Swire Properties eyes China as next step for its start-up accelerator

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 January, 2015, 10:08pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 January, 2015, 10:16am

Swire Properties is looking to expand blueprint, its technology start-up accelerator programme and co-working space service, to the mainland under one of its five major developments there.

Chief executive Guy Bradley said yesterday Swire could pursue mainland expansion based on the local success of blueprint, Hong Kong's first start-up initiative organised by a commercial property developer.

"We're not just offering free work space, but a full network of resources, experience and knowledge to help start-ups grow and prosper," Bradley said.

Swire, the biggest landlord in Quarry Bay, has five retail-led, mixed-use projects on the mainland: Taikoo Li Sanlitun and Indigo in Beijing, TaiKoo Hui in Guangzhou, the Dazhongli project in Shanghai and the Daci Temple project in Chengdu.

The company spent about HK$20 million to redevelop 20,000 square feet of unused office space on the 16th and 17th floors of Cornwall House, part of its vast Taikoo Place office complex, into the blueprint co-working space for start-ups and entrepreneurs.

Half of that space was designed for blueprint's six-month accelerator programme. The first batch of 11 technology start-ups, which were selected from 150 applications from around the world, were announced yesterday.

Only business-to-business tech start-ups are accepted in the programme, which counts a mentor network of more than 70 top executives from companies including Uber, Tesla Motors, Rackspace and Lenovo.

"So what's in it for Swire Properties? Commercially, very little," Bradley said. "But as a core member of the business community, we're happy to support these young, bright, budding entrepreneurs with our resources … in return, blueprint will nurture a culture of innovation and creativity at Taikoo Place."

Half of the blueprint space is available to other start-ups at a monthly individual membership of HK$2,000. It has signed up 60 members.

Swire's blueprint also marks the latest high-profile accelerator set up in Hong Kong. In November, insurer AIA and business incubator Nest launched an accelerator for entrepreneurs and start-ups focused on health-care-related wearable technology.

Simon Squibb, the founder and chief executive of Nest, said Swire's foray into the accelerator market would help foster more innovation in Hong Kong.

"I want to see the heavyweights of business get behind this trend. If they're smart, other property companies should also do accelerators," Squibb said.

He added, however, that Swire's blueprint made the co-working space market more crowded as at least 35 other service providers already operated in the city.