Looking Back to the Future on the Hong Kong Startup Scene


As a startup ecosystem champion and connector I get asked to do many interviews about startups in Hong Kong and Asia-Pacific (i’m in fact going to be talking about this at the East Meets West 2016 conference in Hawaii next week) I know I have been extremely lax on blogging about the ecosystem so when asked to do an interview I pick ones that will hopefully reach out to the audience intended and generate more awareness for the startup ecosystem.

I was interviewed recently by the Alibaba Morning Post South China Morning Post recently, only to find 1% of it made it into the story that had not much to do with what the story was pitched to me as. So I’ve decided to post the full email interview here in its entirety so you can read my thoughts.

No, nothing controversial just some thoughts that you might like to read in their entirety. Full of typos and all.


What do you think was the most significant or important development/event for start-ups in Hong Kong in 2015?

RISE – it put HK on the map not only regionally but globally. The influx of both investors and startups looking to relocate can be sourced back to this event put on by Paddy Cosgrave and his Web Summit team. it’ll be 3X bigger in 2016 so we can expect HK taking the lead in Asia for startup activity.

How have things changed for Hong Kong’s start-up eco-system in 2015? Have any issues or problems been resolved?

Any strong ecosystem will solve their own problems. There are some overshadowing the fintech markets but anything else in terms of family offices learning that startup investing is completely different than mainland hair salon chain investing will be learned by doing. Its good to see more brands and corporates getting involved in the startup ecosystem mostly for helping shine a spotlight on the work being done by startup leaders.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

What do you think has been learnt by the start-up community during 2015?

1. The world is interested in Hong Kong and the world is bigger than Hong Kong.

2. Investors from around the world are investing in HK based startups – so money isn’t only local and real founders will find that money by looking for it even if it takes them to India, Japan or China.

3. Based in HK doesn’t mean a company is only looking at HK as a market but rather using it as a global base.


From a quick look on crunchbase, it seems Hong Kong start-ups have received far greating funding in 2015, what do you think is behind this?

Many factors – but good ideas with traction run by smart people. We’ve moved on from the happy hour apps and now tackling great verticals that HK is already strong at and founders taking those industries into the 21st century.

We’ve seen the number of co-working spaces and accelerators grow over the past year, how important do you think these are in helping start-ups grow?

Every piece helps to grow the ecosystem – Gene, Jon and I started StartupsHK to build a strong agnostic ecosystem, one that could thrive without a central group or government being involved – I think it has grown because of everyones involvement and everyone’s desire to see it grow. I like to think Hong Kong pride by locals and expats have built this ecosystem to be one of the strongest in Asia.


Government and big businesses appear to have become increasingly interested in working to help start-ups this year, how do you view this and do you see this continuing into 2016?

Everyone wants to build a better mousetrap and that’s great – the more cooks the more successes and failures all going toward a common goal – the worst thing that can happen is we don’t try.


At all.

Some ideas may seem goofy now but if they teach a lesson then everyone can learn and improve on its next iteration. It sounds cheesy but its anything involved thinking startups is a destination and not a journey will soon question why they got involved – some have learned that this year and dropped out, some have learned it and it has made them stronger. It all comes around and as long as everyone learns from everyone it will just tighten and reinforce the ecosystem here in HK.

No one has figured it out – everyone is in it for the long run.


What are your predictions for 2016, what do you expect to see from the city’s start-ups and ecosystem in the next year?

I expect a couple of big exits next year that have grown with us over the past 5 years and a few major new investments – we are still in early stage as honestly the growth has only been ramping up over the past 24 months – we still have a lot to do. So other than more big global startup brands opening offices in Hong Kong taking up pieces of the pie that local teams could have started building it going to be a very interesting 2016.

Do you see any trends for start-ups in Hong Kong, for example types of companies we can expect to see cropping up?

I will say there will be a bunch more that follow in the HK verticals like logistics, e-commerce, finance and property – the people learning to make another Uber will realise that isn’t a business model and will hopefully reinvest their funds, time and skills into aligning with the companies that start to see traction.


Which are you favourite start-ups that came to your attention in 2015 and which do you expect to see doing well into 2016?

The people who are just doing it are the ones that are getting my attention and doing well in the years to come: the guys who started at a HK accelerator, to winning a huge regional startup competition against leaders from all across APAC, to raising funding, to fighting with co-founders, to getting their own office and hiring a bunch of new people – THIS is where it gets exciting.

Photos by me.


Casey Lau (@casey_lau) is the co-founder of StartupsHK – see his profile on Startbase.hk

© StartupsHK. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit AND link of actual article is given to StartupsHK with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.