‘Wak­ing up’ to the big tech march

Cy­ber­port chief Lee Ge­orge Lam tells HK’s young en­trepreneurs mustn’t miss the boat as the city forges ahead to be Asia’s tech cap­i­tal.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HK | BUSINESS - Con­tact the writer at sophia@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

Hailed as a dy­namic hub for global fi­nance, Hong Kong has long jos­tled with cities like Shang­hai, Sin­ga­pore, Tokyo, New York and Lon­don for the crown in the tra­di­tional fi­nan­cial in­dus­tries.

A new race is now un­der­way — to em­brace in­no­va­tions of fi­nan­cial tech­nol­ogy (fin­tech), which is set to be the next big thing in re­shap­ing our world.

De­spite its im­pec­ca­ble strength in fi­nance, Hong Kong is still striv­ing to build up its rep­u­ta­tion as a worl­drenowned in­no­va­tion cen­ter in its quest for a com­bined ad­van­tage in the realm of fin­tech.

Cy­ber­port — a dig­i­tal com­mu­nity for tech star­tups to grow and thrive — is on track to bol­ster the city’s goal to be a mag­net for bud­ding tech en­ter­prises world­wide.

Since its in­cep­tion more than 15 years ago, Cy­ber­port — one of the Hong Kong gov­ern­ment’s twin ini­tia­tives to boost tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion — has moved in line with the city’s vi­sion to di­ver­sify the lo­cal econ­omy away from its reliance on real es­tate and fi­nan­cial ser­vices.

To­day, it fits in well with a big trend of the in­no­va­tion­driven “new econ­omy” — a buzz­word for what’s ex­pected to be the ter­ri­tory’s next growth en­gine.

As a firm be­liever in Hong Kong’s com­pet­i­tive edge in dig­i­tal tech­nolog y, Dr L ee Ge­orge Lam, chair­man of Cy­ber­port, is pin­ning high hopes on Hong Kong gain­ing “tremen­dous mo­men­tum” from the “era of the new econ­omy”.

“Hong Kong is lead­ing the world when it comes to dig­i­tal con­nec­tions. We’re con­nected to­tally to the world. We’re well con­nected in terms of land­based ca­bles and satel­lite sys­tems. Our in­ter­net data cen­ter is well man­aged. Our se­cu­rity record and stan­dards, known for a stag­ger­ing 99.99-per­cent track record of power sup- ply se­cu­rity, are top­ping the world as well,” he says.

“Over­all, Hong Kong’s sta­tus as a global in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy (ICT) hub is clearly un­ques­tion­able. For such a tiny place, we have al­ready been the No 1 world­wide in terms of ICT in­fra­struc­ture devel­op­ment a good five or six years ago.”

Lam, who took the helm at Cy­ber­port in May last year, be­lieves Hong Kong has what it takes to sharpen its edge as a big data cen­ter along the Belt and Road (B&R) route.

The B&R Ini­tia­tive is more than a mas­sive trade and in­fra­struc­ture plan to re­vive the an­cient trade route of the world’s sec­ond-largest econ­omy. When peo­ple talk about a huge rib­bon of in­fra­struc­ture projects on the ta­ble or ready for con­struc­tion along the “phys­i­cal” Silk Road, a “Data Silk Road” also spells po­ten­tially huge op­por­tu­ni­ties for those with the fore­sight to jump on the band­wagon, he notes.

Suc­cess sto­ries

As Hong Kong seeks to ride high on the un­der­tak­ings and goals of the B&R strat­egy in the year mark­ing the 20th an­niver­sary of the city’s re­turn to the moth­er­land, its po­ten­tials as an in­for­ma­tion hub, where multi­na­tion­als and Chi­nese main­land firms feel both com­fort­able and safe to put their data, should never be un­der­es­ti­mated, he reck­ons.

Such po­ten­tials are un­der­pinned by Hong Kong’s ge­o­graph­i­cal prox­im­ity with the main­land, whose dig­i­tal econ­omy, with its sheer size and head-spin­ning speed of change, stands as the inar­guable global trail­blazer.

“We’r e v e r y l u c ky t o b e lo­cated next to the main­land mar­ket, where tech star­tups can be sub­ject to the most strin­gent test. If you can suc­ceed on the Chi­nese main­land, you can es­sen­tially suc­ceed in the world,” Lam be­lieves.

Nowa­days, the buzzing startup scene in Hong Kong and at Cy­ber­port con­tin­ues to pro­duce a daz­zling ar­ray of suc­cess sto­ries show­cas­ing the city’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to ce­ment its role as Asia’s tech cap­i­tal.

Lynk — a data-driven and knowl­edge-shar­ing plat­form link­ing en­ter­prises and ex­perts from a wide range of fields — tes­ti­fies to that suc­cess.

The home-grown startup, hailed as the poster child of Hong Kong’s startup boom by Lam and a bea­con of hope for the ter­ri­tor y in re­aliz- ing its “unicorn” dream, is the very first in­vestee of the HK$200-mil­lion Cy­ber­port Macro Fund launched by former chief ex­ec­u­tive Le­ung Chun-ying in his 2016 Pol­icy Ad­dress with the goal of help­ing star­tups fill the fund­ing gap.

Greener pas­tures

For young en­trepreneurs in Hong Kong, Lam points out, it al­ways mat­ters to think and act glob­ally, scal­ing greener pas­tures over­seas rather than glued to the pal­try lo­cal mar- ket. “Lynk stands as a good ex­am­ple of go­ing global right away. Its founder and CEO Pegg y Choi, just like many promis­ing en­trepreneurs we see at Cy­ber­port, didn’t just wait there to get some fund­ing and mile­stones. She im­me­di­ately set her sights on the main­land marke t and the B&R.”

Hong Kong’s young gen­er­a­tion, he urges, should spare no time in en­gag­ing them­selves in the new econ­omy and the B&R, which are the golden op­por­tu­ni­ties they should

CAP­I­TAL IDEAS: PE­TER LIANG

never miss out on. “In the midst of the new econ­omy, there’s no bor­der. You have to think and act glob­ally early. Hong Kong youths should have their eyes trained on the (Guang­dong-Hong KongMa­cao) Greater Bay Area, the Silk Road and the world, rather than just think about Cen­tral and Cause­way Bay.”

“We are just wak­ing up our young peo­ple,” Lam says.

In April, Cy­ber­port un­veiled its three-year strate­gic plan to groom lo­cal dig­i­tal en­trepreneurs. The man­age­ment team is bet­ting big on rais­ing the num­ber of com­pa­nies in the Cy­ber­port com­mu­nity from the cur­rent 900 to 1,200 over the next two to three years. But Lam be­lieves they could “add more than that”.

“Look­ing ahead, I hope Cy­ber­port is not only an in­cu­ba­tor, it’s also a user-friendly, en­tre­pre­neur-friendly and world-class ecosys­tem to help young tal­ents make their mark.”

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