Date
25 March 2017
While Qianhai offers convenience and assistance to start-ups, a firm still needs to have a sound business plan and clear strategy to succeed in the long run, Peter Choi says. Photo: HKEJ
While Qianhai offers convenience and assistance to start-ups, a firm still needs to have a sound business plan and clear strategy to succeed in the long run, Peter Choi says. Photo: HKEJ

HK app developer sets foot in Qianhai

Young entrepreneurs often face three shortages: a shortage of money, a shortage of space and a shortage of connections.

Now the Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Youth Innovation and Entrepreneur Hub is providing solutions to these three shortages once and for all.

Eight months after it opened for business, more than 100 mainland and Hong Kong start-up firms have set themselves up in the hub.

Among them is Palapple, a Hong Kong tech company that develops phone apps.

Palapple founder Peter Choi, 34, has already developed countless phone apps, including one that provides one-stop services for weddings and one that sells dried seafood online.

Choi said the Hong Kong market is too small.

“Even though Hong Kong has laws that protect copyright, it doesn’t change the fact that our technological industry is being marginalized, and in order to survive we have to look beyond Hong Kong for new opportunities, no matter how painful it might be,” he said.

Mainland China is certainly the best choice for a first step when venturing outside Hong Kong, Choi said.

And across China, he said, there is no better place than Qianhai for start-ups.

However, things don’t always go smoothly.

“It is a ruthless market in the mainland,” Choi said.

“There are tech companies going out of business every day.

“Plagiarism is part of life.”

He said it often takes more than technical know-how to become truly competitive in the mainland market.

And then there are cultural differences, which often stand in the way of doing business.

“For example, when Uber, an American company, first entered China, they were not allowed to use Google Maps and had to use Amap instead,” Choi said.

“Uber had to localize all its apps to suit local operating conditions and even had to take care of the smallest details, such as the choice of words and fonts.” 

Choi also said it is often hard to hire people in the mainland.

Once, when he asked four candidates to come to an interview, only one of them turned up.

However, Choi said he still preferred to recruit IT professionals from the mainland, because they are often more innovative and have broader minds.

In contrast, fresh university graduates from Hong Kong vary a lot in terms of their competence.

So, Choi is determined to integrate into the mainland market and use Qianhai as a stepping stone to the Chinese heartland.

He believes the key to success in expanding a business in China, apart from money and innovation, is being well-connected.

Although Qianhai provides a great deal of angel funds and incubators for start-ups, Choi urged his fellow Hongkongers to think really carefully before taking the plunge and starting their own businesses in the mainland.

“Qianhai does offer a lot of convenience and assistance to start-ups, but you still need to have a sound business plan and clear strategy to succeed in the long run,” he said.

This article first appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 10.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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