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!

Google Wave users are socialising in Hong Kong

google wave

I was invited by Vinko to join a Wave conversation with “all” of the, 50 (that we know of) Google Wave users located in Hong Kong. It turned out to be a massive wave with blips and stuff. Most people, including myself, probably doesn’t know how to best use it. Honestly, I find it pretty slow and not easy to use. To me, it feels like an improved version of real time forum. In fact, I think Tangler actually had a good attempt at this. If you strip away the Wave philosophies and compare the application features, there aren’t really much breakthrough.

If you are wondering, I still cannot send out invites yet. But HK Wave users are forming groups and socialising on Facebook. You may be able to find some invites there 🙂

Hong Kong Wave Users Facebook Group:

Google Wave Hong Kong User Group

Google Wave Hong Kong User Group

Are you an outlier?

Recently read Malcolm Gladwell’s new book – ‘Outliers’ on the flight to HK. He’s answered some of the questions I’ve been asking myself. How do genuises become so successful. Apart from hardwork, alot of it has to do with doing the right things at the right time.

He started his argument saying basically, there’s no geniuses, yes even Mozart was not a genius. He proposed a 10,000 hours rule where anyone can become an expert if they spend that amount of hours in a particular subject.

Then there’s the proof of born at the right time, e.g. Hockey players are born early of the year, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are both born in 1955, Majority of successful lawyers were born in 1930s, and 1890s Americans are at the top of the World’s rich list.

He also showed examples high IQ != success. Particularly the smartest person in US, Chris Langan, with IQ > 195, had a hard life because of this surrounding circumstances. Imagination and practical intelligence are both under valued in assessing our children’s performance.

Cultural values and spoken language are also factors of success in the big picture. Western culture is more assertive where’s Asians are more authoritative. This could lead to disastrous situations like why Korean airline had more accidents than others.

This book has given me some ideas how to raise my child in the future. I am lucky enough to have exposure to both west and east, there’s huge opportunities. I have had similar ideas previously about being successful is not just about IQ or working hard. I need to exploit my surroundings and be at the right place at the right time. That is why I chose to come back to HK, not many people can speak fluent English, Cantonese and Mandarin and know that is what they should exploiting. Having a HK ID card is also a huge advantage, HK citizens can go to China freely and while keeping dual citizenship. Chinese mainlander would have to give up their Chinese citizenships. Taiwanese couldn’t even have direct flight to China until now. Westerners need to update their visas now and again. In fact, HK businessmen have long been doing business in China because of this advantage. Therefore I suggest people find out what their real assets are, its not just about hardwork and skills. Alot of successful stories make sense as an after fact, the key is to execute the right plan when other’s don’t know about it yet.

Anyway I dug up some videos of Chris Langan as well, and read up abit on his theory of everything. Its interesting how he attempts to combine psychology and science together. If something cannot be explained by science doesn’t mean it cannot be explained. Cognition was a main factor of a beginning to the Universe.

Hong Kong Ruby on Rails User Group for 2009

Hong Kong Ruby on Rails User Group

HK ROR user group deserves some long waited actions. I think there’s enough critical mass in Hong Kong now, and there’s definitely a community. The old google group was disappeared without much given reasons, but we’ve formed a new one. http://groups.google.com/group/hkror

Please sign up again and follow the new blog http://rubyonrailshk.com.

Also let me know if you’d like to help organise or contribute as a speaker in upcoming meetup events.

Hong Kong Web & Tech Meetup Index

I’ve created a new page – Hong Kong Web & Tech Meetup Index. This is my attempt to document all the meetup groups in the web&tech industry. Please feel free to foward any other appriopriate ones I have missed. In no particular order…

Web Wednesday
Ruby on Rails HK
Agile HK
HKSUA – HK Startup Association
Macromedia user group
PHP user group
Linux user group
.net user group
Java user group
Opensource Application Knowledge Association
Interaction Design Association
iPhone User Group
mobile monday
HKU mac user group
PUMB – Palm User Message Board
hk bloggers group
Wikimedia HK

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