Hong Kong is globally renowned as a thriving centre of financial activity, and has been tipped by research firm Astbury Marsden to be one of the leading generators of banking jobs in the next year. However, it may also soon come to be known as a hub of technological innovation, thanks to investment platform NEST.
NEST aims to help start-ups in the Hong Kong region take full advantage of the resources at their disposal, including the considerable local wealth, by offering seed capital of $500,000 HKD in addition to office space, technical support, legal assistance, branding expertise, and most importantly, access to strategic investors.
Currently focused on tech companies in the lifestyle space, NEST’s portfolio includes a restaurant review and recipe site, a events firm, and an experience gifting company. NEST founder and CEO Simon Squibb has lived in Hong Kong for 15 years, and understands that investing in a start-up ecosystem can seem “high risk and low return” in comparison to the many investment opportunities on offer in the financial sector.
That may be about to change, though; Squibb notes that angel investment and co-working spaces have become more popular in Hong Kong in the last year, an encouraging trend indeed. And high profile , high value start-ups like Tumblr and Pinterest are dispelling many of the doubts that traditional investors may have in what is still seen by many as an unknown quantity.
At present, NEST receives about 100 applications per month from struggling entrepreneurs. Many applicants are Hong Kong natives who have returned from their education in the States with a brilliant idea for an app or website, but can’t get financial backing from friends or family. Squibb acknowledges that Asian families can be “very security-oriented, so one edge that we do have at NEST is that we do give them money… Their business will be worth something and we try to build a structure, so even if it fails it will still have some value, even if it’s educational value.”
This “live and learn” approach to business development is something that Squibb values in an entrepreneur. When fielding applicants at their monthly pitch days, he and his team “look for people who have had experience, ideally someone who has failed once or twice before and who actually knows what building a start-up is like.”
Who knows, maybe NEST’s East-meets-West combination of inspiration and pragmatism will be what helps establish Hong Kong as the next Silicon Valley.