Hong Kong Startup Summary 2009

There’s alot of startup activities in Hong Kong and not many people know about it. Since I didnt have much time myself during the year I’ll try to summarize what I know in one post and also making some predictions for 2010. In 2009 there’s some successes, some fell into the deadpool and I’m sure some companies you have never heard of. Please excuse me if I have missed anyone and I have no intention to exclude anyone for any purpose. However, I do believe HK startups need more press!

Hong Kong Startups 2009

2009 is the year of iPhone and Facebook apps.

With the popularity and coolness of the iPhone, HK has spurred a new industry and group of indie developers. Here’s some indie and startups of note. (My apologies for not having much detailed research on HK iPhone apps market. This is purely as a user point of view)

Bill So: Finger: Turns iPhone/iPod touch into Chinese writing tablet.

Nuthon (Leo To – 杜B): Developed various Location based application like Toilet Rush and 行Guide.

Conceptable.net: HK Weather, Reading.
ThinkBulb: Puri (Photo Sticker app with 580k+ downloads)
Stepcase (Leon Ho): Darkroom, Meeting Time, Lifehack, Enroute.
Crispy Comics: Casey Lau, first publisher for original comics distributed on the iPhone, it kicked off this Summer with “Super Kaiju Hero Force”.

iPhone App generators:
motherapp – A Science Park incubated company released their multiple mobile platform application generator. Some successful application using the technology are OpenRice, TDC. They also won the Bronze prize of HK ICT Innovation and Research award.

Kanchoo – A web application that generates iPhone apps specifically for news publishers. Founded by cubicle muses – Aaron, William and Michael.

aNobii – A book lover social network very popular in Italy released iPhone app that can scan barcode and add to your own virtual book shelf. A Facebook app. The same team also launched a mooshnow.com + iPhone app, which is a movie reviews web site.

Facebook apps
6wave: Ex-Yahoo workers Ng, Cheng, and Lee, a startup that has developed social applications and casual games on the Facebook platform with 32 milion monthly users.

Pencake – A successful DIY e-card web portal. I know the two brother team has recently built some popular facebook applications. Some of you might have used their app without knowing – polling, quizes and 成份分析. They are targeted at the Chinese speaking communities like HK, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia. Now they are helping companies promote their facebook fan page. They also moved into HK Science Park in 2009.

Online Video – my area of interest 🙂
Ankoder – Obviously I’m biased here. I believe Ankoder was the first platform as a service based on Amazon’s cloud computing services launched out of HK. Also based in the Science Park, I will definitely have more product news in 2010. So far the clients are coming from US, Europe and Australia.

goyeah – A free online movie portal, basically saves you from buying the old favorite on VCD. I’m not sure what their plans are in 2010. There’s some cool flash interactive video campaigns with HK comedian.

anyplex – Subscription based movie portal that works directly with setup boxes. They actually moved out of Science Park in 2009. They have agreements and partnerships with movie producers in place so they are set for a bright 2010.

vcast.tv – A video portal with some 2nd tier video content going on with advertising model. Still too early days to tell if it’ll work or not. Their core competency is doing event video streaming. Their mobile video portal also won the Gold prize in ICT mobile award 2008.

vcasmo – Synchronize your video with power point presentations. Launched in 2008 have a strong client base in Japan. Similar to Omnisio.com which was acquired by Youtube early 2009.

choochootv – an artists video blog.

Groups and Meetups
Startup networking events were more than ever, too much that I couldn’t attend all of them.

HKSUA – They have held numerous useful workshops that are very informative to startups.

Wordcamp – Matt Mullenweg came over to HK and held a wordpress fan + blogger meetup.

0 to 0.1 – Organised by Greg and Leon, which provided mentorship to a few groups of University students during the summer holidays. The goal was to launch their lean startup in a few months.

Amazon Web Services Evangelist – Jeff Barr visited HK.

Web Wednesday – Napoleon managed to invite Guy Kawasaki (Jackie Chan of VC) along while he was in HK.

Most notable was probably the presentation by Ko Kin, who is a 100% Hongkonger that started and established a mobile game company in Mainland China. He wrote a book about his 10 years experience and released the PDF version under creative commons license.
Here’s Aaron’s review of the day.

Cyberport Venture Capital Forum (CVCF)
This year’s theme was angel investment. Some well respected celebrity in the VC world made it to HK. – Dave McClure and Aydin Senkut.

Startup Mondays
A group of entrepreneurs formed a regular meetup after seeing the gap from CVCF.
Also a group blog at startupshk.com

Other groups and events of note:

Punchparty Cantonese speaking events with local bloggers and tech enthusiasts.
BloggerCon– Annual Blogger Conference.
Agile HK was pretty much dead in 2009 since the financial crisis and Thoughtworks moved out of HK.
Ruby on Rails HK – Sorry I was supposed to organise this one, my bad.
Cocoahead – Bill has been keeping up with organising this iPhone+Mac developer group while he also helped out with TEDx Taipei.
tweetups, twestival.
iPhanatics – organised by Casey Lau, who also created Popcorn Network – Hong Kong’s first e-commerce blog network featuring the best of fashion, gadgets and wine.

Although I didn’t see significant funding activities for HK startups, there’s some good news and groups formed that are showing good signs.

Tolo Harbour Angel Group. I have never joined or invited :P, but there’s definitely some activities there. I could see Dominic from Darkhorse in the pictures and Chinese University and Science Park staff are involved.

Cyberport Creative Micro Fund (CCMF)
YCombinator style – 100K HKD to be awarded to 5 companies. Deadline was late October and granted companies announcement will be on Jan 11 2010.

Zendesk, although a Danish company, one of the partner Michael, was based in HK during the early days and had sponsored some local startup events. They received series A and series B in 2009, now with their headquarters in San Francisco.

Editgrid – the iconic HK Web 2.0 startup had rumored to be acquired by Apple.

Outblaze – Although not really a startup, their messaging service was acquired by IBM.

Deadpool – Social Networks
Unfortunately there’s some companies to be classified into the deadpool, interesting most of them are social network companies.

CityIn – launched in 2008, wanted to be “the” social network for south China.
Thumbdive – iPhone social network, got swamped by more focused applications like twitter, foursquare.
Harbork – Subscription model probably didn’t work.
Another social network you probably haven’t heard of – Missu.
Although Zorpia seems to be doing well, I haven’t talked to the founder myself, at least they didn’t need to fire sell like friendster. Duedee (used to be bullpoo) – A virtual stock trading social network is still hanging in there, although I heard there’s not much new development done to the site.
Another social network focused on entertainment celebrities with a name “AliveNotDead” is still alive not dead and exploring different business models like merchandizing.

More startup companies that are just doing their things.
muecs – Another science park incubatee, launched two products. One is enterprise twitter – Molaboration, similar to Yammer. Another product seems to be their first iteration was a social media market place if I understood it right.

We also have threadless like crowdsourcing designer Tshirt / products websites.
Foncept, dookaz and not so well known comedaily are peacefully propelling the crowdsourcing market in Hong Kong.

Frenzoo – A 3D avatar design your own fashion social network. They are funded by ex-Skype employees and an incuTrain graduate. They launched their virtual items market place in 2009 and have some big plans for 2010.

Sampiplan – Project management tool designed specifically for product design and production.

I know I mentioned alot of Science Park incubatees already, but there’s more.
getogeto – A social events invitation website.
gearapp – Highly customisable CRM that is adaptable to all business needs.
cartforge – Targeted ecommerce and analytics platforms.
Innoverz – Fast RIA store front.
StorBackup – Cloud based backup solution that works over unstable internet connections.
Intuitive Automata – Dr. Cory Kidd from MIT – A Robot coach designed to help people who are trying to lose and keep off weight.

2010 will be Social Media, Cloud Computing and Android
Social media marketing will get serious, especially measuring ROI. There’s a few social media conference in 2009 and more planned in 2010 already, and even Hong Kong Government CIO is on twitter. HKAIM has already organised a few social media related events
in 2009 and more to come in 2010.

There’s 2 companies I know that are in this space.
Admomo – Online Advertising Competitor’s analysis.
kmatrix CI – Social Media Buzz Monitoring system.

Any stealth startups hiding in HK?
Anyone in stealth mode should make yourself known now, because nobody cares about your secrets! But I know there’s some startups to look out for in 2010.

Jeff Lyndon – Experienced online game expert is working on something.

Thomas Pun is working on a project joining the YCombinator.

Kenneth Kwok is writing up some informative posts on web analytics tips and techniques.

Eugene Lam, ex-Googler developing a social software review website.

Vincent Chan, working on backbonehr and writing a nice startup blog at scale.cc

Thats it for 2009, this post has turned out to be much longer than I thought. Hope when I write the 2010 post it will be even longer 🙂


8 thoughts on “Hong Kong Startup Summary 2009

  1. Hey, cool post. Real quick I found this site that lets you check for “hard-to-find” products on Amazon, like the Ipod Touch. It’s called azchecker.com

  2. Interesting. It woud be good to organize so startups can “get on your radar.” Also, ISOC HK (www.isoc.hk) would be interested in joining hands to do startup support events in 2010 together. Let’s think about that and start planning if you are interested!

  3. Thanks so much for the mention. Didn’t try to be in stealth mode. I just don’t know enough people in HK 🙂

    Glad to see so many startup activities in HK last year. It would be great if HK has something similar to twiistup.com and hacker news. I think that students and youngsters in HK are still too disconnected from the global startup community. They need some resource to open their eyes. Without that, local startups will always have difficulty in hiring quality team members.

    Anyway, I wish you have a Happy New Year full of peace and joy. 🙂

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