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Startups

Hong Kong emerges as Asian startup hub

Up-and-coming companies in the city rise 18% to more than 2,600

A simulation using QR code and facial recognition technology for border crossing is shown during a Tencent forum at Hong Kong Science Park in Hong Kong in June 2018.
A simulation using QR code and facial recognition technology for border crossing is shown during a Tencent forum at Hong Kong Science Park in Hong Kong in June 2018.   © Reuters

HONG KONG -- Hong Kong is quickly becoming a center for startups in Asia, with 2,625 such businesses operating here as of November, up 18% from 2017, government data showed.

The number of people working at startups surged about 50% over the same period to 9,548 amid generous government support geared to promoting entrepreneurship. The city's investment promotion agency compiled the data based on tenant lists from major coworking spaces and startup-incubation facilities.

Financial technology companies accounted for 16% of the tally, with e-commerce and distribution businesses making up 11% and consulting services 11%. Hong Kong natives accounted for 62% of the founders, with 17% from the U.K., 16% from the U.S. and 12% from mainland China.

The Hong Kong government has been offering tax and other incentives to help entrepreneurs in an effort to ease the economy's dependence on the financial and real estate sectors. As a result, the number of startups has more than doubled in four years. GoGoVan, a smartphone app that lets users order delivery via van, is among the rising stars, as is mobile pay company TNG.

There are challenges for Hong Kong as it works to catch up to neighboring Shenzhen in the mainland, home to many promising startups.

As a global financial hub, Hong Kong affords entrepreneurs access to world-class universities and investors. But higher rents and labor costs are some of the factors working against it, in addition to a general lack of entrepreneurial spirit among young people, according to some.

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