Speaking at the E2 Day 2016 at InnoCentre

Last year Swapit won the Best Interface Design Award at the E2 Day 2015. Therefore, the E2 organizers have invited us to speak at the E2 Day 2016 about our experience thus far. I will be sharing some insights on our progress over the past year and perhaps explain some of our secret sauce tactics for establishing, maintaining and accelerating our incredible traction.

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The event takes place on a Saturday afternoon in Kowloon Tong. A great time to come by, check out the E2 Day and then go shopping at Festival Walk – one of my favorite malls in Hong Kong.

More information about the E2 Day 2016 can be found on their website: www.e2x.org

Have you tried Swapit yet? You can download it for free from http://get.swapit.la

Meet swapit at the ECHELON ASIA SUMMIT in Singapore (June 23-24, 2015)

swapit-blog_echelon-2015The swapit team is having a booth at the ECHELON Asia Summit, which takes place at the Singapore EXPO on June 23rd and 24th, 2015. Open 9am – 6pm each day!

Swapit will be present on the Hong Kong Cyberport pavilion to show a demo of our app, connect with fellow entrepreneurs and investors in the region.

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You can find us at:

  • Booth: Cyberport Pavilion “P1”
  • Date: 23rd-24th June, 2015
  • Location: Singapore EXPO Hall 3A

swapit-bannerJust look out for the guys in green – sporting our great swapit T-shirts – and our great swapit banner that has become famous already!

If you haven’t used swapit yet, you can download it at http://swapit.la

Talk to the swapit team at the HKTDC Entrepreneur Day in Hong Kong (May 29-30, 2015)

swapit-blog_hktdcThe swapit team will be present at the HKTDC Entrepreneur Day which is being held at the Hong Kong Convention Centre tomorrow and Saturday, May 29th to May 30th, 2015.

We are happy to give all of you a demo of our swapit, tell you a bit more about our philosophy and why we are building swapit in the buzzling city of Hong Kong.

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You can find us at:

  • Booth Number: 1E-C06 (shared with CoCoon)
  • Date: 29th-30th May 2015

swapit-bannerJust look out for the guys in green – sporting our great swapit T-shirts – and our great swapit banner that has become famous already!

We love to talk to each of you!

If you haven’t joined our swapit beta yet, you can do so at http://swapit.la

Thoughts on the Hong Kong Government’s Efforts to Develop the Economy (incl. Startups)

swapit-blog_hkMany people seem to have strong thoughts about the proposed budget 2015/16 that was just announced by the Hong Kong government. If you’re interested you can read the budget announcement and speeches in detail at: www.budget.gov.hk So, I thought I might comment on the “Start-ups” sub-section (paragraphs 38-48) of the “Developing Our Economy” section of the budget speech. Disclaimer: I am not particularly qualified to professionally comment on the measures proposed. Therefore, everything that follows is my (Patrick Kosiol) personal view on things. swapit-blog_uberEntrepreneurship I absolutely agree with the statement that Hong Kong is being hit by a new wave of entrepreneurship. Though, I had argued before that Hong Kong has a long-standing tradition of entrepreneurship in trading business. It is true that Hong Kong needs to get itself ready for the new companies and business models that will hit the territory. That is inevitable to happen and Hong Kong’s laissez-faire approach to business allows – and most importantly encourages – that. A very simple example for this is Uber which has launched its disrupting services in many countries in the world, including in the Hong Kong SAR. swapit-blog_investhkInvestHK I do also welcome the fact that Hong Kong’s InvestHK has received its own mentioning in the speech. I have personally met several InvestHK folks (from various of their departments depending on which industry you’re interested in) and they have been very forthcoming. While I have to say that neither I personally nor any of the companies I co-founded had some direct benefit from working with InvestHK, I do very much appreciate their work and effort they put into enabling companies to launch in Hong Kong, establishing business relations with local as well as overseas companies and hosting networking events. swapit-blog_cyberport-hkstp-logoCyberport & HKSTP The mentioning of Cyberport and the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park is also encouraging. While I am sure both have received similar exposure in recent years, they do their part in nurturing their specific target groups of entrepreneurs. In 2011 Boris and I where among 3 co-founders who started a company called TreeCrunch Limited with which we did apply for the Cyberport Creative Micro Fund (CCMF) and were accepted to it. A CCMF-funded project runs for 6 months and when accepted you get access to a HKD $100,000 grant from Cyberport. After TreeCrunch had graduated from CCMF, we applied for and got accepted to the Cyberport Incubation Programme which is a 24-month program that gets you access to grants and resources worth up to HKD $530,000. In 2012 we started working on our Sky Drone project which is still ongoing. We applied for the CCMF in their 2014 summer recruitment and got awarded the grant as well. Just recently Sky Drone graduated from the CCMF program successfully. So in short: the Cyberport programs have helped us as startups already. Previously, we did not find a matching program at the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park. That was very unfortunate at the time, but from what I can see, they have revised their programs and are now offering more broadly targeted programs outside the mobile gaming and biotech industry. That is great news for Hong Kong! Government Data Going Public Now, what really excites me is this paragraph:

46. From this year onwards, free online government information will be released in digital formats to encourage development of more applications by start-ups. Many start-ups have developed a wide range of mobile applications by exploiting such public sector information, including information on real-time traffic and weather conditions.

I love open data. Some countries in the world are embracing that concept and especially the United States of America are at the vanguard of it. Basically, any data produced by any federal US government agency is to be published in the Public Domain unless it is data that needs to be treated confidentially. I truly hope Hong Kong adopts a similar model. On top of that, I hope Hong Kong government departments will publish such data in a manner and format that allows easy programmatic use. swapit-blog_5billion$5 billion for the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF) Now in paragraph 44 the speech outlines how an additional $5 billion injection in the ITF is expected to strengthen support for relevant enterprises:

44. In addition, the proposed injection of $5 billion to the Innovation and Technology Fund will help strengthen support for relevant enterprises.

So let me tell you a quick story about that ITF. I have not met one person who can confirm to have received funding from ITF. Perhaps I just know the wrong people. Yet, with TreeCrunch (mentioned above) we did apply for the ITF’s Small Entrepreneur Research Assistance Programme (SERAP). It’s a mouth full, I know. Not just that, it’s also hand full of work to apply for that. Granted, you can now “get funding support of up to HK$6 million will be provided on a dollar-for-dollar matching basis” which is a significant amount and it’s absolutely justified that you got to work hard to get access to it. So back in 2012 we applied for SERAP with a project that was targeted at a duration of 18 months. We were looking for $2 million of matching funding (which basically comes as an interest-free loan). There was quite some bureaucracy involved in the process of applying which could definitely be optimized. Anyhow, in the end we did not get the SERAP funding we hoped for, because – according to the judging panel and after many many attempts & begging to get detailed feedback – our technology was apparently near completion and we had “low Innovation and Technology” content. To be precise, this was the official explanation:

The Panel was of the view that the project was commercially viable and the project team had capability to carry out the project. Nonetheless, apparently the bulk of the R&D work involved seemed to be near completion. The Panel considered the remaining work had low I&T content. Hence, the application was therefore not supported for funding.

Perhaps we presented our solution too well, because it was far away from being finished and TreeCrunch basically ran out of money 4 months later — before we were able to finish it. But that’s a different story, I am happy to talk about over a beer. Furthermore, our whole product and service was building on natural language processing which in its very nature is an extremely innovative and technology-heavy field. At least in my opinion. There is one phrase I remember very vividly when thinking about SERAP. During our discussions with them it was mentioned to us multiple times that: “The panel has to decide carefully who they are giving money to because it is public money. They can not take any risk and need to make sure the loan can be recovered.” swapit-blog_leapWhile I absolutely understand the reasoning behind that, it might be good get past the fact that supporting startups and entrepreneurship is about taking risks. If you want to support startups you got to take risks. Period. It is about putting your money where your mouth is. If you really want to support innovative startup companies, from time to time you got to take a leap. The full budget speech PDF can be downloaded right here: http://www.budget.gov.hk/2015/eng/pdf/e_budgetspeech2015-16.pdf

Hong Kong – the buy & sell powerhouse is the best place to launch swapit

swapit-blog_hkSometimes we get asked why we launch in Hong Kong. Well, besides the fact that this is our place of life and work, Hong Kong has some unique qualities which non-Hongkongers might not know about.

It is now the year 2015 – that is 18 years after Hong Kong has been returned by Great Britain to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Many people know believe that Hong Kong was leased for 99 years from China and therefore it was returned to the PRC on July 1st 1997. What we all know as Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China (SAR) comprises of 3 main areas: Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. In fact, Hong Kong Island and Kowloon became part of the British Empire after China had lost the first and second opium war which led to the perpetuate cession of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon by the British. In 1898 the colonial government of Hong Kong noticed that they need more land and therefore they leased the New Territories from China for 99 years. Henceforth, only the lease contract of the New Territories did expire in 1997 and Great Britain did not have to hand Hong Kong Island and Kowloon back to China. Yet, the British government recognized the importance of Hong Kong in its entirety and therefore, worked on a contract with China to hand back all of Hong Kong which was sealed in the Sino-British Joint Declaration that was registered with the United Nations. Thus, Hong Kong SAR today is still very different from the People’s Republic of China. Hong Kong has the rule of (common) law, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, the right to demonstrate, and most other features of an open and democratic society. Ah right, and we drive on the left side of the road 🙂

Long story short: this handover and its agreement was put into place to ensure Hong Kong remains one of the most competitive markets in the world. Hong Kong’s laissez-faire approach to business, low tax rates, open labor market, considerably easy immigration policies and the entrepreneural spirit of its people, make it the perfect launch base for swapit. Ever since Hong Kong was transformed from an unimportant rock in the South China Sea into a global trade powerhouse, import/export and trading companies have done great business here that shaped mind of the Hong Kong people to be absolute world leaders in that field.

That very spirit of buying and selling goods is crucial to the idea behind swapit and we believe it helps creating an active trading platform that entirely lives on mobile.

Headquarter to world leading companies

Hong Kong’s unique geographical location (close to China), economic position and the rule of law have led to major global companies to have their headquarters in Hong Kong, like: HSBC, ESPRIT, Cheung Kong Holdings (owns TOM, CK Life, ETSA, Powercor, CitiPower, Northern Gas UK, Wellington Electricity Distr. Net.), Hutchison (owns shipping ports across Europe, Americas, Asia, ME, Africa; 3 mobile carrier in Asia & Europe; Watsons – world’s largest drug store chain), Jardine Matheson (Mandarin Oriental, Dairy Farm), Crocodile Garments, Alibaba and thousands more. According to InvestHK’s latest brochure Hong Kong’s rankings are:

swapit-blog_investhkHong Kong’s Global Rankings

  • 1st World’s Freest Economy
    • Fraser Institute Economic Freedom of the World: 2013 Annual Report
  • 1st Index of Economic Freedom
    • The Wall Street Journal and Heritage Foundation, 2013
  • 1st Globalisation Index
    • Economist Intelligence Unit & Ernst & Young, 2013
  • 1st The Global Opportunity Index: Attracting Foreign Investment
    • Milken Institute, 2013

swapit-blog_alibabaIt is no surprise that Alibaba – the Chinese ecommerce leader who is now challenging Amazon globally, just announced it will launch a HKD $1bln (USD $130M) foundation to invest into Hong Kong entrepreneurs. Alibaba said in their statement:

“Through the Foundation, Hong Kong entrepreneurs will have access to financial capital, technical assistance and training so they can realize their dreams and visions. Alibaba hopes that the resources provided by the Foundation will help unleash Hong Kong’s potential for innovation and entrepreneurship”

In fact, Hong Kong is full of exciting startups that chose Hong Kong as their launch pad for their product.

swapit-blog_uberAt the same time Uber – the US startup that disrupts the taxi industry world-wide and is valued at US$41 bln – has launched its very own new service Uber Cargo exclusively in Hong Kong. Of all places, also Uber chose Hong Kong to launch their new service and show the world how a new business model applied to an existing industry & market can work in an efficient way that makes customers happy and provide a superior service.

Hong Kong is the right place to launch a new product or startup that wants to either succeed locally, launch into China or it comes from China and wants to launch into the rest of the world.

swapit-blog_7m-pplHong Kong’s Market of 7 Million Consumers

Hong Kong is our launch base for swapit because it makes sense. The location is right, people’s mindset is ready, smartphone penetration is high, and most importantly the local market with its 7 million inhabitants is large enough for swapit to gain traction and even be profitable.

Have you signed up for the invite-only swapit beta yet? If not, request your invite here: http://swapit.la

Sources used in this article: