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Over the past week, The Mills Fabrica had the pleasure of co-organizing InvestHK’s StartmeupHK Internet of Life (IOL) Summit with Brinc on 2nd Feb 2018. This is one of Hong Kong’s largest annual startup events and is said to be a celebration of the city’s startup ecosystem. StartmeupHK Festival featured a week’s worth of events, with each day focusing on a different vertical (incl. Fintech, Smart Cities, Retail tech and Health tech). The final day of the festival that we curated focused on the “Internet of Life”, specifically about how technologies are connected to our daily lives. For us in particular, it was about the promotion of “techstyle” (intersection of technology & style) as a new model and way of thinking.

The day’s event included talks/ panels by leading techstyle startups and corporate partners, a Startup Village with 40 startups and industry partners showcasing, a VR/ AR experience room and a job fair by WHub. Various themes were brought out during the day including the future of new retail, innovations for sustainability and the key applications of IoT. Some key highlights from the events are as follows:

 

Left: Erik Bang from Global Change Award spoke about his vision for a techstyle future
Right: Dan Widmaier from Bolt Threads talks materials innovation in The Mills Fabrica Techstyle Room
Bottom: Startup Village

 

Moving techstyle forward – showcasing industry leaders and presenting our new incubatees

The Mills Fabrica “Techstyle room” of the IoL event showcased a full day of talks and panels focused on discussing the latest innovations in the field as well as what the future of “techstyle” would look like.

In particular, the day’s programme featured a range of industry leaders showcasing the latest innovations in their industry. There was a focus on innovations in materials from speakers such as Jeffrey Hsu of Far Eastern New Century (our event’s strategic partner) sharing about the latest disruptions in their textiles materials and apparel research including DynaFeed- the world’s first and only integrated smart garment solution with motion capture and heart rate measurement. Dan Widmaier from Bolt Threads also impressed crowds with his vision of reshaping the industry with new materials innovation beginning with spider silk. Other partners focused on their role in supporting and inspiring innovation. Jeff Chui from SGS (our event’s corporate partner) detailed the latest innovations in techstyle that they have encountered in their work as one of the world’s leading testing & certification companies, while Brian Tam from Woolmark (our event’s corporate partner) shared about Woolmark’s Wool Lab’s role in education as well as promoting the latest wool trends. Finally, various industry leaders also talked about their increasing focus on sustainability. Erik Bang from Global Change Award spoke about his vision for a techstyle future through driving positive change in their work through their Global Change Award and supporting new startups (like Unspun) while Stephanie Chan from Esquel shared with us their holistic approach to sustainability including thinking across the value chain from improving workers’ conditions to their new state-of-the-art production facility Integral in Gulin.

More importantly, The Mills Fabrica announced our 2 new incubatees- Unspun and Simple Pieces whom are pushing forth techstyle in new areas. Unspun is currently creating the future of production and retail both through their customized jeans products as well as the development of an on-demand weaving machine that can then be integrated into shops as a new form of retail. While Simple Pieces is seeking to create a new brand focused on being authentically yours and targeting to be every woman’s simple wardrobe pieces. What we love most about these 2 incubatees are how they are simultaneously creating or disrupting more than 1 of those 3 themes in which we described techstyle (improvements in materials/ production processes/ supply chains, new retail model, wearables merging tech/ design). Unspun is both improving production process while creating a new retail model while Simple Pieces is creating a new brand of apparel while utilizing ecommerce as retail.

 

The Mills Fabrica’s new incubatees: Walden Lam from Unspun (Left) and Elaine Lou from Simple Pieces (Right)

 

Stopping the buzzwords- re-centering the debate to focus on making products that help people

On one of the panels in the Venture Forum earlier in the week, it was mentioned that “everyone is looking for the next buzzword” nowadays. Indeed, whether it’s “blockchain”, “AI” or “big data”, everyone in the industry seems to be in a frenzy to capitalize on these trends, yet few have an acute understanding of what each of those fields are for. This sentiment is captured by none better than 2 of our speakers- Richard Kelly (Fung Group) and Janice Wang (Alvanon) who each gave a critique into the hype or innovations focused on IoT- many presumably are not the technology that we really require in our daily lives.

Perhaps what’s really required is to go back to what customers really need. During the “Futures Dialogue” panel with Doris Luey (New World Eurkea Nova) and Andrew Chen (Arion Ventures), it was discussed that it’s crucial for “listening to be adopted as a key market device to best iterate and understand what consumers need”. In particular, one of The Mills Fabrica’s incubatees Kevin Wong (ORII) puts it best when he sets out his company vision of making products that truly help people.

In that regard, the theme of the conference was entitled IoL (Internet of Life) instead of IoT (Internet of Things) precisely to refocus technology on addressing life’s key issues rather than technology for tech sake.

 

It’s about bringing and building the community together

A huge part of The Mills Fabrica’s mission is to create great content to inform and inspire, and opportunities for the techstyle community to connect and collaborate. To that end, this year’s IoL summit helped to bring together what some partners term as a “diversity of people” whether it’s startups, investors, corporate partners, foundations/ NGOs or the general public.

For instance, our speakers themselves were from a diverse mix of startups, corporates, government/ industry associations. We are also extremely excited to have had one of Hong Kong’s leading global banks HSBC coming on board as a key strategic partner of our event to offer their expertise and support in growing Hong Kong’s startup scene for the world. Overall, the event was attended by close to 1,500 attendees from a myriad of fields including startup entrepreneurs, industry professionals and students/ professors.

 

Strategic Partner HSBC offered expertise and support to Hong Kong startups

 

Thank you all for the generous support

It is in this regard that we are truly thankful to all who have supported us for this event in one way or the other. Sincere thanks to all of our speakers and exhibitors of the event and huge appreciation to all our event partners including Strategic Partners HSBC and Far Eastern New Century; Corporate Partners SGS, Woolmark and HKRITA and Branding Partner KPMG.

Most importantly, we are grateful to everyone who attended or supported the event- thank you for joining us on this journey. We hope this IoL Summit has been a great platform for all to meet, learn and take new ideas forward and we invite you to join us in the journey ahead to continue to create a techstyle future. Stay tuned for more and do follow us on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/TheMillsFabrica/

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