Beyond Ventures, a new venture capital fund backed by China’s Hony Capital, plans to raise HK$1.2 billion ($154 million) to invest in early-stage technology startups in Hong Kong as the financial hub continues to struggle to boost entrepreneurship.
Sky-high rents and lack of risk appetite have often been blamed for the bleak startup landscape in Hong Kong, home to world-class universities, a financial services sector and some of Asia’s wealthiest tycoons. Industry data shows average early funding for local startups at just $80,000, versus $182,000 in Singapore and $340,000 in New York.
Highlighting this contrast further is neighbouring Shenzhen, dubbed China’s Silicon Valley given its cluster of well-known tech firms and startups such as Tencent, Huawei and dronemaker DJI.
“Our mission is to help get the ecosystem going,” said Lap Man, a founder of Beyond Ventures, which claims to be the first and only venture capital (VC) to focus exclusively on Hong Kong.
“In the coming three years, if we have another five DJIs, capital is not a problem,” referring to the world’s largest drone company that was conceived at Hong Kong’s University of Science and Technology by China-born Frank Wang.
Many funds from Hong Kong are “not comfortable” with investing at home and instead go to Israel, Southeast Asia, or Silicon Valley, Man added.
According to a Google-backed study, only 1.8 percent of local venture capital investments and 21 percent of local angel investment went to Hong Kong start-ups between 2009 and 2013.
Given the lack of attention, Hong Kong tech start-ups are undervalued, making them good bets, said Man.
Man, also the founder of the DYXNet group in the Chinese telecommunications industry, set up Beyond Ventures with Alex Fang, co-founder of private equity firm eGarden Ventures, and Marvin Hung, CEO of Hop Hing Group Holdings Limited.
A HK$1 billion Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund, set up by the e-commerce giant Alibaba in 2015, and a newer Hong Kong X Foundation, backed by Sequoia investor Neil Shen and Tencent Chairman Pony Ma are the only other private funds dedicated to Hong Kong’s tech development.
Chinese and Hong Kong authorities are looking to develop the Pearl River Delta in southern China into a Greater Bay Area, similar to that in Tokyo and San Francisco with tech being a key aspect, aiming to maximise the complementary strengths of places like Shenzhen and Hong Kong.