Below is a full transcript of our AliCast with Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneur Fund Executive Director Cindy Chow.
Jenny Hsu: Time for AliCast, a deep dive into innovative and emergent trends in e-commerce, online payments and digital entertainment. Brought to you by Alibaba Group, we’ll offer insights about Chinese consumers and brands doing business in China. We’ll delve into global online retail, big data, and other must-know topics and issues in and around one of China’s largest companies.
Hello everyone, this is Jenny from Alizila. I’m sitting here today with Cindy Chow, the executive director of Alibaba’s Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund. She’s here to share with us more about the fund and to give us a sneak preview to exciting event in Hong Kong. Hey Cindy, good morning.
Cindy Chow: Hi, good morning, Jenny.
Jenny Hsu: Thank you so much for being here. So let’s start with a brief introduction of the Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund. Can you tell us more about it and why it was established?
Cindy Chow: This fund was announced by Jack when he was in Hong Kong back in March 2015, when he was addressing a big group of young people. ‚Ä® At that time, he wanted to do something for Hong Kong. In particular, for the Hong Kong younger generation. So he announced the establishment of this fund, and we officially launched it in November 2015 in a big press conference.
The objective of this fund is really to make use of the money that is the one billion Hong Kong dollars that Alibaba group pledged to help young people to realize their dreams. So we have two major programs right now. One is the investment program, which we invest directly into startups in Hong Kong, or we call it the Hong Kong Nexus. And the second is the internship program, so each year we support students to intern within Alibaba Group over six months.
Jenny Hsu: Cindy, so tell us more about how you got involved in this project.
Cindy Chow: Well, I’ve been with Alibaba for 10 years, and my role was always on the finance side. So, when Jack announced this fund, I was helping to sell up the fund to explore what kind of structure we have to put in, etc. ‚Ä® And they were looking for someone to run this fund. And what they wanted was someone with experience with Alibaba, because in Alibaba, we emphasize so much about our values and our mission. So, and I thought, well why don’t I try? Because this is such a meaningful thing and especially for someone from Hong Kong. ‚Ä®So, I really want to do something that I can contribute back to the society. I am indeed very grateful that the management trusts me and gave me this job.
Jenny Hsu: As you mentioned, the fund is to promote entrepreneurship in Hong Kong. So, can you tell us a little bit more about the startup scene here in Hong Kong right now?
Cindy Chow: I think there is really a very good traction for the last 12 months. When I picked up the job of this fund, I saw not many VCs, or not many investors around. So, naturally you won’t be able to see so many startups. But recently with the concerted efforts by the government and by private sector like ourselves and also other corporates, we see more investors. And maybe that is also the reason why we also see most startups around in Hong Kong. Whether they are from Hong Kong, Hong Kong-grown entrepreneurs, or entrepreneurs from overseas, but starting their own business in Hong Kong.
Jenny Hsu: I understand that we actually have a very exciting event. So, can you tell us more about it?
Cindy Chow: Yeah, it’s the Jumpstarter event, and so this is a big program which we co-organized with Cyberport and Science Park, the two largest incubators in Hong Kong backed by the government. And since May we have already done a number of semi-final pitches covering different sectors, from FinTech, robotics, e-commerce. So, and in each semi-final pitch, we selected three finalist to go into the grand finale, where we will pick up the top three teams. And each team, our fund has the commitment to invest up to $1 million US per team.
Jenny Hsu: Tell us more about it.
Cindy Chow: We have a lot things besides the pitching. We also have the showcases from the finalists, and we also have lined up a number of different talks from very heavyweight speakers, and of course, the highlights will be a fireside chat between Jack and also our chief executive, Mrs. Carrie Lam.
Jenny Hsu: Will these entrepreneurs have a chance to also listen to Jack Ma and interact with him?
Cindy Chow: Of course, yes. So it will be held in the Convention and Exhibition Center, so it’s going to be a very big turnout. And yeah, they will all be able to hear from Jack and also Carrie.
Jenny Hsu: I know you’ve been preparing really hard for this event for many, many months now. What has the experience been like for you as you get to know these entrepreneurs?
Cindy Chow: Well I guess I am seeing more positive signs. I’m really happy to see what is happening to Hong Kong currently. I see entrepreneurs from other places in the world, they get to come to Hong Kong and establish their business. I believe that this is partly because of all the efforts by the government to promote entrepreneurship. And they have a lot of different programs which help these overseas companies to kickstart in Hong Kong. ‚Ä® But it’s also for homegrown companies as well. And I’m seeing a lot of younger generation, younger people. They are telling me that when they graduate, they would like to explore working for a startup as well. So, I am seeing a lot of positive sides, and I hope that this can get even more robust.
Jenny Hsu: Fostering the next generation of business leaders is a very important and core mission of Alibaba. Can you tell us why that is? And what are some of the other projects that we can expect from the Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund in the future?
Cindy Chow: We will continue to focus on helping to boost up the entrepreneurship spirits in Hong Kong by investing into startups and also by nurturing talent. To talk a bit more about the investments, so, for Jumpstarter, even though we’re picking only three winners, we will also be looking on following up with other finalists. Because there are also very good companies within the 24 finalists. So, perhaps maybe our fund will also invest in one or two of them. And also, we will also see how to help the portfolio companies, that means the companies that we invested in. How to help them grow further by tapping into the Alibaba ecosystem. Or by helping them to raise their profile in other places to expand their market reach.
Jenny Hsu: Right, so just because you’re not one of the finalists, well, don’t be dismayed, Alibaba might still be willing to support you in your future endeavors, right?
Cindy Chow: Definitely, sure.
Jenny Hsu: Thank you so much for spending time with us and telling us about the fund. Sounds like there’ll be a lot of exciting events coming up in the future. Good luck and we’ll talk to you another time.
Cindy Chow: Thanks, Jenny.
Jenny Hsua: You’ve been listening to AliCast, a regular podcast from the Alibaba group. Thanks for tuning in, I’m Jenny Hsu.