Navigating mature innovation ecosystem
Entrepreneur Day and Start-up Express help innovators adapt to the post-pandemic era, as the nascent technology community comes of age.
14 December 2022
Seeking a balance between the youthful enthusiasm of start-ups and steady performance of established firms has become a key issue for Hong Kong, as its entrepreneur ecosystem matures.
The HKTDC Entrepreneur Day (E-day) and Start-up Express International, organised by The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) and held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC), brought together industry leaders, experts, start-ups and participants to discuss the shift towards sustainable and inclusive growth within the international start-up universe and how start-ups can address the pressing challenges of the post-pandemic era. The three-day E-Day event ran from 30 November to 2 December and included the debut of the Start-up Express International entrepreneurship development programme.
Under the theme Balance Beyond the Boom, E-day and Start-up Express International offered physical and online seminars and exhibitions. More than 60 industry experts and renowned speakers analysed venture capital trends, offering insights on emerging industries and strategies for business expansion in a post-pandemic new normal through a series of forums, exhibitions, workshops and networking events. The event attracted more than 9,000 attendees and viewers from 44 countries and regions to the hybrid exhibition and seminars.
HKTDC Assistant Executive Director Stephen Liang said: “E-day saw entrepreneurs from different sectors exchange their views on the various trends shaping the world of business. In particular, we are delighted that outstanding Hong Kong start-ups shone alongside their global peers at the pioneering Start-up Express International. The contest between local and international start-ups inspires enhanced business models and nurtures start-ups locally and globally. We believe E-day has served as an exceptional occasion to showcase Hong Kong’s supportive infrastructure for the incubation of young businesses which will surely attract even more outstanding start-ups looking to expand operations in Hong Kong.”
Fundraising in a competitive environment
Winning an investor’s trust takes more than just a compelling pitch. Gaining trust has become even more challenging during the pandemic, as investors have become cautious with fund deployment. On the first day of E-day, Eric Manlunas, Founder and Managing Partner of Wavemaker Partners, described how venture capital firms had positioned themselves amid heightened volatility in the plenary session T-Chat – Global VC Investment: Rise or Fall. Mr Manlunas offered guidance on how early-stage businesses can convince investors of their potential and thrive, especially when venture capital investors are cautious about expanding portfolios.
Innovators transform entrepreneurship and economy
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are transcending their initial role as assets and have evolved into marketing tools and more entrepreneurs are considering NFTs as core business functions. The seminar NFT: Eye Candy or Key to Gold? debated whether NFTs are pure gimmicks or can expand business in a concrete way. Representatives discussed the tangible impact NFTs had on brand value and how they boosted business opportunities.
Meanwhile, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, E-day included the 12th World SME Summit, co-organised by the Hong Kong General Chamber of Small and Medium Business. Under the theme “Achieving re-industrialisation through innovation in the new era”, Herbert Chia, JP, Venture Partner of Sequoia Capital China, and Dr Denis Yip, CEO of ASTRI, discussed how small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in Hong Kong could transform and re-industrialise via digitalisation and application of emerging technologies including 5G, IoT and metaverse.
The hot investment trend of sustainability has joined hands with innovation and entrepreneurship to promote a circular economy. The E-day gathered like-minded companies to explain creating sustainable supply chains, contributing to a more sustainable society. Melanie Kwok, Assistant General Manager (Sustainability) of Sino Group (main picture), outlined the Group’s experience in implementing sustainability strategies and how start-ups have helped the conglomerate achieve sustainability goals and created shared values. Ms Kwok said the Group was delighted to collaborate with two Hong Kong start-ups – archiREEF and Clearbot – to drive conservation and environmental protection in Hong Kong, and looked forward to more projects on sustainability.
Fresh start-ups meet regional names
On the final day, technology start-ups described their successful growth into regionally known brand names. For instance, Jong-yoon Kim, CEO of Yanolja, a leading Korean travel-tech unicorn, explained how the start-up managed to ride out the COVID-19 storm as well as its plans to equip itself for a new wave of growth as international borders re-open. Mr Kim pointed out that big tech companies such as Amazon, Netflix and Google had come to dominate many global industries, but such a player had yet to emerge in the travel sector, presenting an opportunity for Yanolja to potentially fill that void. He also shared the vision and strategy to transform Yanolja into the world’s leading global travel platform.
In the afternoon, Trasy Lou Walsh, Regional Managing Director (SG, MY, HK, PH) of Atome, Asia's leading Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) brand, described the model’s landscape and its increasingly intense competitive environment as more credit card companies and banks joined the field to provide similar payment solutions to businesses.
Start-up Express International
To celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Start-up Express entrepreneurship development programme organised by the HKTDC, Start-up Express International debuted on the second day of E-day, fostering discussions among innovative minds from all over the world across overseas start-ups and their local counterparts. The programme aims to encourage high-calibre foreign start-ups to set up in Hong Kong and is supported by global partners from Belgium, Mainland China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
During Start-up Express International, 10 overseas winners shared the stage with eight Hong Kong Start-up Express laureates to discuss industry insights and their entrepreneurship journeys. The 10 global winners were selected by a panel of professional judges earlier. They were:
- AON from Korea
- Contents.com from Italy
- Closer Inc. from Japan
- inContAlert from Germany
- MOBIQU from Turkey
- OTECH (Otsuka Technology) from Singapore
- rThreat from the United States
- VegeSense; KnowCarbon; InxMed from Mainland China
HKTDC Entrepreneur Day
Start-up Express International
A replay of the event, including highlights of the expo and forum, is available on-demand until 2 January 2023: https://eday.hktdc.com/conference/eday/en/programme
- Hong Kong
- Hong Kong