Hong Kong is not famous for providing the best environment to entrepreneurs. But if you look around, help is there. Established in 2001 by Hong Kong government, Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks offers incubation program for technology startups in the territory.

The program, called Incu-Tech, has been operating since 1992. At first, it was located in a downtown building in Kowloon Tong. Then, it moved to Science Park, a water-front county-side area in the north-eastern part of Hong Kong, in 2001. The place offers a rare campus-like environment in the crowded city.

The program lasts three years – long enough for a company to grow from just an idea to a big business. Apart from providing office space – free for the first year and substantially low for the next two, it also provides various support typical entrepreneurs would need. For example, mentorship, business plan consultancy, training for business skill, technology support and laboratory services, assistance in marketing, legal services, accounting services, meeting with potential investors, and so on. It also helps entrepreneurs to leverage on research ability of local and oversea universities. For example, if a startup would like to do research for certain project, it can hire some student interns from the universities and the program can offer subsidy for the students’ salary.

The best of all, the program requires no equity in exchange. As long as the startups get accepted into the program, they can enjoy everything. To be qualified, the startup has to be incorporated in Hong Kong for less than 2 years – no offshore company is allowed. It has to be financially independent, i.e., less than 20% is owned by other companies. It has to have more than 2 full-time staff. The entrepreneur has to own more than 10%. And most importantly, there has to be some innovation or research element in the startups.

Overall, it is not very difficult to get into the program. It is heard that last year, nearly half of the applicants got accepted.

Since the program started in 1992, it has incubated over 250 companies. About 77% still survive. In comparison, the survival rate for startups in the Silicon Valley is about 30-35%. Some of them were already listed. For example, TeleEye, a provider of network CCTV solution, was listed in HK Growth Enterprise Market (GEM) in 2001. Advanced Card Systems, a manufacturer of card and card readers, was listed in GEM in 2003.

One thing unique to Hong Kong and Science Park’s program is that it can leverage on the manufacturing capability of South China. Nearby region, such as Guangzhou and Shenzhen, are global manufacturing hubs for mobile phones and electronics. With a good idea and low manufacturing cost, a big business can flourish. In fact, both TeleEye and Advanced Card System are heavy into manufacturing.

TechNode has also reported some of Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks incubatees in the past. For example, Admomo, which develops online marketing analytical tool. And, Stepcase, which has over 7.5 million users on its photo app platform on iPhone.

Other good companies incubated by the program include:

  • Radica Systems, which provides email marketing solution.
  • Kanhan Technology, which provides Chinese text translation and voice recognition technology.
  • Intuitive Automata, which develops a coaching robot for people on diet.
  • Infotalk, a provider of multi-lingual conversational speech understanding technology.
  • Pencake, which provides marketing solutions on Facebook in the Chinese community.

Author of Red Wired: China's Internet Revolution, the first book to completely survey the nature of China's internet. (http://redwiredrevolution.com/) She previously was the lead China technology reporter...

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