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 🙂


Want to put the upcoming HK IT Events to your blog?

Grab this code, I’ve added it to my sidebar.

You can always create one, of course http://twitter.com/goodies/widget_profile
Use the profile: @hkitevents

Who is @hkitevents?
It is not a person, it is a robot. It posts the upcoming event 1 day before hand. It reads the events from the google calendar that I setup over a year ago. http://tinyurl.com/hkitcal. If you would like to contribute, please give me a shout!

The source code of this twitter bot is available on github – http://github.com/rorcraft/ical2tweet

ps. sometimes I tweet about the events not on the calendar by hand.. 😛 so please help!

Ankoder @ Web Direction South

Just a quick post about our successful exhibition at Web Direction South 09. It was great to hear the responses and indication of interests from the developers that were attending. I had a good time standing for 12 hours 2 days in a row, not something familiar to a developer 😉

Thanks to Atlassian‘s active for support in the Aussie startup space, I was lucky to be able to have a booth there at an affordable price.

Rex Chung @ Web direction South


I also met a bunch of cool indie startup guys as well. Very useful sharing our experiences and stories.

* Agile Bench a project management tool designed to support agile software development processes
* Ankoder a video transcoding web service built on top of Amazon’s S3 and Elastic Cloud
* Doculicious, an easy way to create embeddable web forms that generate PDF documents
* Hiive Systems web-based service & client tracking tool that provides professionals with access to critical client information
* Platform 46 Social Business Integrator
* Topikality topikality learns what sort of articles you like, and emails them to you
* 88 Miles making time tracking simple and quick

Last 6 Months = 200% on Ankoder.

Well I’m proud to announce that Ankoder is launched. I can finally say that it is working as I wished it had. It was 200% on Ankoder because we completed 1 yr’s work in 6 months.
Life as an entrepreneur is tough. There’s been so many difficult decision making, emotional roller coaster and long working hours. It was a journey and lesson both physically and emotionally.

Anyhow, with the help of some smart interns, we managed to pack alot of cool features into Ankoder. There’s multiple thumbnails, watermarking, segmented files for HTTP streaming, FTP/SCP by public key. Of course the most exciting part if the automatic scaling. This was a tougher problem than we originally thought. Scaling transcoding servers is not a matter of starting servers as job comes in. We needed to predict whether it is worth starting new servers, (as well as terminating running servers). First we need to estimate how long it would take to complete current running jobs. Then we estimate time required to process jobs in the queue. We have a formula for each type of video codec and therefore we can ensure a maximum queue time for any jobs we receive.

So that is what our unique technology, despite the SERAP panel thinking otherwise. Now I’m onto promotion, marketing and make deals. I hope I can find more time updating this blog when I can afford it 🙂

For those that don’t know what is Ankoder.

Ankoder is a cloud based video transcoding API enabling companies to easily integrate video functions into their existing web services. With its pay-per-use service, Ankoder keeps you up-to-date with the latest codecs and saves you from developing your own custom encoding solution. Ankoder provides all the ingredients required to get a video site up-and-running quickly, easily and successfully while ensuring that it will scale. Using Amazon’s cloud computing services, it is designed to meet high demand while minimising queue time by automatically processing videos in parallel. Ankoder enables web services providers to focus their time, resources and capital on developing their businesses, not on creating video encoding infrastructure. Visit http://www.ankoder.com

I’m back in Sydney now and will be exhibiting at Web Direction South 09. See you there.

A month of networking.

Business cards exchanged

In the past two weeks, I managed to replace my new box of business cards with other people’s business cards. I guess it goes to show how much networking I’ve been doing. I’m loving every part of it. Having met some extraordinary people, they have totally given me new inspiration and energy to keep improving.

I managed to travel to Taipei and Shanghai to get a view of the current trends and see what can a young hkie guy can learn and take something back to HK. I had very mixed feelings about each cities and about where I stand in each of them.

In HK, I felt like the general public are focusing on the smallest issues that aren’t really helpful to push HK forward. Everyday you hear about the Hang Seng Index going up and down. Everyone next to you would ask “is this a good time to buy HSBC?” The government is not very capable, slow reactions and short sighted. Everyday, people are worried about being poisoned from China produce. The media discusses whether the behaviour of some law members are appropriate instead of discussing the real problems. All of these, I think we’re wasting alot of time and opportunities. HK people should embrace China, but I think we’re still quite far from that. Deep in HK people’s heart, they still rather not deal with Chinese if they don’t have to. Because of this, I feel like building a startup and embracing China is already a major leap from most competition.

In Taiwan, I feel like it is already a fact that they can’t survive without China. Most people have already gone to work in China since their native language and culture is more or less the same. Taipei has given me a very empty feeling. I feel all the young talent have left the country. HK is lucky to be able to benefit from China, keeping a close relationship while still having the freedom of speech and the mix of international companies.

In Shanghai, I feel like I’m already here too late. Things are happening quickly and they have always been the center of the country. There’s alot of expats that have been here much longer than me and can speak better mandarin than me. I’m already late to this game, but I think there’s still alot of room and still at its early stages. The scale of things in China is just amazing. Even though HK and Taiwan is so close to China, most people doesn’t feel that they’re part of the Country. Simply because the buildings and city planning haven’t had that enormous view of the mainland. The main rail stations in China are just bigger than anything.

There’s definitely some advantages in each place and definitely need to work together to make it work. I can’t see either of them can do it alone. As always, time will tell, but I hope I can connect some people together drive it in the right direction.

Heading to Ad:Tech Shanghai

I’ll be heading to Ad:Tech Shanghai next week. I managed to score a ‘free’ consolatory ticket from Napolean, one of the winners from Web Wednesday pulled out. My China Mobile will be: 15805816124, just give me a call or sms.

November turned out to be my conferencing month. I’ve met alot of people and had a lot of fun at the Big Question in Taipei. Bill has written up a good summary from his blog. One thing that did surprise me was the lack of people in Taipei, even at the 101 Building, maybe I’ve gotten used to the congested HK.

I’ll consolidate my learnings after this Shanghai, Hangzhou tour. I’m also little surprised to see there’s actually alot of westerners speaking very good mandarin and doing alot of things within the Chinese community – in HK, Taiwan and China.

So many events on November 15 weekend.

Nov 15, seems to be a popular date for conferences. I will probably be going to “The Big Question” in Taiwan Taipei. Since we’re building a social network site for them. It’ll be good to see how much Taiwan has changed since the last time was there as a kid in 1988. Since the election of President Ma, the China-Taiwan relationship has gotten closer and more open. There’s certainly alot of potential between the two but its also a threat to Hong Kong as a middleman. I hope to find some insight for myself.

The Big Question

These are the other event’s going on at the same time:
HK Ruby on Rails users meetup
HK Startup Association
Rails Camp Australia in Adelaide.
Barcamp Sydney