Global accelerators and incubators set up Hong Kong branches to bring start-ups to the city, cultivate local ventures

Start-up accelerators and incubators are setting up offices in Hong Kong, as they aim to nurture dozens of global start-ups in collaboration with the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park (HSITP) to support the city’s goal to become an international tech hub.

ATLATL Innovation Centre – a Shanghai-headquartered biomedical research accelerator with offices in Beijing, Shenzhen and Singapore – will invest HK$50 million (US$6.39 million) in the next three years to build a team in Hong Kong and bring at least 20 start-ups to the city from around the world.

“Hong Kong has some of the top universities worldwide, and it has the scientific research capabilities and talent,” Joe Zhou, executive president at ATLATL, told the South China Morning Post recently.

“We hope to leverage the city’s existing advantages and provide it with a better platform to help these scientists release their innovations and make the transition to businesses more smooth and easier.”

From left to right: Zhu Pengcheng, founder and CEO of ATLATL, Ayhan Isaacs, head of global growth at Founder Institute, Vincent Ma, CEO of HSITP, and Joe Zhou, executive president at ATLATL. Photo: Handout

Founder Institute, the world’s largest pre-seed start-up accelerator and headquartered in California, also announced last week it would establish an office in Hong Kong and cultivate at least 100 global start-ups in the city per year, from sectors such as life science, big data and artificial intelligence.

The two companies are among over 60 world-class enterprises and academic and research institutes from the mainland, Hong Kong and around the world that forged a partnership with the HSITP last Thursday.

Twenty-four of them have vowed to set up shop in the city or expand their operations there, bringing in billions of dollars of investments and hundreds of jobs.

“There are a lot of individuals who understand the technical stuff … but they don’t understand the commercialisation,” said Ayhan Isaacs, head of global growth at Founder Institute.

“One of the things we’re hoping with the start-up incubation and acceleration programmes we plan on running with the HSITP or even independently is to bridge that gap,” he said. “The goal is to identify those strong founders, help develop their business and put them on the path to success.”

Both companies utilise a 300-hectare space provided by the HSITP located at the Lok Ma Chau Loop in the San Tin Technopole, which will serve as a working area for home-grown start-ups and overseas ventures that the incubators introduced to the city.

ATLATL plans to invite more scientific projects from mainland Chinese research institutions to set up branches in Hong Kong. It will also use its own venture funds to invest in local innovations by partnering with local schools, such as the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong, according to Zhou.

The companies hope that start-ups from around the world can benefit from Hong Kong’s unique position as a gateway to mainland China, and consider the city as a home for their business.

“Hong Kong has a lot of resources that you cannot get anywhere else, like taxation, easy environment for businesses and internationality,” said Isaacs. “I don’t think talent retention will be a challenge, as long as we make sure opportunities exist.”

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