Hong Kong's first and only startup ecosystem WHub enters India to leverage cross-border scaling
Karena Belin is a big believer in the statement that innovation and economic wealth are driven only by startups. She also made it part of the mission statement for WHub, a developed ecosystem of startups from Hong Kong that is now looking to build a bridge between the startups of Hong Kong and Bengaluru and strengthen the ties.
Karena, CEO and Founder of WHub, is keen on facilitating cross-border scaling between the two regions. Speaking to YourStory, she said,
"With regard to the vibrance and success of their ecosystems, Bengaluru and Hong Kong are very similar, with a strong core at their centers, which helps startups scale in a very short time."
With the intention to enable startups to grow out of their home markets, both from Hong Kong and Bengaluru, the WHub team is now actively participating in various tech and startup forums around the country.
Started in 2014 by Karena and Karen Content Farzam, WHub, as Karena puts it, is the first-ever startup community born out of Hong Kong, and it covers more than 80 percent of the startups in the area. It started as a job-listings platform, gradually growing to be an end-to-end connection and networking platform for startups to gain access to various venture resources, investors, talent, media, universities, and governments.
The community claims to have registered more than 2,800 startups, with 22,000 members and a reach of over two million people.
The co-founders have also launched an angel-investing platform AngelHub.io, which is reportedly the first and only crowdfunding platform for angel investing in Hong Kong. It is officially regulated and licensed by the Securities and Future Commission (SFC) of Hong Kong.
Only last month, both WHub and AngelHub raised $3 million from Kharis Capital and TNG FinTech Group, a fintech unicorn from Hong Kong.
Speaking of the culture and the mindset of the startup founders in Hong Kong, Karena referred to the companies' capabilities to quickly adapt to new and growing markets.
"This a great challenge and has its own consequences. These startups fail too early. But on the bright side, if you incorporate this growth mindset in your DNA early on, it does give the necessary competitive edge," she says.
She further talked about how easy the access to capital in Hong Kong was and the availability of high net-worth individuals (HNIs) across the region. The country has the highest density of HNIs across the world because of which startups are able to conveniently bootstrap or find angel investments.
During the later stages of growth, the region has PE-VC funding networks and the necessary infrastructure and scale to take the company till the IPO stage.
"But the bridge between angel/seed funding and institutional money was lacking, and 80 percent of startups failed on that account. We are trying to effectively bridge that gap," says Karena.
The startup ecosystem in Hong Kong
Being an international financial market and a hub for innovation and technology, Hong Kong has close access to the Greater Bay Area that has a GDP of $1,500 billion as of date, which is expected to hit $3,500 billion by 2025.
In the Greater Bay Area, Shenzhen is known as a hub for innovation, domestic finance, and hardware, and Guangzhou as an international business and trade centre. Macau, on the other hand, is a major centre for tourism, gaming, and hospitality and also a Portuguese-speaking business centre, while the Pearl River Delta is known for its advanced manufacturing.
With a population of 7.3 million people and the stronger sectors being Internet of Things (IoT), hardware, fintech, and healthtech, Hong Kong now has nine homegrown unicorns - SenseTime, WeLab, Lalamove, Tink Labs, BitMEX, GoGoVan, Klook, TNG Wallet, and AirWallex.
For fintech alone, the city has four unicorns that cumulatively add up to $8.5 billion in valuation, making Hong Kong the city with the highest unicorn density per capita across the world.
(Edited by Athirupa Geetha Manichandar)