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After being staged in three continents, the Huawei Cloud Startup Ignite Competition, formerly known as Huawei Spark Ignite Competition, has made its debut in Hong Kong this year. The tech giant’s decision to expand this competition, which is part of its comprehensive accelerator programme, into Hong Kong is a strategic move to strengthen the region as a hub for innovation and technology (I&T).
Bering Lab, an AI-powered automated translation solution for legal professionals, emerged as the grand winner among the 15 finalist startups selected to pitch at the Huawei Cloud Startup Ignite Competition held at Sky100 in Hong Kong on October 17.
Bering Lab will then be enrolled in the “Accelerate” Tier, an accelerator programme designed by Huawei Cloud to empower the winning team to compete on a global stage at SLINGSHOT 2023, which will take place in Singapore.
Since 2020, the accelerator programme has received an impressive number of over 5,000 applications. To date, it has accepted more than 180 portfolio companies into its ranks. It is worth mentioning that the programme has successfully accelerated over 30 startups, assisting them in securing funding up until the Series A stage.
The competition has proven to be a catalyst for entrepreneurship, as the participating startups have collectively secured over US$100 million in funding in just 18 months.
During the 2023 competition, the 15 finalist startups had an exciting opportunity to showcase their innovative solutions to an audience that included representatives from venture capital firms, tech companies, and potential corporate partners.
These startups showcased a diverse range of cutting-edge technologies, including Web3 apps and AI platforms that aid in investment decision-making, data analytics, route planning, and carbon modelling. They hail from various countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, New Zealand, and South Korea.
“Our programme has achieved a success rate of 15% based on the number of portfolio startups that have reached series A funding, which significantly surpasses the industry benchmark of less than 10%. I’m highly optimistic about our growth plan in 2024 and the impact it will have on the ecosystem,” says Leo Jiang, chief digital officer of Huawei Cloud APAC.
“This enables them to gain insights into the unique opportunities and advantages that this region, as a growing hub for innovation and technology, can offer for their growth and expansion.”
Furthermore, the government plans to facilitate research and development (R&D) in the field of microelectronics. They also aim to establish a supercomputing centre dedicated to AI development. Additionally, they are keen on supporting the transformation of R&D outcomes from startups.
“Backed by strong policy support, Hong Kong’s growing tech ecosystem, along with its synergies with Shenzhen and the Greater Bay Area, offers abundant opportunities for startups from around the world to connect with potential investors and corporate partners here,” says Jiang.
“By bringing entrepreneurs together, our program also enables them to explore partnerships with like-minded individuals, fostering collaboration and unlocking new opportunities for growth.”
Having said that, startups often encounter challenges in accessing resources and infrastructure to rapidly scale and innovate. Limited budgets and resources can hinder their ability to effectively leverage cutting-edge technologies, which, in turn, can impede their progress and competitiveness in the market.
To assist startups in overcoming these challenges, Huawei Cloud is committed to building a robust startup ecosystem with both incubator and accelerator programmes, beginning in the Asia Pacific region and later expanding to other parts of the world.
Huawei Cloud aims to empower aspiring tech entrepreneurs on a global level by offering essential support such as resources, mentorship, training, workshops, and infrastructure.
According to Jiang, the accelerator programme has recently expanded to include Hong Kong and Thailand, following its successful launch in Singapore. This programme offers participants mentorship from Huawei Cloud’s technical experts, along with guidance from advisors in business management, financing, and legal domains.
Huawei Cloud will also collaborate with government agencies to provide technical support in AI and cloud deployment. This collaboration will involve sharing best practices, nurturing talent, creating business opportunities, and co-creating innovative solutions.
On another front, Jiang emphasises the efforts of Huawei Cloud in promoting collaboration between corporates and innovators through its “Horizon” series of innovation workshops. These workshops aim to bring together a diverse range of stakeholders to identify areas for improvement, address pain points, and explore potential opportunities for digital transformation.
“We also offer support in their outreach efforts by helping them connect with potential investors, corporate partners, and clients. Moreover, we actively participate in expos and organise delegations for them to meet with government agencies, strategically expanding their reach.”
To bridge the knowledge gap between venture capital firms and startups, Jiang says that Huawei Cloud can provide due diligence reports that can validate the effectiveness and technical viability claimed by the startup. This way, investors and corporations can make informed decisions based on objective analysis.
Narin Khurana, founder of School Bright based in Thailand, was invited to participate in a keynote session following the competition. His company offers a digital school management system as a service that efficiently streamlines administrative workflows, including student attendance tracking, online exams, and automated grading.
A few years ago, Khurana met with Jiang in Thailand and made the decision to switch to using the Huawei Cloud platform for his School Bright system. Through Huawei Cloud’s startup networking, School Bright has also formed a partnership with an ed-tech startup based in the Philippines, thus expanding their reach and impact in the education sector in both countries.
“For Huawei Cloud, the establishment of startup ecosystems is akin to a long-term investment,” says Jiang. “Our goal is to cultivate innovative communities not only in the Asia Pacific region but also in other parts of the world.”
“We believe that this endeavour not only drives economic growth but also generates societal benefits. By empowering young people to pursue and realise their dreams and embrace entrepreneurship, we are creating a platform for them to thrive and make a meaningful impact.”