Five years ago, Steve Forte came to Hong Kong and stayed here. He is Chief Strategy Officer at Telerik. In November 2012, together with Paul Orlando, Steve launched AcceleratorHK, the first startup accelerator program in Hong Kong, with a focus on mobile apps. Steve became a Good Lab member in March this year.
We met with Steve last week and had an interview to learn from the horse’s mouth all about AcceleratorHK. Here comes the interview. Enjoy!
(GL = Good Lab; S = Steve Forte)
the first mobile app startup accelerator
GL: Tell us about yourself.
S: I am Steve, I am a New Yorker. I co-founded a couple startups, and now I am running the AcceleratorHK program with Paul Orlando. It is a 14 week accelerator for mobile app startups based in Hong Kong.
GL: Why doing this in Hong Kong?
S: Well, first, Hong Kong does not have any accelerator program for early stage startups until we did this. Second, all the other accelerator or incubator programs that we are aware of in the market are very broad range, without much of a focus. And when you consider the fact that Hong Kong has one of the highest smart phone and 3G penetration in the world, doing an accelerator program for mobile startups makes a lot of sense.
GL: Who can join this program?
AcceleratorHK Cohort #1
S: We have 6 teams in our last batch, and 6 in our current batch. Among them there are fresh graduates and more experienced folks. Before getting into this program, half of them were based in Hong Kong, while the other half were from overseas.
built for demo day
GL: What does a typical day for the participants?
S: We have a one-on-one meeting with all the teams each Monday, to check their MVP (minimal viable product), and their business model canvas. While in the middle of the week, we will have outside mentors coming in, they will sit with the teams and help them with their challenges, especially in customer development. On Thursdays, we will have a Founders Meeting, that’s when we will ask the cohort to give presentations on their own stories, using the Pecha Kucha or other styles, as a way to practice their presentation skills.
GL: So it is quite intensive…
S: Yes, because they have to build for the demo day, which is the deadline for all the teams to come up with either a MVP or a beta launch. Having that goal in mind gives people focus. They might pivot a few times during the program, but as long as they can come up with something to show at the demo day, it is OK.
By the way, our next demo day is coming up on August 13th. Register now to secure your seat!
a startup culture in the building in Hong Kong
GL: How do you think about the startup culture in Hong Kong?
(Steve did a TEDx talk at HKUST a few months ago on the challenges of launching a startup, check it out here if you are interested!)
S: Oh, I don’t think there is a startup culture in Hong Kong yet. Because when you think about Silicon Valley, doing a startup after graduation is the norm, but not the case here. They have pressure from parents and the society. Parents here do not consider doing a startup as a real job! There is also a lack of investors for early stage startups in Hong Kong. Though the good news is, there is more and more coworking spaces like Good Lab bubbling up in recent years, which creates a great environment for people who want to start their business.
Things are changing. There is a startup community in Hong Kong in the growing. A lot of startup events happening here. And with the financial crisis, people realise that even HSBC is laying off lots of people, so banking is no longer a safe option. But it still takes a lot of effort for young people to seriously build a startup as a real job.