Ambi Climate Wins RISE: The Victory Interview


In what was an incredible finale at RISE – over all of the startups selected for PITCH; the main RISE pitching stage that included 33 startups from around the world – all 3 finalists were from Hong Kong: Ambi Climate, Soundbrenner in the Brinc program and Prenetics by the founder of Groupon Hong Kong.

But it had to come down to 1 victor and the judges from Google, Facebook, Misfit and JP Morgan picked one winner: AMBI CLIMATE.

I’m thinking – as you probably are as well – that by now Julian Lee and his Ambi co-founders have won just about every startup pitch competition out there.

So I sat down with him quickly to talk about his most recent victory:

How does it feel to win the very first RISE Conference?

We’re super excited about winning RISE – although we’d been in other pitch events before, I felt that the even wider geographic selection of attendees, startups and judges took this event up a notch from the ones we went to before. While we plan to continue attending other startup conferences in the region, we’re definitely looking forward to attending RISE next year!

What do you think that all 3 finalists were from Hong Kong?

It’s super awesome, and I feel it’s a validation that HK startups can really compete on an international level. Of course, HK still has it’s share of challenges, but I’m very encouraged by the quality of the startups – hopefully this will bring even more investors and (just as importantly) make working at startups a serious career path.

We’ve seen a number of quality founding teams here in HK, but it seems that many non-founder types are still very wary about joining a startup.


What was the toughest question you had to answer from the judges?

The toughest question we had was the one about China – we have our rationale about why we are not planning on entering China as of now, and I just didn’t have enough time to go into the detail I needed to explain that one. At the same time, if everyone is questioning us about the same issue, it does raise alarm bells for us – so it’s certainly something we’ll revisit!

When will everyone have a chance to buy an Ambi Climate?

We’re getting very close to shipping our Kickstarter units, just clearing some final hiccups now and should be shipping within the next 2 weeks or so.


What did you think of the RISE conference as a whole and how did it help your startup?

We really loved RISE – the combination of an international audience (we saw people from some international startups, like who we’d read about before), with attendees who understood Asia (compared to TC Disrupt in SF, which was a much more US centric conference), and also the number of our friends in HK startups we saw made this a truly unique event.

Any tips to startups pitching at RISE 2016?

From the pitches I saw, I’d say that there are many great business ideas out there, but perhaps some of the pitches could be polished a little more. I don’t mean in terms of look and feel, etc, but perhaps in terms of information flow. Have you conveyed all the key points you need to? Are there any obvious questions you need to address?

For example, one question we kept getting asked was “How is Ambi Climate different from Nest?” – this became a stumbling block to the judges understanding our product, so we decided to including this very early on in our pitch, even though it meant burning precious seconds to fit in this key issue.

Photos by RISE

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