Guide To Connect in the Hong Kong Tech & Startup Scene

Michael MicheliniBlog, Lifestyle, Living2 Comments

hong kong startup and tech guide Post2

A tech geek? Looking to come to Hong Kong? Or maybe you’re a introvert geek already in Hong Kong and want to get more connected. Today’s post is for you.

So where did today’s post idea come from?

Twitter rocks! I’m always plugged in via @michelini even when I’m behind the Chinese firewall, so follow me and hit me up!

I love getting questions from people who read the blog and listen to the podcast, and over the weekend I received this tweet from Derrick (@Dstaten) via twitter:

Hey you don’t know me but I’ve been following you for a while for perspectives on HK. I’m here there at the end of the month. I’m interested in meeting with startups, incubators, and accelerators with a focus on mobile apps. I’d love any recommendations. Places to visit or people to meet. For context, I’m an engineer at the quickly growing Branch Metrics. Thanks in advance.

Thanks Derrick for the question, today is Sunday and I had way too much caffeine and I am going to unload all of my brain into this one. Hope it sticks to be the ultimate guide for the Hong Kong tech scene. So welcome to Hong Kong and when you’re here let’s get together or meet at one of the many events I’m going to outline below.

Let’s do this!

HK Business Events & Meetups

Hong Kong is extremely social and cosmopolitan. And that means plenty of networking events for all types. I will highlight a few that I think are most relevant for readers in the business world.

    • American Chamber of Commerce – American (or your respective country’s) Chamber of Commerce has meet ups on a regular basis, though there is a membership so check for more information. http://www.amcham.org.hk/
    • StartupsHK – StartupsHK is the original startup community group in Hong Kong, and has various meet ups throughout the year. My favorite is Startup Saturday, which happens yearly and is an amazing day full of speakers and networking. Check out http://www.startupshk.com and subscribe to their email list to keep up with events.Casey Lau, one of the founders, was on my podcast back in episode 3!

plugged into hong kong startup scene with Casey lau startupshk

  • StartMeUp – StartMeUp is a Hong Kong government initiative create a buzz amongst entrepreneurs in the local and overseas startup communities, help promote Hong Kong as a startup destination, bring global entrepreneurs to the city and facilitate collaboration between overseas entrepreneurs and Hong Kong based startups / companies. http://www.Startupmeup.hk

Their main event is the yearly StartMeUp HK Venture Programme that is a global competition for high-impact, innovative and scalable startups who aims to expand their businesses globally from Hong Kong. http://www.startmeup.hk/en/awards-programme/venture-programme1/

This is a massive event with about 500 business and startup people in one room, pitches, trade booths from Hong Kong businesses and service providers, and where I get to interview a lot of their amazing keynote speakers for my Global From Asia podcast!

  • Startup Weekend Hong Kong – Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement of active and empowered entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures.

Friday night is your opportunity to bring business ideas to reality. Or, to work with others in a team to design and build a business. Build a team Friday night, and all weekend work together to pitch on Sunday night to a panel of judges and the other teams.

No talk, all action – go out and talk to potential customers. Validate your ideas and execution.

During the weekend you will be supported by a team of experienced mentors to maximize the learning. Tickets include 6 meals, drinks and snacks from Friday night to Sunday night and cost from HKD 300 to HKD 400 ($40 – $50USD). http://hongkong.startupweekend.org

  • Startup Grind Hong Kong – A monthly meet up consisting of fireside chat interviews, startup mixers and annual conferences provide ample opportunities to connect with amazing startups and the people behind them, tap into a strong support network, form meaningful connections and gain inspiration for the startup journey ahead. http://startupgrind.com/hong-kong
  • Barcamp – Referred to as an “un-conference”. That’s because there’s no speaker list or fixed schedule until the actual event. All content comes from attendees. Anyone can host a session, participate in discussions, demo a project, talk about code, share cautionary tales, and pretty much do anything tech-y or geeky. This really gets people to make new friends, and often times meeting potential business partners and clients!

BarCamps have each attracted 400–500 participants, the event is normally once per year, and you can check on the latest event via http://www.barcamp.hk

  • Web Wednesday – A monthly event for internet entrepreneurs and digital media executives, on a Wednesday (obviously!), and in the evening. The deal is normally 100HKD and up, for admission with 1 drink ticket. Each event will have 1 speaker sharing his/ her story or experience in a topic related to entrepreneurship or technology. I have attended a fun one about bitcoin and there are also some pitch events for mobile apps I have witnessed there as well. Normally a full house, you’ll get to meet a lot of movers and shakers in the industry. http://www.webwednesday.hk/
  • IT Fest – The Hong Kong IT Fest has just completed its second annual meeting, it has taken place now in April of 2013 and April 2014. This is a two to three week long series of events throughout Hong Kong which aim at bringing together international experts to share knowledge and exchange insights in various technology and business domains. This mega event crystallizes the joint efforts of Hong Kong’s thriving technology and innovation industry. http://www.itfest.hk/

And So Many More! While there may not be as many networking events as in SF or New York City, Hong Kong has its fair share of networking events and social hours. After spending so much time at these over the years, I try to be more selective and focus more on my business – but of course it is a good chance to get out of the house and meet some quality people in your neck of the woods.

Hong Kong Accelerators & Incubators

The definition can be stretched a bit and there are different interpretations of an accelerator or incubator, and they come in many forms. Here are a couple that I am aware of, I do miss AcceleratorHK when it was here for a couple years!

  • Blueprint HK This space also has a separate floor for coworking if you just want coworking. Its backed by the massive company Swire. Upstairs from the coworking they have a nice incubator. I’ve only seen the coworking space downstairs, which is so beautiful, but from what I am told you get free space and a ton of mentorship if accepted into their incubator program. Interested? check out their website
  • Brinc.io – This is another brand new accelerator that opened earlier this year (in 2015) and is focused on hardware and IoT (Internet of Things). Right in downtown Hong Kong’s trendy PMQ design district that gives money and space and mentorship. My friend Nick Ramil is doing a great job there and tell him Mike says hi! They have a nice clear website to check out brinc.io
  • Founder Institute Hong Kong This is a program where the team has to pay a fee to attend, and it is geared towards those working full time jobs to get the confidence and traction to be a full time entrepreneur. They have a massive global network of programs and advisors. I am an advisor in their Hong Kong program and would be cool to chat if you get in! It is a rigorous multi-month program and you need to hang tough to get through it- but the statistics show if you can get to graduation you have high chance of success. Check them out on fi.co

Hong Kong Government Programs

There has been a few initiatives lately in Hong Kong to support small businesses and entrepreneurs. Hopefully you can take advantage of at least one or two of these programs as they are free and there to help you get on your feet with a Hong Kong company. From free consultations to grants, there should be something for everyone reading today.

Cyberport Hong Kong

David Chung from Cyberport was on the podcast, I recommend listening to to get some inside tips and from Cyberport directly

This is a beautiful facility on the south part of Hong Kong island, and they have quite a few programs to help technology and innovation companies and attract them to start and base in Hong Kong.

Cyberport Incubation Program

david cyberport m

This is a program that supports entrepreneurs who either want on-site or off-site help. On-site provides office space at their facility for you and your team. Off-site will let you take part in the other perks they offer without having to work at their facility. There are tons of tools they have at the facility, such as an extensive audio video room there that is for members to use. I was able to do a podcast interview there with their CTO David Chung and saw it firsthand. The program also offers up financial support in the form of submitting receipts and get reimbursed for the approved.

If you are an on-site incubation program recipient, meaning you work at their facility free up to 24 months, then you receive qualified reimbursements of up to 530,000HKD. If you are an off-site incubator program company, you will receive up to 330,000HKD in reimbursements for qualified expenses in the company.

Sound good?

Some examples of qualified reimbursements in this incubation program include up to a 50% credit towards Hong Kong university students salary, 100% reimbursement for travel and trade booth expenses for overseas trade events (events that the program feels are relevant to your business, not just party trips in Las Vegas!).

There are also connections at events and other perks as they come up, first offered to their incubator businesses. Learn more and apply here

Case Study: Incubation Program

I know quite a few friends who have gotten into their incubation program and these are the two main benefits I have seen. A few went to a Techcrunch Disrupt event in Shanghai, China in 2013 which covered flight, hotel, and a trade booth.

A second perk is that the incubation program reimbursed half of the cost (salary) of an intern that was enrolled in a Hong Kong university, and they had been able to source some nice talented designers and programmers this way.

Another friend received a free office in their incubator department for him and six of his team members.

There has also been a Cyberport visit to Silicon Valley and SXSW (South by Southwest event) in Austin, Texas, and a bunch my business friends involved in any of the Cyberport various programs were extended an invitation to travel with this group.

Microfund Investment Program

You may not be interested in the reimbursements but instead want direct investment. Then this program is more for you, it is a grant, not a reimbursement, that is paid to help you build and grow your startup without having to give them any equity. Not a local Hong Kong person, no problem, I am told about 40% of their accepted applicants are non-local HK people as they want to give equal chance to all. This is a cash grant of up to 1,000,000HKD without having to give up any equity in your company. This is a program where they truly want to support technology and innovation in Hong Hong. After accepted, you receive 10% of the amount, then 45% after a checkin, and then a 45% after the term. The purpose is to show progress and development of your startup and innovate. Find out more and apply here

Smart Space Co-working

Maybe you just want to work at this amazing facility. They offer on-demand co-working office space and encourage those visiting Hong Kong from overseas to reach out and book space. They would love to have you – Learn more and apply here

State of the Art Video & Audio production studio

I remember during the tour they told me even the local weather channel uses their facility! It is about 2 stories high room with 3 cameras for various angles. Multi-format Live Studio Production Center, Multi-Purpose Audio Surround Studio (where I recorded the podcast interview with them), Image Data Input / Output Centre, and multiple multimedia workstation. It is pretty amazing and worth checking out

Cyberport Cloud-based Services Program

their fourth and final program (that I am aware of!) is the cloud-based services program. This is for those interested in using some a SaaS service called 3D Cloud. They state it can greatly decrease the need for traditional high cost rendering equipment, and provide a cutting-edge, cloud-based 3D rendering platform to local CG production houses and local students. You can view more and apply here.

Cyberport Guidance Notes

Please refer to these very detailed and extensive guidance notes, including eligibility criteria, project nature, application process, vetting details, etc. Here is the pdf.

One of the biggest drawbacks is unfortunately there isn’t a MTR (subway) stop that goes there. The best way to get there is either by taxi from Central, or taking a bus 69X from Admiralty MTR stop (one station next to Central) to the end. But it is well worth stopping by at least once if you are in town – they will more than welcome you!

Hong Kong Science and Technology Park

I have a nice interview on the podcast with Andrew Young from HK Science Park here to check out.

science park andrew young-t

Established in 2001 by the Hong Kong government, it is a center for nurturing research and development in innovation and advanced technologies. The Science park is built for tech companies, but they also have an InnoCenter for design enterprises in Kowloon Tong, as well as 3 industrial estates throughout Hong Kong to consider taking advantage of as well. You can check out their website here

The Science Park focuses on industries such as biotech, electronics, green tech, information technology and telecom , and Precision engineering. They are most well known for their incubator program, which has 3 programs to choose from: Incu-app, Incu-bio and Incu-tech

Incu-app

As the name states, this is an incubator for an “app”. After getting approved for this incubator, you will receive free rent at their facility for 18 months, reimbursements for qualified business programs and reimbursement for hiring local Hong Kong university students. Also mentorship, business plan consultations, business training, labs, marketing and legal accounting help. Another service they offer is introductions and connecting up with investors, whether it is investors who work on-site in the science park, or those throughout Hong Kong and even overseas. The big perk to take note of is that you don’t have to give up any equity for this program.

To qualify, the company must be less than two years old, innovative, financially dependent from any parent company owning it, and have two full time owners / staff. There is a backlog and if you want to apply for your business to be considered check them out

Incu-bio and Incu-tech

The 2nd two programs are the same format, except they are focused on the biotech and technology (technology that requires more hardware and equipment than an app) and they are 3 year programs instead of the Incu-app 18 month program.

Other programs inside the Hong Kong Science Park

To briefly cover their extensive support programs, the park also offers business support services so that you don’t need to invest in a lot of infrastructure yourself. There are also a lot of collaboration opportunities with other members and businesses inside the park and regular networking events for mingling. The park also facilitates angel investor and VC financing match-matching sessions via their Hong Kong Science park venture capital division. A program that is valuable if you plan to enter the Chinese market is their Mainland China Collaboration, which is a network of other Science Parks they have throughout various cities in China. With this program, it is like an exchange, those Chinese city Science Parks can come to visit Hong Kong’s park, and those members in Hong Kong can go to those centers in China. The list is constantly updating and it is best to ask the Hong Kong Science Park when you are applying for their program.

InvestHK

EP7

I have a nice interview on the podcast with Charles Ng from InvestHK here that I recommend you check out

InvestHK is the go to place for any Hong Kong government facing need. They are a non-profit government division that’s purpose is to help businesses come to Hong Kong to do business. And also help those already in Hong Kong to better understand which services are out there to help them better maximize what they can get by being here. I have visited them quite a few times and their team is amazing and their job is to be the public face of Hong Kong’s government. They even helped advise me a bit for this book! The first time you work with them you will be assigned an account representative, and they will arrange a meeting with you. Their office is right in Admiralty:

Invest Hong Kong
25/F, Fairmont House,
8 Cotton Tree Drive,
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 3107 1000
Fax: +852 3107 9007
[email protected]

So you can literally walk there after your visit to HSBC Hong Kong’s Central branch. Actually that is part of my regular visits to Hong Kong, and I arrange my HSBC visit together with InvestHK. During your meeting with InvestHK, they are your resource! They are familiar with all the government programs and incentives and can suggest which, if any, are most suitable for your situation. Many have previously worked inside the government in various departments and have connections (for those who want to hear the word “Guanxi”, Chinese for relationships) so it can be a good place to go to get connected to the right people.

I feel so many business people either don’t know about this free resource or just don’t bother, but I highly recommend scheduling at least 1 meeting with them, explaining your situation and seeing if they can help you out!

HKTDC – Hong Kong Trade Development Council

The HKTD we mentioned earlier as a trade show, it is officially a for profit government organization promoting Hong Kong’s external trade. It is governed by a 19-member Council of Hong Kong business leaders and senior Government officials that plans and supervises HKTDC’s global operations, services and promotional activities. The Council also oversees the operation of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

HKTDC SME Centre

newly-renovated HKTDC SME Centre is a resource and service facility that provides practical information and free professional advice for business starters and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This helpful centre also offers comprehensive export-marketing services to businesses.

Business Advisory

They offer one on one advise and consulting but you must complete an application form and be approved first, the link is here

Seminars & Workshops

There are many workshops and seminars free of charge for Hong Kong business, but please note for the most part it is in Cantonese (traditional Chinese) language so English-only speakers may not get too much value from attending.

HKTDC SME Centre
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
1 Expo Drive, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Monday – Friday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Saturday 12:00 noon – 4:00 pm
Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays
By phone: (852) 1830 668
By fax: (852) 2824 0249
By email: [email protected]

They also have a few other programs such as market intelligence to issue reports about the markets and industries in Hong Kong, the World SME Expo event, and an Entrepreneur Day event. They are worth getting to know and at least stopping by to see their office at the address below. If you’re going the convention center for any kind of events (and this is a common location for Hong Kong shows) then you can also stop in on your way to the conference:

Coworking Spaces in Hong Kong

I still remember the “good old days” when boot.hk was the first and only coworking space. But how times have changed since 2010! There are a tons of them and I had a podcast with Chris Li, my co-founder / CTO at Social Agent where he discussed the tech scene and coworking spaces.

ChrisLi2

There is also a great listing Yana wrote on 9amconsulting that lists out the current coworking spaces and rates.

Here are some of the ones that stick out to me or I have experience with (sorry I missed yours, let me know if I did!)

*Paperclip Hong Kong – This is also a startup academy with tons of training and events right inside their main conference room (I’ve done some China Business Workshops there), it is a massive space right in downtown Hong Kong and is rather affordable. They have a free trial pass and I also recommend you listen to their founder on my podcast: Deepak Madnani. Their website can be found on Papercliphk.com

deepak paperclip t2

  • The Hive – I feel they were one of the first coworking spaces that started (The Hive and Cocoon – we’ll cover below) – Their are a few locations now to choose from and they also help a lot with social events and networking for their members. Thehive.com.hk
  • The Garage Society – A new and trendy one right in Central district, they also are home to General Assembly HK (where I’m an instructor). You can find their website at The Garage Society
  • Goodlab – On the Kowloon side, this is a massive space with good venue for events as well. They have housed quite a few Startup Weekends and other big startup events, and are a friendly company to know. Check them out at Goodlab.hk
  • Cocoon – The second coworking space in Hong Kong after Boot.hk – they came into the market strong with a massive full floor of coworking space right in Causeway Bay! Very cool venue and also monthly pitch events, find them at HKcocoon.org
  • Blueprint – As mentioned in the incubator section, this is a Swire Properties company with a massive floor space for techies and geeks! In Quarry Bay, definitely come over there and check it out, http://blueprint.swireproperties.com/

So those should give you a lot of spaces to check out and see what is up in the Hong Kong coworking scene. If you have others you use or recommend please leave me a comment below.

Conclusion – Hong Kong Startup Scene is Igniting

To take “igniting” from the Entrepreneur on Fire show – but that is what Hong Kong’s scene is under right now. It is growing quickly and more and more people such as Derrick have been reaching out with questions and interest to come to Hong Kong.

I hope you liked this article. The best way to support me now is if you can buy my book “Hong Kong Business Supercharged” on the web shop. It comes with tons more information like this about setting up and operating your Hong Kong company.

And also please don’t hesitate to leave comments, questions, concerns, or death threats below in the comments! Cheers.

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