Rice Robotics, an autonomous robot company from Hong Kong, and Lingxi AR Technology, an optical display and AR technology company from Beijing, emerged as the two top winning teams from the recently concluded JUMPSTARTER 2021, the global startup pitch competition organised by the Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund (AEF).
Both companies are entitled to an investment of up to US$4 million in total from AEF and its co-organisers Hong Kong Cyberport and Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP).
“The Hong Kong and global markets have faced severe challenges over the past year. We are happy to see that many startups still hold on to indomitable, innovative and flexible thinking during their journeys. The support from enterprises is crucial to the growth of startups. With the help of Cyberport, HKSTP, as well as other sponsoring companies and institutions, we will have abundant resources to match startups with mentors to share relevant experiences in entrepreneurship and management,” said Cindy Chow, executive director of AEF.
Established in 2017, this year’s competition received over 2,000 applications from 100 countries worldwide vying in four different categories: retail, fintech, smart city and deep tech industries. Moving the entire event online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, JUMPSTARTER 2021 nevertheless proved to be the largest in terms of scale with over 220 semi-pitch sessions that attracted more than 126,000 fans and supporter globally.
Rice Robotics bagged the prize in the smart city category and was also given the Social Impact Startup award. The Hong Kong-based company is building the infrastructure for companies to deploy robot fleets. It has four robots: Rice (delivery), Jasmine (disinfection), Valencia (patrol and guiding) and Waiter (food court delivery), each of which are autonomous, navigating in crowded areas and charging without help, and run by the management software RiceCore.
China’s Lingxi AR Technology received the Top Innovative Startup Award for its waveguide AR technology – the first to be developed in the Mainland, which various companies from consumer electronics, smart-eyewear manufacturers and industrial enterprises can apply in their see-through wearable displays.
Due to the pandemic, JUMPSTARTER 2021 moved the entire contest online for the first time. It received an overwhelming response with over 2,000 applications from 100 countries and regions around the globe. Startups from Greater China and Asia Pacific are the most active among the applicants. With the support of collaboration partners, more than 220 semi-pitch sessions were held online, attracting more than 126,000 fans and supporters worldwide. The scale of the event was the largest since its inception, showing the passion of startups and their supporters, even amid the pandemic.
The competition has been opened to startups in the retail, fintech, smart city and deep tech industries. Among the top 200 finalists, retail startups made up a relatively high proportion of entries. The judging panel of JUMPSTARTER 2021 believes that due to the popularity among fintech in the last few years, participants in this area will face fiercer competition in the market. By region, startups in the Mainland are concentrating on deep tech such as biotechnology, while startups in Hong Kong are focusing on retail and fintech. Startups in Southeast Asia meanwhile are showing strong interest in the retail sector.
JUMPSTARTER 2021 winners in the other categories are:
- Retail – Outpos of Indonesia for using digital solutions to integrate street food hawkers into a modern street food ecosystem at a fraction of the cost and time it takes to setup a traditional restaurant.
- Fintech – Benefit Vantage of Hong Kong for improving mobile authentication and the user experience without compromising security and privacy through IPificiation, where mobile users can be easily authenticated via their Public IP address. The company also creates extra revenue for telco partners and helps service providers win trust with safe and seamless authentication.
- Deep Tech – Hinyeung Limited of China, which is committed to manufacturing high-speed, high-definition 3D visual devices. Its products are known for precision and are primarily used for robot navigation and industrial inspection. It has successfully worked with sectors including food, electric appliances, logistics, ceramics and shipping
The judging panel of JUMPSTARTER 2021 believes that due to the popularity among fintech in the last few years, participants in this area faced fiercer competition in the market. By region, startups in the Mainland concentrated on deep tech such as biotechnology, while startups in Hong Kong focused on retail and fintech. Startups in Southeast Asia showed strong interest in the retail sector.
Making Hong Kong Asia’s startup hub
Peter Yan, CEO of Cyberport said innovative technology has become an important driving force for the global economy under the new normal.
“In face of current challenges, I look forward to seeing more startups solve real world pain points in innovative ways to create value for society. We are committed to providing comprehensive support to promising startups, and will work with institutions and investors to promote the development of Hong Kong's startup ecosystem,” Yan said.
According to Albert Wong, CEO of HKSTP said Hong Kong is home to a diverse talent pool with direct access to the Greater Bay Area and Southeast Asian markets, a diversified capital market and many factors to support startups.
“In recent years, the government, private companies and investors have strongly embraced the innovation and technology sector, making the city a great place for startups to develop their businesses. We have cooperated with Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund and other organisations to create and nurture the innovation and technology ecosystem. We are confident in the startup development in Hong Kong,” Wong said.
Lukas Petrikas, head of Innovation and Data Lab, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX) said, “We are excited to see the breakthroughs achieved by a growing number of Hong Kong startups. Hong Kong’s thriving corporate venture capital ecosystem bodes well for local startup success stories. HKEX looks forward to welcoming some of these home-grown startups to our world-leading equities market soon, adding more vibrancy and innovation to this international financial centre.”