Startups, investors meet for talks about Asia's new economy

HONG KONG - Around 14,000 startup founders, investors and media figures from about 90 countries gathered at the RISE 2017 event in Hong Kong on Tuesday to discuss ways to build Asia's "new economy" with new technologies.

Being held in Hong Kong for the third consecutive year, the RISE conference is the biggest startup event in Asia, providing a meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors from Western and Eastern regions to find ways to expand their businesses globally. It also contributes to creating a new market and economy.

John Collison, co-founder and CEO of Stripe, a Silicon Valley-based mobile payment service firm, shared his idea of shaping an online economy by providing simple but secure payment infrastructure amid growing cross-border transactions.

"We want to help people start and run global businesses, not just domestic businesses," Collison said.

"The need for mobile payment systems is very apparent here, since there are 4 billion internet-connected people globally including 500 million Alipay users and 600 million WeChat Pay users."

Stripe launched a beta test version in Hong Kong two years ago to see how products were being made and sold across Asia.

It announced its expansion into Singapore and Japan last year and partnerships with Alipay and WeChat Pay on Sunday. In China, about 70 per cent of commerce is conducted on mobile devices, according to Collison.

US-based Stripe Co-Founder & CEO John Collison speaks at the RISE 2017 in Hong Kong on Tuesday. PHOTO: RISE

By embracing Chinese consumers who use Alipay and Wechat, the Silicon Valley startup is also influencing the US e-commerce market, making American companies consider integrating the Chinese services in the future, he said.

"We are seeing different payment products in different countries, which can't talk to each other because they are locked in their own systems even if they are using the same technologies," he said.

"We want to see businesses drive growth by not being constrained by such lock-in systems."

Talks about artificial intelligence, autonomous driving and the media took place on the first day of the three-day conference running through Thursday.

Joe Tsai, Alibaba Group's co-founder and vice chairman, took to the stage to talk about the e-commerce giant's acquisition of traditional news outlet South China Morning Post, which set a new business model for the media industry in the digital era.

Joe Tsai, co-founder & vice chairman of Alibaba Group, speaks at the RISE 2017 in Hong Kong on Tuesday. PHOTO: RISE 

Hong Kong is considered one of the premier hubs for entrepreneurs to found startups due to relatively easier access to capital, manufacturing infrastructure and its global mindset.

Western companies eyeing the Chinese market are also strategically expanding into Hong Kong.

Compared to last year, the number of RISE attendees from Western countries, including those from Uber, Google, Airbus and Stripe, doubled this year, as they are aware of market potential in Asia, according to the event's organizer.

Paddy Cosgrave (left), co-founder and CEO of RISE & Web Summit, and Casey Lau, founder of StartupsHK, speak at the opening session of RISE 2017 held at Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Center on Tuesday. PHOTO: RISE

Nine South Korean startups attended the event this year, including Iconix, Yana Trip, Link Flow and Scrollads.

"To be honest, Hong Kong is not an easy market (to) make a business successful largely because of high prices, but it provides a wide pool of financial resources and global networks that startups may find interesting," said Jean-Baptiste Roy, managing director of Eursy Group, a Hong-Kong based consulting firm.