Six Italian fashion and retail tech start-ups took on Hong Kong and Guangzhou on 8-13 July in the 3rd edition of Start.IT.Asia. They joined a contest to get one year of business support in the Greater Bay Area to boost their expansion to Asia.
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Start.IT.Asia is the soft-landing program for Italian start-ups set-up by the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, the China-Italy Chamber, Hawksford, Retail in Asia and Tech Silu.
The program is sponsored by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Intesa Sanpaolo and Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center and supported by the Italian Consulates General in Hong Kong and in Guangzhou.
StartIT.Asia brings disruptive Italian start-ups to the Greater Bay Area, with the aim of facilitating their incubation, fund-raising and business development in the area.
The focus of 2019 StartIT.Asia was Fashion and Retail Technology, areas of business in which Italy is world-renowned.
Six of the most promising start-ups in these industries spent one week in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, meeting incubators, potential investors and business partners.
At the end, a panel of experts assessed the business proposition and selected ELIGO as winner of 2019 StartIT.Asia.
ELIGO trains and employs ‘Sartorialists’ who provide a personal shopping service for customers looking for a tailor-made experience.
As in previous years, the StartIT.Asia project consisted of four stages:
(1) The Tender (15th April – 7th June)
In this stage, the program was opened to applications from product-ready fashion and retail tech start-ups, who were interested in expanding their business in Asia.
(2) The Selection (8th June)
After the applications have closed, the 6 most promising were selected from the pool of applicants by a panel of industry experts, composed of representatives from Hawksford, Retail in Asia, Tech Silu, Intesa Sanpaolo Group, the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and Macau and the China-Italy Chamber of Commerce.
(3) StartIT.asia Week (8th July -12th July)
The 6 selected start-ups arrive in Hong Kong for an immersion week program. This included investor forums where the start-ups had the opportunity to present their pitches and receive feedback before the final presentation, as well as tours of Hong Kong-based innovators in the fashion and technology industry such as the Hong Kong Productivity Council and The Mills Fabrica.
The participants also had the opportunity to attend the RISE technology (the biggest tech-conference in South-East Asia) which has unparalleled networking potential. Looking for new business opportunities in the Greater Bay Area as well, the start-ups took had a two-day innovation trip to Guangzhou where they met Chinese Venture Capital Firms and visited some disruptive companies belonging to the fashion industry.
The main event of the week (the Hong Kong Startup and Ecosystem Mixer) has been held at the Intesa Sanpaolo Hong Kong Branch where more than 120 participants attended, including the Italian Consul General, Mr. Clemente Contestabile, and the Secretary for Innovation of the HKSAR, Hon. Nicholas Yang.:: the event has been a great networking platform to connect the start-ups with vibrant Hong Kong innovation ecosystem.
(4) The Final Panel (12th July)
Each start-up presented a final pitch to a panel of regional investors and partners and the winning start-up will receive one year of support to continue growing their business in Asia. This will include a 6-month business advisory and mentorship program, as well as company establishment services in Hong Kong for further development in Asia.
The STARTIT.asia judge panel was composed of Vincenzo Antonetti, Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center, Stefano Passarello, Hawksford, Esterina Nervino, Retail in Asia, Carlo Gioja, Sinaxia Asia, Vittorio Olivia, Intesa Sanpaolo, Francesco Lorenzini, Tech Silu.
On the 12th July the judges selected ELIGO, represented by Giuseppe Catella, CVO and founder as the winning start-up. Their mission is to spread Italian elegance and sell custom clothing across the world. ELIGO trains and employs ‘Sartorialists’ who provide a personal shopping service for customers who prefer a human touch approach to shopping, allowing customers to access a personal service and custom-made products easily.
As the winning start-up of STARTIT.asia 2019, ELIGO will be able to grow their business in Asia with one year of support from industry experts. The judges also found Artemest, an online marketplace for contemporary and luxury design products, very impressive in their business proposition and awarded them an honourable mention and business support, kindly offered by Hawksford.
The other finalists are nevertheless impressive and creative start-ups that have benefitted from the exposure they have received to the Asian market and potential investors. They will receive continued assistance from the Italian Chamber of Commerce. These finalists were:
Artemest (Honourable mention)
The leading online marketplace for contemporary and luxury design products, it brings online the best artisans and finest crafts in the world. Their platform bridges the gap between luxury consumers and trade customers, like architects and interior designers, and artisans who lack the logistical expertise to reach these markets.
A customizable shoe with a patented zip that makes it possible to change the ‘upper’ part of the shoe with several patterns and designs, while only having to buy one sole.
A unique platform that through an intelligent POS makes a synced store’s inventory geo-located by linking it with online sales channels like amazon and allowing customers to find the clothes that best fit their style in real time.
A company that develops customised versions of their VR and AR products for large enterprises, while simultaneously developing their own platform for VR events, training and collaboration.
A luxury fashion brand creating bags made with materials made and used by Sicilian farmers and with the waste materials from big fashion companies. This upcycling and focus on circular economy enhances the product, as they are a perfect blend of raw fabrics and Sicilian style.
The agenda for all startups was quite an intense full immersion in the most promising market in the world.
The startups visited the HKPC headquarters, The Mills Fabrica, participated into RISE, the biggest tech conference in Asia, where leaders from the world’s biggest companies and most exciting startups converge together to share their stories.
Throughout the stay, an Investor Breakfast was also held at Intesa San Paolo branch office to introduce the startups to potential investors.
Startups also benefited from the network of the organizers of the event, who arranged for them dedicated networking events such as the Retail Mixer, gathering retail professionals at Papermoon, restaurant with a stunning view at Harbourcity; and the Ecosystem and Startup Mixer at the Intesa San Paolo branch office overseeing the harbour at ICC. During the Ecosystem and Startup Mixer, all organizers greeted an audience of over 100 people and hosted a roundtable on Circular Economy, Fashion and Retail Tech.
The roundtable included speakers from different backgrounds, namely Prof. Edwin Keh, CEO The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA); Mr. Filippo Gori, Managing Director Geox Asia Pacific Limited, Group Geox ; Ms. Michelle Lee, Marketing & E-Commerce Director The R Collective; Mr. Vincenzo Antonetti, Head of International Network Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center, Group Intesa Sanpaolo ; Mr. Stefano Passarello, Managing Director Hawksford NE Asia; Mr. Edouard Blanchard, Executive Partner SBT Human(s) Matter; Mr. Alex Chan, Co-Director The Mills Fabrica. The roundtable was moderated by Mr. Robert Koepp, Director of The Economist corporate Network.
Startups also went to Guangzhou and visited the Studio Twelve Co-Working Incubator Space, and VIP.COM HQ.
Retail in Asia is already looking forward to the next edition.