On March 5th, we finished our first demo day at Zeroth for 2019. This is one of the largest events I’ve personally ever seen in Hong Kong; hosting over 400 attendees, our guests ranged from government speakers to system integrators, top venture firms to publicly listed companies in transportation and e-commerce.
People flew in from all over the world specifically to attend this event. The support means the world to us. We had major players coming from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, India, Japan, and all over Asia specifically to be part of this historic event. They wanted to be part of this movement and join in on building the latest advancements in Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Deep Tech, and Frontier Technologies.
One compliment we heard over and over from investors that attended?
This was the best accelerator Demo Day in Hong Kong — EVER.
So, how did we get here?
As a tech ecosystem, despite its size, Hong Kong has been building up over the years. As Nick Yang, our guest speaker and Hong Kong Secretary for Innovation and Technology said, investment in innovation in Hong Kong grew from US$150m to US$2b in HK. That’s a whopping 13x in 4 years from 2014.
The government spends massive amounts of funding to kickstart the scene, from Cyberport and Science Park grants to direct schemes like the Innovation and Technology Venture Fund. A large 30% of the entrepreneurs come from overseas, making Hong Kong the most welcoming city in China. But the scene has been largely under-appreciated, being overshadowed by its incumbent traditional businesses and higher growth ecosystem neighbors in Beijing and Shenzhen.
The journey to make the best Demo Day in Hong Kong has taken just 4 batches to perfect. Most immediately, coming into Z04, we had operated on two theses that we wanted to implement in our selection of this cohort.
Optimize for either local or global dominance
We needed to do a better job of optimizing for startups that could either dominate a local scene or a global scene. They either had to be super specific and show dominance over local markets, or broader technology solutions that had global relevance. To source for startups that could do both at the same time was not an efficient use of time for the startups, and actually, an impossibility. Let’s look at two Hong Kong startups as examples.
GoGoVan had local dominance. They took the ride sharing concept from Uber, applied it to moving vans as a use-case that super specific to Hong Kong, and beat Uber in Hong Kong en route to unicorn status.
9GAG on the other hand aimed for global dominance. They took a concept of sharing fun concept and developed a niche that was globally relevant. They didn’t explicitly care about local markets but rather targeted the global market from day one.
Stronger reinforcement for why now
What we noticed is that the act of investment is a function of timing; the founder has to impress why this opportunity now, amongst all the opportunities that an investor will see at a given time. The opportunity has to be so compelling and so immediately urgent that an investor will accept the huge opportunity cost of searching for other opportunities.
For example, Front closed a $66mn round in just five days. The founder ran a very tight process during fundraising, had metrics to back up her growth and need for funding, and attracted competitive offers that forced investors to delay their other tasks to close the deal.
Then we layered structural changes with Demo Day
We followed our own advice of local optimization and brought out all the stops for Hong Kong to improve design elements, including backdrop, music, and swag. We further optimized locally by curating the best audience of investors and corporate partners in Hong Kong.
Demo Day is all about the founders. They’ve spent countless hours in the past three months coding all night every single night. In addition to that, they’ve had to manage building a real business with extremely small and efficient teams. It’s a tremendous honor to witness that journey.
The Zeroth community showed up over 400 strong on their Hong Kong Demo Day. The support, help, and words of wisdom pushed them to be the best founders in the world. We all enjoyed celebrating this big day together and the pitches were absolutely flawless.
As Rodolfo Rosini, one of our partners, noticed:
Ok this is nuts. Since the last demo day we grew 3x, our demo day batch size is 1.5x, the investors attending is 6x, and while this is the biggest demo day by a huge margin so far, it’s going to be the largest this year. Hypergrowth is crazy.
Other than the above metrics, the results really speak for themselves. The value we add for the startups have validated our entire unique approach at Zeroth. Through working closely with our partners, venture partners, and mentors, we have seen momentum build extremely fast.
Two startups from Z04 have closed two pilots within 24 hours after Demo Day. While many founders have had investment commitments before their big day, we saw even deeper relationships being built after. There was faster interest, commitments, and closing with investors. This was all due to the positive reaction from investors to our Demo Day. I couldn’t have been happier about the community we built at Zeroth the past few years.
I look forward to seeing how the big Bangalore Demo Day unfolds in 5 hours. This is our first ever Demo Day in India and we are tremendously oversubscribed. It has been featured as the most popular event today in all of Bangalore today, with over 350 people registered.
Thank you to everyone that has supported us on this journey so far.