Venture capital investors share tips for entrepreneurs
What does an Elevator Pitch Competition (EPiC) investor judge look for in a promising start-up? Two judges share their insights and what they hope to see from this year’s contestants
EPiC, the city’s top pitch competition hosted by Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP), will take place on October 26. Shortlisted from 591 entries, 100 tech start-ups from over 20 countries and regions will vie to impress the judging panel and attendees at Hong Kong’s biggest pitch contest to be held at the International Commerce Centre (ICC). The best of the best will get an initial capital injection of US$120,000 to jumpstart their business.
The annual Elevator Pitch Competition serves as an ideal platform for connecting the entrepreneurial minds from not only Hong Kong but increasingly from across the world with investors.
An IT entrepreneur who founded his electronic dictionary business in the early 1990s, Samson Tam, the lead judge of EPiC 2018, chairman of Hong Kong Business Angel Network said Hong Kong’s entrepreneurial spirit is running exceptionally strong these days.
Back in the early 1990s, China was still opening up to the world. Entrepreneurs from Hong Kong could take advantage of low-cost production and tax incentives. But, for now, while there is more government support as well as resources from incubator and accelerator programmes provided by HKSTP and corporations, competition from the mainland and global entrepreneurs is much more intense than ever.
With more financial resources and business support to tap, it is easier to get things started comparing now and then. But the real achievement is not whether an entrepreneur can start up a business. Success lies in the challenge to grow and sustain it, he described.
Joseph Fung, an investor judge of EPiC 2018, managing partner of Saltagen Ventures, a venture capital fund with offices in Hong Kong and Vancouver, believes the Elevator Pitch Competition is a valuable global event in order for start-up contestants to accelerate growth by connecting with an amazing line-up of entrepreneurs, industrialists, incubators, accelerators and investors.
Even for the rest who cannot make it to the top, they can still gain plenty of exposure through extensive marketing opportunities, some inspiration that comes from connecting with creative, like-minded individuals from around the world, and access to potential investors, collaborators and partners.
“From an investor’s perspective, we hope to see cross-pollination between local and international start-ups joining the competition as they will have expertise and networks worth sharing with each other during and after the competition, thereby strengthening the Hong Kong ecosystem.”
What investors look for in a start-up?
Hong Kong has a pool of angel investors and venture capitalists willing to take calculated risks in start-ups, especially high-quality ones with regional and global networks and scalability. “We hope to identify potential investment and partnership,” said Fung.
In EPiC, after listening to a one-minute pitch to be made during an elevator ride by the shortlisted start-ups, a judging panel will determine which start-ups enter the finals.
According to Tam, angel investors look for committed, passionate and open-minded founders. Therefore, the judging panel will carefully consider the attitude, commitment and passion of the founders. “Will the founder accept the suggestions of future investors and partners? Are they easy to work with and get along with advisors? Are they passionate about solving real-world problems?”
“Whether or not the technology or solution can address the pain point for an industry or market segment is the most important aspect we will look at,” said Tam. Apart from innovativeness, he expects entrepreneurs to have a bigger vision of what potential they have across borders.
“It is crucial for the contestants to select key messages to impress the judge,” said Fung. “Come up with a one-liner to tell who you are. Describe the problem you are trying to tackle. How innovative is your solution? And what do you need to bring your disruptive idea to life?” Outstanding contestants should also be able to wrap up the pitch by telling the judge their valuation, market sizing, business model, and fundraising target, he added.
Opportunities for Hong Kong start-ups
The city is uniquely positioned as a springboard into Asia for global tech start-ups, including the Greater China and Southeast Asia, thanks to the bilingual environment and cultural familiarity, Fung said, adding that the many powerful research universities in the region provide a talent pool.
“As Hong Kong-based companies are increasingly open to new technologies provided by local and overseas start-ups, they are indeed an ideal launchpad and testing ground for start-ups to bring their innovations to life.” The recent change to the listing rule allowing pre-revenue biotech firms and companies with weighted voting rights structures to list in Hong Kong is seen as a watershed initiative to create an ecosystem to incubate innovation, he noted.
Date: 26 October 2018 (Friday)
Venue: sky100, 100/F, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West, West Kowloon