Global Reach, Local Touch
Hong Kong is home to ~2,000 startups, with a 24% growth in 2017 alone. And no sector is off-limits. Known names include unicorn-status financial tech player Futu Securities, the world’s first AI-powered air conditioner accessory, Ambi Climate, and GoGoVan, Asia’s first on-demand courier service.
PKF Hong Kong claimed that there were 1926 start-ups in 2017 based on the results of 2016 start-up survey from Invest Hong Kong. The Government would like to develop Hong Kong’s start up ecosystem so that innovative founders have lots of chance to grow their business.
A city ripe for innovation
You’ll notice these examples of success all have one thing in common: They each cater to a definitive element of Hong Kong’s way of life.
As an online stock trading platform that facilitates Chinese investors to trade Hong Kong- and American-listed stocks, Futu Securities is a technological embodiment of the bridge Hong Kong has always been among the world’s biggest economies.
Ambi Climate uses sensors, data and smart AI algorithms to enhance Hong Konger's air conditioner in the most efficient, energy-saving and comfort maximizing way. Making use of all the different modes the AC has, Ambi Climate will choose which to use according to the ever-changing conditions - crucial in the face of the city’s infamous heat, rising utility bills and climate change.
GoGoVan is a shining example of the sharing economy, pairing delivery vehicles with young upstarts who want to create their own hours in a city that works around the clock.
Upwards and outwards
With so much disruption on the rise, legacy organizations are taking notes. Alibaba’s Entrepreneurship Fund and Deloitte’s Technology Fast 20 exemplify big businesses’ entry into the democratic digital age. The Lane Crawford Joyce Group has found their own retail-focused incubator The Cage, ably leveraging their existing reach to luxury shoppers as the ideal environment to disrupt consumer experience.
Of course, this isn’t to discount traditional venture capital. While Forbes notes the presence and history of family foundations such as Horizon Ventures, smaller firms such as Mindworks Ventures are making waves with successes include LaLaMove, one of Hong Kong’s first unicorn-status startups.
The same democratization that’s empowered the existence of these disruptors also apply to investing: Crowdsourcing platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter give anyone the opportunity to fund their favorite startups. The people’s word speaks volumes for angel investors.
With such a diverse pool of investors, Hong Kong’s startup scene has been and continues to thrive. The race isn’t just in which startup can become the next Airbnb or Uber. Behind the scenes, investors are clamouring to cement their reputations as pillars of innovation before it’s too late.
The endgame doesn’t have to be in Silicon Valley
As Hong Kong-bred startups continue to skyrocket, so will interest from Silicon Valley. Indeed, more than 20% of Hong Kong’s startups are founded by American expats. But it isn’t enough for Hong Kong to position itself as a launching pad.
David Leong, Managing partner of PKF Hong Kong suggested that Hong Kong’s startup community should work at building itself up for the long haul. Not only should we recognize brilliance, we should acknowledge its many variants through programmes that speak to a diverse group of founders and interests.
Experienced investors will benefit from entrepreneurs who seek opportunity in unmet needs, unique to the Hong Kong consumer. Startups underline the possibility of success for just about anyone. It’s about time we got better at fostering all kinds of potential.
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