Can China become an innovation hub?

China plays a crucial role in the global economy, but there’s a perception that while it produces many of the world’s products, it’s home to little of the innovation, said fourth-​​year stu­dent Michael Gasiorek.

“This perspective that China is just this behind-the-scenes driver of the American economy is entirely untrue,” said Gasiorek, a student in the international business program who has studied in Hong Kong and is now working on co-op in the industrial city of Shenzhen. “There’s a supercharged culture of development that’s been going on for years. Opportunities are everywhere, and there’s a huge market to serve.”

Gasiorek was born in Poland and moved to the United States when he was seven, but he never felt tied to either country. “By the time that college came around,” he said, “I knew I wanted an education that would let me go international.”

Last fall, Gasiorek studied at Hong Kong University and quickly connected with the city’s bustling startup scene. “You go from knowing nothing about an industry to learning how to make teams, pitch to investors, and put together a business,” Gasiorek said. “It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”

As part of the experience, he participated in Hong Kong Startup Weekend, a global competition in which entrepreneurs in 100 countries are challenged to create a product in 54 hours. Gasiorek’s group won in the category of “Best Mobile App” for designing a mobile shopping platform called “Shophop,” which helps consumers find interesting stores and features curated content from local bloggers and business partners.

Michael Gasiorek, far left, is a fourth-year student in the Bachelor of Science in International Business program. He started ShopHop with Hesperus Mak, Olga Lyudovyk, and Kris Duffy.

Since the victory, Gasiorek and his business partners have pitched the app to investors and are preparing to launch a closed beta test.

The young entrepreneurs once again participated in the Hong Kong Startup Weekend this year, building a social media automater called Boombox as a fun side project; though they don’t plan to launch it, they are accepting sign-ups in case they change their minds.

Gasiorek’s entrepreneurial spirit knows no borders. This year, he moved from Hong Kong to Shenzhen to take a co-op as a brand and marketing consultant for the Jiahua Language School.

In Shenzhen, he mentors fledgling entrepreneurs participating in that city’s startup weekend event and serves as acting director or curator of three local meet-up groups for entrepreneurs.

Gasiorek praised the BSIB program for giving him the opportunity to spend two full years in China. “You are out there in the real world,” he said, “learning firsthand in the field.”