Last year I had the opportunity to interview the legendary venture capitalist Tim Draper here in Hong Kong, where he was the featured speaker at the inaugural StartmeupHK Venture Programme. Part of that program included a pitch contest which attracted entrepreneurs from around the world to compete for cash and in-kind services. During my interview with Draper I asked what Hong Kong could do to encourage entrepreneurship. “Have more contests like this one!” was Draper’s immediate response. Draper went on to talk about how these startup contests attract media attention, allow entrepreneurs to meet, and provide exposure to investors.
Several weeks ago Invest Hong Kong (InvestHK), a government organization tasked with promoting investment and entrepreneurship in Hong Kong, started accepting submissions for its 2014 StartmeupHK Venture Programme, and today InvestHK announced the program has attracted 550 entries from entrepreneurs in 47 countries.
Mr Simon Galpin, InvestHK’s Director-General of Investment Promotion, was clearly pleased with the results, stating “I am happy to see the increasing popularity of our competition as evidenced by the almost 40 per cent increase in the number of entries submitted.” He added “I am also very pleased to see that the competition has reached more entrepreneur-led businesses in more overseas economies. Hong Kong offers an ideal foothold and a great opportunity for them to scale up and ‘go global’. I’m glad to see that our message about Hong Kong’s rapidly developing start-up ecosystem is spreading, which is one of the purposes of our StartmeupHK brand initiative and competition.”
As expected, most of those entries are from Hong Kong itself (178), but many were from other countries including the US (65), Israel (53), India (46) and the UK (30). Most of the startups are still in the concept or prototype stage, but a third are companies already earning revenue or with active users.
Preliminary judging begins immediately as semi-finalists are selected, after which the field will be narrowed through face-to-face interviews down to 12 winners. Those 12 finalists will be flown to Hong Kong (where applicable) and participate in the StartmeupHK Week from November 10 to 14 in Hong Kong. On November 11, a panel of judges and Forum attendees will select three Grand Award Winners. Special recognition will be given to the best entrants whose companies focus on the areas of FinTech, SmartCity and Data Analytics.
Cash prizes for winners, totalling more than $500,000 USD, come from corporate sponsors. That’s a far cry from the entrepreneurship contests of my younger days. In 2001 I won 1st prize for the business plan I wrote as part of was then called the BYU Business Plan Competition. I received a check for $5,000, which I was grateful for, since it helped me make payroll that week. Receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars would have been a game changer for my business, as it will be for one of the 550 semi-finalists in this competition.
Draper has been a happy man lately what with his recent purchase of millions worth of bitcoin, and progress being made with his initiative to split California into six more manageable, separate states. Perhaps Hong Kong’s success with this year’s startup contest will give him just a bit more to smile about.
Joshua Steimle is the CEO of MWI, a digital marketing agency with offices in the U.S. and Hong Kong.
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