Hong Kong

Asia-Pacific’s Leading Disruptors 2019: Hong Kong

FinanceAsia is showcasing the entrepreneurs who are leading the wave of technological disruption across the region. Here we look at Hong Kong.

In line with our mission to shed light on the many investment opportunities popping up across Asia and Australasia, FinanceAsia is showcasing the entrepreneurs who are leading the wave of technological disruption in different countries and across a range of sectors.

Their companies range in size and maturity, but these people share a common drive and vision to compete against established institutions, whether in financial services, retail, energy, robotics, or logistics, to name just a few of the industries featured.

Following our methodology, we have selected five entrepreneurs from each of Asia Pacific's largest economies. Today, we look at Hong Kong.

HONG KONG

Despite its small size, the Special Administrative Region is home to many of Asia’s top tech and robotics startups. For the most part, Hong Kong’s startups are focused on the local market, driven equally by passion and economic gain.

DENNIS WU

Company: Futu Securities

Headquarters: Hong Kong

Year founded: 2013

Industry: Banking

Prominent backers: Tencent

Wu founded trading platform Futu Securities in 2013. Armed with the advantages of efficiency and lower costs, the online brokerage service is looking to supplant traditional banking firms inside and outside China.

At the 2017 LendIt Summit, Wu noted that fintech firms must leverage data to disrupt the traditional wealth management sector. “By analysing the stocks and information that our users look at, we can determine what kind of products they will be interested in,” the entrepreneur said.

Wu depended on word of mouth to grow Futu. For the first two years, the company spent nothing on marketing and instead focused on product design. 

The strategy was a success. With a war chest from Tencent, the firm provides investment services through its digital platform NiuNiu and, in its second-quarter financial results, claims just over 600,000 clients.

Futu was the first Chinese online broker, but the field is quickly filling with competitors such as 9f Securities. To up the ante and expand, Wu launched wealth management component Money Plus in August.

The new service expands the range of investment opportunities available and offers exposure to fixed income and equity funds as well as a highly customisable model of picking trades. Futu customers can switch funds to their stock trading accounts.

ETHAN LIN

Company: Klook

Headquarters: Hong Kong

Year founded: 2014

Industry: Travel

Prominent backers: Sequoia Capital, Softbank Vision Fund

Lin is co-founder and chief executive officer of sightseeing booking platform Klook, a portmanteau word made up of "Keep Looking".

The Hong Konger spent the majority of his career at Citi Investment Bank before striking out on his own. He met co-founders Eric Gnock and Bernie Xiong through LinkedIn. The trio saw a frustration for travellers in the fragmentation of services once they reached their destination and launched Klook in 2014.

The company, with an integrated QR code redemption system available in nine languages, provides discounted services to tourists in popular places around the world.

Despite the global reach, most of Klook’s offerings are in Asia. “Southeast Asia has always been an important region for Klook,” Lin said recently.

To give a sense of the scale of its ambitions, Klook is already well on the way to its target of 60 million bookings for this year. Most recently, the bookings platform raised $225 million in Series D funding in April. This brings the total funding raised to more than $500 million, the majority in the last year and a half.

Lin grew up in the US, mainland China and Hong Kong, and has travelled to more than 30 countries. His experiences abroad sparked a passion for hospitality and real estate that manifested itself in Klook. 

The entrepreneur’s global ambitions are being realised through a series of strategic partnerships around the world, including Rail Europe and West Japan Railway Company earlier this year. Klook has won a Google’s Best of the Year award and also received commendations from the Apple app store.

SHING CHOW

Company: Lalamove

Headquarters: Hong Kong

Year founded: 2013

Industry: Transportation

Prominent backers: Shunwei Capital, Hillhouse Capital Group

Chow is the chief executive officer of on-demand delivery provider Lalamove. The Stanford University graduate founded EasyVan, the precursor to Lalamove, in 2013 after leaving a management consulting job at Bain & Company. 

Six years on, Lalamove is a logistics app with more than 15 million users and a fleet of 2 million driver partner operated cars, vans and motorcycles spread across Southeast Asia, Mainland China and India. The company completed its Series D funding in February. More than just securing another $300 million in funding, this round vaulted Lalamove to unicorn status.

XU LI

Company: Sensetime

Headquarters: Hong Kong, Beijing

Year founded: 2014

Industry: Technology

Prominent backers: Temasek Holdings, Softbank Vision Fund

Xu and his Sensetime co-founders are not typical businessmen. They are a group of 11 academics from the Chinese University of Hong Kong that Xu met while completing his doctorate in 2010. 

The company has developed powerful facial recognition software used by the Chinese government and private companies alike for security and intelligence gathering.

Sensetime is often misidentified as a mainland Chinese company and this reveals how Xu has leveraged opportunities on both side of the border to grow the company. While most research is carried out in Hong Kong, the majority of its commercial contracts lie northwards.

MICHAEL CHAN and FRED NGAN

Company: Bowtie

Headquarters: Hong Kong

Year founded: 2018

Industry: Insurance, Technology

Prominent backers: Sun Life Financial, Pony Ma

Chan and Ngan are the co-founders of Hong Kong’s first virtual insurance company. The pair share a corporate background – Chan worked for PwC in New York, while Ngan travelled around the world as an EY consultant – but both saw the potential what is known as insur-tech.

Bowtie belongs to a new generation of insurance providers. Most Bowtie customers are under the age of 30; more than 70% of whom are purchasing insurance for the first time. 

 

 

 

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