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A Melting Pot of Minds – Why HK is the World’s Best Place to do Business

By Stasia Fong 8 November 2013
  The World Bank’s Annual Competitiveness Survey recently named Hong Kong as the world’s best place to run a business. While our city may not be a lush farming ground for cultivating seafood or agriculture, Hong Kong has the perfect climate for fostering an equally lucrative industry, the industry of entrepreneurship. We take a look at the local support system for new start-up businesses and discuss the reasons why creativity flourishes and thrives in the Fragrant Harbour. The Landscape Last month, the World Bank’s Doing Business 2014 report crowned Hong Kong as the world’s best city to start a business (tied at the top with Singapore). To decide the table, which has seen the two rival Asian financial hubs at the top for the past eight years, the survey compares countries against a number of factors that indicate the ease with which a new business can be started. There are endless resources available to budding entrepreneurs in Hong Kong, and it’s no surprise that there has been a soaring increase in the number of startups here in recent years. Figures released by StartUpsHK state that their members have sky rocketed from just six in 2009 to 5,000 in 2012, and continue to grow month by month. Hong Kong’s Education Post are avid supporters of entrepreneurship in Hong Kong, offering a great deal of educational resources, course finding services and articles on the inspirational success stories of those who have already made it. Jin Wong, the publication’s digital marketing executive, said a number of factors combine to make our city the perfect place to start a business. “Hong Kong has a very active business community with plenty of outreach events to provide everyone with networking opportunities,” she told Localiiz. “Organisations such as the SME Creativity Center and StartUpsHK have been incredible catalysts in nurturing the entrepreneurship community, which was virtually non-existent a few years ago. Hong Kong also has a simple tax system and low profits tax rates of 15% - 16.5%, leaving startups with more disposable cash flow and income. The convenient transportation system and international airport that connects with regional financial and travel hubs make it easy for citizens to travel for business and leisure.”  
  Outside Investment Hong Kong is one of the world’s biggest hubs for international business and trade, helped by the fact that we sit in the perfect time-zone position to traverse both Asian and Western markets. With such an attractive and practical environment, huge multi-national corporations have not been slow to recognise the advantages of teaming up with Hong Kong. Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt plans to “tap into Hong Kong’s natively entrepreneurial culture and help incubate startups in partnership with a local university.” While this deal is still in the works, it is hoped that Google’s investment will encourage students to take on entrepreneurial roles and expand Hong Kong’s start-up culture even more.  
  Government Support The thriving sector is helped largely by the government’s smart business-minded policies and spending schemes, which strongly support entrepreneurship, especially within the technology sector. The Cyberport Entrepreneurship Centre, for example, offers help to Information and Communications Technology start-ups, providing financial assistance, support and other professional services through the government-funded Cyberport Creative Microfund scheme. Other programmes aim to expand entrepreneurial culture by encouraging competition and creativity. Government-supported InvestHK recently spearheaded StartmeupHK, which launched the innovative Venture Programme, providing 12 finalist entrepreneurs from around the world with an opportunity to pitch to potential investors, find mentors, network and attend trade shows. The aim is to attract the world’s most pioneering business minds and cultivate their talent in Hong Kong.  
  Setting Up Shop Co-work centres in Hong Kong are also helping open doors for entrepreneurs, eliminating the burden of the city’s notorious high rents and ultimately lowering barriers to entry and operation costs. Hong Kong Commons houses more than 60 companies in its shared office spaces in Sheung Wan and Lai Chi Kok, while some co-work centres such as Bridges Executive Centre also offer new businesses help with company formation, tax, visa and immigration and even staffing services. Compass Offices provides similar services, alongside website development, marketing and design, while other notable co-work centres include Retro Spot, The Hive and CoCoon.  
  Skilling Up The importance of training should also not be underestimated in Hong Kong’s competitive business sector, with the Education Post recommending entrepreneurs consider MBAs, which give students insider knowledge on how to run a business while providing something to fall back on if the worst occurs. Register for the Education Post Newsletter and claim a free cuppa from Pacific Coffee Company while enjoying access to 2,000 courses and 200 listed institutions, as well as insightful editorials from both the Education Post and South China Morning Post. If an MBA is out of your price range however, there are a few more affordable options on the market. General Assembly will take you through the basics of entrepreneurship in their Introduction to Hong Kong Startup Community Class, while other specialist courses provide in-depth training in the communication, digital and design realms. Their course listings are constantly updated, so be sure to check out their website for current listings. iEdge Consulting also offers some great programmes for business start-ups, such as the Innovation Management course, designed to help entrepreneurs foster creativity, work on strategies and focus their ideas.  
  Embracing the Community If you have a promising business idea in the works, Hong Kong is the perfect city to turn it into a reality. With the amount of available resources growing constantly, entry barriers are continually lowered. Our advice: make the most of the programmes offered and, most importantly, seek guidance from your fellow Hong Kong entrepreneurs. The road to success is long, but if navigated correctly it can be an extremely rewarding, and hopefully lucrative, journey. As CEO of Google Eric Schmidt puts it, “There’s a myth that entrepreneurs work by themselves. In fact, they are members of an ecosystem of people who help them.”

While much of it is already in place, the infrastructure for entrepreneurs in Hong Kong is growing and improving every day. All you have to do is bring your idea to the table.

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Born in Singapore and raised in Hong Kong, Stasia Fong is a freelance writer with dreams of breaking into the television industry and executive produce her own television show.