A business organization founded by Hong Kongers in London is launching a startup program to help new Hong Kong migrants establish businesses in the United Kingdom.
Hong Kong Business Hub, the organizer, unveiled the program in London on August 8. Successful applicants will each receive a minimum of $64,000 in equity investment, while total investment for the program is slightly more than $635,000.
Puifung Leung, co-founder and director of the Hong Kong Business Hub, said that many Hong Kongers who move to the U.K. are interested in entrepreneurship but might not be familiar with the local business environment. Many of the hub's members and potential program participants fled Hong Kong after 2019, when China began clamping down on the pro-democracy movement in the former British colony.
"They might have great ideas, but they might not have enough funds, experience, resources or knowledge to make it happen," Leung said. "Hong Kong Business Hub hopes to help these friends through this startup training program. They can get funds and directly introduce their products and services to the investor to explain why they need this funding."
'Go on a date'
The hub did not reveal the identity of the investor who, Leung said, wants to support Hong Kong entrepreneurs from behind the scenes.
She said the group would ensure sufficient time for matching the parties.
"The investor and investees need to go on a date," she said, explaining the process. "After they get to know each other, we play the role of a matchmaker. Once they get to know each other, then we will see if they can get married."
The program is supported by the Federation of Small Businesses and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, according to the Hong Kong Business Hub.
Founded in 2021, the hub aims to support, promote and connect Hong Kong entrepreneurs and companies developing in the U.K. and the U.S. Other co-founders include Simon Shen, an international relations scholar at Taiwan's National Sun Yat-sen University, and Patrick Woo, former head of the Department of Microbiology of the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong.
Eric Yung, the program director, said that the investor would secure a board seat in the startup that it is funding and may provide access to networks and advice, but it would not be involved in day-to-day management.
The investor's equity stake would be negotiated with the successful applicant, with the investor's ownership share usually not exceeding 20%, Yung said.
Successful participants could attend training and networking events for free and meet the potential investor, Yung said.
The program will be accepting applications through September 17. Applicants must have established their companies in 2020 or later, the founding team must hold at least half of the shares, and one of the founders must be a new migrant from Hong Kong who holds at least 30% of the company's shares.
A judging committee will review business elements and consider four additional factors for bonus points, including whether the business benefits the Hong Kong community and aligns with Hong Kong Business Hub core values. Successful applicants will be required to pay 1% of the investment amount as a referral fee to the hub to support the program's operation and development.
Yung estimated that dozens of companies would apply.
A new Hong Kong migrant who runs a cybersecurity company in the U.K., is among those interested in joining the incubation program. His company already participates in a mentorship program organized by the Hong Kong Business Hub for its members. He expects that other mentees will be interested as well.
"Companies who wish to develop and grow in the U.K. would gain funding and resources from an external investor, which will support our businesses in a good way," said the migrant, who asked that his name not be used for fear of retaliation against himself or his relatives still in Hong Kong.
The migrant told VOA Cantonese that while he was concerned about learning the identity of the investor, he would accept the initial mystery as long as he learned the name before any agreements were signed.
Another new migrant from Hong Kong, who did not want to reveal his identity, given his immigration status, is applying for asylum and has yet to start his business. He told VOA Cantonese that he believed the program would help those newly arrived Hong Kongers who want to embark on new path.
"It is a rare opportunity for us to work on our dreams after leaving Hong Kong, as we do not have enough funds, training and network," he said. "The program is a good entry point for people like me, who wish to start their own businesses and had to leave Hong Kong in a hurry."