Hi there, I am now writing this post in a spacious sunny room with good coffee and cute potted plants around. Outside the window I can oversee the heritage site of the old Central Police Station and famous art & design galleries downstairs. Next to me are two gentlemen, Michael and Rick, two of the co-founders of this brand new co-working space in Lan Kwai Fong – WYND.
WOW! OK, that’s it, I’m done.
Really, the Hackerspace (@hackerspacesg) in Singapore is just amazing. It isn’t just the place itself, which is quite cool, but it is the community that they have attracted to it.
The location is around the Bugis MRT station, just off of Arab St. and has a whole hoard of restaurants serving up Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food along with a smattering of pubs and other things. It is located in the upstairs of two buildings which gives the space itself a bit of a hacked-together feel with the two spaces not being on the same floor level.
It seems like there are a few re-occurring themes that pop up when talking about HK becoming a known startup location, and why people don’t see it happening.
- HK will never be Silicon Valley:
- Personally, I’m not understanding why everyone is stuck on this. It may not be possible to have the exact options of funding or resources, but I think there are also certain resources that we have which no one else does. (More on that in a minute).
- There are no superstar entrepreneurs/developers/advisors:
- So, in that case, all successful companies are started with all of this in place already? Just like trying to grow a business, bootstrapping it all the way, I think we can build up a good community of both local resources and pull in ones from overseas.
- The government doesn’t do enough for startups:
- Does your mom still tuck you in bed each night too? The government has put together a lot of good, but limited programs to help startups. I think having the ability to offset half of my legal costs, marketing costs, and hiring recent grads is a pretty good deal that I’m not finding in many other places. I do think that this needs to be backed up with a more accessible pool of investment that understands what a startup company is about to be more effective. But, that doesn’t have anything to do with the government.
- People prefer to do X and not be in a startup:
- Ha, I think this is actually an upside of a poor economy along side the movement of a lot of the more traditional trade related jobs heading north to over the border. Just give it a year or two to kick in, how many people really want to commute to the factory every day or to be stationed up there for the whole week if there are alternatives that don’t require that. There is a void that is being created by the reduction of jobs that are stationed here that I think will create an opportunity for those that see it.
- Hong Kong has a very low entrepreneurship rate:
- This is very true. I think that this is probably due to the lack of pressure to find a good position over the last 30-40 years. In the last generation’s time, those who are the parents of the current generation of 20-30 somethings, it was very easy to find a reasonable job. Now, it is becoming more difficult, and I think it will continue to get worse. Why would there be a need for many entrepreneurs in an economy that is so driven by outside demand? But, as new people come into the workforce and do not find it as easy as they thought, being an entrepreneur becomes a more viable option.
- Without VC money, there will never be huge rockstar companies coming up:
- If I have the choice of making ten smaller, sustainable companies, or one huge hype machine of a company, I would choose the smaller ones. It is possible for the smaller ones to grow and be successful, but the hype machine has a high chance of very spectacularly crashing and burning. OK, so there isn’t a lot of chance for big money deals here, but I think if we can develop a resource for seed funding or micro-funding, then we’ve got a good foundation to grow from there.
- Hong Kong people don’t collaborate about their business:
- Yep, this is true to some extent, but I think it may be that it is a lack of some community that gives the trust to collaborate. The local HK toy factory owners have a regular lunch meeting to catch up and collaborate. These are the last generation, ones that grew the factories from small businesses to where they employ hundreds or thousands of workers. In order to grow, many times they relied on their competitors to help with overflow of work.
- If a strong community that is growing and thriving defines that they are open and that this is one of the attributes that defines the community, then others will follow by example.
Anyhow, I hope this doesn’t come across as a rant. I hope it to be a start of another conversation of what people see the prospects are for growing a startup community here in Hong Kong.