Wendy Kok, founder and chief executive of Joint Association to Develop Entrepreneurship (J.A.D.E.), likens investors in start-ups to fish in a pond. "If the fish thrive, investors will jump in."
Kok, an industry veteran with 18 years of experience in private equity, venture capital and angel investment, says she expects the group to bring in international mentors, global investors, and investment values to Hong Kong, where the start-up community deserves more global attention and exposure.
"Start-ups in Hong Kong are sometimes overlooked by international-class investors when compared with their peers on the mainland," says Kok. "It may be caused by misunderstanding of those investors who see Hong Kong as a market from which one cannot go global."
Kok founded the group after relocating to Silicon Valley last year. The non-profit organization aims to build up the Hong Kong start-up ecosystem by elevating innovators and investors through cross-pollination with Silicon Valley practical experience and networking to re-ignite Hong Kong innovators' entrepreneurial spirit to bridge the unmet innovation gaps.
In the long term, she expects the association to facilitate experience, knowledge, networking, and technology exchange for the perpetual growth of the entrepreneur ecosystem.
"The aim was to foster the growth of local start-ups beyond incubation and seed-stage into scalable businesses," says Kok. The group also serves as a platform for entrepreneurs and investors to interact and share their insights but with a specific focus on crucial methods for startups to scale, including product-market fit, lean start-up methodology, artificial intelligence and deep learning, as well as to expand globally.
In May, the association held its first annual conference in Hong Kong, titled "Building Resilient Entrepreneurship." About 120 local entrepreneurs and incubators and venture capitalists came to share insights and connect.
As a longtime investor, Kok says mentoring plays a vital role in the development of a start-up. "A mentor who has experienced the highs and lows of running a business is in the perfect position to give positive and soothing words of advice to you when things refuse to go your way."
Kok believes that the character of the leadership of a startup is the most important attribute when choosing a start-up. "The coachability and the willingness to listen to the advice of the team leader help me measure how much I believe the company can execute their innovations."
Hobert Wai, co-founder of the group and partner of Black Tiger Capital, says: "How the products can serve the society through commercialization is a top quality for me."
As an investor in the biotech sector, Wai says the global impacts and social responsibility of a product which can address unmet medical needs not only in developed nations are more than valuable.
When bracing innovation with AI, the two veteran investors advise local start-ups to focus on using AI to better link up the user interface and user experience of their products. Wai says start-ups should always consider how to use AI to fit the business model.