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The Only Way is Up

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Diversity and quality was evident among the 100 start-up contestants

It took Hong Kong entrepreneur Kevin Wong just 60 seconds to convince investors of the merits of his idea.

Now, the newly renamed Elevator Pitch Competition, EPiC, (formerly the Elevator World Tour) returns to Hong Kong in November, offering 100 selected start-ups the chance to pitch their ideas in a 60-second elevator ride at the International Commerce Centre, Hong Kong’s tallest skyscraper. The contestants will compete for the chance to win an investment prize of up to US$120,000.

Albert Wong
Albert Wong, CEO of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, launches the 2016 Elevator World Tour, which was hotly contested by some 400 applicants

Organised by the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP), the innovative international start-up event debuted in the city last year, attracting more than 400 applications from teams primarily located in Hong Kong, but also from Taiwan, the Chinese mainland, United States, Canada and France. 

One by one, entrepreneurs enter the elevator with a panel of judges and outline their business plan during the swift ride to the top. After follow-up pitching from 10 finalists, Hong Kong start-up Origami Labs – headed by Kevin Wong – was declared the champion for its product ORii, the first wireless audible device in a ring that turns your hand into a smartphone in a practical and stylish way.
 
“Discreet and fashionable, this smart ring lets you listen to a phone call and talk to your voice assistant [such as Siri] just by placing your finger on your ear,” explained Albert Wong, CEO of HKSTP.

Valuable Exposure

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Judges commend the ideas and talent unveiled during the prestigious event

Apart from taking home the winner’s prize – funding from professional investors – Kevin Wong said he received valuable exposure from the event, and connected to a diverse set of investors. As a result, the company also closed an investment deal with the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund. “They received around US$600,000 funding after winning last year’s elevator pitch,” said Albert Wong.

Other interesting business ideas also emerged during the event, he added.

“For example, one of the 10 finalists, Heartisans Ltd, is developing a new wearable wristband to ensure heart health and save lives. The prototype is already out and undergoing clinical trial in Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong.”

Another final 10 contestant, Platysens Ltd, develops sports wearables, including Marlin, a sensor-based analysis tool to enable open-water swimmers to improve their strokes. The product exceeded its US$20,000 crowdfunding goal after receiving more than US$37,000 from a Kickstarter campaign. Founded by engineers and sports enthusiasts, Platysens has been part of the HKSTP Incu-Tech programme since 2014, and was named a 2017 CES Innovation Award Honoree for its debut product.

 

   
 Now Hear This

 
 

Origami Labs, Hong Kong’s 2016 Elevator Tour winner, was established in November 2015 by a group of four Hong Kong University of Science and Technology graduates.

Co-founder and CEO Kevin Wong said the idea for ORii began as a solution for his visually-impaired father, who had difficulty using screen-based smart devices. “ORII is a ring that combines bone conduction technology and your smartphone's voice assistant, letting you talk and hear through your finger,” he explained. Connecting via Bluetooth, the device can also be used to open apps and dictate messages.

Mr Wong said that the most difficult part of the 60-second elevator pitch was “reading between the lines” with the judges.

He advises this year’s contestants to “use simple language to get them to understand what you do,” he said. “Don’t try to cram in too many points – it’s better to hammer home the core message and deliver that in a creative way.” Mr Wong also took 15 seconds to demonstrate the ring, and let the judges test it for themselves.

The US$600,000 that Origami Labs raised, excluding grants, all came from Hong Kong-based investors engaged in global business.

Orii launches in the local market in July, with global distribution soon to follow.

 
   


 

Kevin Wong
Kevin Wong, CEO of Origami Labs, pitches his business plan to potential investors in the elevator of ICC, Hong Kong’s tallest tower
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Orii, a voice-enabled wireless ring from Hong Kong’s Origami Labs, turns your hand into a smartphone

Elite Three

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Entrepreneurs prepare for their turn to impress judges at the 2016 World Elevator Tour in Hong Kong

Elevator World Tour is a worldwide start-up contest that runs literal elevator pitches in some of the world’s most iconic buildings. To date, three cities have hosted the event in their landmark architecture, including Toronto’s CN tower, the Azrieli Tower in Tel Aviv, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Last year, Hong Kong was chosen as the only stop in Asia to host this unique event.

In today’s increasingly crowded start-up scene, Albert Wong said that acquiring the skill to convince potential investors is fundamental, and that “learning to tell your story in a compelling way becomes indispensable.”


HKSTP, which seeks to help start-ups move their ideas from drawing boards to the market, is “proud to bring this prestigious event to Hong Kong as we believe entrepreneurs in the region will benefit greatly from this event,” he added.

Nathan Millard, CEO of G3 Partners, an Asia start-up PR specialist covering the event, added that Orii wasn’t the only winner of the 2016 event.
 
“The event demonstrated to me that Hong Kong is indeed becoming an important and uniquely placed start-up hub in Asia. Just an hour’s drive from the world’s hardware development capital, Shenzhen, Hong Kong plays a critical bridging role between the wild waters of the Chinese market and the rest of the world,” he said.

Rich Pool of Resources

Start-ups feel a sense of confidence, armed with a legal Hong Kong entity, offering both a buffer from and access to China,” Mr Millard continued. “And in HKSTP, both local and foreign entrepreneurs are given many of the recourses they need for the early stages of company development. This includes funding, office space, connections and coaching.”

What also impressed Mr Millard at last year’s event was the wide diversity and quality of the start-ups that pitched.

“In many areas, Hong Kong start-ups are developing interesting solutions to real problems – and doing it well,” he said. “From software and hardware, robotics, IoT, big data, to materials, wearables, biotech and some Fintech, Hong Kong has a wide range of start-ups and an increasingly diverse start-up community.”

At the event, Phillipe Telio, founder and President, STARTUPFEST, said that, looking at the city through the eyes of an outsider, “I see Hong Kong as a city that is perfect for a wide variety of tech start-ups to launch their breakout product or to grow their business.”

The talent shown during the event demonstrated that Hong Kong start-ups have what it takes to compete on the global level, Mr Telio observed.
 
“Hong Kong has unique advantages such as its close ties with China, logistics capacity, as well as easy access to funds and investors, making it an ideal hub for start-ups to scale up their operations for the long run,” he said. “Hong Kong has a bright future ahead of it as a ‘scale-up’ hub – a place where start-ups come to grow beyond the seed stage. I am excited about its prospects.”

Albert Wong noted that the atmosphere for innovation and technology development in Hong Kong has grown significantly in recent years, attracting a number of world-class R&D institutes to establish a presence in the city. Worldwide, he said, Hong Kong is the fifth fastest-growing start-up ecosystem and the 25th largest overall, according to the Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking 2015 study by the San Francisco-based research firm Compass. Currently, there are close to 2,000 businesses in Hong Kong’s dynamic start-up ecosystem.

EPiC Returns in November

The 2017 Elevator Pitch Competition (EPiC) will be held, 2 November, at the International Commerce Centre (ICC). Local and international companies that are less than five years old as of 24 April 2017, with a focus on technology areas, including but not limited to robotics, healthy ageing, smart city and Fintech, are welcome to apply.

Selected start-ups will undergo a wide range of activities, including trainings, workshops and boot-camps, leading up to the event, to help prepare their pitch.

A statutory body, the HKSTP is the largest technology incubator in Hong Kong. To date, it has groomed 470 incubatees, which between them, have filed 931 IPs (including patent, trademark and registered design), won 469 awards for technical design and/or project management, and completed more than 400 successful angel/VC investment cases, totalling more than HK$1.7 million.

Related Links
Elevator Pitch Competition
Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation
Orii

Content provided by Hong Kong Trade Development Council
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