Business / Companies

Hong Kong flourishes as startup hub

By Deng Yanzi in Hong Kong (China Daily) Updated: 2015-08-31 13:02

The letters "DJI" stir both pride and regret among Hong Kong's technology community.

Now considered the world's largest consumer drone manufacturer with a $10 billion valuation, DJI Technology Co was founded in 2006 by Frank Wang Tao in his dorm room at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, but it is now headquartered in Shenzhen, in neighboring Guangdong province.

Its departure is largely considered Hong Kong's most regrettable "loss", according to local entrepreneurs - but there is now news of a potential U-turn.

Earlier this year DJI returned to its roots and set up a research and development office in Hong Kong Science Park, in the hope of attracting some of the city's brightest young IT experts, and gaining access to the global market.

Michael Perry, its director of communications, told the South China Morning Post the company is planning to utilize its "huge talent base" to take on engineers with expertise in robotics.

Its recruitment drive is considered ambitious.

According to ManpowerGroup's latest Talent Shortage Survey, engineering and IT vacancies are the second-and third-hardest positions to fill in Hong Kong. As a result, firms are having to lure people in increasing numbers from abroad to fill the skills gap.

Hong Kong is still considered one of the world's most open markets and easiest places to do business, and its officials have been working hard to position the city as a "super-connector" that bridges the Chinese mainland with Asia Pacific and beyond.

In recent months, the former Texas-based Hanson Robotics Inc also announced it was relocating to Hong Kong. The manufacturer of humanoid robots said it viewed the city's cutting edge in robotics design and its proximity to the production bases of southern China as key to the decision.

"Hong Kong is the best place in the world for design work and for manufacturing in southern China. There are many parts of the world that are pretty good, but there is just such a high concentration in Hong Kong," said David Hanson, its founder and chief technology officer.

The Hong Kong government has also stepped up its efforts to attract international talent.

Starting in May, it launched a "startup visa" initiative for foreign investors interested in taking part in certain incubation programs.

Erica Young, the founder of robotics startup Intuitive Automata and now chief product officer of Insight Robotics, said she remembers the hassles involved in obtaining visas when she first came to Hong Kong seven years ago, when the government had no experience of offering visas to startups planning to invest there.

According to Invest Hong Kong, the government's foreign direct investment promotion agency, 40 percent of its startup founders are originally outsiders. Hong Kong returnees make up 7 percent, while half of all founders are born and raised there.

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