When planning where Betatron’s events should be located, the whole team agreed that we should spread them all over Hong Kong, to ensure entrepreneurs based in all parts of the city could attend and get a fair chance to apply to the programme.
Lai Chi Kok is an up and coming startup hub, so we chose to hold our second event at ‘Ooosh For Startups’, which is a great coworking space, run by a fantastic team of people.
The event kicked off with Andy Chan, the founder of Qupital, who shared his entrepreneurial journey with the audience. Qupital is a FinTech startup which allows companies to raise finance against their receivables by connecting them with investors.
Do You Have A Strong 'Founder / Market Fit'?
One of the tips Andy gave to the audience, was that when thinking about your startup idea, you need to ensure that you have a strong ‘founder / market fit’. Many people often talk about ‘product / market fit’, but the ‘founder / market fit’, he emphasised, is very important, too. This means - is your founding team a good fit for the market you're venturing in? Do you know how the industry works? Do you understand the regulations? Do you have a strong network in your industry? If you can answer yes to all of these, it will allow you to deal with any industry related problems, which you're inevitably going to deal with, a lot easier, cheaper, and quicker.
Andy’s cofounder, Winston, had a lot of experience in the trade finance industry before they both launched Qupital. Having this knowledge and expertise about their market in their founding team was invaluable, as it allowed them to gain traction a lot quicker, than if they had to learn the industry from scratch when they first launched.
Keep A Close Eye On Overseas Startups
Keeping a close eye on successful startups in overseas markets is a great way to find ideas which you can launch in Hong Kong. Andy noticed the prevalence of trade finance startups in the US / UK and wondered why hadn't anyone started something similar in Hong Kong before.
Andy didn’t wait for someone to think of the idea first - he took action, built an MVP, raised funding, acquired clients, built a strong team, and is now well prepared to dominate the market in HK and scale overseas. It’s very impressive traction from a company which was only recently founded.
Should You Bootstrap Or Raise Funding?
Deciding whether to bootstrap your company or raise funding is always a difficult choice which most entrepreneurs face somewhere along their journey. Andy faced this decision with Qupital and emphasised that he has no regrets about raising funding, as it has many benefits which are sometimes overlooked.
The strong network and connections which he's gained from being connected with his investor, Mindworks Ventures, has been critical, he said. As it’s allowed them to overcome several challenges they've faced a lot easier, as he's been able to speak with experienced entrepreneurs and industry experts, which Mindworks have access to.
What Are The Main Differences Between Hong Kong & European Startups?
This interesting question was raised by a member of the audience. Andy has spent time working in startups in Europe before, and gave his insights on the differences he sees, and what they mean to the overall ecosystem in HK.
The main difference, he notices, is the cultural mindset towards startups. In Europe, startups are generally seen as a great place to work and start your career. Whereas in Hong Kong, fresh graduates still navigate towards the traditional corporate industries like Banking, Law, & Accounting.
Andy feels that until this mindset shifts, and the local Hong Kong community start to realise that working for a startup can be a very valuable experience, it will be hard to attract the best talent to join your team.
But, he notices that this mindset is slowly changing. As with more and more large tech startups moving to, and being launched in Hong Kong, its only a matter of time before the top talent start focusing on joining a startup when they graduate, which will have vast benefits for the overall community.
Why Was Betatron Founded?
Rafal Czerniawski, the co-founder of IC Studio & Betatron, shared with the audience his inspiration behind Betatron. While running IC Studio, a startup incubator building technology startups, he noticed that while there are plenty of startup accelerators in Hong Kong, not many of them are actually correctly 'aligned' with the startups. As most of them don’t provide upfront funding or give access to mentors who actually have relevant startup experience. Therefore, it’s hard for the accelerators to actually achieve the best results for the startups involved.
Backing Local Hong Kong Startups
One of Betatron’s other founding partners is ‘The Aria Group’. Kevin Kwong, their CEO, was our next guest speaker on the night, and he shared his unique insights into the Hong Kong startup world, coming from his experience as an investor.
Kevin, born and raised in Hong Kong and educated in the US, has been running The Aria Group for the past three years. After spending over 10 years working in a Hedge Fund, he noticed that to get access to the big tech USD 100M+ IPOs, you need to invest early, and privately, into these startups to get the best returns.
Currently, a third of his investments are in Hong Kong, but moving forwards, he plans on focusing all of his investments on local startups.
Kevin recommends entrepreneurs to focus on solving problems which are global instead of being Hong Kong specific. It’s fine, he says, to launch your idea in Hong Kong, first, and test the market / build your infrastructure. But for your company to really scale and be a big success, you need to make sure the problem is applicable in other countries.
How Do You Find Business Ideas?
A key point Kevin highlighted was that for a startup to be a success, you need to be solving an actual problem which people encounter on a day-to-day basis. A great tip he offered, was that if you’re struggling to think of a business idea, there's a useful exercise you should keep in mind.
Throughout your day, if ever you notice yourself getting frustrated by something, think to yourself - ‘can this be done a better way?’. Considering we’re in 2016, and technology is very advanced, most probably, a better solution could be found.
Why Did You Get Involved With Betatron?
Kevin’s passion and commitment for helping the Hong Kong startup ecosystem is obvious. He wants to give back to the community and help Hong Kong finally create it’s first 'unicorn'. With a solid infrastructure, strong economy, and millions of hard-workers, he feels its only a matter of time before a really successful Hong Kong startup is born. And, he wants to help Betatron be the best platform possible to help it be created.
Do you want to create the first Hong Kong 'unicorn'? Click here to apply to Betatron and let's try and make it happen together!
About the Author