Hong Kong has always been about trade and in the 21st century a coterie of promising start-ups are keeping the tradition. Here’s just a few to sate your appetite.
From Imperial China to the British Empire to the People’s Republic of China, the port city of Hong Kong has always been on the world stage. It has survived the tribulations of the Opium Wars, World War II and now holds the keys to its own destiny, albeit as an autonomous territory of China.
The city, home to more than 7m people, has a lot going for it. It is one of the world’s biggest financial centres and the Hong Kong dollar is the 13th most traded currency in the world.
The ‘Pearl of the Orient’ is embracing a brave new future as one of Asia’s pre-eminent start-up hubs. The city is home to around 2,000 start-ups and, according to Forbes, some 20pc of founders in Hong Kong hail from the US.
Europe’s leading sci-tech event, Inspirefest, is going on the road and, following successful salon events in New York, Munich, Paris and London, our next stop is Hong Kong on Wednesday 1 November 2017.
At the Hong Kong salon, Inspirefest founder Ann O’Dea will give a sneak peak of Inspirefest 2018 which will take place 21-22 June, coinciding with the new Cathay Pacific direct flights from Hong Kong to Dublin (starting 3 June 2018).
Guest speakers will include Ireland’s consul general to Hong Kong, Peter Ryan. Attendees will also have an opportunity to hear about the Irish Executive Mentorship Programme, which has been successfully introduced for Hong Kong-based young professionals.
This, the first Inspirefest Salon in Asia, is invite-only. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you or your friends would like to come along.
And, without further ado, here are the Hong Kong start-ups we reckon you should watch in the year ahead:
Using AI technology, Ambi Labs offers an advanced air conditioning (AC) experience in the form of Ambi Climate. The IoT device automatically adjusts your AC in response to weather changes, saving energy and giving consumers peace of mind when they leave home.
Ambi Labs was founded by Julian Lee, Paul Sykes and Mathis Antony in 2012. It is currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo and has, at the time of writing, raised $156,303.
Coachbase offers a practice planner app “designed by coaches for coaches”. The app features a drill library, a built-in automatic timer and a practice template, helping users to keep track of past sessions and plan new ones.
CEO and founder Keith Rumjahn said: “One of the ways we differentiate from similar apps is through our exclusive connections. You might be able to copy our apps, but you won’t be able to strike a deal with NBA coaches overnight.”
This summer, China’s tech behemoth Tencent led a $145.5m investment in online brokerage platform Futu Securities. The whopper investment, which also involved Matrix Partners China and Sequoia Capital China, brought the Hong Kong-registered business to unicorn status with a valuation of more than $1bn.
Founded by Li Hua, Futu Securities provides online stock trading services for companies listed in Hong Kong and the US through the website Futu5.com.
Boxful is a storage solution that eliminates the need to travel to a desolate industrial estate with your hoarded belongings. The team collects the goods from wherever you are, stores them in a climate-controlled facility and returns them on demand.
Founded in 2014 by Norman Cheung, the Hong Kong-headquartered company has raised $8.1m to date, largely through a $6.6m Series A from numerous investors in November 2015.
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Founded in 2013 by a team of finance and technology professionals, WeLab set out to transform credit services by bringing them into the mobile era. Their first product, WeLend, was Hong Kong’s first online lending platform and they have since expanded into China with Wolaidai. With funding to date totalling $205m, and buoyed by top ranking in Deloitte’s inaugural Technology Fast 20 Hong Kong programme, co-founder and CEO Simon Loong says southeast Asia is next.
Notey secured a $1.6m seed round from a collection of angel investors including Steve Kirsch, Hugo Barra and Ryan Holmes in 2015. Founded in 2014 by CEO Kevin Lepsoe and Catherine Tan, the company started out in Hong Kong and now has additional offices in London and New York.
Well Being Digital
Specialising in m-health, wearable and hearable technology, Well Being Digital (WBD101) is developing algorithms for the likes of wrist-based devices and sensor hubs.
Founded by Wallace Wong and Kow Ping in 2012, WBD101 has won acclaim for its Mogo and ActivHearts trademarks, and won the Best Wearable Mobile Technology award at last year’s Mobile World Congress.
WBD101 was one of 10 start-ups to be selected for the Global Incubator Network goAustria programme earlier this month.
— Bitspark (@BitsparkLtd) October 11, 2017
Founded in 2014 by Maxine Ryan and George Harrap, Bitspark provides a platform for licensed money transfer remittance businesses. Its purpose is to overcome the inefficient and expensive process of transferring money overseas with a web platform to manage them in the cloud as well as tracking historical data and building analytics.
The company has so far raised more than $40,000 in seed funding and largely serves the APAC region.
GoGoVan is tapping into the sharing economy with a service that lets people order courier services anywhere in what is the first app of its kind in Asia.
Launched back in 2013 by Reeve Kwan, Steven Lam and Nick Tang, the company has now expanded to Singapore, South Korea, China and Taiwan resulting in it being named Hong Kong’s first $1bn start-up after merging with Chinese-based 58 Suyun.
Founded in 2010 by Mathias Helleu and Mikaal Abdulla, 8 Securities is an app that offers customers in Asia access to zero commission in stock trading across dollars, Hong Kong dollars and Chinese renminbi.
The firm has so far raised almost $30m and Adbulla recently spoke with Tech In Asia about its plans to spread outwards across the continent drawing comparisons with Robinhood, a US start-up with a similar business that this year was valued at $1.3bn.
Founded by Nick Murray and Paul Tomes, PassKit is a platform that helps time-short businesses access the latest mobile innovations, engage new customers and build brand loyalty. From Loopy Loyalty (a digital stamp card solution compatible with both Android and Apple Pay) to mobile wallet campaign manager Cherrypie, PassKit enables even small businesses to take advantage of blockchain technology.
Founded in June 2012, the company boasts clients like Heathrow Airport and Best Western Hotels and Resorts.
— AfterShip (@aftership) February 9, 2017
Founded in 2011, AfterShip is a post-shipping tracking platform, providing a solution for e-commerce companies to accurately track deliveries.
AfterShip was founded by Teddy Chan, Andrew Chan and Dante Tsang and it counts Etsy, Groupon and Wish among its clients.
The company has had two funding rounds, the more recent of which was a Series A bringing total funding to $1m.
MioTech is an investment management platform that empowers investment managers to better serve their clients in a world of complex data.
Founded by Tao Liu and Jianyu Tu, MioTech’s graph database is designed to help large financial services firms store and process terabytes of data.
The company received $7m in one round of funding earlier this month from three investors, with Horizon Ventures leading the round.
We are delighted to partner with the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund to bring disruptive revolution to SMEs financing market!
Qupital is a digital trading marketplace for buyers and sellers of corporate receivables. While it was only founded a year and a half ago, it has already received $2m in funding.
Andy Chan founded the company in May 2016 and a year later, Qupital received $2m in funding in one round from four investors: The Aria Group, MindWorks Ventures, DRL Capital and Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund.
— Shopline (@shoplineapp) July 11, 2017
Founded in the summer of 2013, Shopline is a DIY e-commerce platform for creating online shops in Asia. All shops are completely responsive, adapting to all screen sizes so the customer experience is consistent on every device.
Raymond Yip, Tony Wong and Fiona Lau founded Shopline and the company has seen three funding rounds in the past four years, amounting to total funding of more than $1m. The most recent round was from Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund.
CompareAsiaGroup is the largest personal finance management platform in Asia, and it allows users to search for credit cards, loans and insurance plans based on their needs and risk profiles in marketplaces in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan.
It recently closed a $50m Series B funding round in July which saw investments from Alibaba, SBI Group and H&Q Utrust. Irishman Alister Musgrave heads up its Hong Kong division.
TNG Fintech Group
Alex Kong CEO TNG Fintech invited to HK Fintech Club's Private CEO Breakfast event today 17 Oct, moderated by Jame DiBiasio. pic.twitter.com/s1i3uOqvoE
— TNG FinTech Group (@TNGFinTech) October 17, 2017
TNG Fintech Group is a collection of leaders who have come to together to improve the lives of billions of people in Asia without bank accounts. Co-founded by Alex Kong and Takis Wong, the company operates a digital wallet platform allowing consumers to transfer money between 13 participant countries. It aims to keep transaction fees low and offer fast remittance rates. Investors include Taiwanese firm Nogle and KBR Capital Partners.
Founded in 2014 by Nikos Bentenitis and Gabriel Manricks, CoinSimple is a web app and online service that allows online merchants to accept bitcoin and automatically convert it into local currency.
CoinSimple’s team wants to make e-commerce using bitcoin easier for everyone involved. Users can track incoming payments, and can connect to all major bitcoin processors like BitPay, Coinbase and GoCoin directly from the white-label app.
Data visualisation company Oddup is focused on empowering smart investment decisions in start-ups with rating scores, valuations, analyst commentary and more.
Founded by James Gianotti in Hong Kong in 2015, the company has so far raised $7.2m, including $125,000 in seed funding from 500 Startups and $6m in a Series A round led by Moneta Ventures and including Bennet Coleman & Co, White Capital, Click Ventures and 500 Startups.
A genetic testing start-up, Prenetics partners with insurance companies to provide genetic tests to policyholders and is currently available in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. The company claims to have processed more than 200,000 DNA samples so far.
Founded by Lawrence Tzang, Danny Yeung and Prof Michael Yang in 2014, it has raised $52m in funding, including a recent $40m Series B round led by Beyond Ventures and Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund and involving Venturra Capital, REAPRA, Ping An Ventures, M Fund and Egarden Ventures.
Insight Robotics’ core technology provides decision-makers with actionable information to prevent disasters. Its proprietary geospatial intelligence platform Insight Globe displays real-time data collected through robots and sensors to enable natural resource and infrastructure managers to assess risks and detect threats.
Founded by Rex Sham and Kevin Chan, the company this year raised an undisclosed sum of money in a Series B round led by Empower Investments.
One of Asia’s largest in-destination travel services booking platforms, Klook began in Hong Kong and Macau targeting inbound tourists. It now operates in over 100 destinations worldwide and has scaled to a team of 300 people with offices in 10 cities in the three years since it was founded in 2014.
The company was founded by Eric Gnock Fah and Ethan Lin and in February it raised $30m in a Series B round led by Matrix Partners, Sequoia, Welight Capital, Wecapital Group and China Growth Capital.
Tink Labs (Handy)
Handy is described as the world’s first customisable smartphone for hotels. It serves as an extension or replacement of an hotel’s in-room phone, helping travellers to keep in touch and stay informed via unlimited internet, local and international calling. Founded by Terence Kwok in 2012, the plartform could transform the hospitality industry landscape.
The company behind it all, Tink Labs, has raised $160m in funding so far, including a massive $125m round last year led by FIH Mobile, Sinovation Ventures and Wensheng Cai.
— Spottly (@spottly) July 14, 2017
Spottly is an absolutely picture-based travel guide that enables users to plan trips and find amazing places to go through just browsing pictures and videos. The Spottly platform does all the hard work under the bonnet, referencing travel places on Instagram, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Foursquare and more.
Founded by Edyn Chan in 2014, the company has raised $850,000 in seed funding from Gobi Partners, 500 Startups, Cherubic Ventures and MindWorks Ventures.
— Bioserie (@bioserie) September 2, 2017
Bioserie manufactures 100pc bioplastic baby toys made from plants. The company entered the market initially making protective covers for smartphones before focusing on safe, environmentally friendly toys.
Bioserie is the brainchild of Katya Kaplancali, Bora Samman and Stephanie Triau. The company, which wants to change the world for the better by enabling people to consume more responsibly, raised an undisclosed amount in a seed funding round in 2015.
ANX is a fintech focused on developing and implementing blockchain technologies. The company, founded in 2013 by Ken Lo, Hugh Madden and Dave Chapman, has its own cryptocurrency exchange called ANXPRO, a successful blockchain implementation business and a bitcoin debit card business. It acquired Justcoin Exchange in 2014 for an undisclosed amount.
Lalamove is a logistics app which businesses can use to outsource delivery services. Within the app, users can pick the vehicle to suit their needs (motorcycle, van or 5.5-ton truck), set a pick-up point and drop-off locations and track each delivery in real-time.
Since being founded in 2013 under the name EasyVan, Lalamove has secured close to $1bn in funding and is making plans to roll out its services across 100 cities in Asia.
Ikky is a Hong Kong-based app which allows you to book restaurants, events, salon appointments and doctor’s visits all in one place. It simultaneously offers business-owners the chance to use their marketing and operational efficiency tools to better reach their customers.
Given that they acquired Hong Kong internet start-up Taxiwise back in 2014, it’s likely that the app will integrate a taxi reservation service in due course.
If you’re someone who is prone to forgetting to book hotels until the eleventh hour, HotelQuickly is a start-up that helps you make last-minute bookings for heavily discounted prices. It will certainly keep San Francisco based HotelTonight on its toes, if and when it enters the US market.
For now, it has secured $5.6m in funding since it was founded in 2013 which has allowed it to roll out its services across Asia.
— Frenzoo (@frenzoo) August 8, 2016
Frenzoo creates 3D fashion and lifestyle simulator games such as ‘Fashion Empire – Boutique Sim’ for iOS and Android. Ambient Sound Investments, a company founded by four of Skype’s co-founding engineers, invested in the company before launch.
Since the company officially launched in 2013, Frenzoo has picked up a $2m in funding, most recently from the ‘virtual property queen’ Anshe Chung and early-stage venture investors Fresco Capital.
Founded by Crystal Pang, Eric San and Paco Chan, Pick-Up is a logistics technology optimisation platform that sources agents to offer same-day delivery services using real-time GPS tracking.
Last Monday (16 October), it was revealed that Pick-Up raised an undisclosed amount in an investment round led by Axis Capital Partners.
CEO Pang said: “In less than 12 months, we have managed to grow daily volume to a peak of over 1,000 deliveries per day.”
Uhoo is focused on helping people improve their quality of life through better air quality and, therefore, healthier breathing. It uses data on indoor air quality to bring health, safety and energy savings to commercial and residential space.
The company, founded by Brian Lin and Jefferson Onganseng in 2014, recently raised $1.5m in a seed funding round.
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