HONG KONG, Jan. 29, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- A new Make a Difference (MaD) Venture Fellows Programme took place in Hong Kong from 24-27 Jan, marking the Special Administrative Region's renewed efforts to nurture and attract a new generation entrepreneurial talents.
Hong Kong used to be known as the entrepreneurial hub of Asia. But the entrepreneurial spirit in this city has been dwindling in the last two decades. According to the International Total Entrepreneurship Activity (TEA) Index, Hong Kong has a relatively low level of entrepreneurship (4.7%), compared to 5.7% in Taiwan and Singapore, 10.3% in the US and 14.8% in mainland China. In addition, the majority of the entrepreneurial activities in Hong Kong have very limited innovation or innovative technologies, with two in every three entrepreneurial pursuits related to export/import and consumer oriented businesses.
New Make a Difference Ventures Fellow Programme
"Hong Kong faces the challenge of developing a more diversified economy, a fairer society and a greener environment. We need to nurture and attract, as a matter of urgency, a new generation of high impact, innovative and entrepreneurial talent, to inject new momentum to our economy and society. We need to inspire our young people to dream BIG and think DIFFERENTLY," said Ms Rachel Chan, Convenor of the Make a Difference Ventures Programme at the MaD Ventures Salon on 25 Jan.
Sixteen innovative and high impact MaD Venture Fellows were invited to present at the MaD Ventures Salon, pitching to 300 people in the investment, finance and business communities in Hong Kong. The Salon, a public-private-NGO partnership sponsored by the Innovation and Technology Commission of the HKSAR Government, DBS, Outblaze and A Better Tomorrow, is Hong Kong's first international pitching platform to connect start-ups with potential investors and business partners.
"I am delighted that Hong Kong is hosting this event which brings each of the key elements; capital, talent and ideas together in a great networking environment to support the entrepreneurial spirit. I believe that Hong Kong has enormous potential to develop as a hot bed for innovation," said John Tsang, the Financial Secretary of the HKSAR Government and the officiating guest at the Salon.
"Hong Kong is renowned for its effective rule of law, robust IP protection regime, world-class financial infrastructure and experience in doing business in Mainland China and across Asia. All this, together with a full range of services, is highly conducive to the success of new start-ups," he added.
3 MaD Venture Stars
A distinguished panel chaired by the HKSAR Executive Council Member Bernard Chan selected 3 Make a Difference Venture Stars from the MaD Venture Fellows, together with the Salon audience. The three winners were:
Insight Robotics, Hong Kong (www.insightrobotics.com), incubated at the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park, applies robotics technology to the protection of critical infrastructures and key resources around the world. It visualizes remote incidents like forest fire, structural damage in buildings, oil leak, water pollution, flooding, drought and security breach to management authorities and assist them to make the most efficient contingency plans. It also assists the management authorities in disaster recovery and in building a better world with less disaster.
"It is very important to have programmes like the MaD Venture Fellows Programme to connect Hong Kong start-ups with innovative entrepreneurs around the world. This will help build the international links of local start-ups and foster the development of a more innovative entrepreneurship ecosystem," said Kevin Chan, founder of Insight Robotics.
Wibbitz, Israel (www.wibbitz.com) creates a text-to-video technology that automatically turns any text-based article, post or feed on the web into a video in 20 seconds. Its technology introduces a whole new way of consuming content and information in a much more visual and effortless way. It brings costs and production time down for SME publishers and content providers. It reduces the barriers of language limitations and content complexity. "I am amazed by the business culture of Hong Kong. I think more Israeli companies should consider using the Hong Kong platform for the Asia market, instead of focusing just on the US," said Yotam Cohen, the co-founder of Wibbitz. This Israeli start-up received its Series A funding from K S Li's Horizons Ventures in June last year.
Wifinity Tech, India (http://www.wifinitytech.com) applies innovative wireless sensing, artificial intelligence and machine to machine learning to help enterprises, buildings, hospitals and other organisations to monitor, manage and save their energy and water consumption. Users can save on average 20% of their energy bills. Wifinity Tech is an Indian company with market presence in India and the US. It is looking to establish a presence in Hong Kong to develop the East Asia market.
"I have benefited so much from the MaD Venture Fellows Programme," said Jay Krishnan of Wifinity Tech. "I have got some potential investors and clients lined up and identified some manufacturing partners as well." Wifinity Tech has decided to set up an office in Hong Kong to develop the East Asia market, in addition to their presence in India and the US.
Building Silicon Valley in Asia
Apart from the young entrepreneurs, international experts were brought to Hong Kong to discuss how Hong Kong can reinvorgorate its entrepreneurship ecosystem. Prof Wong Poh Kam of National University of Singapore believed that Asia should not follow blindly the Silicon Valley. A general consensus arising from the discussion is the importance of nurturing an entrepreneurial mindset and culture.
Prof Wong said Singapore has invested in changing the mindset of young people through the education system and establishing deep links with the entrepreneurial hubs in the world. Similar to Singapore, Hong Kong has to develop a new generation of investors with knowledge and experience in the new sectors.
Victor Hwang, co-author of "The Rainforest: the Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley" spelt out the unwritten rules of the Silicon Valley, including a culture that encourage breaking rules and dream, experimenting, sharing and encouragement and the ability to embrace failure. "It is critical to move into a new paradigm of innovation; resembling a rainforest, the best environment for unpredictable weeds to grow," says Hwang. "To thrive in this rainforest setting, entrepreneurs and investors need what makes us uniquely human -- dreams, trust and love."
Yat Siu from Outblaze echoed the comments of Prof Wong: "We need to look at ourselves as global citizens, able to grow relationships, networks and ecosystems across the globe. We should not limit ourselves to the domestic arena." He added: "Whilst the education system is very important, parents should not abduct their responsibiity."
The Salon also sought to encourage more investors in Hong Kong to join the rank of impact investors, in providing funding and mentorship to start-ups that seek to create positive changes to the society, whilst doing well financially.
"Passionate start-ups need financial, social and intellectual captial. We would like to appeal to and grow a new generation of investors who seek to make both meaning and money -- people who are looking for opportunities to give back to society, to pass on their experience and to leave a legacy," Rachel Chan said.
Brigitte Baumann of GoBeyond Early Stage Investing believed: "It is not a matter of choice; it is time to start to invest differently by acknowledging all the stakeholders in stead of just the shareholders."
In recent years, there are signs that the entrepreneurial scene in Hong Kong is regaining some vigor. There are start-up events almost every week. Universities are investing more resources into entrepreneurship courses. Several co-work spaces have also been established, including the Good Lab with Make a Difference as a founding partner. There is AcceleratorHK, a three-month accelerator programme for early stage startups focused on building hybrid mobile apps, attracting aspiring entrepreneurs from Hong Kong and beyond. General Assembly, a leading global start-up learning network, is hosting a three-month pop-up in Hong Kong. "The MaD Venture Fellows Programme is a timely initiative to put Hong Kong back on the map of the world's leading entrepreneurial hub," Rachel Chan concluded.
About Make a Difference
Make a Difference (www.MaD.asia) is a Hong Kong-based initiative launched in 2010 to inspire and empower a new generation of leaders. Targeting young people aged 16-35, MaD comprises an annual forum in January with 1,600 participants and over 20 inspiring speakers from different arenas around the world; and activities throughout the year in and outside Hong Kong to promote creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.
MaD is a not-for-profit NGO-public-private partnership, organised by Hong Kong Institute of Contemporary Culture and co-created by InnoFoco. The HKSAR Government is the patron and founding sponsor.
1. MaD Venture Star Finalist pitching at the MaD Ventures Salon: https://docs.google.com/a/mad.asia/file/d/0B2pQRTw_3e4QXzlHYWo1YjdySFE/edit
2. Victor Hwang speaking at the MaD Ventures Salon: https://docs.google.com/a/mad.asia/file/d/0B2pQRTw_3e4QVGVlNUNjWW1SMGs/edit
3. Brigitte Baumann speaking at the MaD Ventures Salon: https://docs.google.com/a/mad.asia/file/d/0B2pQRTw_3e4QUzgyWHdmaEJPVm8/edit
For enquiry about the MaD Venture Fellows Programme, please contact:
InnoFoco, the Convenor of the Programme