Hong Kong comes out swinging in 2017; Here are 4 developments that make it a great year for startups and innovation

Jay Kim
Hong Kong

Location is one of the city’s greatest strengths, with access to half the world’s entire population with a mere five-hour flight

As Hong Kong continues to defend its status as one of the world’s premier locations for business in Asia, its government is pushing forward several exciting new initiatives this year that should excite inbound investors.

One of the city’s greatest strengths has always been its location. Due to its proximity, Hong Kong has enjoyed direct access to mainland China, particularly Shenzhen which is just a 45-minute train ride away. Shenzhen which has long been known as the hardware capital of the world is now also touted as the “Silicon Valley of China.”

Hong Kong also happens to be strategically located at the center of Asia and a mere five-hour flight away from half the world’s entire population. (Yes, half. That’s 3.5 billion people primarily from China and India).

As a result, the city has witnessed unprecedented ecosystem growth in the past few years. The number of startup co-working spaces, innovation labs, and accelerator programs has grown explosively from three to now over 50 in just the last four years.

Standing in the midst of these inbound investments is InvestHK, a department of the local Hong Kong Government. Its mandate is to facilitate inbound foreign direct investment and offer services to companies who want to set up or grow a local office. These companies range from large MNCs to SMEs, all the way down to new startups. The department also provides startup-specific advice through their StartmeupHK platform, which connects academia and the corporate and private sectors.

The department’s ultimate goal, however, is job growth—to bring the best companies in the world to Hong Kong and facilitate startups to scale rapidly, thereby increasing their potential to hire local talent.

Here are four key initiatives worth keeping an eye out for this year:

The loop

In January 2017, officials from Hong Kong and Shenzhen announced in an agreement the development of an 85-hectare innovation and technology park. The Lok Ma Chau Loop is said to be four times the size of Hong Kong’s Science Park. According to chief executive CY Leung, it will be “Hong Kong’s largest innovation and technology platform ever.”

Also read: Tech met Cool at Sónar Hong Kong, highlighting the need for creativity in technology

The location will help a number of companies in the city to set up strategic offices on the border of Shenzhen, which is a boon to the city’s tech industry.

Innovation fund

Also announced in early January, during chief executive Leung’s 2017 policy address, was the brand new US$250 million (or HK$2 billion) government investment fund aimed at boosting technology and innovation in Hong Kong. The Innovation and Technology Venture Fund will provide venture support for startups, which would lead to more institutional VC fund flow and startup talent.

This may be aimed to combat some of the criticism that the city has received due to its lack of government financial support for the ecosystem as compared to Singapore. Only time will tell if the fund achieves its long-term goals successfully.

StartmeupHK Festival and Hong Kong Fintech Week

StartmeupHK has made big strides in just a couple of years to host and organize two world-class events (with Elon Musk as a keynote speaker in one of them) showcasing Hong Kong as a true startup and fintech hub and attracting tens of thousands of overseas visitors annually. The city remains one of the top three financial centers of the world and has the real opportunity to become a top three global startup and fintech hub.

Also read: Crowdfunding startup CoAssets expands to Hong Kong with an investment in Fintech

Central business district #2

This is not a new initiative by any means. The chief executive first announced it in his policy address back in 2011. Hong Kong’s CBD2 is located where the old Kai Tak Airport used to be. This district, once an industrial base (and still predominantly filled with warehouses), is now one of the government’s key focus areas for redevelopment.

As the demand for office spaces in the city’s current central business district can no longer be met, there is a renewed effort to revitalize and enhance the design, connectivity, and infrastructure of the buildings in CBD2.

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Jay Kim is a Hong Kong-based investor, author and host of the popular podcast, The Jay Kim Show which educates aspiring entrepreneurs, investors, and startup founders through interviews with top global business leaders.  Subscribe via iTunes and feel free to reach out directly to Jay on Twitter @jaykimmer

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