Hong Kong-based Internet of Things (IoT) accelerator Brinc is pulling an international crowd of startups closer to China in an attempt to kickstart innovation. The move signals  investors’ commitment to the island’s potential as an IoT hub amid a boom in the industry.

manav & greg
Brinc founder & CEO, Manav Gupta (middle) and Hong Kong Secretary of Commerce & Development, Gregory So (right) at the launch of the city’s first IoT accelerator.

Brinc is aiming to take hardware startups rapidly from ‘ideation to commercialization,’ with an ambition of putting Hong Kong on the map as the go-to destination for IoT start-ups. The area has already seen sizable growth in early-stage innovation,  driven by the city’s proximity to the Pearl River Delta.

“Hong Kong has the unique capability to integrate design, software and hardware and turn ideas into commercially viable IoT products,” Hong Kong’s Secretary of Commerce and Development, Gregory So said a the launch of Brinc’s new headquarters in PMQ, the city’s current creative hub.

Unlike most of the internet and mobile innovation that has largely driven the high-tech industry in recent memory, IoT startups require a product to be physically manufactured and delivered to market, and that’s one of the areas where Brinc believes it provides value.

“We’ve seen too many innovators & startups fail because of an inability to find sustainable partners – for example startups that require small scale manufacturing capabilities struggle to get anyone to entertain their orders,” Manav Gupta, Brinc’s Founder and CEO said to an audience of investors, entrepreneurs and government officials.

Having operated in stealth mode for the last few months,  Brinc IoT Hub’s accelerator program is on its second batch, supporting local teams as well as some from Spain, India, America, Germany and England in its six month program spread across Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

Soundbrenner, a Berlin-born startup, is one of these seven teams part of Brinc’s current batch. Billed as the world’s first wearable device for musicians, the Soundbrenner Pulse is a smart metronome that recently completed a crowdfunding campaign raising over $100,000. Its founders have now packed their bags and moved East. Soundbrenner co-founder, Florian Simmendinger, said the move to Hong Kong was the right decision.

“It was very difficult for us to do product development in Europe. There was very little help we could get… and how do you actually design a hardware product and later mass manufacture 10,000 pieces? Not many people in Europe have experience with that,” Simmendinger toldTechnode.

Now headquartered in Hong Kong under Brinc’s stewardship, it is undergoing the process of defining its business model, designing its product for manufacturing and developing its software. The team is in the midst of locking down manufacturing partnerships and plans to bring products to market in the latter part of this this year at a retail price of $139.

 The IoT ‘boom’

According to the research of tech firm Gartner, nearly 5 billion connected things will be in use this year, up 30 percent from last year. By 2020, that figure isexpected to explode to 25 billion driven in part by a boom in internet-enabled cars.

“The promise of IoT really is a fully connected yet disconnected world where technology isn’t in the forefront and doesn’t require us to check in all the time, but check in with us when the time is right,” Gupta said in a speech at the company’s launch to the public.

IBM announced in March that it will invest $3 billion over the next four years in a new IoT unit.  Meanwhile, Google made a bold IoT bet – it acquired a four-year old startup, Nest Labs for $3.2 billion dollars in January. Started by Apple veterans, the company makes smart thermostats and smoke alarms for the home.

Teams from InvestHK, SCED, PMQ and Brinc toast at the launch.

     Image sources: Brinc

Sareena is a tech writer based in between Hong Kong and Manila. She covers start-ups and tech happenings in Hong Kong. Write to her: sareena@technode.com

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