Full coverage: Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2014
Hong Kong is wooing tech start-ups while the Boao Forum focuses on innovation. As the Boao Forum in Hainan continues, the world’s most competitive cities such as Hong Kong come to the fore as they try to reinvent themselves through innovation and reform key themes of this year’s Boao Forum. Cathy Yang takes a look at what strides Hong Kong has made in pursuing its quest to be the region’s innovation hot spot for tech start-ups.
French tech startup Rise Impact Limited is making waves in Hong Kong’s animation industry. Their works have been adopted by the 3D animation theatre at popular theme park Ocean Park Hong Kong. Rise Impact is one of several startups or “incubatees” at Cyberport – a creative digital community owned and managed by the Hong Kong government.
"Many more start-ups are trying to find their footing in Hong Kong. The government, through InvestHK, launched late last year the “StartmeupHK Venture Programme” for the first time." Julien Peyrache, Manager of Animakitstudio.com said.
Three entrepreneurs from New Zealand, the U.S. and Hong Kong bested over 380 entries from nearly 40 countries. The global competition was aimed at raising Hong Kong’s potential as Asia’s hub for innovation, rivaling that of Silicon Valley in the U-S and Silicon Roundabout in London.
Startups are becoming a global phenomenon and Hong Kong, in its bid to stay competitive as a global financial centre, has taken on the task of creating an environment wherein tech start-ups could prosper. And while the Boao Forum this year in Hainan underscores the importance of innovation in a global city as Hong Kong, the endeavor faces challenges, among them the high costs of doing business here, funding, as well as parental inclination for local children to work in big corporations.
Kelly Yang is an educator who runs a school teaching kids critical reasoning, creative writing and public speaking. The Harvard Law School graduate says many Hong Kong businesses lack innovation because they simply cannot afford to take risks, and a big part of that stumbling block develops right at home.
"One of them is changing the Hong Kong mentality of always trying to find the safe job, safe prestigious thing to do, and that’s never going to be taking a risk." Kelly Yang said.
A lot of Hong Kong families will say don’t think about starting your own business. That’s silly. Why would you want to do that? Why not take that investment banking job instead?
Our market right now is heavily dependent on tourism, on banking, on property. I’d like us to step away from that and just be innovative. And if we have more people like that coming to Hong Kong, the better that it will be for everyone.
The Hong Kong government has nearly doubled the number of startups that it helped assist in the past four years. InvestHK in 20-10 assisted 31 startups in Hong Kong. That number has grown to 55 last year.
As for Rise Impact, taking their applications to the next level is the next step. How these foreign startups influence Hong Kong locals to break from the norm and strike it out on their own may very well define - in time - the city’s potential as a regional hub for innovation.