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Hong Kong Startup News Roundup - 27 October 2019


Sandbox VR Raises $11 Million From Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, Orlando Bloom, Will Smith, Others

Location-based virtual reality startup Sandbox VR has raised an additional $11 million from an illustrious round of funders including Orlando Bloom, Will Smith, Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Kevin Durant, Michael Ovitz and soccer star Keisuke Honda. The new funding round, which brings the total raised by the company to $83 million, comes just weeks ahead of the opening of a new location in downtown San Francisco, which will host a new “Star Trek” VR experience.

The company’s new funding round was led by David Sacks of Craft Ventures and the Andreessen Horowitz Cultural Leadership Fund, with the Dreamers Fund and Rich Kleiman of Thirty Five Ventures participating as well

“We’re incredibly honored to be able to work with some of the most talented and influential artists, athletes, and actors in the world,” said Sandbox VR founder and CEO Steve Zhao in a statement . “Their support is a vote of confidence that our platform will one day become the new medium for the future of sports, music, and storytelling.”

The company is currently operating 8 VR centers in cities including Los Angeles, Vancouver, Hong Kong and Singapore. By next year, executives plan to open 8 additional locations, including in New York, Austin, San Diego and Chicago.

Booqed, a Hong Kong-based platform for on-demand work spaces, raises $1.675 million in seed funding

Booqed, a Hong Kong-based platform for booking short-term work spaces, announced today that it has raised $1.675 million in seed funding. Participants include Colliers International (the commercial real-estate management company), Techstars and Lazard Korea.

The company participated in Proptech Accelerator, the Toronto-based accelerator program for property and real estate startups run by Colliers and Techstars, in 2018.

Launched in September 2016, Booqed currently has 1,600 listings for spaces in Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Singapore. It will use its seed round on product roll-outs, marketing and hiring. The platform differentiates from co-working spaces and companies like WeWork because its inventory consists of underused spaces in existing commercial properties, giving property owners and managers a way to make money instead of letting them sit empty.

Booking times can be as short as an hour or as long as several months, and listings include offices and meeting rooms, event spaces, retail stores and studios. Most of the startup’s customers are corporate clients that need to book venues or work spaces for traveling employees.

Hong Kong still attracting multinationals and startups

The number of overseas and mainland Chinese companies and start-ups in Hong Kong has continued to increase, according to an Invest Hong Kong survey.

“I am glad to see that Hong Kong continues to attract and retain leading overseas and Mainland companies, as well as entrepreneurs from around the globe who use Hong Kong as their base to set up leading-edge and innovative businesses,” said director-general of investment promotion Stephen Phillips. 

He cited a 9.9-per-cent increase over the 2017 figure in the number of business operations in Hong Kong with parent companies overseas and in Mainland China, as revealed in a joint survey conducted by InvestHK and the Census and Statistics Department. The number of start-ups in Hong Kong was found to have risen by 42.8 per cent over the 2017 figure in a separate survey conducted by InvestHK.

“Despite global uncertainties, I am confident that Hong Kong’s enduring business advantages such as its strategic position in the region as well as its international status as a sophisticated business and financial city will continue to attract world-class investment,” he added. “The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area development and the Belt and Road Initiative will also bring new opportunities.”

China now has more unicorns than the US

China is now home to the world’s largest number of startups valued at more than US$1 billion, edging out the United States and raising the stakes in the two countries’ trade war.

Of the 494 tech unicorns founded in the 2000s that have not yet gone public as of June 30, China had 206 such firms to move ahead of the US with 203, according to the inaugural Hurun Global Unicorn List 2019 released on Monday.

“China and the US dominate with over 80 per cent of the world’s known unicorns, despite representing only half of the world’s GDP and a quarter of the world’s population,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of Shanghai-based publishing group Hurun Report, in a statement. “The rest of the world needs to wake up to creating an environment that allows unicorns to flourish.”

The world’s unicorns are based in only 24 countries around the world, spread around 118 cities and have a total value of US$1.7 trillion, according to the latest Hurun list. India ranked third with 21 unicorns, followed by the UK with 13 and Germany with seven.

WeWork accepts multi-billion dollar Softbank rescue deal

Struggling property start-up WeWork has been thrown a lifeline from Softbank, with a multi-billion dollar rescue deal.

In a statement, Softbank said it would provide $5bn (£3.9bn) in new financing and up to $3bn for existing shareholders.

The deal will see Japan's Softbank increase its stake in the US company to around 80%. Co-founder Adam Neumann will leave the board but retain "observer" status.

The bailout follows the collapse of WeWork's plans to raise money via stock markets.

In addition to new financing and a tender offer for existing shareholders, Softbank said it will "accelerate" an existing commitment to fund $1.5bn.

The Japanese investment giant already owned about a third of WeWork.

"SoftBank is a firm believer that the world is undergoing a massive transformation in the way people work," Softbank Chairman Masayoshi Son said in a statement.

"Since the vision remains unchanged, Softbank has decided to double down on the company by providing a significant capital infusion and operational support," he said.

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