Hong Kong’s close proximity to manufacturing hubs like Shenzhen, China, and its small but growing startup ecosystem will make it a fertile growing ground for wearable tech startups. At least that’s what Nest, an early-stage venture capital firm, and AIA, one of Asia’s largest insurance providers, are hedging their bets on. The two have teamed up to launch AIA Accelerator, which will focus on health and wearable tech startups.
Nest already holds several programs meant to help fledgling Hong Kong startups grow. These include an incubator program and an equity crowdfunding platform. AIA is Hong Kong’s largest insurance provider by market cap and has offices in sixteen Asia-Pacific markets.
The accelerator program started accepting applications today and will select eight companies, which will receive mentoring and potential long-term equity investments. The startups will present their products during a demo day next June.
In a statement, Steve Monaghan, head of AIA Innovations, said “AIA meets the ever-changing and increasing financial and protection needs of the people across the region by offering a wide range of products and services. We will continue to innovate across multiple disciplines to drive sustainable growth and to provide our customers with the right solutions. The AIA Accelerator program is one of our endeavors to promote innovation.”
Despite access to manufacturing centers in China, programs like Nest’s incubator, and government-sponsored resources, and government initiatives like the Cyberport information and technology office hub, Hong Kong’s startups still face significant challenges. These include few funding opportunities because investors prefer sticking to financial and banking sectors, and lack of mentorship.
While it remains to be seen which of AIA Accelerator’s portfolio companies will successfully receive follow-up funding, Nest founder Simon Squibb believes that the program can at least address the mentoring gap by connecting participants with executives from AIA, as well as entrepreneurs like Richard Kelly, formerly managing director of IDEO Asia Pacific, and David Zhu, co-founder of Divide, an enterprise mobile computing platform that was acquired by Google earlier this year.
“Entrepreneurs often try to develop solutions to problems that are most relevant to their daily lives,” said Squibb. “Since healthcare and lifestyle are big on the priority list for people in Asia, we believe start-ups in this region are particularly well-placed to disrupt the future of industries like healthcare and insurance.”