Growth Of A Startup Ecosystem

By Nayantara Bhat | The Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre was buzzing on May 17 as Entrepreneur Day 2018 kicked off. The two-day event is hosted annually by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), and this year’s showcase was marketed as the ‘most international and tech-focused’ E-Day yet. Over 18,300 visitors came to this year’s show to see the record 276 exhibitors from across the globe. Startups from India, Indonesia, Portugal, and Estonia among others were exhibiting at E-Day for the first time. More than half of the exhibitors were tech startups.

This year marks a decade of Entrepreneur Day exhibitions, and HKTDC planned the show to cater to everyone. From the Imaginarium zone for innovative technology startups to The Boosters – an area designated for startup support like angel funding and coworking spaces – E-Day 2018 highlighted Hong Kong’s startup ecosystem as a space to watch.

HKTDC Acting Executive Director Raymond Yip credits government initiatives to open business to international entrepreneurs and investors along with development in the Pearl River Delta for the growth. “Both are pull factors attracting overseas talents to start their businesses in the city,” he says.

A Stage For Startups E-Day offered a wide range of opportunities for startups of all sizes. Several of the competitions and seminars emphasized pitching skills, giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to sell their ideas to the investors at the event. The two-day Startup Runway forum included everything from seminars and sharing sessions to pitching opportunities.

Pitching seemed to be the name of the game this year, as many of the key events hinged on learning how to pitch. The Pitchathon Spot in the center of the hall was the locus for a series of pitch competitions and networking opportunities, from the “Fund & Mentor” Business Matching Session to the Start-up Express Pitching Final.

E-Day wasn’t just about business, despite the frenzy of pitching to investors. The Pitching for Charity event co-organized by Jumpstart Media and HKTDC gave six select startups an opportunity to be creative with their presentations and support a good cause. Winners of this competition, Origami Labs, had HK$5000 donated in their name to Junior Achievement, a non-profit youth organization in Hong Kong.

Engagement And Investment Outside the organized seminars and contests, startups were able to take advantage of the event to set up booths to promote their products or services.  Eye-catching signs, high-quality videos and hardware displays helped them to engage one-on-one with investors, end users, and job seekers.

“We’ve had some great conversations with people who have stopped by the booth, people who are looking for jobs,” says Jared Poole from smart locker provider Alfred. “We’ve spoken to other people who are basically incubator programs, and potential users of the platform as well.”

Many startups at the show are developing consumer goods – everything from a smart wearable to monitor an infant’s vitals (Peacify), to a smart dress shirt using nanotechnology to make fabric stain resistant (LXN Collection). Others were geared more towards software: Health Maid uses digitized versions of Mahjong and other games to detect dementia in older players.

What all these startups have in common is a drive to succeed and an enthusiasm for their products or services. HKTDC’s goal is to create a thriving startup community in Hong Kong, and events like Pitching for Charity and the Startup Mixer are the stepping stones to an engaged, active, and diverse startup ecosystem in Hong Kong.

About The Author Nayantara is a reporter at Jumpstart in Hong Kong. She studied journalism at The University of Hong Kong and is passionate about innovation, social enterprise, and alternative finance. She’s a hobbyist photographer, and is currently on the lookout for the best burger in Hong Kong.

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