When you arrive in a new place, it’s a good idea to write down what’s happening. I know it helps me process all the new ideas and the culture shock.
Hong Kong is not new to me. Neither is Asia.
But what is happening in Hong Kong and Asia is new. There’s a lot of talk of money — about HK$76 billion of it— earmarked for economic improvement. A slice of that will go to startups and founders, and the ecosystem that feeds them.
Ten years ago, nobody talked like this about startups. They did warn that China itself was becoming a competitor to business here. But nobody thought of apps or platform companies as the future.
This is why I am launching Asia Hustle. Asia Hustle (no harsh comments on the design right now, we are only one day old!) will be written in Chinese and English as a tech blog that focuses on media startups in most of Asia, and all of Hong Kong and China.
By media startups, I mean startups that are built to solve problems in media / news / information, as well as some fintech and data startups, creative arts startups, and startups solving problems for the advertising and digital marketing business.
I’ve written about a few of these companies already on Medium, and re-published one of them today: Brand Pit, which is building solutions to bring ROI to image analytics for marketers. They have a huge deal with IBM Japan and with Unilever.
It’s still hard. This study, partially funded by Google (PDF), reveals that a high percentage of young people in Hong Kong face pressure from their families and peers to delay their entrepreneurial plans, because there is “high risk aversion” here.
In tandem with the social pressure aspiring entrepreneurs face from family and friends, they also have few options for early investment — 88% of entrepreneurs stated their major source of seed capital as self-funding. Despite an abundance of financial resources given Hong Kong’s status as a global financial hub, professional investors are not contributing to local startups because of various reasons, such as Hong Kong’s small market size, a lack of strong business ideas and legal issues that prevent investment opportunities.
Hong Kong banks on tradition and repetition. A former colony, and a largely Chinese culture, Hong Kong was also China’s only entrepot for commerce and trade for many. It’s still one that feeds most of Asia’s (and the world’s) financial systems, and because of this center of gravity, its professionals have not looked kindly on “out there” ideas like startups.
Actually, it’s not that they are antagonistic to it. IT’s just that for many years, duplicating a successful retail, finance or logistics business meant an instant revenue stream and high profits.
This fed the education culture for 100 years. You know where you are going as soon as you get into school — finance, health, law, accounting, or government.
But things are changing. There are more than two dozen co-working spaces and incubators in Hong Kong. The government has pledged a huge slice of HK$76 billion (about US$10 billion) to entrepreneurs and startup businesses over the next year and a half.
And groups like my alma mater, the Journalism and Media Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong, are working hard to support the community of media entrepreneurs here.
We will see what the future holds, by focusing on the very fast and fluid present. Visit Asia Hustle over the coming months and watch it transform.