With TechNode and Cyberport last week hosting “China Bang 2015” in Hong Kong to introduce twelve local startups, we spent three days in Hong Kong, 80% of which was at the CyberPort complex. This creative digital community, with over 300 technology and digital tenants, helped me get a feel for Hong Kong life. Besides the five-star design hotel and entertainment complex, it’s also a huge complex for businesses, home to four grade-A intelligent office buildings. With a 20-feet high ceiling and big glass windows from which you can see some of Hong Kong’s finest houses, a five minute walk takes you to the large hall where we held the ‘Startup Training and Pitching’ event.
Before all this, my first meeting in Hong Kong was with Cyberport CTO Dr. David Chung. Dr. Chung has great experience in IT, with expertise in cloud computing and digital rights management. Now he leads the core public functions of Cyberport, namely IT&T service operations, and the Technology, Collaboration and Entrepreneurship Centers. He walked me through the establishment of Cyberport and how it was taking a leading role in fostering Hong Kong’s ICT startups.
Tell us about the Hong Kong startup ecosystem.
It was during 2011, when smartphone ownership became ubiquitous, that mobile app startups started launching. As for the Hong Kong ecosystem, the e-commerce sector is one where Hong Kong’s startups are strongest. Representative businesses are Gogovan, a P2P platform for vans; Aftership, a shipment tracking app for online retailers; and Shopline, a DIY e-commerce platform for Asia. As for the fashion industry, I would like to mention two companies: MyDress is a fashion group-buying website and local review portal, and Buymedesign offers Asian online curation for designers and shops. The fintech sector is still in early stage of development.
What are the advantages of running a startup in Hong Kong?
The legal system is stable and tax for tech companies is low. The incorporation process is relatively easy and it’s free to transfer money to other countries. By providing an open environment to start a business, Hong Kong attracts multinational talents, and gets business from Europe, South America and Africa.
How does Cyberport support startups?
With a vision of establishing itself as a leading ICT hub in the Asia-Pacific, Cyberport is committed to developing the local economy by nurturing startups and entrepreneurs, and is 100% run by the government. Equipped with state-of-the-art ICT facilities and a cutting-edge broadband network, we provide programs and subsidies to function as one-stop shop for startups.
Support for startups is there from the beginning. To foster local talent, we provide training and hackathon events for university students. In this pre-seed round, companies are given micro funding of HK$100,000 to build a prototype. Selected teams go through a two-year incubation program, and are given HK$530,000 to start building ideas to reach out to a bigger market.
Cyberspace has a collaborative team in Shanghai and Guangzhou and we collaborate with top Accelerators like Innospace in Shanghai and Plug and Play in Silicon Valley. When a startup is incubated by the company’s strategic partners like Plug and Play, Microsoft Ventures, 500 Startups, Y Combinator and TechStar, the team will receive top up funding of HK$300,000 to spend on marketing, flights, and cost of living. This supports the project and is regarded as win-win-win for the startup, overseas accelerator and Cyberport. If you combine the amount given to a startup over the whole cycle, it’s a total of HK$1m in support. What’s more, there is no need for equity or contribution to Cyberport for it.
Are there any similar organizations that also support startups, and how is Cyberport different from them?
With 36 co-working spaces now in Hong Kong, there are two other similar organizations, Hong Kong Design Centre, focusing on design and innovation, and Hong Kong Science Park, focusing on technology and life science. However, Cyberport focuses on ICT-based startups, mostly in areas like software, wearables, fintech and open data.
Can you describe a startup that went through Cyberport’s incubation program?
In 2013, Gogovan’s three founders went through our incubation program for 15 months. Their idea was for independent van drivers delivering luggage and cargo for users using walkie talkie. They first received micro funding, built a prototype and raised HK$1m. Cooperating with corporate clients, its freight service can be also seen in Taiwan, Australia and Singapore.
You previously successfully exited your company. What is your advice for startups?
Learn to work and enjoy things as a team. A lot of entrepreneurs know how to go through the hard times, but don’t know how to really enjoy the good times. I have seen many cases when co-founders couldn’t deal with it, and had to finally disband. In order to enjoy the good times, you have to define the roles and rewards with your co-founders and come up with a co-founder agreement from an early stage.
Image Credit: Cyberport, GoGoVan
Editing by Mike Cormack (@bucketoftongues)