The city of Hong Kong is building a startup ecosystem in a way no other city can, and it’s doing it the right way. This week, the city is putting on the StartmeupHK festival, focusing on four rising verticals and a guest list that includes Tesla and SpaceX maven Elon Musk.
Even casual observers have noticed lampposts throughout the city adorned with signs for the festival, which is primarily taking place at the PMQ former police headquarters in the center of the city, now a beacon for niche stores and tech startups. It’s the initiative of InvestHK, trying to push a young startup ecosystem to the forefront using the city’s combination of capitalism, nearly limitless wealth and access to multiple markets as the New York of the Far East (sorry Singapore).
Separate events include the Fintech Finals (Jan 25-26), the LAUNCH IoT Summit, Healthtech Asia, KPMG’s Data Analytics event and the StartmeupHK Venture Forum featuring several panels of speakers. The city is also introducing a number of new funds to match local angel investors, including a HK $2 billion (US $300 million) fund that will match up to 50% of private investments in seed rounds.
The conference keynote will take place on Tuesday. CNN International correspondent Kristi Lu Stout will conduct an onstage chat with Elon Musk at the Tuesday morning event at CGO Tamar’s Grand Hall in central Hong Kong. The event has already been sold over capacity and is open to the press.
Hong Kong, growing fast with an enthusiastic government
The city’s startup ecosystem is young and growing. The local government is famous for its relaxed economic policy: It never taxes businesses above 15%, and then only on revenues made within Hong Kong itself.
However, they have a lot of catch up to do. Fellow Asian city-state Singapore is years ahead of public support for its tech hub, and the city’s finance prowess doesn’t immediately translate to innovative entrepreneurship.
“Hong Kong is a very easy place to settle into: various groups, religious traditions, societies and religious freedom” characterize the city, InvestHK Director-General Simon Galpin told journalists on Monday. “It’s one of the safest cities in the world, easy to get around and English is an official language.”
The goal for the week is to lay the groundwork for future events as the ecosystem develops around core industries like smart cities and fintech, building out a likely series focused on more specific trends in the startup universe.
“The plan is not to have it under a ‘startup’ umbrella but individual verticals, maybe just blockchain technology or payment systems,” Galpin said with optimism Monday. “They’ll need their own focused investments to grow. We need to provide that focus but ones that are quite distinct.”
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