In May 2010, following Google’s dramatic decision to move its China search engine to Hong Kong, I wrote an article for Forbes titled “Why Hong Kong is China’s New Tech Hub”.
In this interview, Casey Lau, who is heavily involved with the Hong Kong startup community, updates us on developments in the Hong Kong startup scene in 2012.
What startups have you been involved with in Hong Kong? At what times, and how did you exit?
I started off with ActionAce.com back in the dotcom era and sold to one of our investors. I also started a multimedia company called Velocity9 that was acquired by a VC firm.
Your most recent venture has involved publishing comics to the iOS platform; what have you learned from that experience?
That was mainly an experiment in comic publishing. Super Kaiju Hero Force was one of the first comics purely created for the iPhone and was sized accordingly. With over 100K downloads of the 5 part series, I can say it was amazingly successful compared to my print comics that I published in the late 90’s that sold a maximum of 10,000 copies sold with much bigger advertising and marketing costs.
How have you become involved in the funding and support side for startups?
A group of startups formed an association called StartupsHK that began to build the startup community in HK by holding events and conferences. It grew from 6 to 2000 members today and is growing every day through our social media channels.
How has the startup scene in Hong Kong changed over the past three years?
Definitely a bigger interest level not only by entrepreneurs but by the media and investors. We like to think that having a place for people to meet and create the ecosystem for it to exist and thrive has helped define it over the past 3 years.
The Hong Kong government has tried very hard to support startups in Hong Kong, especially since both China and Singapore have vibrant startup environments. What has the HK government done?
They help in the ways they know how – by giving their co-op bodies funds to spread out to the local startup community – this includes the Creative MicroFund at Cyberport and one at PolyU. It will take the private sector to mentor and train new startups to go big.
What does HK offer to differentiate itself from its neighbors?
A better ecosystem and a better reach to China and the US while staying in one of the most transparent and easy to set up a company cities in the world.
Are most startups targeted at China, the west, or the domestic HK market?
Its a mix of the three but definitely I see more targeted at HK and the West. Targeting China from HK is like targeting Japan – you have to be there to do it, but going wide to North America seems slightly easier from HK.
What makes HK unique in your opinion compared to other markets?
HK is a very entrepreneurial city and that is something that people understand. It has a strong financial community as well and many students studying abroad and coming back with new ideas.
What does HK really need to become more competitive?
More support from the government and corporations. More insight from Silicon Valley and more co-operation with other countries, especially in Asia.
Do you have any specific goals in the coming year?
More events and conferences with founders from overseas. These will center around entrepreneurship, UX, mobile, hackathons – you name it, this is on our schedule for 2013.
You are well-known as an Apple fan; why is the Apple brand so popular in HK?
I think its the way they promote and market themselves as a premium brand. Anyone can buy a computer or mobile phone but to get an Apple device is on bar with something like Louis Vuitton or Mercedes Benz.