April 10, 2013

To Increase Hong Kong’s Nascent Startup Scene, AcceleratorHK Searches for Second Cohort

AcceleratorHK focuses on mobile startups who are working on hybrid development with HTML5. It offers programs that deal with lean startup and customer development techniques. The program includes such options as mentorship to help the startup grow, seed funding of $15,000 and technical guidance from expert developers. If that is not enough, the company will also assist with the workspace needed for the startup.

In November 2012, the program to help startups was officially launched. The focus was on hybrid mobile development with HTML5. AcceleratorHK is sponsored by Telerik and was founded by Stephen Forte who is Telerik’s chief strategy officer.

Earlier this week, AcceleratorHK announced that it was looking for the second batch of startups. It is not limiting itself to groups just in Hong Kong, instead the organization is also looking for outside groups to come to Hong Kong. In addition, the business are offering a 14 week incubator program.

It is interesting how culture plays a factor in events. According to Forte, it seems that although the process of incorporating a business in Hong Kong is relatively straightforward and easy, it is often a challenge for startups to get the most basic operational necessities. Forte says, “Unfortunately the Hong Kong business culture is skewed toward banking, real estate, import/export, and big business, so it is still challenging for a pre-revenue, pre-investment startup to do such things as open a bank account, obtain a lawyer, obtain an accountant, and get office space without cash on hand.”

Paul Orlando, who is a co-founder of AcceleratorHK added, “You also get social pressure to work a standard job. I even had one young guy in an earlier program I ran tell me that he never tells potential dates that he works at a startup, because what would be heard is ‘he has no job and no money…”’

It would seem that AcceleratorHK is having an impact. Forte stated, “When we were putting together the first cohort a year ago, no lawyer or accountant would return my call when I told them the teams had no money. Now they are coming to me.” The second group of mentors will include a local lawyer and accountant. Forte is hopeful that since they “follow the money” that banks will soon come around as well.

The major focus for AcceleratorHK is on hybrid mobile app development with HTML5. The program gives members of each cohort a chance to share user feedback. Since Hong Kong has five major 4G LTE (NewsAlert) providers and cheap unlimited data plans, it allows for a high smartphone penetration rate.

Orlando has this advice for startups, “Most likely, startups have to change what they do as they learn more about what works for their particular customer segments. Hybrid development helps keep people more open-minded while they’re doing discovery work. If after you’ve proven you have customer demand and a business model and then you want to build native apps, I have no problem with that. But start with hybrid. The other difference is that at AcceleratorHK, we work with early-stage startups who are still really going out there to test their ideas. Hybrid is a good match for that.”

Forte’s advice is for the startups to validate their apps in Hong Kong first before taking them global. Since Japan, Korea, Australia, China and India are in such close proximity to Hong Kong the feeling for many startups is to immediately think global. Forte’s advice is something we have heard before with great results. Start smaller and develop a very solid product. Once you have worked out all of the bugs and issues, then you can think big and conquer the world.

Edited by Jamie Epstein


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