AUTO MAKERS

Hong Kong-based carmaker Infiniti offers free co-working space to bolster city's start-up 'ecosystem'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 August, 2015, 1:04pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 August, 2015, 6:41pm

Hong Kong’s growing start-up sector received another boost this week with the opening of a new co-working space for entrepreneurs by Infiniti Motor Company.

It marks the latest start-up initiative by the luxury car company after it teamed up with local business incubator and venture capital firm Nest in June to launch the “Infiniti Accelerator” programme focused on “smart city” technologies.

“As a brand, we want to embody entrepreneurship, and there is no better place to start this journey than the dynamic and well-developed urban infrastructure hub known as Hong Kong,” Dane Fisher, the managing director for Asia and Oceania at Infiniti, said on Thursday.

Infiniti, the Hong Kong-based luxury vehicle division of Japanese carmaker Nissan, also launched its “Founder Series” programme that will have global and local entrepreneurs talk about their experiences to start-ups and the wider business community in the city.

“What’s very important to understand is that a lot of brands talk about innovation, but a lot of it is just PR,” Nest founder and chief executive Simon Squibb said. 

“What we’re doing [with Infiniti] is building an infrastructure and a system to help start-ups.”

Describing entrepreneurship as “a phenomenally difficult process”, Fisher said any additional value that Infiniti and Nest can provide to start-ups “far outweigh any return on investment we make”.

Fisher pointed out that any potential return on investment would be “in the mid- to long-term”. He declined to specify how much Infiniti has invested in its start-up initiative.

The “Infiniti Lab” co-workspace is located in the carmaker’s showroom at the Hopewell Centre in Wan Chai, thus adding to the network of facilities that entrepreneurs can avail themselves at no charge or on subsidised terms.

Data from Hong Kong government-backed InvestHK showed the city had 35 such co-workspaces last year, up from three in 2010. They are supported by a number of operators and four business incubators: Nest, Hong Kong Science Park, Cyberport and Hong Kong Design Centre.

Their proliferation has helped foster new businesses in Hong Kong. According to the city’s Company Registry, the number of newly established private companies rose 76 per cent to 173,000 at the end of 2013, up from 98,000 in 2008.

Nicholas Yang, a member of the Hong Kong government’s Executive Council, welcomed Infiniti’s new co-workspace and business accelerator programme on Thursday as “another major entry to growing Hong Kong’s innovation and entrepreneur ecosystem”. 

From the middle of next month, the Infiniti Lab will be home to eight start-ups selected to join the Infiniti Accelerator programme. It will also host a series of talks by start-up founders.

The accelerator is a 12-week programme run by a dedicated team led by Nest. When applications closed on August 15, 145 start-ups had applied.

The eight finalists will receive support from Infiniti and Nest, including mentorship by specialists in the areas of smart city technologies, hardware, manufacturing, transportation, technology and entrepreneurship. 

At the end of the programme, they will have the opportunity to pitch for funding and partnerships at an exclusive Investor Demo Day at the Infiniti Lab.