StartmeupHK 2014 – Invest HK's venture forum and awards ceremony
Kowloon's KITEC center played host to InvestHK's second grand start-up event StartmeupHK this November. Boasting some incredibly talented and forward thinking young companies, along with a number of established speakers talking of their successes and misadventures, the forum was a hotbed of fresh ideas. A wide array of enterprises were present, from logistics and big data to social media and entertainment, most notably represented by social humor website 9gag's co-founder Ray Chan. The forum has been growing exponentially, jumping from 384 entries to 550, representing 47 economies globally.
Prizes from the Fintech Award, Smart City award and Data Analytics Award, along with the Grand Award, amounted to a value of around $5 million Hong Kong Dollars in professional services and mentorships. Of the twelve finalists, two categories represented those in early growth stage and that of the conceptual or prototype. The finalists were given a two minute elevator pitch, with which to get to the core of their start-up and explain what made it a unique venture, with most managing a highly succinct and appetizing speech. Attendees were able to partake in decision making with a mobile scoring platform that judged the value proposition, business model, team and its benefit to Hong Kong. From the range of ventures pitched and novel approaches used, it was apparent that good ideas at the forum were in no short supply.
Grand Award Winners
One pitch that gave telling research and frankly left one with the thought 'how is this not already a thing?' came from Hong Kong's own Freightos. In his impeccably timed and convincing speech founder Dr. Zvi Schreiber laid down the basics of his company's innovative approach to logistics and shipping. Having found the glaring gap in the market, Freightos wants to marry international freight and cargo shipping with the comparative market platform, á la Expedia. Dramatically cutting down the time for estimates and allowing for a greater view of competitive rates, this enterprise looks as though it's all but ready to revolutionizing the shipping industry.
Global corporation Persus Telecom was another winner of the Grand Award. Provider of high precision networks, Perseus promises a new level of connectivity. Founder Dr Jock Perry introduced his innovation with a brief history of the global stock exchange and its dependency on speed and accuracy. Perseus provides the fastest market-to-market routes between many major capital cities and, given that we live in an age where minute fractions of a second make a radical difference in the economy, theirs is a system businesses can hardly compete without.
It came as little surprise when SmartBots was announced as the winner of both the Data Anlytics and Grand Awards. Aside from their concise and eye-opening pitch, this Hong Kong based company have an idea that could well change the way we think about handling grand ecological incidents. Their product, the Protei, is a shape-shifting robot with a ship-like design, capable of a high degree of flexibility. Programmable and controlled remotely, the bots are scale-able and cost effective, able to collect information as team and relay a larger picture electronically. CEO and founder Cesar Harada got his idea after the infamous British Petroleum gulf oil spill. The tactile movement of the bots allows for them to utilize the wind in their sails to travel in any direction and they are impervious to capsizing due to their ergonomic shape. Whilst initially conceptualized for one purpose, these bots have great scope and versatility and are sure to make waves in the near future.
Supported by a host of well-established corporations, the winners will receive free business management, accounting, mentorship, crowdfunding platforms, angel or venture capitalist referral as well as legal and advisory services that will aid them in their growth to becoming pinnacles of Hong Kong enterprise. Aside from the winners of the four awards on offer at the ceremony, there were many names we will likely hear again as the new innovators of 2015, and perhaps many more who didn't quite make the selection. Organizations from Finland to Japan gave voice to their impressive ideas and whilst some of the key speakers joked of the hardships of a young start-up, it was an inspiring event that may well see a whole new host of entrepreneurs come out of the woodwork. We look forward to the ever expanding number of start-ups over the next year and for InvestHK's next great entrepreneurial forum, roll on StartmeupHK 2015!
By Adrian O'Sullivan