Innovative new green tech firms feature heavily in this year’s Start-up Express as an environmental, social and governance (ESG) award debuts in the programme.
Start-up Express, an annual entrepreneurship development programme organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), is returning for its fifth edition. As they face up to issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and adverse global economy, entrepreneurs need support more than ever. The 2022 programme continues to help entrepreneurs build connections, explore markets, seek partners and enhance brand awareness.
Stephen Liang, HKTDC Assistant Executive Director, said the HKTDC would continue to back entrepreneurs in expanding their businesses, especially during the pandemic, in addition to promoting the city’s innovation and technology capabilities.
“Since the first edition of Start-up Express in 2018, the programme has already nurtured 40 start-ups, most of which are still active and have expanded on a considerable scale,” Mr Liang said. “Start-up Express has given tremendous support to local start-ups, helping them explore global markets, seal major orders and win international awards. We will continue our quest to spread the spirit of entrepreneurship in Hong Kong, assisting start-ups in growing their businesses to the next level and helping them gain a foothold in the global arena.”
He said the HKTDC remains committed to building a “sustainable and international entrepreneurial ecosystem” that promotes local economic growth and business development.
Start-up Express is aimed at local tech start-ups that have plans to expand into international markets. As the pandemic situation gradually begins to ease, innovative business models and fresh ideas will provide a new stimulus for the economy in post-pandemic times.
The enrolment for Start-up Express 2022 reflects the great enthusiasm of local entrepreneurs, with shortlisted start-ups coming from a broader spectrum of fields than ever before including emerging technologies such as art tech, green tech, health tech, prop tech, fintech, smart city tech, edtech, food tech and more. This year, the ESG Award has been added to reward the most sustainable and socially efficient start-up.
Business development boost
The Pitching Final of this year’s Start-up Express will be held on 15 June. The winning start-ups will be offered access to capability-building workshops, mentoring sessions, exploratory missions to the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, marketing sessions, extensive publicity and investor pitching opportunities. These activities will help winning entrepreneurs hone business skills, access the latest market insights and acquire business know-how from experienced industry leaders.
The winning start-ups will also be presented with opportunities to interact with buyers and investors at HKTDC-organised local and overseas events. In addition, the HKTDC will arrange business-matching meetings, helping the entrepreneurs to connect with potential partners, increase their media exposure and enhance brand awareness.
Mr Liang explained that last year’s winning teams stood out because of their innovative and forward-looking ideas.
“Through Start-up Express they were able to gain more insights into their industries, overseas market trends and investor preferences by participating in different HKTDC-organised events, including the Asia Summit on Global Health, Asian Financial Forum, the Belt and Road Summit, online exhibitions in Mainland China and overseas, and investor meetings in Hong Kong and the mainland. They have also been able to strengthen their business networks and expand their markets and businesses through the exposure they have gained,” he said.
To help fuel the growth of these start-ups, the HKTDC also leveraged its network of 50 overseas offices worldwide to endorse them in international competitions and connect them to overseas investors through pitching events.
Top 10 selected
In the 2022 Pitching Final, the judging panel will select 10 outstanding teams from the 20 shortlisted start-ups. This year’s panel comprises Raymond Yung, Vice Chairman, AMTD Group; Jason Chiu, Chairman, Hong Kong Start-up Council; Andrew Young, Associate Director (Innovation), Sino Group; Ben Cheng, Managing Partner, C Ventures; and Arshad Chowdhury, Managing Partner, Betatron Venture Group. In addition, AMTD Group is the Strategic Partner of Start-up Express for the fourth consecutive year.
Start-ups selected for the shortlisted top 20 in the Pitching Final have all presented innovative business solutions that help address social and environmental issues.
Shortlisted candidates include Allklear, which advocates the concept of plant-based, functional and sustainable foods through innovative technology to produce a new generation of health foods.
Another candidate is i2cool (main picture), which developed a radiative cooling paint that consumes no energy and does not require any cooling agent but reduces the surface temperature of buildings.
PONS.ai is an artificial intelligence-powered phygital social marketplace for art and entertainment products, which aims to empower creators worldwide with digital ownership.
A fourth contender is FlashGreen, which champions environmental friendliness by recycling stocks of short-dated, best-before-date foods from suppliers and reselling them at lower prices in vending machines.