Wednesday, 16 September 2015

HK ideal hub for entrepreneurs, start-ups

Financial Secretary John Tsang
I see in front of me a rich mix of entrepreneurs who seem to have the knack of seizing every opportunity that comes their way, young guns looking to start a business to put their audacious ideas to the test, fresh graduates who cannot wait to fulfill their ambitions.

In the past decade or so, we have come to witness the emergence of innovations that were not even imaginable in our wildest dreams. Perhaps only in the dreams of sci-fi decades earlier.

Technological advancements in digital communication, cloud computing, big data, robotics, biotech, FinTech, and many others, have disrupted the status quo, and changed entirely the way that we live, work and communicate.

Now we share updates with friends instantly on social media; we manage our wealth and investments with a few clicks of the mouse; and we monitor our health with apps on mobile phones and tablets that constantly track the condition of our bodies.

Technological innovations have also revolutionised the conventional business model. Through the deployment of new technologies in commerce and logistics in the engagement of well-developed and highly efficient global supply chains, enterprises can now enter into new markets of their choice much easier than before, reaching out to target customers effectively in different corners of the world at any time of the day.

Enterprises can, having regard to their own profiles, pick the most suitable partners with the requisite comparative advantages, and push their products and services in the most profitable markets.

Just look at the tremendous pace and scale of development of online platforms like Amazon, Alibaba and eBay in recent years. It is a clear demonstration of how innovations have altered the traditional way of sourcing and supplying raw materials, as well as production and marketing of goods and services.

Unforeseen synergies
Technological innovations have served to enhance global competition in every field, pitching the best and the brightest from different parts of the world against each other. But at the same time, they have also brought everyone and every market closer to each other, creating unforeseen synergies.

The increasingly interconnected economies in an increasingly globalised world also mean that there is an abundance of new business opportunities coming up every day, for every new entrepreneur with new ideas who aspires to success.

Considering the fact that three out of the five public corporations with the world's largest capitalisation are technology companies, there is no question that technological innovation is right now, and will be in the next few decades, the major driving force of the global economy. And yes, you guessed that right, those three companies are Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Search for next big thing
Different economies around the world are working hard to build up their capacities in technological research and development, in order to gain that critical competitive edge in innovation and technology. Everyone is searching for the next big thing with that "wow" effect, and everyone is hoping to create the "blue ocean" in new and uncontested markets.

For Hong Kong, we have been working hard towards the goal of nurturing a knowledge-based economy, fostering an innovative and technological culture in the community, as well as creating a healthy eco-system for technological entrepreneurship and start-ups.

First and foremost, we have been spending a good part of our expenditure every year in education, building up our capacity in teaching and learning as well as research in the science, engineering and technology disciplines.

Special funding has been provided to universities to support students and teachers in commercialising their R&D results and developing downstream products and services.

HK ideal launch pad
For new enterprises and start-ups, Hong Kong is the ideal place for them to lift off, to grow and to thrive. We have all the resources these companies will need, from precious seed funding to affordable office space, and from high quality business advice to valuable access to investors and global markets.

Different forms of public and private initiatives have been put in place to assist young entrepreneurs to unleash their creativity, to turn rough ideas from their drawing boards to 3D prototypes and marketable products and services.

Notable examples of these initiatives include the various incubation programmes advocated by our Science Park and Cyberport, the different funding schemes under the Innovation & Technology Fund, as well as the networking communities and co-working spaces supported by different corporations, including a number of world-renowned organisations, such as Nest and Accenture.

In fact, the number of co-working spaces in Hong Kong has climbed to well over 40, from just three in 2010.

Innovation hub
Hong Kong has all the essential attributes to be an innovation hub. Our free and competitive economy, with a low and simple tax system and a level playing field, provide a suitable eco-system for those who wish to start businesses and sustain innovative ventures. You would expect nothing less from an economy that has consistently been ranked as the freest economy in the world by different and notable think tanks.

What else do we have? We have a robust intellectual property protection regime that effectively safeguards the fruits of your efforts. Hong Kong is now poised to become a regional IP marketplace, providing professional services in the licensing, franchising and registration and trading of IP. Our intermediaries can help manage and add value to the most treasured assets of your firm, or your IP.

We are also blessed with a great geographical advantage. We are strategically located at the heart of Asia and on the doorstep of Mainland China. Our location has enabled us to become the key platform between the Mainland and the world in technological collaboration and trading.

For innovative enterprises looking to tap into Asia's huge market potential, we are the most convenient base, providing world-class logistics and ICT infrastructure.

Start-ups burgeoning
Recently we have seen a remarkable burgeoning of start-ups in Hong Kong. There are now more than 1,000 such new enterprises that have attracted much attention and more importantly, hundreds of millions of dollars of investment from venture capitalists from around the world.  

These successful start-ups make up the new wave of business that are transforming Hong Kong's entrepreneurial landscape and changing the local business scene. You may have heard of the GoGoVan app, developed by three recent university graduates, that has revolutionised the conventional car-hiring business for goods vehicles in Hong Kong.

The popular websites of Lifehack and 9GAG, also launched by young Hong Kong entrepreneurs, have attracted millions of readers through innovative ways of producing and offering content on the Internet.

I-click, another Hong Kong-based company, has harnessed the power of social media and the Internet to take the impact of digital marketing to a whole new level. The company is now the leader in its field in the Asian region and is serving many multinational corporations.

International recognition
The work of many Hong Kong-based advanced technological start-ups is also gaining international recognition. Insight Robotics, which specialises in making robots with artificial intelligence for detecting wildfire, has seen its products used in many parts of the world.

Another start-up, Scoutbots, which designs and manufactures low cost and extendable sailing robots that can assist in cleaning oil spills in the oceans, has been highly popular with many environmental agencies.

I note that Insight Robotics is already supporting wildfire surveillance in Mainland China and Canada, while Scoutbots was recently named the 10th most innovative company in China, joining the illustrious ranks of Alibaba, Tencent and Xiaomi.

The vibrant and open society in Hong Kong, together with our business-friendly environment and world-class infrastructure and research institutions, makes us a superb breeding ground for grooming the new generation of entrepreneurs. I am sure you can all learn more about that in the discussion and sharing sessions coming up shortly.

The late innovator Steve Jobs once said, and I quote, "If you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what's next." End quote. After all, the ability to think one step ahead, and to be ahead of the curve, I think, is the core of innovation.

Financial Secretary John Tsang gave these remarks at the Young Entrepreneur Forum 2015.

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