10 innovative Hong Kong start-ups to watch

17 Jan 2019

Hong Kong Island. Image: © khwaneigq/Stock.adobe.com

Hong Kong is a hotbed of deep-tech talent, from algorithms and AI to the internet of things. Here are the ones to watch in 2019.

Since we last looked at 32 of Hong Kong’s hottest tech start-ups to watch more than a year ago, things have moved on considerably. The city has emerged as a crucial gateway to Asia for Irish fintech companies, and its proximity to the manufacturing and telecoms powerhouse that is Shenzhen has put it at the centre of the digital world.

The city is a magnet for young start-up talent from all over the world, and the hallmark of Hong Kong start-ups is the diversity of backgrounds of some of the founding teams, many of them a mix of local and international talent.

On 25 January, Silicon Republic CEO and Inspirefest founder Ann O’Dea will be on the main stage of the Startup Impact Summit, where she will hold an Inspirefest Hour featuring talks with Richard Eardley from Hays, Ann Cathrin Riedel from Load EV, Richard Zeng from Mojia and Tammuz Dubnov from Zuzor.

And so, here are the Hong Kong start-ups to watch in 2019.


Bravera is a platform that can allocate fitness challenges for social good or for discount rewards on partner brands. Users either pay back or get paid through fitness challenges. Founded by Alyn Watkins in 2017, Bravera connects with other fitness apps and wearables. It can detect when you’ve reached certain milestones and unlock pledged funds.


Freightos is a global freight marketplace underpinned by freight routing and pricing technology. Targeting the trillion-dollar shipping industry, it enables its users to reduce logistics costs by booking and managing air, ocean and land shipments. Founded by Zvi Schreiber, it raised $44.4m last September in a round led by Singapore Exchange, bringing total funding to date to $92.7m.


Gini has created an app that helps users to track and manage their personal finances and get rewarded for it. Users link bank accounts, credit cards and mobile wallets in one place. Founded in 2016 by Ray Wyand, Victor Lang and Calvin Lang, Gini raised $650,000 in a seed funding round from CV Ventures. Just a few days ago, it was named Startup of the Year by the Harvard Business School Association of Hong Kong at its 2019 Signature Conference.


Grana is a global fashion e-commerce player that offers women and men clothes made from fabrics sourced all over the world. Founded in 2014 by Luke Grana and Pieter Paul Wittgen and shipping to more than 65 countries, the company has raised $16m in funding to date from investors that include STI Financial Group and the Alibaba Enterpreneurs Fund.


Goxip is a destination for searching and discovering fashion and beauty products, and it is also building its own in-house fintech payment solution. The platform is used by more than 500 merchants and carries more than 6m items for purchase. Focused on China and South Korea, Goxip was founded in 2016 by Juliette Gimenez and YC Lau. It has raised $8m to date from investors that include Convoy Global Holdings and Meitu.


Two men in suits hold a sign with Hong Kong in background.

From left: Niall Dorr and Martin Brecknock. Image: ImageDeep

ImageDeep is an AI platform for smart city, internet of things (IoT) and lean manufacturing industrial applications. Co-founded in 2016 by Irishman Niall Dorr and Martin Brecknock, ImageDeep uses advanced automation. Decisions can be made in real time to enhance productivity and operations, increase workflow, and yield significant savings to the client. Incorporated in Hong Kong in 2018, it plans to open an AI communications hub in Hong Kong that will service Hong Kong and south-east Asia, and employ 50 people by the end of the year.


Oriente is focused on providing financial services to the underserved, underbanked communities of south-east Asia. Powered by AI, the company is building a whole new digital financial services infrastructure to support millions of people. Founded in 2017 by Geoffrey Prentice, Hubert Tai and Lawrence Chu, it has raised $105m in funding from investors that include Berjaya, JG Summit Holdings and Sinar Mas Group.


One of China’s stand-out unicorns, SenseTime, is also one of the world’s most valuable AI players. Focused on computer vision, face recognition and deep learning, it is also said to be China’s largest AI algorithm provider. Founded in 2014 by Dr Xiao’ou Tang and Li Xu at the Department of Information Engineering at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, SenseTime has raised more than $2.6bn from investors that include SB China Capital, Fidelity International, Silver Lake, Tiger Global, Alibaba Group, Qualcomm, IDG Capital and others.


Silentmode is focused on eliminating stress and cultivating focus using wearable technologies. It does so through a combination of audio and a memory-foam mask that delivers psycho-acoustic and therapeutic sonic experiences. Founded in 2017 by Bradley Dowding-Young and Jens Nielsen, the company has raised $150,000 in seed funding to date.


Soundbrenner combines wearables with apps to help musicians improve and hone their skills. Used by more than 300,000 musicians worldwide every month, its devices and software help users to practise regularly, keeping on beat and in tune. Founded in 2014, Soundbrenner is led by CEO Florian Simmendinger. It has raised $2m in funding to date from investors that include Brinc and Wistron Corporation.

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event celebrating the point where science, technology and the arts collide. Early Bird tickets for Inspirefest 2019 are available now.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years