Hong Kong has been opening its doors to a new-generation of innovative entrepreneurs as it works towards building a dynamic startups ecosystem.
The city’s startup scene has experienced phenomenal growth in recent years. An Invest Hong Kong poll released last September showed 1,558 registered startups are operating in co-working spaces here, a 46% jump compared to 2014.
Lumos is one of them. Its co-founder, Eu Wen-ding from Singapore was studying at Harvard University when he met Jeff Chen, an exchange student from Hong Kong University of Science & Technology. As students they would cycle everywhere and that is when they came up with the Lumos Helmet to improve the safety and visibility of cyclists riding after dark. It is the world's first smart bicycle helmet with integrated lights, brake, and turn signals.
At only two years old, Lumos is still a fledgling startup, but the young entrepreneurs are already considering making Hong Kong the firm’s headquarters because of its proximity to experienced helmet manufacturers in Shenzhen.
“Hong Kong made a ton of sense because it’s really easy to live here and get around and China’s just there and we go in on a weekly basis, so we started working with the factory and we know them pretty well now,” Eu-wen said.
With support from Invest Hong Kong, Eu-wen added that he had no problems getting a Hong Kong visa.
“We were told that a typical visa application process is about a one month review and then one month approval, but because InvestHK endorsed our application, my visa took about seven days.”
Sound of success
Another success story is Aivvy Inc, a Silicon Valley technology startup that relocated its regional headquarters to Hong Kong in 2014 to launch its portable music player globally.
Its smart headset Aivvy Q can "learn" a user's music preferences. When the headset is charging, it automatically connects to Wi-Fi to sync the user's preferences, updating its library with new songs selected by advanced algorithms from 40 million songs on the Aivvy cloud.
Its founders chose Hong Kong to launch their product because of its stable and mature business environment and strategic location next to factories in Shenzhen.
The firm was also impressed with how easy it was to set up a company in Hong Kong, with the added bonus of support from InvestHK alleviating a lot of the burden smaller companies face, such as securing visas, finding service providers and making media contacts.
“It took around seven days to set up a new company from scratch, so the whole registration process was very easy, and we were introduced to many resources by InvestHK, including accounting firms and to local community resources such as Science Park and co-working spaces,” said Aivvy co-founder Cheryl Zeng.
Companies like Aivvy show Hong Kong is attracting high-tech market players, even from world-leading startup hubs like Silicon Valley.
Hong Kong’s low taxes, strong legal system, tech-savvy population and key position as a global trade centre and gateway to the booming Mainland market, make it an ideal launching pad for startups seeking to scale globally.
InvestHK Director-General of Investment Promotion Simon Galpin noted that the city’s startup ecosystem has seen rapid growth, due to increasing entrepreneurship and a surge in the number of co-working spaces - where tech workers share office space.
“We’ve been helping large and small companies for the past 15 years, but what’s happened in just the last couple of years is we’ve seen an explosion in the number of founders and entrepreneurs coming to Hong Kong,” Mr Galpin said.
“Many entrepreneurs think that Hong Kong is really only for big businesses, that you’ve got to be a big bank or a big Fortune 50 company to be able to afford to have an office here in Hong Kong. But that’s not really true. Because we’ve seen such a huge increase in the number of co-working spaces, there is more supply than demand and so if you’re a founder or an entrepreneur, you can rent a seat in a co-working space much cheaper than you could in London or Silicon Valley or many other parts of the world.”
InvestHK this month hosted the StartmeupHK Venture Forum which attracted more than 900 participants who had the opportunity to listen to a diverse range of renowned speakers share their inspiring stories, including Tesla Motors CEO and Product Designer Elon Musk.
The forum was the main event of the week-long StartmeupHK Festival aimed at promoting Hong Kong as one of the fastest growing start-up hubs in the world.