The CEO Of Hong Kong Tech Hub Cyberport On The Future Of Entrepreneurship In The City

By Lee Williamson

Peter Yan, CEO of Hong Kong’s Cyberport, on how the city can cultivate a spirit of innovation

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Cover  Peter Yan (Photo: Cyberport)

Talking Points is a semi-regular series where we highlight some of the key topics discussed at a Generation T keynote, fireside chat or panel discussion.

Cyberport, a government-owned business park and tech hub in Hong Kong, has a remit to nurture the city’s tech ecosystem by cultivating talent, promoting entrepreneurship and supporting startups.

Launched in 2004, the organisation now supports more than 1,600 startups, facilitating startup growth across industries, with a focus on fintech, smart living and digital entertainment. 

Cyberport CEO Peter Yan has pledged to prioritise talent development, saying on his appointment in 2018: “We ought to nurture our youth and equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills, not only to enrich the talent pool for the industry but also to create more opportunities for the young generation through digital innovation.”

In the last year, under Yan’s stewardship Cyberport has launched two landmark initiatives in the area: iTalent, an integrated talent acquisition platform, and Digital Tech Recruits, a talent cultivation programme that provides tech-related work placements through Cyberport community companies.

Tamara Lamunière, regional managing director of Generation T, spoke with Yan about technology, talent and building a culture of innovation at KPMG’s Connected Cities Conference, part of the StartmeupHK Festival. Here are a few highlights from that conversation.

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Above  Peter Yan (Photo: Cyberport)
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Above  Tamara Lamunière

How Hong Kong can cultivate a spirit of innovation

A spirit of risk-taking is very important for any entrepreneur to develop, and in particular for entrepreneurs in technology because things are changing so fast so you have to always adapt to new needs, new environments and technology. It is also very important that we have an environment that facilitates and allows people to take risks, in a way that can minimise the chance or impact of failure. 

At Cyberport, we have infrastructure that facilitates that. We have a data service platform where we put together real-life production data in a virtual environment that lets our startup companies test and operate in a life-like environment, so they can refine or enhance further their application before they launch to the market. 

We also invite established companies to participate in this environment so our startups can show to them how their apps work. It’s a virtual, controlled environment with minimum impact.

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The environment is changing for entrepreneurs

In the past couple of years in particular, the environment has changed quite a bit. We have more “hero” stories, more successful startups. Parents are also now more understanding, more accepting of their children trying to set up their own business. 

The new generation are also less prone to doing a nine-to-five job. They dream big, they also walk the talk and take the steps needed to set up their business and try things out. This has definitely changed [recently] and it would not have happened without parents’ support, but also teachers and mentors supporting entrepreneurship in Hong Kong. We can see a lot of exciting things going on in the last couple of years. 

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The skills every entrepreneur needs to have 

First of all, no entrepreneur’s journey is going to be easy. It’s going to be hard, there are a lot of challenges. But more importantly, it’s also very rewarding. Even though you may not achieve what you originally expected, the process itself will be very enlightening. Anyone going down this path will be able to understand themselves better. But it’s tough, and the challenges require tenacity, perseverance and hard work. These are all basic things an entrepreneur has to possess. 

Most importantly, it all comes from the fire inside you, the passion. If you are interested in certain things, pursue that and take action—turn your passion into action. You can learn a lot through that.

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