Venturetec aims to accelerate pace of tech development by helping start-ups

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 June, 2014, 5:41am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 June, 2014, 5:41am

A project being launched this week aims to help boost the growth of technology start-ups in Hong Kong and the Asia-Pacific region.

Venturetec, an "accelerator", is accepting applications to a six-to-12-month programme that will link 12 to 15 start-ups with 10 or so major corporate partners, mostly in the banking and telecommunications industries. The big companies will mentor the new companies and, organisers hope, become clients at the end of the programme.

Accelerators - which offer budding entrepreneurs help to quickly develop their business in exchange for equity - are growing in popularity in the US but remain rare in Asia.

"The difference is that we're looking at vertical industries, specific clients [like banks and telecommunications companies] rather than the general consumer," said Trey Zagante, founder of the accelerator.

The regional programme will connect its network through videoconferencing, as if the groups are in the same location.

It looks to foster companies that produce technology that fundamentally changes the way banks and other traditional industries do business.

One possible niche for the start-ups would be to use data gleaned from credit card transactions to direct customers to businesses and markets using real-time location data.

"Big data is now the new big oil," said Dan Ternes, chief technology officer for German software provider Software AG, a Venturetec mentor.

Accelerator programmes help budding entrepreneurs fast-track business ideas, providing seed money and mentorship, teaching presentation skills and basic accounting and providing a support network.

AcceleratorHK, the first such group launched in Hong Kong, ran for a year but has suspended its activities after its founders moved back to the US. One of the founders, Paul Orlando, sits on the board of Venturetec.

In the case of Venturetec, companies will give up some of their equity - the standard for accelerators is 5 to 6 per cent. It will depend on the project and the country where the firm is based, as will the funding the start-ups receive.

"I love the fact that there are more accelerators out there. There should be more entrepreneurship," said Keith Rumjahn, founder of Coachbase, an app developer that benefitted from the Nike + Accelerator programme.

"But the downside is that it's not regulated. For applicants, look carefully who the mentors are. Are they going to help you get where you want to be?"

Venturetec has yet to name its more than 100 mentors, but they include David Gee, the chief information officer of Credit Union Australia, and Simran Gambhir, mentor and hacker-in-residence at ANZ Innovyz START.