American Expat Helps Hong Kong Startups Find Footing
Thursday, March 10, 2011
The Hong Kong social enterprise scene is just getting going–and so is the startup movement. A cofounder of StartupsHK and BootHK, Jonathan Buford, tells Fast Company that it all comes down to one word: community.
With the lure of the safety and comforts that come with a high-paying job with one of Hong Kong’s many financial industry leaders, recent graduates almost never consider joining an early-stage startup right after graduating. That combined with family pressure has made for a tough climate for entrepreneurs in Hong Kong. And those who do break out of the mold can’t find people to hire for their startups. But the climate is slowly changing, thanks to groups like StartupsHK and BootHK, which provide social support for budding entrepreneurs.
“The biggest opportunity in Hong Kong is actually in more traditional areas, like manufacturing, but helping to bridge manufacturing with technology,” says Buford. “There’s a market gap between rapid prototyping and manufacturing. Seed funding is another problem, because people get stuck doing consulting work.”
Buford himself is at work on a startup called Makible that crowdsources ideas and then does low-volume production. His aim is to address the gap between the need for a demo product and the usual constraints that says in order to do any manufacturing one must produce at least 1,000 prototypes, for example.
Buford is originally from Cartersville, Georgia, but his entrepreneurial peers are a mix of local Hong Kongese, Hong Kongese who’ve returned from abroad, and those from Europe and other countries in Asia.