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Make city more conducive for Hong Kong youth to take business risks, young entrepreneurs urge

They call for more recognition, higher pay for science, tech graduates to mitigate high cost of living and spur them to form start-ups

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 September, 2016, 10:09pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2016, 2:32am

Hong Kong needs to create a sense of security for young people to take risks and start their own businesses, young local entrepreneurs said yesterday at a forum on youth innovation.

They said there should be more recognition and higher salaries for graduates from science- and technology-related majors, as well as less reliance on past pillar industries such as finance, service, property and tourism, which they said could no longer support a sustainable economic growth.

They also said that for every successful start-up, there would be 99 which failed, and that the high cost of living and, therefore, of failing in the city meant very few people dared to even try.

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Rex Sham Pui-sum, 31, is co-founder and chief science officer of Hong Kong-based Insight Robotics, a company designing wildfire detecting robots and aerial surveying systems, and which now has businesses across mainland China, India, Indonesia and other countries.

He said the city should create an environment that allows science and technology graduates to “survive with dignity”.

“With so many opportunities on the mainland, in America and other countries, those who stay in Hong Kong to start [businesses] are really devoted to change the local environment,” Sham said.

He said graduates from areas other than law, medicine and finance face great difficulties in making a living, citing an employment advertisement on the Labour Department’s website which offered HK$8,500 per month for a programmer –around the minimum wage level. This is why very few students choose to study science and technology, he said.

Tim Lee Ying-ho, 33, who co-founded Beijing-based QFPay, a company offering mobile payment solutions for clients, was last year named one of 40 business elites under the age of 40 by Fortune Magazine’s China edition.

Lee said he would rate the US’ environment for entrepreneurs a 9 out of 10, mainland China a 7.5 and Hong Kong a 4.5. He originally wanted to start a business in the city, but was deterred by high costs and the lack of a start-up atmosphere, and eventually decided to venture in Beijing.

“In Qianhai, start-ups need to pay only 1,100 yuan (HK$1,278) to rent an apartment with all sorts of support, but at Hong Kong’s Science Park, [even] a five-minute minibus trip cost HK$5 six years ago,” Lee said, referring to the free trade zone in Shenzhen (深圳).

Assistant professor Tjonnie Li Guang Feng from the Chinese University’s department of physics said there is little sense of security for young people due to high property costs and low pay so they would rather save money to buy property rather than take risks.