Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt expressed his interest in helping Hong Kong’s technology start-ups during his recent visit to Hong Kong to seal a partnership with the Chinese University of Hong Kong Business School. The partnership aims to support students and young entrepreneurs through providing mentorship and incubation support for their start-up businesses.
Schmidt believes Hong Kong is a strategically important place to do business and it will remain so in the future: “What is Hong Kong going to be in the next 50 years? It is going to be the gateway to China. It has been in the last 50 years. This is not a new insight. So what will happen is that entrepreneurship here will never do something just for Hong Kong; it will do everything for Greater China.”
He complimented on the native entrepreneurial culture as a positive force: “I’m sure if each of you calls your family and say ‘I want to make a fortune,’ your family will support you. That’s the history of the region.”
Schmidt said Hong Kong has been one of history’s most successful incubators for entrepreneurs and Google has in fact been considering setting up an incubator or endowment to help Hong Kong with its technology start-ups.
However, he does recognize the many challenges that the society presents. “The downside is that there is not a big enough software industry. You have many other industries, but your lack of software and science start-ups will hurt you in terms of your global ambitions,” he said, adding that Hong Kong needs more than just service industries.
Another obstacle that Hong Kong has to overcome is people’s mindset.
“There is a certain aspect of the culture where people don’t want to be different. And I think it’s important to understand that in order to succeed, you have to be different,” he said. “You have to do something very different, and the culture needs to accept that.”
An additional challenge is the lack of risk-seeking, early-stage funding. Schmidt pointed out that historically, among the great family businesses in Hong Kong, most of the entrepreneurs were self-financed. Today, the business landscape has changed, and “convincing people that the venture model works is important,” he said. “Remember, only one out of 10 venture projects turn out to be really successful. So, the odds are against you, but because you are an entrepreneur, you will be that one out of the 10.”
By Louisa Wah Hansen