StartmeupHK Festival: HK Innovation Is Alive and Kicking

Photo credit: StartmeupHK

For five days, Hong Kong played host to 471 speakers from 97 countries and territories, attracting 181,770 attendees and featuring 199 exhibitors. 

We are talking about Hong Kong’s annual StartmeupHK Festival, the startup showpiece organized by Invest Hong Kong (InvestHK) that went virtual for the first time.  ended July 10 after a record-breaking week that more than lived up to a common underlying theme apparent in each of the sector events and activities: innovation and problem solving as the driving force for startups. 

Speaking at the Startup Impact Summit organized by WHub, Carrie Lam, Chief Executive, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, outlined a roadmap for startups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). She highlighted the government’s pro-innovation procurement policies and support for Hong Kong’s local startup base, while pointing out the far-reaching promise of the Greater Bay Area, notably the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park in concert with the Shenzhen Government. 

On the last day of the Festival, at the HKFIA 2020 Forum organized by Sina Finance, Paul Chan, Financial Secretary, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, spoke about Hong Kong’s resilience while recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted that despite its many challenges, Hong Kong is still faring very well and again led the world last year in funds raised through initial public offerings. 

“I have no doubt that we’ll be in the running again this year, despite the turbulence out there. After all, Hong Kong has become a much sought-after place for secondary listing of Chinese companies,” said Chan. “Just ask video-game developer NetEase and e-commerce retailer JD.com, both of which listed in Hong Kong last month, following in the welcome wake of tech giant Alibaba’s secondary listing here last November.” 

The Festival started with the Connected Cities Conference, organized by KPMG, which laid bare Hong Kong’s smart city ambitions. During this conference, Alfred Sit, the Secretary for Innovation and Technology in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government led a discussion on what it takes to build a smart city regarding Hong Kong. The government plans were outlined in the Smart City Blueprint, which highlights over 70 initiatives in six smart areas to maintain Hong Kong’s position as a leading city for innovation and technology. 

Predictably, everyone was talking about COVID-19. The Startup Impact Summit looked at the impact of the pandemic on fundraising for startups. Jason Calacanis, an angel investor and podcaster at Launch said events like the StartmeupHK Festival are so important for startups. “One meeting can change the course of an entrepreneur’s life,” he said. 

Stephen Phillips, director-general of investment promotion at InvestHK, encouraged startups to stay resolutely optimistic in these challenging times: “I know that entrepreneurs — just like you — will play a vital role in leading us to a better future.” 

At the Connected Retail Experiences, organized by Bailey Communications, Bernie Brookes, chairman of Funtastic Australia, shared the hints and tips for the ever-evolving retailer. He said retailers have forgotten the importance of education, adding: “No longer can retailers sell products to an uninformed consumer. People want to be educated on products, but with that comes a lot of online activism.” 

Speaking at the Ecosystem Summit, organized by The Mills Fabrica, corporate innovation panelist Teddy Liu, general manager for group audit and management services at New World Development, stressed the need to challenge mindsets. “We must learn to fail smart and fail fast… If you can’t grow, you go.” 

At the Lifestyle Tech Conference, organized by Jumpstart Media, Jeanne Lim, board director of Kami Intelligence and Hanson Robotics, imagined a future in which AI would allow us to realize and relearn what our own humanity is. Spencer Deng, chief executive officer and co-founder at Dorabot, cautioned that AI, unlike a human being with all of its senses, “works like a hive-mind getting information from a multiplicity of sources… AI will soon turn into an unhuman thing.” 

The HKFIA Forum on the last day covered a range of topics including gender inequality in the workplace. A lively panel discussion covered the advantages of having women in positions of power. Amy Lo, co-head of wealth management for Asia Pacific at UBS, centered the conversation around Hong Kong. She noted that “we are lucky to be in Hong Kong… there are a significant number of female CEOs here.”

Photo credit: StartmeupHK