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Visions of the New Hong Kong: A New Era for Asia’s Business Centre

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 January, 2017, 10:49am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 January, 2017, 10:49am

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Another year, another fantastic showcase; with over 5,000 participants, the 2017 StartmeupHK Festival demonstrated Hong Kong’s growing prominence as the region’s leading startup hub. Reflecting on the festival’s success, InvestHK Acting Director-General Charles Ng commented the city’s talent pool, tech ecosystem, and proximity to Shenzhen have propelled Hong Kong into the forefront of entrepreneurship not just in Asia, but throughout the world.

During the week of January 16, 2017, global technology, fintech, media, and fashion mavens descended into Hong Kong to present their insights. Broadcasting icon and best-selling author Brett King, famed magician and futurist Marco Tempest, and cryptocurrency pioneer Joseph Lubin were just some of the big-hitters who shared their experiences with eager audiences.

Catering to the amazing breadth of businesses spawned during this technological epoch we now live in, the 2017 StartmeupHK Festival hosted forums on fintech, digital fashion and retail, smart city and healthtech. Having introduced each of these forums in detail in previous features, we turn our attention to what enabled Hong Kong to become the incubator of choice for thousands of startups.

“(We) have a history of entrepreneurship, thanks to the influx of Chinese businesses that established themselves here during the post-war era,” said Jayne Chan, who manages the festival at InvestHK.[1] She added the former colony, having long served as a bridge between East and West, makes Hong Kong particularly attractive to American and European investors who use this city as a springboard to tap into other Asia-Pacific markets. The converse is also true: Hong Kong and Chinese nationals test their new ideas and products here before heading overseas.

While there is no doubting the emergence of tech startups and entrepreneurship in general, formidable obstacles remain in Hong Kong. Chief among them is the conservative culture; many parents here still have a strong preference for their children to enter more traditional careers in finance, law, and trading. Last year, the University of Hong Kong released a report, “Hong Kong as a Start-up Hub,” that encourages the HKSAR government, schools, and parents to support entrepreneurism.

Nonetheless, we ought to take heart at how much the startup scene has grown just during the past few years. Gregory So, Secretary of Commerce and Economic Development, is confident our home city’s potential is limitless: “Hong Kong… has all the ingredients to facilitate (a) whole new generation of disruptors to create, test, show, and launch their businesses.” If no one at the beginning of the new millennium believed the Pearl of the Orient would be able to reimagine itself as a tech startup powerhouse  they’d better revisit their thesis.