Cyberport: The Key Indicators for Startup Success in the FinTech and Blockchain Industry
Backed by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), Cyberport has the vision to be the hub for digital technology for Hong Kong. With its headquarters located in the south of Hong Kong Island, Cyberport is spearheading Hong Kong’s FinTech development.
Blockchain.News met with Charles Lam, the senior manager of the FinTech and Blockchain Cluster at Cyberport; he explained to us the current FinTech and blockchain ecosystem in Cyberport and how it connects to the global FinTech network.
FinTech isn’t a new thing
Lam has been working in the traditional financial services industry in branding and marketing before joining Cyberport. During his employment in Invesco, he was involved in a project where the company was planning to purchase one of the largest robo-advisors.
With extensive experience working in the wealth technology and wealth management sector for several years, and he added, “FinTech isn’t a new thing for me.”
However, the biggest leap he mentioned was the culture of working in private companies and then moving to onboard with a semi-government entity – Cyberport, a lot of adjustments have been made. He said, “In the past, I’ve always only been working with one company. Here, I’ve been able to reach out to all the start-ups, and all the companies in Cyberport. I am able to help them in a greater and better scope of work.”
Cyberport: Injecting that digital element for Hong Kong
Cyberport supports an innovative digital community with about 1400 technology companies and is wholly owned by the HKSAR.
Cultivating a Diversity of FinTech Innovations. Cyberport: Hong Kong's Leading FinTech Community
“Our role is very simple. First of all, we’re non-profit, all the work we create or those we work on is to provide well-being for Hong Kong companies, and for the Hong Kong economy, to inject that digital element into the new blood for Hong Kong.”
He added, “we want to help the old economy to integrate with the new one. We want to cultivate new talent. Because of our unique background, we can help other companies and to put on the ‘government hat’ to create new products and new programs to facilitate this kind of collaboration.”
Empowering FinTech startups
Every year, over 700 companies compete for the 130 spots in the incubation programme by Cyberport. The programme supports entrepreneurs and start-ups with resources to accelerate the growth and expansion of their company. Lam said, “those who can join Cyberport’s incubation programme are already in a good spot.”
“There are usually two areas that we can provide support on, first – the funding side, such as connecting them with angel investors, VC or private equity funds, and the other - to help them get clients,” explained Lam.
Inspiring and Empowering FinTech Entrepreneurs. Cyberport: Hong Kong's Leading FinTech Community
Lam stated that major banks have reached out to Cyberport to look for solutions, “we will try to understand what they are looking for and match them with the start-ups here. For example, we will have a bank with 40 representatives visiting us; all of them are holding senior management positions of different business units. They will specify their unique pain points. During the day, we will provide innovation disruption and knowledge sharing on all parts of it.”
A design thinking workshop is also provided for the management to “change the culture from within.” Lam suggests that the senior management team also needs a cultural shift, a “disruption to their mind,” to be able to understand how to integrate innovation in their daily work to make the company and processes more efficient.
Key criteria for Cyberport incubatees
The key areas that Lam explained that are indicators of successful start-ups incubated at Cyberport include the business domain knowledge of the founders and the core team.
Finding the right partners to form a team is critical and is an essential milestone for the company. Having an agile team is vital as the teams usually start off being very small, and each team member would be wearing ‘multiple hats.’ The management team will also need synergy, as each member will have different core strengths and strategies, and a dynamic team would be positive for the company.
Lam emphasized the importance of specialization – focusing on one area and becoming an expert on it. He believes that global expansion is inevitable, although he warns companies not to expand too quickly at the early stages.
Success stories: Accounting for 50% of unicorns in Hong Kong
When asked about success stories at Cyberport, Lam said, “in Hong Kong, there are currently eight unicorns, and four of them actually come from Cyberport. These include Gogovan, Klook, TNG, and WeLab.” A "unicorn" is a privately held startup company with a valuation of over $1 billion.
TNG, an e-wallet and incubated by Cyberport, gained popularity rapidly as it offers a range of cashless payment systems. TNG gained over 370,000 registered users within one year since its launch in 2015. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) granted TNG with a “Stored Value Facilities License” in 2016. TNG has been working on broadening its network of merchants, focusing mainly on food and beverage, retail, transportation, and healthcare sectors as a part of its mission to develop the next generation of a cashless e-payment society.
Lam also shed light on the success of TNG, a fast-growing peer-to-peer network that allows the transfer of money, “the last time we spoke with Alex [CEO of TNG], they are trying to get listed in New York.”
Another successful example explored was WeLab, one of the eight banks in Hong Kong that has received a virtual banking license. WeLab is a FinTech company disrupting the traditional financial services by creating seamless digital solutions. WeLab has been working closely with Cyberport to promote and facilitate FinTech developments in Hong Kong.
WeLend, a subsidiary of WeLab Holdings became a “Smart-Space” tenant and began to offer online loans while utilizing Big Data to analyze its customers’ credit data.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our exclusive interview with Charles Lam of Cyberport, where we explored the progress of crypto regulations and one of the most important emerging sectors in the crypto community.