New Award Aims to Promote Startup Community

L to R: David Zhu, Ben Cheng, Dr. Allen Zemen, Charles Mok, Felix Lam (Photo by Wendy Tang)

L to R: David Zhu, Ben Cheng, Dr. Allan Zeman, Charles Mok and Felix Lam spoke on a panel discussion about startups in Hong Kong at the best ICT startup award launch event on Dec. 2, 2013. (Photo by Wendy Tang)

As part of an ongoing effort to foster the startup community in Hong Kong, advocates of an open internet announced the launch of a startup award at an event on Monday.

The award, part of the annual Information Communication Technology (ICT) Awards, is organized by the Internet Society of Hong Kong, which is a local chapter of an international non-profit that provides leadership in Internet-related standards, education and policy.

The new award aims to recognize local ICT startups that have developed innovative solutions and to promote entrepreneurship and the startup culture. The organizer hopes to attract more talent and investors to participate in startups in Hong Kong.

In a panel discussion at the launch event, entrepreneurs and investors brought up three challenges facing the startup culture: funding, talent and community. Even though the scene has grown compared to a few years ago, they argue it is not yet mature.

Tech entrepreneur David Zhu of Divide, a startup on enterprise software for mobile platforms, said it was difficult to find enough talented engineers and product managers to grow his business fast enough. Zhu’s three-year-old startup had recently secured US$12 million funding from Google.

He said one way to attract talent is by promoting the startup community through education. The government can bring awareness to “the community that there are viable career alternatives to working in finance or other traditional industries,” he said.

That’s where the new award comes in. The ICT Awards is supported by the Hong Kong government, Hong Kong Productivity Council, Hong Kong Trade Development Council and industry associations. This is the first year there is a category for startups since the awards were established in 2006. The other nine categories include ones for business solutions and digital entertainment.

Entrepreneurs hope that more awareness can also bring more funding. Felix Lam, managing director of Red Chapel Advisors and an angel investor in Hong Kong, said the city has many investors but investing in startups is new to them. That’s because there are many investment vehicles for them to choose from, such as real estates and stocks, he added.

But Lam emphasized the quality of startups still matter to get the fundings despite the pool of angel investment fundings have grown compared to five years ago. In addition, one way to bring up awareness of the startup community is to openly share your ideas with others at networking events, he said. “Take advantage of information flow and with people come in and out, we started to see quality startups.”

The new award also promotes the exchange of ideas. Entries are considered for three streams: consumer market, business market and social innovation streams. Applicants should apply online at ictaward.isoc.hk.

Dr. Allan Zeman

Dr. Allan Zeman gave advice to entrepreneurs at the best ICT award launch event on Dec. 2, 2013. (Photo by Wendy Tang)

In a keynote speech, serial entrepreneur Dr. Allan Zeman of Lan Kwai Fong Group and Ocean Park Corporation said Hong Kong startups should aim high, have a business or product that has scalability, and be able to compete with the rest of the world. “The beauty of Hong Kong has always been an international city, doing business with the world,” said Dr. Zeman.

He applauded Hong Kong for its “can-do”, positive spirit. He said entrepreneurs should be different from the competition, think out of the box and create products that excel.

“Everyone can start from nothing and become a Li Ka Shing,” said Dr. Zeman.

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