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Project Happiness

Nearly 150 start-ups have applied to take part in the start-up competition, the Super Happiness Challenge, which is looking for innovative business ideas on making the world a happier place

On a mission to make the world a happier place by championing start-ups and ideas with a positive social impact, the Super Happiness Challenge is a start-up competition from a global movement established to help people achieve happier lives through specific actions and create a global happiness ecosystem.

Sammy Lee, Chief Invisible Officer of Project HeHa, was inspired to set up the initiative last year after noticing that Hong Kong’s Happiness Index has been dropping in recent years. Project HeHa is named after the Chinese word “爽” (shuang), which means to live in a state of deep, fundamental and sustainable happiness.

Under the project’s “5+1+Others” happiness framework – comprising health, family, work, friends and leisure – “1” stands for “mindset,” including positive thinking and mindfulness, while “Others” stands for additional habits that contribute to Super Happiness. The term “super happiness” was first coined by Noble Peace Prize Winner Professor Muhammad Yunus. The Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, who pioneered the concept of lending to the poor through microcredit,  promoted the idea of deriving personal happiness from making others happy. “Both initiatives show that there is a demand to attain a level of happiness that is sustainable, fulfilling, and beyond the momentary day-to-day happiness,” says Eric Ng, Managing Director of Happiness.

Eric Ng
Eric Ng, Managing Director, Happiness Capital

“The pursuit of happiness hasn’t changed over time and has been one of our fundamental needs for centuries, even as advanced technology keeps on bringing numerous changes to our lives every day,” says Eric Ng, Managing Director of Happiness Capital, one of the project backers, The venture capital (VC) firm is prepared to invest up to US$1 million in the right start-up for the Super Happiness project.

Project HeHa also received support from Hong Kong innovation incubator Nest and Singularity University (SU), a Silicon Valley-based global learning and innovation community. “In addition to helping with the creation, moderation and judging, SU is helping promote the challenge to our 135,000-member global community in 119 countries to help source great solutions that will positively impact people around the globe,” says Nick Davies, Vice President for Corporate Innovation at Singularity University.

Lawrence Morgan
Lawrence Morgan, CEO of Nest

Lawrence Morgan, CEO of Nest, says over the past five years, he has noticed a trend towards businesses offering a socially positive impact. “Most people get a buzz out of making other people happy and so why wouldn’t we enable more entrepreneurs to do this? We share this common interest with the teams at Project HeHa and Happiness Capital and are proud to be involved in their first initiative.”

To date, nearly 300 start-ups have applied, with a wide range of business ideas, including helping single mothers through micro-loans and assisting NGOs to look for philanthropic donors, says Mr Ng. The competition is split into two sections: Idea track and Startup track, with individuals and start-up teams encouraged to apply to one of the two streams, depending on the maturity of the business. Five finalists from each section will compete in the final pitch competition, and the teams will receive one-on-one coaching the day before the event.

“We hope to see some unique and meaningful ideas and start-ups that have a great social impact on making the world a happier place. Those participating in the Idea track must submit pitches that are creative, yet realistic and executable, while those competing in the Startup track must have a mission to promote happiness,” says Mr Ng. “Guided by the Project HeHa “5+1+Others” happiness framework, businesses can be platforms fostering networks, communities, software and hardware solutions, and anything in between. Start-ups should have a disruptive element to their business to enable scale, whether it’s through the technology used, or through its business model,” he adds.

Measuring Happiness

Mr Ng believes the Super Happiness Challenge will differ from other start-up competitions through combining purpose and profit. “Our aim is to help the brightest entrepreneurs and innovators build real businesses that also have a positive impact on people globally,” he said. “Happiness is hard to quantify, and people experience varying levels of happiness, which makes success difficult to measure. We want Project HeHa and Happiness Capital to be at the forefront of a movement to leverage innovation and technology to help the world be a happier place.”

Hong Kong Embraces the Brief

Mr Morgan says Nest wants to help celebrate businesses at the forefront of delivering positive impact to people and communities worldwide. “By showcasing success stories, we hope to inspire other entrepreneurs and enable them to believe they can make money while also doing something good. Our experience is that this socially positive element of a business can manifest in a variety of ways. From technology that connects people socially through to fundamental infrastructures that provide underprivileged people with a better quality of life – happiness cannot be created with a one-size-fits-all solution and so we are now seeing entrepreneurs interpret the brief to provide happiness in a whole spectrum of different ways.”

The challenge is underway, with applications open since 22 May. Registration ends on 17 August, after which 30 shortlisted applicants will be chosen, from which finalists will be chosen to pitch on 20 October in the United States.

Related Links

Project HeHa

Super Happiness Challenge
Singularity University


Content provided by Hong Kong Trade Development Council
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