Even though Hong Kong is an important Asian city, technology entrepreneurship is still nascent. The infrastructure in place does not foster competitiveness. That is why Stephen Forte and TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2012 Hackathon winner Paul Orlando decided to create AcceleratorHK, the first accelerator program in Hong Kong.
The three-month program offers $15,000 in seed capital, mentorship and co-working space. It is now accepting applications for its first batch.
“Reasons for Hong Kong’s lack of startup culture include lack of cultural support (parents have a lot of sway on their children’s choice of career and prefer corporate jobs), a lack of investors looking at tech (preferring to invest in real estate, for example), and a lack of development talent graduating from local universities (computer science is not a highly respected degree here),” Orlando said.
AcceleratorHK focuses on mobile startups with hybrid development — that is native apps that use web technology. Even though Mark Zuckerberg admitted that HTML5 was not ready for prime time yet, it is still a good way to develop quickly on multiple platforms, and it can only get better with time.
Aside from funding and mentorship, AcceleratorHK provides all the traditional features of a startup accelerator, including classes and a demo day. Mentors include Matt Meeker (Meetup co-founder), Aaron Skonnard (Pluralsight co-founder), and Mikaal Abdulla (8Securities co-founder and CEO).
Some well-known accelerators hinted at a launch in Hong Kong but have yet to proceed. Founder Institute has postponed its entry, and TechStars has network partners in Asia but not in Hong Kong. Workspaces and communities, such as Boot.hk or StartupsHK, provide a good environment but not the same kind of mentorship.
Yet, Hong Kong has many strengths often ignored by tech entrepreneurs and investors. “One of Hong Kong’s advantages is that it’s a diverse place with a mix of people from all over,” Orlando said. “I think we should accept that Hong Kong — and most other places — are different from the Valley and that a different environment is fine,” he continued.
Teams of two to four people can now apply until October 1. The program will start November 5 and will take place in CoCoon. When it comes to visa needs, nationals of about 170 countries and territories may visit Hong Kong visa-free for a period ranging from seven to 180 days.
Hong Kong is a great location to test mobile apps because it has both a robust business environment and strong mobile phone penetration. When asked whether graduates will stay in Hong Kong, Orlando told us: “I think that some of the graduates will choose to stay in Hong Kong after they experience it for three months. There’s an energy and grassroots support here that makes the way easier for entrepreneurs. Other than that, the food, nightlife, social nature of life here, ability to travel around the region, and general quality of life make Hong Kong a great place to live.”