Startup Impact Summit: Building the Future of Hong Kong and Beyond
Startups are all in the business of building the future, sometimes solving problems people don’t even know they have yet.
The Future of Payments panel discussed the future of payments including the rise of fintech and the shift from physical money to digital payments. Satya Tammareddy, Head of Southeast Asia and Hong Kong Growth, Stripe, said we need economic infrastructure and the right tools for ecommerce. For Maggie Yung, Managing Director, DBS Bank ‘payment’ means enabling, convenience and enjoyment. She said traditional banks could learn a lot from virtual banks such as ZA Bank. Jan Ruzicka, Chief External Affairs Officer and Fintech Evangelist, Home Credit Group sees a high demand for financial services in Southeast Asia with 50% of the population being ‘unbanked’.
After payments the next panel got into the hot topic of gaming and where they see it reaching in the future. Due to the pandemic, Yat Siu, Co-founder & Chairman, Animoca Brands and Outblaze, said there has been a 75% rise in gaming traffic with many new players as well as increased gaming habits. Sebastian Borget, COO and Co-founder, The Sandbox, said this increase is due to the lack of personal connection, so people are turning to virtual worlds for bonding and entertainment. Mik Naayem, Chief Business Officer, Dapper Labs predicted that with an increase in gaming, especially blockchain gaming, there will also be more demand for virtual rights similar to property rights.
Advice for Startups
Today we heard from some of the most successful entrepreneurs in Hong Kong. Blake Larson, Managing Director, International, Lalamove, said ’if you can make it here (Hong Kong) you can make it anywhere’ as Lalamove is now used in over 250 cities globally. He puts this down to the resilience of the city. Jessica Lam, Group Head of Strategy, WeLab, wanted to bring more joy to financial services and take away the complexity for customers. Her motto also echoes the resilience Larson touched upon: ‘If you’re going to fail. Fail fast. Test it, and if it doesn’t work, then pivot and make changes.’ The unicorns prove that with a strong core value, agility and a resilient attitude you can succeed in Hong Kong and in turn succeed globally.
Janice Chew, Principal, JC Legal, said it is important to remember that each business type needs different licences. Make sure you know what you need and get good advice on how to handle the process. Alex So, Group Managing Partner, Fastlane Group, reminded startup owners to keep their receipts. Investors will want to see that they are keeping track of their expenses. And Alexander de Haseth, Senior Manager, BlueMeg, said there is hope that things will get easier as Hong Kong, which has been very paper heavy for documents, is accelerating towards digital in the wake of Covid-19.
The next panel looked at the startup scenes in Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. Allen John Ku, Director of Operations, Taiwan Startup Stadium, said talent acquisition is key. Many Asian countries are rich in engineers and programmers, but sometimes lack entrepreneurial skills. Taiwan has created a ‘Gold Card’ visa to attract those talent. Ayumi Ode, Japan Country Lead, 500 Startups, said Covid-19 actually creates a lot of opportunity for founders because so much of the information and advice have gone online. Eugene Kim, General Partner, SparkLabs Group, said Covid-19 had not changed the fundamentals of what startups need to do, but it has changed the strategies. He advised founders to stay close to their investors to keep communication lines open and get advice.
Solving Problems that Matter
Namir Hourani, Managing Director, Global Manufacturing Industralisation Summit, spoke on the importance of incorporating philanthropic ventures into business goals. Hourani said that if you ‘place social innovation and human impact at the forefront of your decisions, you will always do the right thing… Our challenges and business initiatives are always in line with the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).’ Hourani has realised that often the least developed countries provide innovations and partnerships that are key to finding global solutions.
Kenneth Kwok, CEO, Global Citizen Capital, discussed how we can incorporate social development and sustainability into start-up businesses. Radia Cheikh Lahlou, CEO, Déclic – CSR, says it can start as small as a potato. ’Think big but act small. Small actions can have a huge impact’. Co-founder of Bottletop, Oliver Wayman, created the first 3D printed store out of 36,000 plastic bottles. The takeaway message is that we must view philanthropy as impact investment and look to provide long term solutions for the global social good.
Andrew Ive, Founder and Managing General Partner, Big Idea Ventures, Carrie Chan, Co-Founder and CEO, Avant Meats, Natalie Lung, Program Manager, Food Technology Accelerator, Brinc, and Nick Cooney, Managing Partner, Lever VC, looked at the fast-growing alternative protein market and the appeal of plant-based and cultivated meat to consumers as a healthier and animal-friendly dietary choice with lower environmental impact. ‘The global shift towards plant-based food consumption is not momentary’, said Ive. The trend has been accelerated by young startups who are at the cutting edge of innovation, attracting increasing interest from VCs and corporate investors. Cooney added that startups had been reducing costs through technology and economy of scale to reach commercial viability. Chan emphasised the importance of local market knowledge aside from technology. Alternative protein companies must cater to consumer taste and eating habits in different markets, because at the end of the day, it is their palates that drive food sales.