Start-ups need government support (South China Morning Post, 14.1.2016)

SCMP_3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Start-ups need government support

In his policy address delivered this week, the chief executive outlined the strategies and direction for Hong Kong in the upcoming year (“Hong Kong chief executive emphasises economic measures and steers clear of political hot potatoes in 2016 policy address”, January 13). He devoted some time to supporting start-ups in Hong Kong, but there’s nothing new.

That doesn’t surprise me. As an entrepreneur, I don’t expect government handouts.  At the same time, I believe some attention is better than none. Nonetheless, I found four important startup DNA characteristics missing in the policy plan for “Asia’s World City”.

  • Lack of a global mindset:
    Apart from the mainland market, a lot of start-ups want to go global and scale up. However, other than the government’s beating the drum for entering the mainland market, little real support or polices for start-ups’ internationalisation are mentioned in the address.
  • Lack of diversity:
    In Hong Kong, the composition of members of different advisory committees or panels related to start-up policies lacks diversity in age, gender and race, which makes the city continue to lag behind the world pace. After all, the pecking order according to experience and seniority does not work in start-ups.
  • Disconnection between research and commercialisation:
    The Hong Kong government has been putting more and more resources into research and development in universities and research centres. However, we have never seen a successfully commercialised research project or a “billion-dollar startup-up”. Without commercialisation, research can’t have an impact on society.
  • Local products are not preferred:
    The government should use the products it promotes. If it does not back local products, how can others believe and give high marks to products made in Hong Kong? In fact, some products developed by local start-ups are quite mature and have strong customer bases already.

Overall, the policy address was supposed to be an indicator which sets the direction of the government’s policies on start-ups and entrepreneurship. However, we have only seen empty words instead of substantial measures on supporting start-ups.

If the government really wants to contribute to the start-up ecosystem in Hong Kong and create positive impact, it should cut red tape in addition to those high-level strategies. For example, paperless submission and documentation should be promoted, unnecessary procedures should be simplified, and approval time should be shortened.

Time and manpower are crucial to start-ups. I think every government should put itself in the shoes of start-up founders before claiming to foster the start-up ecosystem in its economy. Otherwise, only hindrance rather than help will be the result.

The opinions expressed are solely her own.

Original article was published on《South China Morning Post》on 14 Jan 2016