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126 startups pitched their ideas at EPiC in Hong Kong, but only 1 walked away with $100k

Some of the world’s most promising tech startups gathered at the International Commerce Center, Hong Kong’s tallest building, on November 8th to pitch their business ideas in the Elevator Pitch Competition (EPiC) hosted by the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP). 

The annual pitching competition is the largest of its kind in Asia. International participation was the strongest it’s ever been this year, with 126 startups from 33 countries and regions, including 11 countries joining for the first time. 

In the first round, 126 finalists pitched their venture in a 60-second elevator ride to the 393m-high Sky100 observation deck. Ten teams were picked to advance to the three-minute pitch on stage in front of the judging panel and their peers. 

Sun Xiaojun (right), founder and CEO of the champion BionicM with Albert Wong (left), CEO of Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corp.

BionicM Inc., a Japanese startup that focuses on developing robot-controlled artificial legs for lower limb amputees, was awarded the US$100,000 grand prize. Four winners, including BionicM Inc., were awarded US$10,000 each in four categories, AI & Robotics, FinTech, Health Technology and Smart City. They will also receive incubation support from HKSTP to help them grow their businesses. 

“I’m honored that our innovation was recognized by the judges. We joined this competition to meet more partners, secure investment, and reach the Chinese market. With this award and new capital, we will intensify R&D efforts and roll out our products as soon as possible,” said Sun Xiaojun, founder and CEO of BionicM Inc. 

Sun continued: “ We spent four years researching and developing robotic Prosthetic legs at the University of Tokyo, I believe that this is the right time to commercialize the technology so we can help more people gain mobility and enjoy a better quality of life. “

The best fintech startup award went to Singapore-based OSOME, an online platform that provides outsourced company incorporation, corporate secretary, accounting and immigration services in Singapore, Hong Kong and the U.K.

Vladislav Sharuda (left), founder of Singaporean fintech start-up Osome, won the FinTech category and received the award from Visa’s representative.

“The entrepreneurial momentum is strong in Asia. Business founders need cost-effective corporate services so they can focus on what matters most to them,” said Vlad Sharuda, founder of OSOME. “Before this competition, I already met many other entrepreneurs, who actually might need our services.”

In the run up to the competition, HKSTP’s Global Acceleration Academy hosted a three-day business exploration tour to provide contestants details about the support and resources they can access when establishing a business in Hong Kong, and insights for navigating business opportunities in the region. Apart from helping them perfect their pitching skills, the tour also allowed them to network with fellow entrepreneurs and mentors. 

With Hong Kong being an international financial center, established payments technology companies such as Visa join forces with HKSTP, leveraging the competition to strengthen its relationship with the Hong Kong startup ecosystem.

“It’s great to partner with Science Park and be part of this ecosystem. At Visa, we’re keen to partner with startups that bring us new insights and fresh ideas. This event gives us great opportunities to connect with startups from different countries and cultures,” said Maaike Steinebach, Visa’s general manager for Hong Kong and Macau, who is also a founding member of the FinTech Association of Hong Kong.

For Enrico Di Oto, CEO and founder of Italian startup Oncology and Cytogenetic Products (OaCP), winning the best health technology award is about persevering and making improvements day over day. The company uses their patented reagent to expedite cancer diagnostic tests, enhance the process and cut costs. 

“I came all the way from Italy. It’s an exciting day for me even though it’s my third time joining EPiC. I’m very happy that we finally made it to this point,” he said.  

Hong Kong’s proximity to mainland China and strategic location in the Asia Pacific Region allows him to work with manufacturing partners more closely and deliver products faster to customers across the region. 

Nuha Siddiqui, CEO and co-founder of the Canadian brand EcoPackers, won the audience vote in the ‘My Favorite Pitcher’ category.

Nuha Siddiqui, CEO and co-founder of Eco Packers Inc., secured the best smart city technology award as well as the “My Favorite Pitcher” audience choice award. EcoPackers transforms agricultural by-products into cost-effective plastic alternatives The company claims its products are 100% biodegradable and non-toxic.

“We really want to stop the cycle of dependence on single-use plastics,” said Tyaji, COO of Eco Parkers.  

EcoPackers will soon have an international presence. The startup has been accepted into the Incu-Tech program at Science Park, and plan to set up an office in both Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

“Sure, there are a lot of institutional investors and multinationals in Hong Kong with a lot of money looking to invest in promising early-stage startups, but the venture capital network is not as organized as it is in the Silicon Valley,” said Joseph Fung, a member of the juror panel, who is the managing partner of Saltagen Ventures, an early-stage VC. 

“As a result, the terms startups are offered are sometimes way outside of the standard. Offering comprehensive accelerator and incubation programs with custom advisory, investor matching and access to networks, Science Park is a great resource for those wanting to start a business in Hong Kong and to explore market opportunities in the Asia Pacific region.” 

“EPiC is HKSTP’s platform to provide startups with the most direct form of support and networking opportunities, where they can collaborate and share experiences,” said Albert Wong, CEO of HKSTP. “The growing number of entries and diversity of contestants in this year’s competition is proof of Hong Kong’s attraction to entrepreneurial talent and investors as an innovation and technology hub. This year’s event comes amid a challenging time for Hong Kong, but no matter what happens, let’s do our best today and keep the momentum going.”