“With more than 300 FinTech companies, Cyberport is confident that it is one of the largest FinTech communities in the city,” says Peter YAN, CEO of the government-owned company that runs the creative digital community and incubation programmes for tech startups on the south side of Hong Kong Island.
The Hong Kong government’s Innovation and Technology Bureau has two flagship organizations: Cyberport and the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks (HKSTP). While the latter is building on hardware R&D, the companies of Cyberport community mainly focus on digital technology development and application.
More specifically, Yan says Cyberport has three goals: cultivate talent; integrate new and traditional economies (though not necessarily in a disruptive way); and foster industry development, with three target industry segments: FinTech; Smart City/Smart Living, which includes Internet-of-Things devices, e-commerce and wearable computing; and E-sports/Digital Entertainment. On top of developing the Cyberport Arcade into a local e-sports and digital entertainment node, Cyberport will also provide support for the E-sports sector in areas such as technological development and talent nurturing.
Cyberport Incubation Programme
There are more than 1200 startups and companies in Cyberport community. As well as providing office space for about half of them, other valuable programmes and services are available, Yan points out, including the opportunity to apply for a place on Cyberport’s flagship entrepreneurship programmes.
“The Cyberport Incubation Programme provides HK$500,000 seed funding to companies to turn a prototype application into a commercial one,” Yan says. “We do not only provide them with funding, office space and training, but also a series of other services, such as bridging them with technology partners.”
These partners can provide access to existing technology platform tools so programme participants can develop their applications faster, and go to market earlier. Due to advances in the technological support available, it is hoped they can go to market up to three times during the two-year programme, helping them gain more experience and increase their chances of eventual success.
FinTech’s significance and success
Cyberport is home to a growing number of companies focused on InsurTech and RegTech, technologies seeking to innovate and improve efficiency within the insurance and financial services industries’ regulatory processes. Other members of the community are working to apply blockchain technology to trade finance to eliminate paperwork and make transactions more secure.
The hub’s main FinTech categories are financial software & service, payment, blockchain and cybersecurity.
“We are quite confident that a number of the licenses for virtual banks that will soon be issued by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority will be granted to Cyberport FinTech companies,” Yan says.
There are often misconceptions about the scale Cyberport companies operate on, he adds. “We have FinTech companies that are very promising such as TNG and WeLab which have raised billions of Hong Kong dollars.”
Integrating FinTech with smart living innovations is another aim of Yan and his team. For example, a smart living company is working on an intelligent recycling machine that identifies returned plastic bottles and aluminum cans via their barcodes. The credits gained will be translated into e-money by Cyberport-based e-wallet and e-payment companies.
The bigger picture
The Greater Bay Area initiative and other policies to further integrate Hong Kong and Macau with Mainland Chinese economies are seen as positive moves by Yan, as they could open the door for Hong Kong to establish itself as an international innovation and technology center.
He says for the last three or four years, Cyberport management has been working closely with organizations in the Mainland: “This is not just to help our companies explore the mainland market, but also help identify potential partners to help manufacture or develop their products.”
To succeed in this type of future, Yan says entrepreneurs still need the mindset and stamina to persevere through what can often be a very difficult journey. However, he adds that the environment for new and innovative businesses is probably better today than ever.
He advises young entrepreneurs to use whatever support is available. They should leverage other peoples’ strengths, and take advantage of the opportunities to be found at Cyberport. Their journey will be quicker and easier if they work with technology partners to exploit existing platforms, access funding and opportunities through Cyberport Investors Network (CIN) and Cyberport Enterprise Network (CEN), and use the Cyberport Arcade and other physical spaces to showcase their products.
But, Yan concludes, they should always remember that, even if they don’t succeed immediately, they will still gain a great deal of valuable experience along the way.