An Overview of Hong Kong’s Very First Startup Grind Event Featuring StartupsHK Founders and Hosted By PaperclipHK

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Last night was Hong Kong’s very first Startup Grind event at newly opened co-work space and academy Paperclip. We had a blast rubbing shoulders 100+ new and old friends within the startup scene at this sold out event.

Our founders Casey Lau, Gene Soo and Jon Buford were the guest speakers du jour of this new chapter event. As pioneers of Hong Kong’s startup scene (they were around for the dot-com boom action in Hong Kong), they were asked to share memories and thoughts of our city’s past, present and future ecosystem via a Q&A. For those that couldn’t make it, this overview post will give you an idea of the energy and ideas that transpired last night.

First off, what is Startup Grind? Much like the StartupsHK story (where our founders held frequent coffee shop meet-ups to brainstorm ideas to support startups), Startup Grind started off as a small meet-up in Mountain View, California for entrepreneurs to network, share ideas and support one another. The meet-up has since exploded across the globe into monthly events happening in 75 cities, 30 countries involving 40,000+ entrepreneurs.

The latest Hong Kong chapter is headed up by three dynamic members of our ecosystem: Josh Steimle, (founder of MWI and Forbes writer), Amity Wu (management consultant that’s worked with Accenture and Value Partners) and Atin Batra (branding expert and tech enthusiast).

As moderator for the Q&A session, Josh asked our founders what Hong Kong’s startup scene was like during the dot-com bubble. “Half the room at these events was these dot-com ideas people, and the other half were the bankers, and everyone was waiting for the speakers to finish talking so the deals could happen” remembers Casey. “And it was an urban legend in the way that people were giving their business plans on a napkin and someone would say: ‘here’s a million dollars!’ – and these things would just happen.”

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Josh then sunk into the nitty gritty and brought up scenarios where visiting investors would remind startups to embrace Hong Kong’s unique advantages, instead of emulating the Silicon Valley way.  “From a business standpoint, it’s amazing tax-wise in running a company and being able to set things up efficiently,” Jon said, highlighting Hong Kong’s key advantage: the sheer ease of setting up a company. “And also being able to access China and potentially the rest of the world. Here, you can pick and choose your markets much easier.”

Finally, in a more poignant turn – Josh asked our founders why a city like Hong Kong would need startup companies. “I think everyone needs startups,” said Gene in response, “I know a lot of people that work miserable jobs and if you have a chance to do something you enjoy –I think  it’s a great opportunity.” He then pointed out that the internet was the greatest game-changer for startups. “We now have a bigger channel to voice our ideas and share interesting products that we’ve built, and we can test its worth with much lower risk than ever before.”

As a bonus, here’s a useful takeaway Q&A. If you’re planning on starting a company in Hong Kong, here are a list of StartupsHK founder-approved areas that new startups can do very well in: fulfillment, physical products, finance, mobile, enterprise-driven startups and anything retail-related.

All in all, it was an amazing kickoff event and we look forward to next month’s Startup Grind. Hats off to you – Josh, Amity and Atin!

Want more visuals from the event? Check out this Flickr compilation from superstar photographer Martin Bednar.

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