January is always a hectic time globally, with many companies setting their year plans, pundits making predictions and of course the start of another whirlwind of high profile global events like Davos. And over in Hong Kong, this time of the year is always an exciting one for the startup and innovation ecosystem here, with InvestHK’s signature StartmeupHK event. StartmeupHK is one of Hong Kong’s largest annual startup and innovation festivals, lasting over 5 days where each day is focused on a different theme and vertical hosted by an external partner.
This year, together with our partner Startup Launchpad, we are excited to have co-organized the Tech[Life]Style Conference 2019 with the theme of “Living Smarter, Living Better”. This event focused on really technologies related to day-to-day living (and anything at the intersection of technology and lifestyle) including fashion/ textiles, food, travel amongst many other industries. Overall this year’s event saw a turnout of more than 1,700 attendees with an additional 120,000 online views of the livestreaming. The event also featured 30+ keynote speakers with 110+ exhibiting startups and 20+ partners/ sponsors. As always, delighted to share our top takeaways this year:
Living Smarter: Natural inefficiencies as opportunities for technology to penetrate sector by sector
It’s a natural order for inefficiencies to exist in any industries but these inefficiencies often provide the very impetus for innovation opportunities to make living smarter. The day’s event kicked off with a keynote by Xu Bing (Co-founder of Sensetime) sharing specifically about driving forces in technologies that enables other innovations to be built upon- from electricity to internet in the past centuries, his contention is the next stage would come from AI and deep learning. But more importantly is how these technologies are applied to specific inefficiencies sector by sector. Emilie Potvin (Ubereats) mentioned about how Uber is now leveraging it’s platform to go beyond the car/ transportation business and really focus on broader transportation needs while likewise Gang Ji (Ant Financial) described about their plans to be inclusive in their offerings from enabling youths to have their 1st credit card to creating a one-stop financial platform- we are seeing how vertical plays transform into platform plays. That end-to-end value chain thinking is best elucidated during the “Battle of Logistics” panel featuring the founders from Buy&Ship, EasyShip, Olasso and Janio; where they discussed about the fragmentations in logistics market creating opportunities to optimize the full logistics process. It’s only a matter of time before these innovators drive innovations up- sector by sector.
Living Better: All businesses should simply be about delighting customers and creating industry impact
While living smarter was about optimizing inefficiencies, the other half of the equation is really about creating better living for customers and the industry. The day’s afternoon kicked off with a keynote by Vanessa Cheung (founder of The Mills) describing about how The Mills is re-inventing retail through a combination of understanding heritage (and how past connects with future), good old story telling and really content-driven retail that’s enabled by co-creation and participation of the community. The key is really about engaging with the community and Stephen Wong (DTIA/ Swire Beverages) put it best about creating a MLP (minimal lovable product) rather than a MVP, likewise David Yeung (Green Monday) talks about empowering customers to become change makers for food in our own lives. Erik Bang (H&M Foundation) sums it up best where he mentioned that the beauty of innovation is that it can come from anywhere, especially from building up a community for impact.
On the future of Tech[Life]Style: Let persistent optimism triumph against global pessimism
The final part of the day’s programme discussed longer term trends. Some of these included sharing about building the future lifestyle millennial brand (by David Bell, founder Idea Farm Ventures) especially through creating customer bonds while others like Rogier Van Mazijk spoke about Fashion for Good’s innovations in addressing the financial gap for sustainability. William Bao Bean (SOSV) also shared his sense of optimism for a new VC model focused on incubation and support to really light a new fire for the industry. Stanley Szeto (Leverstyle) also offered good food for thought about the trade war being about political competition and Antony Leung (Nan Fung Group CEO) closed the day sharing about Hong Kong’s opportunity in Greater Bay Area as a talent hub.
In all, 2019 has started with a dose of pessimism globally with the looming trade war and Brexit concerns. If we were to look back 10 years back, we entered 2009 with a similar pessimism with the global financial crisis. But fast forward 10 years look how far we have come. Items like Wechat or the 4 unicorns that spoke at this year’s event all did not exist 10 years ago. Even the term unicorn itself only came about in the past decade. And as we accelerate into the next 10 years, we have to keep our persistent optimism.
Towards another exciting year for Hong Kong
Within just a couple of years, Hong Kong’s innovation scene has grown by leaps and bounds. To which, InvestHK has built out a strong ecosystem and community spearheaded by StartmeupHK including through their signature annual event. We are very thankful to StartmeupHK for including The Mills Fabrica as a partner and am proud to have been on this growth journey with the wider community. Once again, big thank you for our 20+ partners/ sponsors for this year’s event as well as everyone who has helped support us in one way or another.
We look forward to another exciting year ahead with you.