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7 July, 2017 - 11:26 By Kate Sweeney

Cambridge online startup helps UK businesses trade in Chinese

Ting Zhang with Elizabeth Hill

With the ever-changing international trade environment, trading with China is more important than ever.

There is a real need for a single source of help for doing business with China that not only provides useful information, knowledge and insight, but also offers an efficient mechanism to get Chinese projects done affordably and to a good standard.

Crayfish International, a St John’s Innovation Centre based company, has addressed this need by launching the Crayfish® platform, said to be the first and only online marketplace dedicated to English-Chinese bilingual project work.

It enables businesses to access instantly a variety of skills and China expertise on demand – from translation, to setting up a Chinese social media account, identifying a distributor or finding the right manufacturer in China. Crayfish’s simple design and transaction process means all projects can be done in just four easy steps. 

It pledges “considerable cost savings enabling businesses to make good use of flexible Chinese speaking resources that are currently under-utilised.”

Ting Zhang, founder and CEO of Crayfish International, said: “After working with many SMEs to access China over the past 17 years, we fully understand all the difficulties they have in getting Chinese projects done when they do not have enough resources. The timing of Crayfish could not be better, especially with the uncertainties post-Brexit.” 

Ting also set up China Business Solutions back in 2001, the same year China joined WTO, with a mission to help UK companies to turn the China opportunities into commercial success.

Since then she has personally helped many companies including familiar names in the Cambridge technology cluster but it was her passion to find an ultimate affordable solution for SMEs that led to the creation of Crayfish, which she explains as “Chinese-speaking resources at your fingertips.”

“Crayfish is perfect for those who would like to trade with China in small steps, for example getting a one pager translated into Chinese, or getting someone in China to qualify some sales leads on the ground,” she says.

“For companies already having significant operations in China, they can find Crayfish helpful for ad hoc project work that they don’t have in-house resources to do quickly and well.” 

Since the launch of the platform three weeks ago, a number of translation and business development projects have already been completed and more are underway including one that involves getting utility model patents filed in China.

Freelancers have signed up from the UK, China, New Zealand and Finland, with skills covering translation, social media, business development, legal, accounting, events, investment analysis and technical research.

“It’s a great addition to the gig economy which is likely to be a huge success,” said Claire Johnsen, development manager and adviser for the Enterprise Europe Network programme at St John’s Innovation Centre.

The responsive e-commerce website has been designed and built by another SJIC company, 2idesign.

Eighteen months in the making, Crayfish has received support and backing from two Cambridge serial entrepreneurs Dr Jonathan Milner and Dr David Cleevely.  

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: CEO Ting Zhang with co-founder Dr Elizabeth Hill

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