25 October 2016
Weaknesses like lack of originality and inadequate focus on content often become a glass ceiling for Hong Kong startups.
Weaknesses like lack of originality and inadequate focus on content often become a glass ceiling for Hong Kong startups.

Hong Kong startups: How they go wrong

Original ideas have not been a strong point of Hong Kong’s startups.

Rather than show creativity and build ground-breaking ventures, most startups here have merely borrowed ideas from overseas firms and sought to create Hong Kong versions of the foreign businesses, columnist Yung Chi-wai Hong wrote in the Hong Kong Economic Journal.

Yung noted that he had seen people trying to create the local or regional versions of Groupon, Uber or Bitcoin, and that he wouldn’t be surprised to come across a Pokémon Go wannabe soon.

The lack of originality is the reason why Hong Kong startups cannot break the glass ceiling and attain huge success, he says.

“In a lot of cases, after witnessing other people’s success, local startups decide to set out and build a similar business,” Yung noted. “But isn’t that too little, too late?”

“If you want to follow others’ lead, at least try to get in before anybody has made it. Only by going through gut-wrenching failures can a startup possibly reach some kind of breakthrough.”

Another problem with Hong Kong is the lack of enough focus on content.

“Be it technology, products or platforms, they can all be easily copied, or challenged, but content is different,” said Yung.

Startups, for instance, might be able to develop an app with augmented reality technology, but they don’t have Pokémon and that’s why they will never be able to launch a monster-hit game like Pokémon Go, the columnist noted.

Content is hard to switch, but changing for a different platform is relatively easy and involves little cost.

Equally important, for startups to enjoy a greater chance of success, they need to pick industries they have a natural edge, Yung emphasized.

Again using the Pokémon example, Yung said that if a Pokemon patent owner turns a cartoon it owns into a game it will represent a clear exploitation of its unique resources.

However, if a person with no background in real estate business seeks to build a virtual reality service that helps people buy overseas property, the venture would more likely fail because a key piece of the puzzle is missing.

Although the idea is valid and the need is probably there, the VR technology is hardly unique and developers or property agents can easily find other suppliers of the technology.

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EJ Insight writer

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