Retail in Asia

In People

Hong Kong as innovation hub. An interview with InvestHK

This year’s StartmeupHK Festival featured 14 main events over the course of 5 days, including keynotes from world-renowned speakers, discussions around hot topics such as AI, fintech, ESG, smart cities, healthcare, proptech, and of course an introduction to the latest collaborations in the Greater Bay Area. The Festival was complemented by StartmeupHK Salon events through the region and internationally to begin the conversation in local markets prior to coming together during the virtual Festival. 

StartmeupHK Festival is a unique platform for startups, entrepreneurs, investors, industry leaders, students and academics to exchange ideas, make connections and chart a course for the future.

Retail in Asia had the pleasure to interview Jayne Chan, Head of StartmeupHK at InvestHK.

SEE ALSO : Gucci Beauty opens store at the Hainan Tourism Duty Free Shopping Complex in Sanya, China

RiA: StartmeupHK Festival is an event that gathers experts from all over the world on specific themes defined to address the most up-to-date challenges and opportunities across sectors. What was this year’s edition about and how those themes fit into the overall strategy of InvestHK to frame HK as a hub for the region?

Jayne: This year’s edition of the StartmeupHK Festival was launched under the theme “A Future Unlimited’. We wanted to showcase the latest developments in innovation and technology such as non-fungible tokens (or NFTs) and decentralized finance, but we also wanted to highlight how boundless our future might be if we applied some of that innovative thinking to make a positive impact on the planet.

That is why sustainability was part and parcel of this year’s Festival. We were particularly proud to see that almost all 14 events throughout the five-day long Festival had sustainability and ESG as one of their core angles. The United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals being dear to StartmeupHK, we wanted sustainability to be explored in its entirety, with a strong emphasis played on the social aspect of ESG. With Festival attendees coming from 107 countries, we hope that some of the innovations in this area will resonate and be picked up in other locations.

Other themes at the Festival included the GBA and proptech, with two events dedicated to the former and several sessions of the latter becoming more prominent as more property developers and real estate companies adopt technologies to enhance their product offerings and reduce cost.

Source: Shutterstock

RiA: Among the topics discussed, GBA was definitely the one that attracted professionals across different fields to understand better how to position themselves. What’s the role of HK in this specific moment in time and how to shape businesses to leverage on this opportunity?

Jayne: Being the most international city in the Greater Bay Area, Hong Kong has a business-friendly environment, good tradition of the rule of law, free economic system and well-established information technology infrastructure and financial system, as well as a wealth of high-end talents and professional services with extensive knowledge on global markets.

We will continue to play an important role as China increasingly opens up to foreign investment and pursues further globalisation, giving companies in the city a significant opportunity to maximise the benefits from the GBA within a globally competitive business region. As highlighted in the Greater Bay Outline Development Plan, Hong Kong is named as one of the four “core cities” within the GBA. In other words, Hong Kong is one of the GBA’s four pillars, alongside Macau, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. Hong Kong’s crucial role in finance, thanks to our financial system’s robustness, is poised to lead the GBA in further developing the region’s sustainable finance mechanism. The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau-Greater Bay Area Green Finance Alliance (GBA-GFA) was launched last September, the aim being to smoothen green finance in the GBA. Through its members, the Hong Kong Green Finance Association is to play a leading role.

RiA: The new hybrid format of the event allowed a global reach but also stayed faithful to a local networking opportunities that has always characterized HK and its events. How was this ‘new’ experience?

Jayne: We worked very hard formatting this Festival in a way that would distinguish it from other online conferences. We wanted to provide real and practical support to startups, whether giving them opportunities to connect with potential clients, business partners or investors, or providing them a platform to showcase their innovative product or services. We maintained an equilibrium and curated the Festival in a virtual but yet, personalised manner. For example, some of the sessions offered post-event discussions, providing participants with the opportunity to interact with a tapestry of renowned speakers. The online format has helped internationalise the StartmeupHK Festival, making it accessible to people all around the world and offering participants a unique opportunity to gain insights and valuable business knowledge like never before, with unparalleled access to the minds behind some of the world’s most exciting startups.

StartmeupHK Festival
Source: StartmeupHK Festival

RiA: What have been the key learnings from the different days and what to expect for the next edition?

Jayne: It is all about collaboration. As stressed by our speakers throughout the event, collaboration is a perpetual process, one that starts right from the beginning. In today’s interconnected environment, innovators need to actively collaborate with all actors involved in the production chain. Therefore, business incubators, innovation parks and collaborative spaces such as Cyberport and HKSTP are essential. Although supportive of innovation, several speakers highlighted that technology should be treated as an enabler, rather than a changer. As for ESG, our panellists reminded us that the social aspect of things should be further emphasised.

SEE ALSO : JD Logistics lists on Hong Kong Stock Exchange

As for next year we hope to have some physical event elements! In terms of topics we expect the focus on sustainability to further gain momentum, as more governments make their own commitments to carbon neutrality and as the timeline for reaching the UNSDGs come closer. There will be implications in a number of technology areas, including fintech, proptech and greentech. Whatever topics we end up covering though, our priorities will always be to add value to startups and other stakeholders, and support their growth here and in the region.

We look forward to the next edition!