Countdown to EPiC 2018: Meet the contestants
100 start-ups from 24 countries and regions will be competing for the US$190,000 prizes from venture capital and angel investors at the upcoming Elevator Pitch Competition (EPiC) that will be held this Friday
In just days away from the Elevator Pitch Competition (EPiC) 2018, the city’s biggest pitching contest for aspiring tech start-ups, around 600 applications have now been boiled down to the final 100.
Eyeing the seed funding to kickstart their venture and bring their business to Hong Kong and potentially Asia, all competitors are in the final stage of fine-tuning their one-minute pitch, gearing themselves up for the elevator ride to the sky100 floor of the ICC, this Friday, October 26.
The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP), the organiser of EPiC, holds the 12-day EPiC Acceleration Programme running from October 22 to November 2 in order to connect the contestants to Hong Kong’s start-up ecosystem, introduce them to potential business partners and investors, and help them explore business opportunities in Hong Kong, mainland China and Asia.
During an orientation held Monday, contestants attended a briefing on the incubator programmes, facilities and support HKSTP has to offer for start-ups, no matter where they are from.
In light of an ageing population, gerontech―the use of technology to make the life of elderly better―will be playing a bigger role in the tech sector. BNET-TECH, a contestant from Hong Kong, is going to pitch its proprietary smart walking stick to the judges.
Akin to an average walking stick from the outside, “STICKu” is built with special features inside, such as emergency SOS and GPS tracking, as well as sensors to manage the activation of different features according to the elderly user’s environment and situation.
Brian Lam, BNET-TECH’s co-founder, said they had attended last year’s EPiC and were impressed with the competitive spirit. “The contest was full of energy. Everyone showed off their best. This year’s contest will be an excellent opportunity for us to network with potential investors and learn from other contestants.”
“It would have taken us much more time and efforts to get our product known to the market had we not joined EPiC in the first place,” he said, whose company has been a HKSTP incubatee since earlier this year.
Apart from Hong Kong start-ups, entrepreneurs from the rest of the world increasingly find Hong Kong the best gateway to Asia’s markets, from big markets such as China, Japan and South Korea, to the fast-growing Asean markets. This year, 70 per cent of the EPiC contestants are actually from outside Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has a history of cultural convergence between the east and the west, and between different Asian nations. It is an ideal place for innovative start-ups from the US like us looking to the east, said Niel Patel, COO of Runerra, a peer-to-peer marketplace that allows neighbours or schoolmates within a community, neighbourhood or campus to trade whatever merchandise they want to sell and buy.
“Hong Kong is an innovation hub of Asia and has a mix of cultures, making the city a springboard for us to enter the broader Asia market. Hong Kong also has a large international student population, giving us the necessary user base to understand how community merchants and buyers interact with each other and with our platform.”
Visiting Hong Kong and Science Park for the first time, Patel said he is impressed with the facilities and support the HKSTP has for international start-ups, including access to investor networks, talent recruitment, marketing support, mentoring, professional networking, business matching, consultancy and business development.
Tina Lin, co-founder of Flipweb, who is no stranger to pitching contests, said the idea of EPiC elevator pitch is innovative and that it is engaging. Before coming to Hong Kong for EPiC, she used to take part in another elevator pitch that took place in the Taipei 101 building. Her firm received seed money through winning another award in Taiwan earlier.
“As a start-up, of course, we want to get as much exposure as possible, which translates into more opportunities to reach out to investors and customers. While the 60-second pitch is really a big challenge, we have the experience and we really look forward to it.”
Whether it is a foreign brand looking to promote a new product through a famous blogger to his or her thousands of followers, the buyout of a popular website, or developers wanting to sell white-label apps, Flipweb.co is a brokerage platform purpose-built to facilitate the trading of digital assets, she explained.
“If we can take an elevator, why do we bother climbing up stairs? That's the reason why we joined EPiC. We wish that it will help us take flight,” she said, adding that the one-month incubator programme would be the most suitable for her firm.
For Joel Ifill, founder of DASH Systems from Florida, the US, Hong Kong is the best gateway for US companies to enter the Asia market. “I’ve never been to Hong Kong before. I saw that opportunity and we wanted to take it.”
DASH systems has developed a “precision aerial delivery system” whereby a flying airplane drops off unmanned, autopilot gliders to accurately deliver goods or supplies to remote or disaster areas, such as hospitals in need of medical supplies, where there are no airports or runways nearby for planes to land.
“Hong Kong is geographically closer to our potential design and manufacturing partners in China, especially those in Shenzhen. Hong Kong Science Park also provides an established start-up ecosystem and resources to assist us with connecting to these potential manufacturing partners by removing the language barrier.”
On the competition day, 100 start-ups will pitch their innovative ideas within a one-minute elevator ride at the ICC. Ten finalists will be picked and given another three-minute opportunity to impress the panel of investor judges to win an investment prize. Five “Tech Trend Awards” will also be given to the best ideas in the Artificial Intelligence & Robotics, Fintech, Healthy Ageing, Smart City, and Next Generation Technology categories respectively.
Date: 26 October 2018 (Friday)
Venue: sky100, 100/F, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West, West Kowloon