Merry christmas

5 in 5 minutes - January 06, 2017

Hong Kong Startup News Round Up

Startups rise 24% in 2016

Invest HK released the Invest Hong Kong 2016 start-up survey results during the launch of 2017 StartmeupHK Festival. A total of 1,926 start-ups are engaged in various tech sectors and are operating at co-working spaces, incubator or accelerator locations across Hong Kong. The number of startups in Hong Kong has an 24% increase in 2016.

The survey also shows at least 2,039 entrepreneurs were involved in these 1,926 start-ups, and 65% of them came from Hong Kong.

Join us at the 2017 StartmeupHK Festival!

THE HONG KONG STARTUP ECOSYSTEM - Insights and Trends
Jan 18 | 7pm - 9:30pm | @WeWork Wan Chai

HK Tech & Startups Job Fair #7
Jan 20 | 11am - 5pm | @PMQ

Hong Kong's K2 Capital backs TempoGO

Mumbai-based TempoGO has raised US $825,000 in seed funding in a round led by Hong Kong's K2 Capital.

TempoGO is an IoT and SaaS solution startups for commercial transportation, the solution has been used on 1,800+ inter-city trips in India over the last 12 months.

Pokemon GO is about to change forever: Happic.co wants to help you catch Pokemon

Happic.co wants to help you catch Pokemon with the Happic band. The Happic band directs users to the nearest Pokemon using a patented combination of unique haptic vibrations around the wrist coupled with text information, letting you know the rarity and the expiration time of the nearby Pokemon. 

Want to be the first in line to get Happic band at an early bird rate? Click here to register

Third acquisition in 6 months: Carousell acquires Malaysia's Duriana

The Singapore-based P2P marketplace Carousell announced that it has acquired Malaysia-based mobile classifieds startup Duriana. Duriana's users will be migrated to the Carousell platform.

This is Carousell's third acquisition in less than six months.

Hong Kong and Shenzhen agree to develop innovation and tech park on border

Hong Kong and Shenzhen have signed a memorandum of understanding related to the development of Lok Ma Chau Loop into an innovation and technology park.  The park will be four times the size of Hong Kong Science Park, making it the city's largest innovation and technology platform.

Extra: China’s Mobike raises $215M

The Chinese bike-sharing app, Mobike, has raised US $215 million in Series D funding from investors including Tencent, after its launch in April 2016.

Mobike is available in nine cities in China currently, and the startup sets eyes on Singapore where it intends to launch before the end of March, according to Tech in Asia.

New blog post visual  1

Recommend to a friend


Next on your reading list

Blog post thumbnail for fb  1
#FinTechFeature: The false promises of the Bitcoin (and the true one: the Blockchain!)

November 7, 2016 by Romain Rouquier - W Hub

In October 2008 Satoshi Nakamoto, the inventor of the Bitcoin, published a white paper called: "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System" describing how to implement a public, secure and decentralized electronic system to transfer money (value) over the internet without going through any financial institution.

If you already know a bit about cryptocurrencies and did not read yet the paper, I highly recommend having a look at it (here).

Online Payments, the trusted third party issue

In its introduction Satoshi Nakamoto clearly explains the issues merchants are facing when trying to sell goods online:

"Commerce on the Internet has come to rely almost exclusively on financial institutions serving as trusted third parties to process electronic payments. While the system works well enough for most transactions, it still suffers from the inherent weaknesses of the trust based model. Completely non-reversible transactions are not really possible, since financial institutions cannot avoid mediating disputes. The cost of mediation increases transaction costs, limiting the minimum practical transaction size and cutting off the possibility for small casual transactions, and there is a broader cost in the loss of ability to make non-reversible payments for non-reversible services."

On the P2P Foundation Forum [here], Mr Nakamoto also mentioned central banks as another third party that need to be trusted as they can debase the currency. For sure this statement participated to the demoniac libertarian reputation of the virtual currency, but that will be a topic for another article. Today, I would like to be more pragmatic and focus on the issue quoted here above.

Concretely, existing third parties are not efficient, biased and costly

A trusted third party is an intermediary that people rely on to perform a valuable service, in our case financial institutions are trusted third parties enabling electronic payments. Where in the physical world a merchant can avoid intermediaries by accepting cash, online, sellers and buyers can almost exclusively count on credit card companies to handle payments. Moreover, where everyone would trust Visa or Master Card to secure, validate and process transactions, we would be much more reluctant to mandate an unknown company to do it. Hence the notion of trust.

Having intermediaries induces cost and constraints. One of the issues Mr Nakamoto is mentioning is that online credit card payments are reversible. A credit card holder can claim a reimbursement up to 4 months after a transaction is made if:

  • his card has been stolen and used for fraudulent payment or,
  • he bought articles from a merchant that did not deliver the goods

A dispute is then opened by the credit card company which has the possibility to cancel the payment and, if so, charge the seller fees (chargebacks) ranging from 15 to 100 USD. Disputes are expensive and time consuming for both merchants and credit card institutions, but where in the physical world credit card companies take the whole responsibility in case of a fraud, in the virtual world it is the merchant who is liable.

For an honest vendor, a transaction being cancelled when the products had been shipped or the service delivered is synonym of loss of revenues, inventories and time. In North America, merchants revenue losses due to fraud was estimated to $3.4B in 2011 [source]. This number combine both real fraud (from stolen credit cards) and "friendly fraud" (i.e. when a buyer claims a reimbursement after receiving the products).

Furthermore, credit card institutions has an incentive to keep their clients (the card holder) happy to encourage online payments. Disputes are closed most of the time in favour of the buyer, even in case of friendly frauds, leading to a bias in the model.

The system is hence inefficient, biased, costly and particularly disadvantageous for merchants.

Bitcoin, designed to solve those issues

The main idea of the Bitcoin is to remove the trusted third party enabling direct payments from the buyer to the seller. For that, Mr Nakamoto imagined an infrastructure combining 3 fields of the Mathematics and Computer Sciences:

  • Databases, to keep a record of all transactions
  • Peer to Peer networks, to avoid centralizing the data and hence having someone able to control them, and
  • Cryptography, to protect the data

In each of those fields, nothing was revolutionary. But what was totally new and clever was the way of combining them together to build a robust model. This model is called the Blockchain.

The main features of the Bitcoin ecosystem are:

  • Payments are directly made from one user to another, validated, processed and secured by the whole network
  • Transactions are non-reversible
  • A user has to effectively own the funds to do a transfer (credit being made impossible, there is no risk of default of payment)
  • A Bitcoin cannot be double spent (a malicious user can't spend a Bitcoin he already spent)
  • Transaction fees are, in theory, freely decided by the buyer
  • Everyone participates in securing the system
  • There is neither central bank nor regulator. The value of the money is based on demand and supply and not backed by a physical asset.
    Any change in the system needs to be approved by the majority

A collaborative system with no intermediaries, non-reversible transactions, no default of payment, no fraud, low transaction fees, no central organization taking arbitrary decisions... this solution seems to be the answer to the problems identified by Mr Nakamoto.

Which problems it does not solve?

Ostensibly the blockchain is not a "trust based model", but where some issues might be solved, others are emerging. Among them:

  • To have access to his money on the network, a user needs to authenticate itself through credentials that are stored on his computer. In the event of a hacker accessing the credentials, nothing can prevent him siphoning the account. There is no insurance or protection against theft unlike with credit cards. Moreover, if credentials are lost (hardware issues, inadvertently deleted, virus...), the money stored in the electronic wallet will be forever blocked in the blockchain, which means lost.

To solve those critical issues that are preventing a large adoption of the Bitcoin by non-experts, companies started to offer ready-to-use accounts using electronic vaults. In exchange they are collecting account creation fees, account maintenance fees, transaction fees, withdrawal fees... It sounds familiar, doesn't it? The Bitcoin economy is replicating the banking system, introducing trusted third parties that are not foolproof (as demonstrated by the bankruptcy of Mt. Gox in February 2014 or more recently the hack against Bitfinex in August 2016).

  • Also, the fact that transactions are non-reversible does effectively protect sellers, but generates a risk for buyers. What if a buyer purchase a service via Bitcoin, but that service never get delivered? There is no possibility for him to recover his money. In addition, as Bitcoin accounts are totally anonymous it is (almost) impossible to find out who is hiding behind that account.

To tackle this issue, the Bitcoin community implemented what is called an escrow mechanism having a third party that both protagonists trust to validate the transaction. Once more, it is replicating what exists in the common economy introducing another trusted third party. Here the problem is not a trust issue toward a third party but rather a trust issue between the two actors of the transaction, the escrow agent serving as a guarantor. However, here we can agree that the blockchain dissociates the service provider transferring the money and the escrow agent, lowering the bias mentioned earlier.

At its core level, the Bitcoin model might be considered as a "trustless model" (i.e. not requiring trust), but in practice it is not the case. For a currency to be adopted by a large population, trust is the cornerstone. Third parties do help to build trust by offering valuable services such as insurances, vaults, escrows and so on.

What is the real breakthrough of the Bitcoin system?

Despite all this, what Mr Nakamoto and the Bitcoin community achieved is quite impressive:

  • The market capitalization of the Bitcoin is over $10 Billion
  • with an estimated average transaction volume of $150 Million daily in 2016
  • and 8 million accounts created (approximation of number of users)

This would not have been made possible if the system implemented was not highly reliable and secure. Even though it is an open source project (i.e. the code is freely accessible and readable by everyone), as of today the blockchain had never been hacked*. Moreover the blockchain (here, the database) which handled millions of transactions over the last 8 years weight less than 80 Go, which can be considered as very light if we think about the amount of information it is storing. Of course, the model has its limits and is not perfect (it will be discussed in coming articles), but there is a very active community working on improving it and developing other usages based on its specificities that could disrupted some industries.

Conclusion

Mr Nakamoto explains the failure of previous cryptocurrencies by the fact that there were centralized and hence depending on a third party people needed to trust. He had the idea to implement a model based on Peer to Peer networks to overcome the issue. We can argue for a long time rather the model is not relying on trust or well design enough to be trusted, but as a matter of fact an economy has emerged around the Bitcoin and 8 years later it is still existing and is gaining popularity.

The model behind the Bitcoin, the blockchain, is a real breakthrough and there are opportunities to apply it to other fields than cryptocurrencies. It would need to be adapted and improved, and is of course not relevant to any kind of challenges, but the Tech industry seriously believes in its disruptive potential.

In later articles we will dive deeper into the blockchain world, trying to understand how it works, what are the technical challenges, what are the different solutions existing, and most importantly in which particular situation the blockchain is more relevant than other models (demystifying far-fetched promises creating the blockchain hype).

About the Author: Romain Rouquier worked for financial institutions as market analyst and risk manager before creating its own company. Graduated from a master of Computer Engineering and a master of Financial Engineering, he is passionate about disruptive innovations linked to Computer Science - among them Data Science, Business Intelligence and Blockchain - and their applications to the industry.

* Bitcoins had been stolen in the past but not because of a security breach on the blockchain, but because credentials to access the blockchain had been stolen, as if a credit card was robbed.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn, click here to see the original post and follow Romain Rouquier!

Blog post thumbnail for fb  1
#StartupStories: Connecting the dots backward with Kazoo Technology
INFINITI Accelerator feature: an interview with Kendall Lo, CEO & co-founder at Kazoo Technology

November 14, 2016 by Heather Lo, W Hub - Kazoo Technology

Kazoo Technology recently participated in INFINITI’s accelerator program. We had a chat with Kendall Lo, CEO and co-founder at Kazoo Technology, to learn more about his view on Hong Kong’s startup ecosystem, the accelerator program and his startup journey.

Kazoo Technology is a tech company that strives to develop touch screen technology. The team works on finding new ways to interact with touch screens as they believe the capability of the technology has been underutilized. Kendall points out that there is so much more we can do with touch screen technology than just using our fingers to interact with digital devices. “We also have the capability to communicate with touch screens using objects, so we have been focusing on this concept when developing our touch screen technology as we think this will open up a lot of applications,” Kendall explains.

During a meeting with Kendall’s current co-founder Chris, Kendall came up with the business idea when he saw QR codes printed on business cards. “Those business cards with QR code look cool, but personally I never use them, because it’s inconvenient to open up an app to switch on your camera, then wait for a few seconds to get the QR code scanned. Wouldn’t it be nice if I can put the business card on a touch screen, and read information on it automatically?” Is this possible? With an engineering background, Kendall knows how touch screen technology works and knows that the idea he had in mind is feasible. “I can actually mimic the sensation of a touch screen using the object, and by arranging information cleverly on an object, I can achieve digital communication, which can be used in putting objects on top of a touch screen device and interact.”

W Hub Interview with Kendall Lo, cofounder and CEO at Kazoo Technology, Hardware startup, Infiniti accelerator Hong Kong

INFINITI accelerator

To further boost the business, Kazoo Technology joined the INFINITI Accelerator 2.0. A joint initiative between INFINITI and Nest, the INFINITI Accelerator is a 12-week, full-time program designed to help startups from around the world grow and scale rapidly. Now in its second year, the theme for INFINITI Accelerator 2.0 is 'Smart Cities'. With this year’s theme, Kendall thinks it ties well with Kazoo Technology’s business. Kendall thinks that INFINITI’s large network and mentorship has helped Kazoo Technology to move things forward. “All four of our co-founders have different backgrounds, and to start a business from scratch, we need more than just a great idea, we need guidance to take an initial technology idea through different stages, from funding to prototyping, to get in touch with the right contact for partnerships. These are some of the intangible things that big corporates like INFINITI can provide for us,” Kendall explains.

This year INFINITI Lab took a new experimental approach by working together with startups participated in the program to incorporate new technology with INFINITI's product. Kazoo Technology has been working with INFINITI on a product project to test the touch screen technology for cards and receive feedback from the public. Kendall appreciates INFINITI for offering a platform for startups to test their product or services within a corporation setting, which is rare in Hong Kong. “Most companies are slow in executing things and applying innovative technology, but INFINITI sees the value in investing startup ideas, and potentially utilize some of the ideas in the corporate operation," he explains. To Kendall, this is how INFINITI stands out from big corporates in Hong Kong. “INFINITI is making a commitment to the Hong Kong startup scene in general, for that, I really appreciate INFINITI’s effort.”

Hong Kong: heaven for hardware startups?

Kendall believes that for hardware startups, Hong Kong, if not Shenzhen, is probably one of the best places to start the business due to the high accessibility to hardware components.

However, the CEO thinks Hong Kong still need some push on the talent pool. Kazoo Technology is planning to expand the team, but Kendall says that hiring in Hong Kong, depending on the skill sets you are looking for, can be difficult. Kendall thinks this will be one of the challenges for Kazoo Technology in the coming 3-4 months. He points out there is a lack of engineering talents in the city, even though the trend is changing, it takes time to grow the local talent pool. Kendall thinks Hong Kong is moving in the right direction in terms of developing the startup scene, and that Hong Kong can develop a sustainable ecosystem in the long run.

(Want to see if you are the right fit? Click here to check out their job opening!)

Connect the dots backward

“You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” – Steve Jobs

Kendall feels that this resonates with his journey “I still live by the philosophy that whatever you learn, even if it doesn’t seem useful to you now, these skill will come back to you later in life and benefit you in the future. By connecting the dots and combining all the skill sets, you can achieve great things in life,” Kendall claims.

Kendall has a deep interest in engineering, especially in communication technology after graduating from the University of British Columbia. Graduating during the worst period for the job market in 2004, Kendall decided to take a break from engineering and started his studies in Financial Mathematics at Stanford University and eventually made his way to the world of finance, working in quantitative finance.

Kendall met Chris Lee as an undergraduate classmate, who is currently CTO and co-founder of 6waves, a Social and Mobile games publisher. Chris is the software guru for Kazoo Technology. Kendall met Alan during his Ph.D. studies at Stanford University with a Ph.D. in engineering, Alan powers the team with engineering support. Teresa, who runs a family business and runs several factories in China, currently acts as COO and publication expert for Kazoo Technology. After seeing Kendall’s prototype, the three of them recognized the real potential in the idea and decided to join Kazoo Technology’s founding team.

“With these connections to people and skill sets, coupled with all the engineering and financial knowledge, it enabled me to be confident with my vision, allowing me to believe that this is a viable idea with scalability. Without my engineering knowledge, I wouldn’t be able to build the prototype on the weekends; without my business knowledge, I wouldn’t be confident enough to handle and set up a company; without all my networks, I couldn’t imagine how I could turn my prototype into a production-grade product. With all these factors combined, it convinced me to jump out of my comfort zone, quit my full-time job and commit to this project.”

Feeling uneasy is the best part

Jumping from a big corporate to the startup environment, Kendall says the best part of the startup journey is feeling uneasy every day. “Working in the same environment for years, you know how things work, going to work every day, you know how things happen and how you can handle that with ease, it feels nice. But to me, the moment you feel nice for a bit too long, it becomes boring.” Kendall claims. He says the best part of the startup journey is the uneasy feeling he gets every day, since the team is constantly facing new challenges, this makes him feel that he is learning something new.

“There is no failure in the startup world, it is up to you and your imagination to make your business idea something the market desires,” Kendall says. The CEO encourages entrepreneurs to never give up.

Blog post thumbnail for fb  2
5 in 5 minutes - November 11th
Hong Kong Startup News Roundup

November 11, 2016 by W Hub - W Hub

1. SuperCharger FinTech Accelerator 2.0 kicks off

SuperCharger, a FinTech accelerator in Hong Kong has selected 8 startups to join their program. The accelerator program powered by Standard Chartered Bank and Fidelity International.

"SuperCharger is strongly establishing itself as Hong Kong's leading FinTech accelerator. The quality of this year's cohort is a testament to that and reflects the role our accelerator plays for the sourcing of products, solutions and talent in the financial services industry in this region" Mr Janos Barberis, Founder of SuperCharger said.

The 8 finalists for SuperCharger 2.0 are Bambu, Clare.ai, Entersoft, FinChat, Foris, KYC Chain, Squirro and Znotes Alliance.

2. Brinc.io opens office space in Guangzhou

Brinc has opened a co-working space in Guangzhou that offers short-term office space in a convenient location in CBD with nearby Xing Sheng Lu. Click here to check out more information.

3. Tesla stops offering unlimited free Supercharging for new cars, starting from Jan 1, 2017

Tesla announced on November 7th that all cars ordered after January 1, 2017 will instead receive a limited number of free charging credits. For those who set their eyes on a Tesla car, better order one now.

4. Hong Kong’s First “Reading, Working and Studying Space"

Desk-one is a working, reading and studying space in Causeway Bay that offers an alternative flexible workspace for people around the area.

his concept has been increasingly successful in Korea and Taiwan in the past few years. The space bridges the gap and solves Hong Kong’s land issue! We have evolved and upgraded the general coworking space concept and bring to the wider audience,” said Jacky, Director of Desk-one during an interview with Jumpstart Magazine. Click here to read the full article

5. GuavaPass raises $5M

Singapore-based lifestyle and fitness startup GuavaPass has raised US$5 million Series A funding in a round led by Singapore's Vickers Venture Partners. Founded in 2015, GuavaPass is an exclusive membership program offering our members unlimited access to a variety of high-quality group fitness classes at the best studios in Asia.

Blog post thumbnail for fb
5 in 5 minutes - November 18th
Hong Kong Startup News Roundup

November 18, 2016 by W Hub - W Hub

1. SuperCharger 2.0 reveals the 8 finalists.

SuperCharger, a FinTech accelerator programme powered by Standard Chartered and Fidelity International, welcomed the eight finalists during the Big Reveal. Now in its second year, the 12-week programme received almost 200 applications from 33 countries, 4 startups among the finalists are based in Hong Kong.

The eight selected startups will have partnership opportunities with SuperCharger main partners Standard Chartered and Fidelity International, as well as a venue partner Cyberport. The programme will kick start officially in January 2017 at the Cyberport Smart-Space FinTech Centre.

2. theDesk opens pop-up art exhibition

Hong Kong co-working space theDesk, one of the biggest co-working spaces in the city, is hosting COLLABORATION, the first of a series of art exhibitions that engages homegrown creative talents whilst also providing inspiration to members of theDesk and the public from November until January 2017. The exhibition will showcase artworks from local and Hong Kong-based artists including Jake Tse, Vera Chiu, Sarie Moolenburgh and Sharon de Lyster .

3. Dragon Law launches legal services platform for startups

The Hong Kong-based startup provides legal services with the aim to help owners and leaders of businesses of all sizes modernize their business and increase their efficiency. Dragon Law claims the online legal software can help reducing risk, increasing accuracy and enhancing compliance, allowing startup founders to spend less time on legal procedures.

Want to know more about Dragon Law for Startup? Click here to visit our Recourses page. https://www.whub.io/resources

4. Singapore's Apvera raises US$1.2M to automate cybersecurity

Apvera, a Singapore-based startup has raised S$1.7 million (around US$1.2 million) led by ACP and SPRING SEEDS Capital, with the participation from Nest Ventures, muru-D and Central Exchange. The funding will be used to develop the threat intelligence platform.

5. Korea's Miso secures $2.7M funding from Silicon Valley investors, including Y Combinator

Miso, a Korea-based startup that connects Koreans with cleaners, has raised US$2.7 million in seed funding in a round led by Silicon Valley investors, including Y Combinator. The funding will be used to expand the company's service as well as expand their service to other markets.

#<Mongoid::Contextual::Mongo:0x007f0f9bf58780>