Rebecca Fannin 范碧嘉 , author of best-seller, Silicon Dragon (McGraw-Hill, 2008) and Startup Asia (Wiley, 2011), explores the start-up scene in Hong Kong.
Below is the extract of Rebecca’s article at Forbes:
Every major market in the world is trying to figure out what makes the Silicon Valley model work.
I see the beginnings of a startup hub happening in Hong Kong – a good thing since the city has seemed destined to be left behind by the high energy found in the tech clusters of Beijing and Shanghai.
It can be difficult to name a successful tech startup from Hong Kong, home to real estate tycoons and investment bankers. But innovations from all kinds of startups – mobile gaming, clean energy, education, healthcare — are bubbling up.
This week, I attended the MaD Ventures Fellows program in Hong Kong, where 31 young entrepreneurs had opportunities to pitch their startup plans (all with some sort of social impact) and get mentoring from accelerator artists, angel investors and startup evangelists. The fellows came from Israel,India and the U.S. (text-to-video service Wibbitz, wireless energy savings device Wifinity Tech and lifestyle brand Holstee, to name a few). It was all part of a public-private initiative led by Rachel Chan and supported by the Hong Kong government — the idea being that these innovative startups could choose Hong Kong as a base of operations to scale.
Who do these next-generation leaders have as role models? I met serial entrepreneur Yat Siu, the founder and CEO of Outblaze, a digital consumer entertainment business. Since its start in 1998, Outblaze has grown up from Hong Kong’s Cyberport tech hub into a multi-million dollar international player in mobile games and animation, with a joint venture with Turner Entertainment to boot.
I also met Edwin Lee, the gregarious founder and CEO of BridgeWay, which buys, builds, operates and transfers ownership of thousands of tiny retail shops in Hong Kong. It’s a new twist on private equity that Lee crafted for Hong Kong after a career on Wall Street that was cut short after September 11, 2001.
While using Hong Kong as your hub is not necessarily a good idea if you’re targeting mainland China – it’s better to go direct – the territory does offer a kind of ‘China light’ approach to getting started with built-in legal protections, a free economy and an arguably better lifestyle, and can be a good springboard for expansion in the region. Hong Kong also sports the most convenient airport in Asia and the up-to-date tech zones Cyberport and Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks, though both have taken a while to catch on even as new hang-outs spring up in more central locations such as Cocoon.
As more startups get going in Hong Kong, look for the venture capitalists to multiply. Many flocked to supposedly greener pastures in Beijing and Shanghai over the past five yea, leaving an opportunity for an active angel investment community to develop and fund the better new ideas. Tytus Michalski of Fresco Capital is one of the more active angels here. Some VCs may want to give reconsider Hong Kong as a zone they have overlooked as the buzz intensified from the northern neighbors. Otherwise, angel investors will beat them to hot deals.
Contact us to engage Rebecca to on the China Tech Start-up scenes today!