A Guide to the Hong Kong Startup Community!
To say that Hong Kong’s startup ecosystem is growing, is an understatement! It’s booming! As more and more success stories pile up, HK is beginning to stake its claim as one of Asia’s hottest startup hubs.
Tytus Michalski (MD, Fresco Capital) wrote in a recent content piece that the most important factor for the tremendous progress during the past five years has been the entrepreneurs themselves. Capital from angel investors and real estate from coworking spaces has surely made it easier overall.
To be honest, there isn't one particular industry that Hong Kong entrepreneurs belong to. Yes, we are inherently well-suited to FinTech thanks to our legacy of being Asia’s financial headquarters. And hardware, while easier said than done, is becoming the weapon of choice for many — attributable, of course, to the proximity to the world’s hardware capital Shenzhen. Other than these two, we've got logistics, productivity application, entertainment, content discovery, gaming and even online platforms for startups themselves.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into the HOT boiling cauldron of HK Startups:
Accelerators/Incubators to get into…
In no particular order:
Backed by Swire Properties, one of HK’s most prominent property developers, blueprint is a no-strings attached accelerator for B2B startups. A batch of 10–11 startups shares the 10k sqft. space & 70 mentors over 6 months.
Cyberport is a HK government-run massive facility for tech companies and startups. Cyberport has an accelerator and an incubation programme. The Cyberport Creative Micro Fund (CCMF) is a 6-month accelerator that invests HK$ 100,000, whereas the incubation programme lasts for 2 years and provides support upto HK$ 530,000.
- Hong Kong Science and Technology Park
The 3 incubation programmes operated by Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) — Incu-App, Incu-Tech, and Incu-Bio — are custom-made for startups involved in web and mobile technology, technology and biotechnology respectively.
Brinc is an IoT accelerator based in Hong Kong that differentiates itself by providing easy access to the Pearl River Delta, known for manufacturing and distribution expertise. For 2015, their goal is to support >20 companies that do IoT right with a strong focus on the consumer.
Nest is a startup incubator that has invested in a number of startups over time. Over the last couple of months, they've launched 2 corporate sponsored accelerators for health tech and fintech startups in partnership with AIA and DBS Bank respectively.
Coworking spaces to work at…
In no particular order:
No, this is not a mistaken repetition. Blueprint has a coworking space, also of 10,000 sqft., located one floor below the accelerator. While the initial capacity was 300 members, I've heard they have expanded that to accommodate the high volume of requests received.
- Cyberport Smart Space
Cyberport Smart Spaces are aimed at helping technology companies that are seeking to grow or enter Mainland China and Asian markets and want to use HK as their stepping stone. The best things about their space are the prices, their flexibility and the view!
TusPark Hong Kong is the latest, and by some accounts the largest (the Kwun Tong building is 9 floors!), addition to the HK scene. A subsidiary of Beijing based Tus-Holdings, it is backed by Tsinghua University and their vast network spread all over Mainland China and abroad.
- Garage Society
One of the buzziest spaces in Hong Kong, GS plays host to loads of startup events providing tons of opportunities to network. The original location is bang in the middle of the business district Central, and they've just launched a second one a short distance away.
The original (maybe, second) Hong Kong coworking space CoCoon opened way back in 2012 and has been the cornerstone for the startup zone here in HK. The space is a favourite among freelancers and almost always has packed events, all year round.
Entrepreneurs to look up…
In no particular order:
- Casey Lau
Casey belongs to the first group of startuppers here in Hong Kong. He co-founded and sold an ecommerce startup in 2000, following that up with 3 more. He is the co-founder of StartupsHK, which is the leading storehouse of information on the HK startup scene. Also, he’s the APAC community development manager for Softlayer’s Catalyst Program.
- Catherine Tan
An ex-investment banker at Morgan Stanley and Barclays, Catherine is the cofounder of Notey, a platform for discovering blogs. She splits her time between Hong Kong, Vancouver and travelling the world. Notey is one of the fastest growing startups in the world — more on this in the next section.
- Martin Kessler
If you're in hardware, Martin’s your man! He is definitely the man to get in touch with if you're looking for advice or mentorship re. building hardware startups and crowdfunding for them. He co-founded Phonejoy, and is now working on developing digital marketing strategies for startups. Also, the director for Founder Institute HK.
- Matthieu Bodin
Matthieu Bodin is the most popular frenchman in the Hong Kong startup ecosystem. He is the organiser for Startup Weekend HK and the monthly meetup DrinkEntrepreneurs HK. By day, he works as a project manager at a digital agency.
- Jeffrey Broer
The founder of PostMortemHK — Hong Kong’s very own startup FailCon, Jeffrey is a mentor and advisor to numerous entrepreneurs and startup teams. By day, he is the founder of a Grayscale, a HK-based user focussed design studio with an impressive portfolio of websites and applications. His team and he also built Surround app, a platform for using Weibo (a Chinese social media channel) for people who cannot read Chinese.
- Atin Batra *bonus ;)
Yes, that is me. I founded my HK-based digital marketing agency ab.Initio..HK in December 2013. An interest in startups and events led me to sign up as a co-Director for Startup Grind Hong Kong. Towards the end of 2014, I launched HUK, an online platform for discovering startups events in Hong Kong — it is currently paused, as we redevelop some of our key features. Also curate Founded in Hong Kong.
Startups to follow…
In no particular order:
Business Insider chose Notey as one of the 15 fastest growing startups in the world that you might not know about, and recently raised US$1.6mn from Ryan Holmes (Hootsuite), Hugo Barra (Xiaomi, ex-Google) and Steve Kirsch (Infoseek) among others. Notey is an online platform for perusing the best blogs from over 500,000 topics.
Shopline is a DIY e-commerce platform built specifically for Asian markets. It focusses on non-tech-savvy merchants looking for a quick and simple way to set up and manage their online shop.
Easyship is a tech startup that provides fulfilment and logistics support to eCommerce merchants, on demand. They pick up, pack up and ship their customers’ orders all over the world. Recently won at Startup Asia!
- 8 Securities
The FinTech darling in Hong Kong, 8 Securities is a leading online & mobile investing service in Asia. It has so far raised US$ 21.5 mn from investors and currently holds more than US$1 billion in client assets.
AfterShip helps individuals and businesses track packages and get delivery notifications. AfterShip was founded at Startup Weekend Hong Kong 2011 and went on to win the Global Startup Battle.
Events to go to…
In no particular order:
- Web Wednesday
The grand-daddy of startup events in HK, Web Wednesday was founded in 2007 and is run by Napoleon Biggs. Organised on a monthly basis, it is regularly attended by 150+ people including founders, investors and service providers.
- Startup Grind
Startup Grind is an international startup event series you might be familiar with. It is a monthly fireside chat that has more than 150 chapters across 65 countries. The Hong Kong chapter was launched in February’11.
- DrinkEntrepreneurs HK
DrinkEntrepreneurs is the monthly afterwork of HK’s entrepreneurial ecosystem! Organised by Matthieu Bodin, it aims to be the laid back monthly event where entrepreneurs enjoy hanging out with fellow hackers and startupers.
- CoCoon Pitch
CoCoon Pitch event enables entrepreneurs to present their products or services to a varied audience including founders, customer, investors and partners. So far, over 100 teams have pitched and CoCoon entrepreneurs and alumni have raised over US$14mn in funding.
- StartwareHK — Hardware Breakfast
Startware is the cornerstone meetup for makers in Hong Kong. Spearheaded by Martin Kessler, the meetup is known for the minimal breakfast series where <12 founders share ideas and attempt to help each other.
This Guide has since appeared on the StartupTravels blog.
I am the Hong Kong-based ambassador for this awesome startup that aims to help entrepreneurs meet other entrepreneurs while they’re jetsetting all over the world. Sign up here.
The piece is also available on Tech in Asia, Asia’s premier tech news site. It was added as part of their new community initiative. Happy to say it is still on their home(first)page, as on Monday. If you have the time, do go ahead and give it an uproot there!
For those of you who would like to share this with an individual who’s more comfortable reading it in (Simplified) Chinese than English, here’s a link to the Chinese translation. I would like to thank Ian for translating and Nick Zieber for his help in arranging this.
Update 26 May, 5:33pm HKT: Much appreciate the love that is being shown to this piece over on Twitter & here — please note:
1. this is not an exhaustive list! There are loads of awesome people/teams out there building great products and companies. I’ve started with 5 of each, and I plan to keep adding over time.
2. if you enjoy the list, and would like me to expand on it, please hit ‘Recommend’; it will let me know that I’ve created something of value for people.
Update 27 May, 3:56pm HKT: Have replaced my name from the list of entrepreneurs with a very important one here in HK — Jeffrey Broer.