If you are considering opening up an office in China, location is important. First, let me state that if you are still considering a major city location, tech startups would have the best opportunities for talent in Beijing, not Shanghai.

That being said, my experience running an office has been in Shanghai. This was a decision that was made prior to me taking over the operations. So, I’m here to give you some advice about Shanghai in particular.

Shanghai is a massive metropolitan area. The last figures I heard was that there were some 20 million people in the city. It has an almost intimidating city landscape with tall buildings as far as the eye can see. You can get a great view of this from the top of the Jin Mao Tower (Pudong). I highly recommend a visit there if you get a chance.

There are two primary business centers of Shanghai: Puxi, to the west of the Huangpu River and Pudong to the east. While geographically different, I compare the two areas to Manhattan. Puxi is like midtown and Pudong is very much like the financial district…downtown. The Shanghai Stock Exchange is also located in Pudong. Our office has a great view of the Exchange, so I know the area fairly well.

Pudong is a booming construction zone. Two of the largest skyscrapers in the world (the Jin Mao and Shanghai World Financial Center) are right next to each other. Commercial rents in Pudong are generally higher than Puxi, primarily because the area is being promoted as a major financial hub and the newness of most of the office buildings. However, most people who work in the area live in Puxi or further outside the district of Pudong.

Puxi is considered the city center. It has a booming nightlife and plenty of restaurants and shopping. Also, if it matters to you, most “Expats” are located in the Puxi area. It’s also closer to the Hongqiao Airport. Normally, if you are coming from Hongqiao, you are driving through Puxi to get to Pudong. Commercial rents in Puxi are much more flexible in price and generally 20% or more lower than Pudong.

There is plenty more to say about each area. They both have their own appeal. However, I would recommend any startup looking to start in Shanghai to begin operations in the Puxi district.

If you want to tap me for more info about setting up your location in Shanghai, send me an email and I’ll share what I know.

Good luck!

Kevin