Thursday, 10 February 2011

We need more high impact entrepreneurs

There has been so much talk about the narrow economic base in Hong Kong. Economic studies have pointed out the strong link between entrepreneurship on the one hand, and innovation, job creation and long term GDP growth on the other.  As this city is soul searching into its future competitiveness, we need to take a fresh look into what entrepreneurship should mean for 21st century Hong Kong.

Many people observe that the entrepreneurial spirit, which makes what Hong Kong is today, seems to be dissipating amongst the young generations. Conventional wisdoms have it that Hong Kong’s small domestic market and high rent spell the death of entrepreneurs. In a globalised economy, the boundaries of a market should be marked not by geography but by mentality. No doubt the high rent in Hong Kong is squeezing many small shops out of the market.  But entrepreneurship is not just about retailing.  

If Hong Kong has to revive its entrepreneurial spirit, we need to look into more fundamental issues.

We should look into the competitive advantage of Hong Kong as a service economy. Instead of product and technology innovation, Hong Kong’s entrepreneurs may stand a better chance in creating new businesses through service, process, management and business model innovations.  We should stop emulating the Silicon Valley.

In Hong Kong and as in many other economies, business has increasingly been seen as a major cause of social and environmental ills. Hong Kong needs to nurture a new generation of ‘capitalists’ that do good and do well – sustainable enterprises that generate not just economic value, but also social and/or environmental values.

A new Make a Difference (MaD) Award has recently been launched to celebrate innovative and socially responsible entrepreneurs. The Grand Award Winner is Laputa - a Hong Kong company doing eco-construction materials business. International studies have shown that by celebrating the success of entrepreneurs, we will create new aspirations for the young. It is possible to alter societal values in less than a generation.

Apart from celebrating successful entrepreneurs, I as the convenor of the MaD Award have identified 8 essential conditions for Hong Kong to accelerate the development of entrepreneurship:

1)    Identify and support innovative and high potential entrepreneurs
2)    Encourage more early-stage angel investment in Hong Kong
3)    Closer coordination and collaboration amongst education institutes, business professionals, investors and philanthropists
4)    Enhanced entrepreneurial learning for senior secondary and tertiary school students
5)    Encourage and facilitate more inter-disciplinary collaboration, from business to arts, sciences and technology
6)    Strengthen information dissemination about governmental and non-governmental support available to aspiring entrepreneurs
7)    Encourage the development of entrepreneurial mindsets through the education system e.g. creativity, confidence, self-motivation, risk taking and accepting failure
8)    Attract more entrepreneurs to start-up their ventures in Hong Kong

We need concerted efforts from the Government, businesses, educators, philanthropists, the media and last but not least, the support of parents to revive Hong Kong’s entrepreneurial spirit. 

(Published in SCMP on 10.2.2011)

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