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Entrepreneurs critical in Hong Kong’s I&T drive


The HKTDC’s Start-up Express mentorship programme nurtures an ecosystem of innovators.


Start-ups are essential in Hong Kong’s drive towards becoming a global innovation and technology leader, and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) is committed to nurturing start-ups, helping them upgrade and transform and explore business opportunities.

The HKTDC is holding the seventh edition of its Start-up Express entrepreneurship incubation programme and eligible entrepreneurs can register between now and 6 May.

The top 40 participants will be selected in May, and the finals will be held on 27 June to select the 10 start-ups.

The programme helps local entrepreneurs build networks, find partners and reach new markets through a series of training , mentor experience sharing, marketing activities and business matching with potential investors.

Start-ups are eligible, as long as they are incorporated in Hong Kong in 2019 or later, with less than US$10 million in financing. Entrants typically focus on art tech, fintech, healthtech, smart city or sustainability, but judges will look at innovators adopting a wide range of other technologies.

Many winning start-ups in previous editions have successfully expanded into international markets through the programme.

Kamakura Foods Limited (Wada Bento), a 2021 laureate, was seeking to expand into the Japanese market. The HKTDC referred it to its Osaka office, which provided business consultation support. In September 2023, they secured JPY400 million (~US$2.69 million) in investment from Osaka-based Harada Corporation and other investors from Hong Kong and Singapore and opened a representative office in Osaka.  

At the HKTDC’s Entrepreneur Day (E-Day) in December last year, the company signed an MoU with Harada to deepen cooperation. The company now operates a number of machines across Japan, with additional ones to be deployed in Osaka and Tokyo later this year.

Start-up Express 2022 winner, i2Cool, reached an agreement at E-Day worth more than HK$10 million with Philippine firm Alpha Southstar General Construction Corp, , which purchased i2Cool’s cooling paint for the construction of a large housing estate project in the Philippines.

Thanks to the HKTDC, the company has established partnerships with many firms around the world to sell its cooling paint, including distributors from Singapore, the United States, Canada and Abu Dhabi.

The global version of Start-up Express, Start-up Express International, held its second edition last year, with the award ceremony during E-Day in December. Winning entries focused on fintech, healthtech, greentech, AI and more. The top 10 start-ups were selected by Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, Cyberport and Gobi Ventures.

Hong Kong is an ideal platform for enterprises, including start-ups. An Invest Hong Kong survey conducted last year showed there were more than 4,000 start-up companies in the city, an increase of more than 34% from 2019. A quarter of the enterprises were founded by people from outside Hong Kong.

US-based research group Startup Genome recently published the Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2023, which ranks Hong Kong’s start-up ecosystem as second in the world and the best in Asia.

Hong Kong's start-up ecosystem has benefitted from China’s national development strategy, the city’s unique advantages and the support of the Hong Kong SAR Government. The 14th Five-Year Plan’s eight-centre strategy for Hong Kong promotes the city’s development into an international I&T hub.

Hong Kong is also a global IP trading platform and its full suite of legal IP protections and related professional services safeguard the results of science and technology research. Hong Kong is a key city in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and is deepening I&T integration with nearby R&D centres Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

Expansion of the Hetao Shenzhen-Hong Kong Science and Technology Innovation Cooperation Zone on Hong Kong’s northern boundary will further promote the integration of Shenzhen and Hong Kong and accelerate the growth of the regional start-up ecosystem.

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