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NewsHong Kong
HONG KONG ECONOMY

Google's Eric Schmidt to Hong Kong: You need more engineers to start companies like mine

Schmidt encourages more start-ups and small business growth

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 November, 2013, 6:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 November, 2013, 3:25pm

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt has one suggestion for the Hong Kong government on how to make the city remain competitive – to open more technical universities, thereby attracting more software engineers, rather than more bankers.

Schmidt, who was visiting Hong Kong on Monday to announce a partnership program with the Chinese University of Hong Kong in a bid to boost the number of local young entrepreneurs for start-up businesses, told the South China Morning Post in an interview that many of economic problems that Hong Kong is now facing - including high rents that kill many local small businesses - are not unique and that other global cities face the same challenges.

To solve the problem, he urged the government to create more technical universities to help local businesses make better use of cutting-edge technology. Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s small businesses also need to find ways to grow in order to compete with bigger businesses, said Schmidt.

Facebook started with four guys. Google started with two people. There’re lots of engineers in California. Why are there not lots of engineers in Hong Kong?

“The problem about small shops is that a small shop was not an entrepreneur company but just a small company and it was not growing. People often get confused over this. You don’t want small businesses. You want fast-growing businesses, a chain or something,” said Schmidt, whose firm will work with CUHK to help young Hong Kong entrepreneurs to “overcome the start-up costs and isolation that come with high rents”.

“In America, there’s always a concern that the drug store is replaced by the luxury shop but the real problem is the drug company needs to become bigger. They had to do something and they didn’t and ultimately they were replaced by something which can afford the higher rents. You have to grow or you basically die,” said Schmidt whose firm Google was set up by two people and now is the world’s No1 search engine.

When asked to comment on Hong Kong’s growing social discontent over the so-called “real estate monopoly” where many young people believe major developers in Hong Kong occupy too many economic resources in the city, Schmidt said: “If you create a big enough company, they have to deal with you. If you can only do a small company that will not grow, well, then you won’t have a lot of power to deal with the tycoons.”

“The tycoons did the right thing because they wanted to be bigger. The little company wanted to be bigger too but they just didn’t do it. So as long as the rules are clear, as long as there is no corruption, it strikes me as a fair and clear answer,” he added.

But Schmidt also noted that the government must act to change Hong Kong’s reliance on the financial and real estate sectors.

“I think there is a shortage. Hong Kong needs more technical universities and attract more global technical students,” said Schmidt, a software engineer-turned business leader in the technology industry.

“The government should try to get more technical people in the universities. What are the other industries in Hong Kong now? Finance and property. In America, people are not going to the banks. They are going to the technology companies. The reasons why they do this is the banks’ jobs are not interesting. It is just a mess after the crisis,” said Schmidt, referring to the 2008 global financial crisis that first began on Wall Street.

“Facebook started with four guys. Google started with two people. There’re lots of engineers in California. Why are there not lots of engineers in Hong Kong?” said Schmidt. “Hong Kong can be the destination for the next generation of technical people who want to do the Asia solutions. They don’t want to live in Beijing because they can’t breathe the air. They don’t want to live in Shanghai because it’s too big.”

 

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17

This article is now closed to comments

mercedes2233
No more small businesses of fish balls, street singers, gloves and stockings in Mongkok, since the owners are all going to have global international businesses? What a pity.
xiaoblueleaf
The hot bed of innovation and entrepreneurship in the US today is Austin, Texas where local government and NGO provide basic incentives to those who qualify - free rent, small seed funding and "coaching". One out of 800 applicants qualify. Taiwan owes its rise in electronics and technology to well-run governmental support programs. Singapore is providing incentives to "new" technology startups such as "green" industries. Hong Kong???
blue
Even under HK's current business environment and high rents, it's possible to start a high growth business that sells to the rest of the world over the Internet. I happen to run such an e-commerce business and I buy my advertising through Google Adwords. Although I might not be backed by big tycoons, I still enjoy the same tax perks for non HK sourced income just like the big tycoons.

Therefore I agree a lot with what Mr. Schmidt has to say. People who want to setup a small shop with no growth potential have no chance in HK. But if you're willing to think outside the box, there are still ways to start a high growth business in this city. The problem with HK is the software, not the hardware.
sipsip1238
Firstly, Mr. Schmidt did not build Google, and yes, he was right, Google was started by two guys, none of the guys were him.
Second, the culture of Hong Kong does not allow for entrepreneurship because everyone is so focus on making a quick dollar who will actually bother starting something special.
Lastly, according to our Government, if you don't have a rich parent, you're now not allowed to do a damn thing to change that.
aplucky1
this guy did not start google
he is just some corporate lackey hired by the founders to go around shaking hands
he is no entrepreneur
why would anyone listen to him?
blue
He didn't start Google, but there's a lot of truth in what Mr. Schmidt said from my own personal experience.
sudo rm -f cy
The problem with entrepreneurship in Hong Kong is that it's not a level playing field, as HKTV's Ricky Wong recently found out.
blue
Ricky has been successful in HK in the past in other less restrictive industries. Also I think in the long run, HKTV will obtain that license.
SpeakFreely
"Schmidt, who was visiting Hong Kong on Monday to announce a partnership program with the Chinese University of Hong Kong in a bid to boost the number of local young entrepreneurs for start-up businesses, told the South China Morning Post in an exclusive interview that many of economic problems that Hong Kong is now facing - including high rents that kill many local small businesses - are not unique and that other global cities face the same challenges." Come on, SV is expensive in US as home are average over 1 to 1.5m Usd but engineers there are making 150 to 200k Usd as bard salary plus they have stock options. How much is our software engineers are making? Facebook Mark Z house in SV is only 7m Usd, that you can't buy a flat in HK in mid level....Eric is too diplomat when he speak to HK...
singleline
I’m sorry. I am told that the young man below was not the first Emperor, but his father instead.
Well, it has been widely rumoured that the Chinese merchant was the actual father of the first Emperor!
SpeakFreely
Eric, in HK all parents want their kids to be lawyer, bankers and doctors. That won't change until our biz model change. Remember at dot com all developers in hk started their tech companies but after a while gave up, as for them properties still the best money maker. Until that change I don't know how and when, we won't have real engineering jobs for these talents.
caractacus
The same advice could be given to every developed country whose traditional manufacturing and innovative base has been eroded.
Unfortunately, HK is the same: many of the young people want an easy job, big salary, no hard work.
singleline
Almost every Chinese have heard of the real story of a certain merchant in ancient China, who made a once-in-a-lifetime investment: investing in a young man who finally became the most famous First Emperor of China, Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
Believe it or not, a similar story is arguably going on nowadays.
The best students in HongKong want to become doctors, bankers or other professionals. For their educational investment, the rate of return is perhaps 1000%.
The best students in South Korea would like to be the future CEOs of Samsung, and the rate of return, counting all the bonuses and options, is about 10000%.
But the best students in the United States strive to become the future Zuckerberg of Facebook, because the rate of return, like those of the Chinese merchant, is infinite.
clk2828
Well for Eric, don't just say and help do. Give HK Tech entrepreneurs priority access to Google products (like Google Glass) and services for free and launch a funding venture cap in Hong Kong that only invest and fund in small HK tech companies (Entrepreneurs that started the tech company must be born and raised in HK) that will use Google technology. Direct funding from Google is all it needs to make a big difference!! Make the funding open source to the needy HK Tech firms in order to grow fast!!
SpeakFreely
If you are VC guy, you want to pick the winner. Why HK? All VCs are putting money in china. Sorry. There are many chinese tech listed in NYSE and Nasdaq, but none from HK. From the track record, why would they want to invest here?
keithnmk
Schmidt doesn't understand HK. Our best computer engineers went to the US, Singapore and Taiwan! The key is not about training more engineers. It is about how to retain them. 20 years ago, the best students studied computer science. No longer now.
fsk999
And why would they stay when they cannot afford to buy or rent their own flat, marry and raise a family?
 
 
 
 
 

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