If you ever keep an eye on Hong Kong’s startup scene, I bet you’ve heard of the AcceleratorHK. Yes, it is the first startup accelerator in Hong Kong focusing on hybrid mobile development. It was organized by Stephen Forte and Paul Orlando, two successful serial entrepreneurs and educators with passion for startups and disruptive technology. Check this, this and this to know more about this 14-week accelerator program.
Last week, AcceleratorHK just graduated its second cohort and six startups debuted on the demo day. (one team was still in stealth mode and would not be elaborated below)
- VeryBite, a delivery platform for healthy homemade food that office workers can order homemade gourmet from housewives or retired good cooks.
- SoFly, an innovative companion app for TV lovers with social features, program management and even with AI-based real-time tags helping users to explore more information about what they watch.
- Dood!, a Facebook-based social advertising platform turning consumer’s photos into advertising pictures when they visit a merchant or go to an event. Photos that are shared on facebook can be used to redeem gifts or special offers.
- Gyaan Tel, a cloud based real-time data analytics service for retailers focusing on the Indian market.
- CaptainPlanner, an interesting travelling platform which helps people to finish trip planning in less than 5 minutes by aggregating data on attractions, restaurants, and events with reviews to streamline the process of planning.
Behind the teams today we have Stephen Forte, co-founder of AcceleratorHK , also the director behind the scenes to share with us his recent adventures.
(TN=Technode, S= Stephen Forte)
TN: What’s new about this cohort?
S: The companies in this cohort seemed to push the envelope a little further. I think that is because Paul and I pushed them harder, but also we took slightly later stage companies in this round. The results are amazing, two teams are living in production with paying customers as of Demo Day and the rest are living in beta with actual users.
TN: We’ve noticed that very few local teams are joining, what do you think of that?
S: The accelerator is a global program, so we are happy to get a lot of teams from outside Hong Kong! Hong Kong is a an attractive place to come work on a mobile startup due to smartphone penetration (almost 70%), Facebook penetration (#1 per capita), cosmopolitan population, and 4G adoption. Also we are happy to see the support for Start me up program by InvestHK (from HK government). While we tried everything to attract more local teams, even extending our application deadline to allow startup weekend participants to apply, we only accepted 2 local teams this time around. Last cohort we had four local teams, so I think it is all of the international attention we have gotten on websites like TechNode, TechCrunch, and Forbes, that drove higher international application rates.
TN: What is the biggest challenge AcceleratorHK has ever met so far?
S: Hong Kong is great for starting a business, but lousy for startups. While our teams all incorporated in Hong Kong very easily, they all had difficulty opening a bank account, transferring the investment money in from overseas, finding affordable lawyers who understand startups, and finding investment capital post-accelerator. The Hong Kong banking and legal system is super easy to navigate when you have money, almost impossible when you are a resource-constrained startup.
TN : What is the most exciting thing you’ve seen in the HK startup scene through the years?
S: The single most exciting thing that I have seen is the beginning of a true local startup culture here in Hong Kong. We have always had a great community with lots of events, etc., now we are starting to build a culture – where people just as likely to join a startup as they are to join HSBC. There is still a lot of peer pressure to get a “real job” from the older generation, especially parents, but it is starting to change.
TN: What’s your next move?
S: AcceleratorHK will continue to evolve. With Paul and myself both relocating to the West Coast of the US, the Accelerator will take a brief pause as we try to find a local funder. I am taking the AcceleratorHK model to Silicon Valley and plan on opening applications this September for an HTML5 based accelerator in Palo Alto, CA.