Startup Island: Applications for Hong Kong Startup Visas Now Open

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A lot is written about Hong Kong as a startup ecosystem, but one thing is for sure: a working visa isn’t a breakpoint anymore!

As startup mentor and as co-director of the Founder Institute in Hong Kong, I often get questions from founders about working visas in Hong Kong and I did my share of visa applications so far (6 applications, 100% hit rate). So when I got a meeting invitation (hat tip to Gene Soo) about Attracting Talent from Outside Hong Kong in the Legco office by Charles Mok and the Immigration Department, I went to brush up my knowledge on visa applications in Hong Kong.

The meeting was on knowledge migration working visas in Hong Kong and especially the new “Start up visa” regulations. I will spare you the standard visa applications and arrangements for Chinese nationals and dive right into the “start up visa” details.

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Eye of the Distro Tigers: 500 Startups Growth Lessons Learned in Hong Kong

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I just got back to the Valley from a Distro Tour of Asia with a group of mentors from 500 Startups.

It sounds glamorous… AND IT WAS.

Aside from doing lots of eating, we also helped 60+ companies in Taiwan and Hong Kong (from a pre-selected applicant pool) tackle their biggest questions in growth marketing, b2b sales, fundraising / pitching, and team leadership with workshops and lots of hands-on office hours.

We learned a LOT about the realities of growing and funding a startup in Taipei and Hong Kong. These are two talent-filled ecosystems in the “Asian Tiger” constellation of developed economies, and they have a lot going for them.

In Hong Kong the companies we met had a solid grasp on their initial customer needs and how to find those first customers.

But, startups and their founders in these regions also face some big, non-obvious realities that pose unique challenges.

From our perspective focused on startup growth and distribution, here are the challenges that stood out to us the most.

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Are You Not Entertained? How to Win a Startup Pitch Competition in 5 Steps

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I’ve either attended, judged or put together so many pitch competitions I thought it would be a good time to share 5 main points on how to win one.

Yes, there is a formula and I’ve seen it work on big VC judges, media judges and the general audience. If you have these 5 things you will most likely win or at least place in audience favourite (as long as the other teams don’t read this post! ;-). When I sit as an audience member I can guess who will win everytime based on these factors no matter what the product is and no matter the founder’s experience level.

Luckily my friend Masaru Ikeda from The Bridge filmed the Lots of Buttons pitch at Startup Asia 2013 because that was one of the best pitches ever from Hong Kong. On the outside, it sounds like the dumbest idea for a startup – but it stole the show, the judges votes and showed the audience what makes a startup pitch work.

I’m going to discount a few obvious things like making sure the pitcher has fluent, non-accented English (this applies to obviously English pitch events), the slide deck is beautiful and not done with Comic Sans and that doing a live-demo is the kiss of death when wifi goes down and you have nothing else to show.

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