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A month after announcing plans to open its first AI lab in China, Google is expanding again through a move into Shenzhen.
The U.S. tech giant has opened an office in the Chinese city, which borders Hong Kong and known for being a global hardware hub, according to an internal email obtained by TechCrunch. This isn’t a fully-blown Google campus, instead the company has taken up space within a serviced office starting this week.
“We have many important clients and partners in Shenzhen. We’re setting up this e-suite office to be able to communicate and work with them better,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch in a statement confirming the news.
Here’s the short email that was sent to staff:
Hello China Googlers,
I hope your 2018 is off to a great start! I want to give you all a heads up about a new workspace we’ve opened in Shenzhen. As you may know, we have a number of Googlers in China who travel to the Shenzhen area for business on a regular basis. We’ve heard a lot of feedback that there was a need for a space to work from while in the area—so, after a few months of scouting, we recently signed a lease for a serviced office in Shenzhen. The space opened this week and is now up and running. We’re hopeful this will provide Googlers with a comfortable base to work from in the area.
Shenzhen is home to Tencent, the $500 billion firm behind WeChat, and mobile giants Huawei and ZTE, while the likes of Alibaba and Baidu are also present. The city has a thriving maker community, which includes global hardware accelerator program HAX.
There’s much to dig into around the search giant’s upcoming China-based AI lab, which taps into China’s growing AI talent pool and could signal a move to developing China-focused products. That, plus the re-launch of Google Translate app in China last year, gave fuel to the idea that the firm is ‘back’ in China. The Shenzhen presence is a more subtle development, a nod to the importance of the city for Google’s business.
The Shenzhen office is likely to be used by a number of teams that already spend a lot of time in the city. Google decided that something more permanent was preferable to working out of hotels or public spaces. The firm’s China-based sales team, its hardware team and those in logistics, sourcing, supply are most likely to make use of it.
Further down the line it seems possible that Google might opt for an office space that is more permanent — and more Googly — but for now we understand that there’s no timeline for that.
The Shenzhen base also reflects Google’s position following its $1.1 billion deal to acquire a large chunk of HTC’s smartphone business. As a report from The Information recently noted, Google has also ramped up its hardware efforts in China. Its headcount for its Shanghai-based hardware engineering jump to more than 100 from just 20 one year ago, the publication said.
“I expect Google to make its Home products and more in Shenzhen. No doubt they have staff visiting frequently,” Benjamin Joffe, General Partner at HAX, told TechCrunch.
“Considering the push they had at CES and the fact that they are expanding the product line there will probably be more Googlers to join the ranks of Apple, Amazon and other companies’ staff in the watering holes and eateries of Shenzhen, in Nanshan or Futian,” he added.
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