Driving efficiency

Victor’s founder and CEO Clive Jackson explains why doing business in Hong Kong is — literally — streets ahead

Clive Jackson is buzzing with enthusiasm about the prospects for business in the Far East. Having just returned from Hong Kong, where he was invited to speak at the automotive brand Infiniti’s new concept space, Jackson has been paying close attention to the city’s transformation into the region’s major tech hub.

Infiniti Lab HKG was founded to empower the city’s entrepreneurs by turning ideas into action — and a big part of that involves the Speaker Series, which invites business leaders from around the world to inspire Hong Kong’s start-up community by offering advice and telling their own stories. With a wealth of international business experience and no fewer than 14 start-ups under his belt, the Hong Kong-born and UK-educated Jackson was keen to “perhaps bring something back to the colony”.

In partnership with the government bodies Invest HK and StartmeupHK, and the start-up incubator Nest, Infiniti hopes to spearhead a movement that will see Hong Kong become the go-to city in the region for innovative business, according to Jackson. Through its Accelerator programme, the carmaker has invited eight new companies to develop their vision under its wing, with help and inspiration from veterans including the Victor founder. From FFG Design, which is developing a generator to produce electricity by cooling the surrounding air, to Green City Solutions, which aims to reduce pollution on our streets, each start-up puts technology at the core of its offering.

So what is it about Hong Kong that inspires this can-do attitude? For Jackson, a large part of it comes down to a forward-thinking government that understands what businesses need to get on with what they do best: create. “They recognised the importance of driving efficiency in terms of how people move about and access information, and they’ve been phenomenally successful at doing it,” he says. “Transport and communication are key, and the city’s legislative council has the desire and the motivation to make things happen in an intelligent way. Hong Kong has the feel of a smart city.”

This is only the third time Jackson has returned to his birth city since 1978, and he admits to being stunned at the progress it’s made. “I’ve been amazed at the transformation Hong Kong has gone through,” he says, referring to the proliferation of tunnels transporting commuters and visitors under Victoria Harbour and out onto the mainland. “And you can still access fast wifi.” This is in stark contrast to our conversation, which takes place over the phone while Jackson is making his way by car down to Goodwood in West Sussex — the connection drops out a good dozen times. “You can’t imagine the impact on productivity to local businesses: there’s no way I could conduct a conference call here,” he says.

In Hong Kong, on the other hand, Jackson believes “there is a will and a desire by government to remove the impediments to success” — whether that’s incentivising local landowners to put communication masts on their land or encouraging entrepreneurialism by removing red tape. The Mass Transit Railway’s Express Rail Link, which operates at up to 124mph (200km/h) in Hong Kong, is just one example of the scale of the investment the city has undertaken — and the city fathers’ understanding of what businesses need to thrive. It’s also why Infiniti has chosen to make Hong Kong its global HQ — the only major automotive brand in the world to do so. Like Michael Dan Mossinsohn, the founder of FFG Design, says, “We need smart cities because we are not separate individuals, and all our needs are very interconnected.”

Interconnection — building relationships and being part of a business community — is something Jackson feels strongly about. Rather than an event to simply deliver a lecture, for him the Infiniti Speaker Series was an opportunity to roll up his sleeves and get stuck in, and to form an emotional attachment to the programme and its participants. It’s an exciting moment in Hong Kong’s development as a tech hub, and for the way smart tech and early-stage tech are interacting with established companies.

With all this in mind, what are the chances of opening a Victor office in Hong Kong? Right now, Jackson is musing on the possibility of building a local presence to serve the region. “Can we export the Victor model of total transparency and full disclosure to the growing demand for jets over there?” he wonders. As the Infiniti Labs project proves, smart cities need smart technology — so it might just be the perfect fit.


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