme and given six months of business mentorship and pitching opportunities and £20,000 to develop their product. It was this support that helped them attract the attention of investment company Hax.

“We’ve been lucky to have so much support launching our business. Our lecturers and industrial partner really helped us with technical advice and JISC helped us narrow in on our target customer’s pain points,” said Jack.

Hax will provide the team with the support it needs in Shenzhen, a city regarded as the next ‘Silicon Valley’.

“Being accepted onto Hax is a great outcome for us – they have a fantastic reputation for helping founders get their products to market and grow their businesses,” said Alex.

“We’re really excited to be heading back to China; the manufacturing ecosystem in Shenzhen is perfect for developing products. Having the world’s manufacturing hub at your fingertips means you can get a year’s worth of work done in as few as three months,” added Glen.

After 111 days in Shenzhen, the team will travel to San Francisco to seek investment at the Hax demo day showcase and launch in September. This next round of funding will enable the team to launch their product in early 2018.