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Hong Kong’s tech startups catching up with mainland China

According to a recent report, the ascension of tech start-ups from mainland China onto the global stage has been well-documented, but what Hong Kong is often left out in discussions around this topic.

According to the chairman of the local Cyberport Investors Network Steering Group, the international finance hub took longer to catch on. Young talent in Hong Kong was “more reserved” than their mainland counterparts, he speculated. Instead of entrepreneurship, they tended to go into banking or other professional paths.

The chairman noted, however, that things began to change seven or eight years ago; the local government played a role, with current and former chief executives making efforts to “reposition” the city as an innovation hub. And in 2005, Hong Kong’s government launched the Cyberport initiative in order to incubate local tech start-ups. Two years ago, the organization also set up a fund targeted at pre-Series A companies.

At the same time, Hong Kong-based entrepreneurs received an “influx of capital” from the US, Japan, and the mainland, providing much-needed seed funding. Now, the chairman says, that the region is definitely seeing Cyberport become a fintech cluster.

He added that the incubator’s tech companies received a record-setting HKD$3.89 billion in the first half of this fiscal year, the report noted.

Successful local companies like one of the most famous AI start-ups and a drone-maker have also moved on to the Greater China region, while some mainland institutions are using Hong Kong as a “springboard to go overseas.”

When it comes to setbacks like China’s slowing economy and ongoing trade tensions with the US, the chairman was philosophical, according to the report.

The effects on local tech investment are not going to be short-term, he predicted. Instead, start-ups and investors will face a changing paradigm, especially in the area of early-stage funding.

In response, the chairman argued that those in the region just have to adjust. However, he also hopes Hong Kong’s government can provide more incentives for private sector investors to help support the tech ecosystem.

The managing partner at a major an early-stage venture capital firm focusing on IT and digital media investments in China has a sunnier outlook. He expressed that he is very optimistic about the future of Hong Kong.

He noted that he foresees “amazing growth” in the city over the next five to 10 years after moving to Hong Kong last year after a decade spent in Shanghai.

He considers the Special Administrative Region “one of the key cities for innovation in China” not only in financial technologies but also logistics and AI.

Tang, who received an American education himself, says that local talent is “very global” in terms of experience as well as origin.

As more Hong Kong entrepreneurs seek to enter the world stage, a partnership with the mainland is likely to become increasingly common. China is enthusiastically pushing forward plans to integrate the Greater Bay Area region–comprising Hong Kong, Macau, and nine cities in Guangdong Province–into a massive economic powerhouse, most recently by opening up the world’s longest sea crossing.

On the long-term future of the region, at least, the chairman is confident and noted that the Greater Bay Area will be the Silicon Valley of China.

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