29 Startup Founders Share Their Advice For Entrepreneurs Relocating To Hong Kong

In this week’s chapter 28 entrepreneurs share their tips and advice for relocating to Hong Kong.

You need to choose reliable service partners carefully, especially for those important office and professional services that are core to a start-up’s success.

Reliable and experienced service partners can give you the right direction and accurate advice from a local perspective, not only helping you in the business start-up stage, but also saving you hassles with company maintenance like financial work (accounting, audit arrangement, tax filing, etc.), payroll & HR, legal aspects and most pivotally – complying with Hong Kong business rules in your operation and avoiding penalties that can be raised due to inattention.

How to find a reliable service partner? Word-of-mouth is critical. You can seek advice or solid experience sharing from your friends / business community and see how people think about the particular service provider.

To rate a service provider, I think service efficiency is also as significant as reliability. Time is valuable in such a fast-paced city, if you can focus on your core business to facilitate the development, leaving all other distressing but essential functions to an effective one-stop-shop service partner, much time and human cost will be saved.

Try to avoid a situation that you may miss some important but minor rules that can lead to a dilemma. All in all, Hong Kong is a hot spot for relocation and its support system is mature for expats coming from all over the world.

@FionSen / Bridges Executive Centre

– Take a short-term apartment while you look around for a more permanent place. It’s a landlord’s market and you don’t want to be rushed into taking a place that might not be right for you or within your preferred budget just because the hotel bills are adding up.

– Master Hong Kong’s world-class public transportation as soon as possible! The MTR in particular is a fast, cheap and reliable way to get around town. Don’t waste your time sitting in a taxi stuck in unpredictable traffic, especially when you have lots of meetings to attend to get your business off the ground!

– Hong Kong’s geographical location is a huge plus and offers entrepreneurs much needed opportunities to escape the city for some R&R – we have a mix of western & traditional Chinese holidays which amounts to a lot of long weekends! Even within the city there is so much on offer in terms of hiking, beaches, and outlying island-getaways.

@RebeccaJo-Rushdy / BaoBae

Hong Kong is an impressive city with lots of different cultures living together. Join some of the local entrepreneurship events and start by making friends with common interests. Don’t forget to try out new experiences in this amazing city.

@AntoineDeroche / Datafield

Hong Kong is a great place for getting inspirations from both the east and the west. You can find similarities with the west but at the same time you can find it’s very chinese. It’s a very unique place. Talk to people, in fact, talk to a lot of people, that’s very important.

@FrankieTam / FifthWisdom

Hong Kong has some great start-up groups and communities. There are weekly events, talks and meet-ups and it’s really easy to start building your network. One problem is that the communities are disjointed and there is a bit of rivalry, so try to avoid getting too stuck in one group – spread your wings and keep on the move.

Also, the process of starting a business is really simple – you can walk-in to the registration office in the morning and 20 minutes later walk out with your business registration. Just make sure to get a copy of your registration certificate before going to setup a bank account otherwise you’ll find yourself on your way back to Immigration Tower far sooner than you would want!

@ScottBowler / Opencall

Hong Kong can seem like the perfect place to start a business but the high cost of living, especially the rent can make it quite difficult to find a decent place to work/live. Hence I believe it is crucial not to underestimate this cost while calculating your “relocation” budget.

Fortunately many co-working spaces have been popping up lately, offering a good alternative to pricey serviced offices. Also, it may seem obvious but Hong Kong is not just limited to Central or Wanchai, and sometimes going east or north, or simply crossing the harbour can pay off. Obviously it depends on the business you are undertaking, but I am currently very happy to be in Kwun Tong.

@MichaelWajntal / Locaclick

Get ready for a fun ride that will probably turn everything you’ve known so far upside down here and there. Try to be open and to accept different ways of doing things, this might help and give you new ideas in the future.

Learn Cantonese. Or at least try to make an effort. It will make you better understand the culture and its differences. I mean besides business, you also want to live here, don’t you?

@HolgerBartel / Open Device Lab

– Get involved right away. Start meeting people and seeing how you can add value to the ecosystem. The entrepreneurial community in Hong Kong is incredibly open and helpful, because everyone has been the new person in town at some point. One meeting will lead to three more and before you know it, your schedule will be completely packed.

– Diversify your networking – Hong Kong can feel small if you don’t expand beyond your immediate touch points. There are many subgroups that are equally strong in their collective backgrounds and experience, but they tend to stick to themselves. Coming in as an outsider, you have a great excuse to reach out to people you might not otherwise come into contact with.

– Explore all that Hong Kong has to offer, there’s so much more than just Central, Soho, and LKF. Get out for a beautiful hike in Sai Kung, take a ferry out to Cheung Chau or Llama Island, get outside of your comfort zone and enjoy the different worlds coexisting in one small area.

@AllisonBaum / Fresco Capital Advisors

First “Float around”, that means: don’t book your years long room/office lease directly, first travel the city for 1 month and find “your spot”. Talk to people, inside and outside the startup community.

@JeffreyBroer / Surround App

The first thing they should be aware of is that the cost of living is very high in Hong Kong, mainly due to high rents. They need to have enough money to support their daily expenses while setting up their business here.

Opening a company in Hong Kong is easy and can be done quickly (4 working days). A lot of companies are offering services to manage your business incorporation and secretary.

They will find a lot of co-working spaces offering desks and offices at fair prices (e.g. The Hive , my favourite!). It is a great solution while starting a business as they will be in a creative and dynamic environment with the opportunity to find good suppliers (creative, development, ..).

In Hong Kong, the government has an organisation (Invest Hong Kong ) that helps new businesses by providing free consulting services to help them make the right choices (company structure, administrative steps,…). They also offer a good exposure with newsletters sent to 40000 and inviting entrepreneurs to networking events.

@AdrienTerras / digitalin Consulting

Cost of living is a big consideration. Although the price of daily goods and services compares well with the West, rents in Hong Kong are highly inflated – similar to London or San Francisco.

The city has a dense population. Even coming from London it surprised me how busy things can get around rush hour. Though all the more reason to get off the island and explore. Hong Kong has an amazing expanse of countryside and coastline to be uncovered.

Hong Kong is a friendly city. There’s tens-of-thousands of expats. It may take more time to make good friendships with locals but it’s worth making the effort because; who else knows where all the best spots are?

@DavidGreenwood / Code Club

From a technical perspective, you’ll need to get a business investment visa, and I would recommend using the services of Hong Kong Visa Geeza. For business incorporation talk to Startitup.hk. For banking, everyone uses HSBC and pays each other through electronic transfer. There are no charges for transfers if you’re at the same bank, so if you’re at HSBC it’s easier to get paid. But HSBC is legendary for poor customer service and a terrible online banking experience.

Recently there are rumors they’ve been refusing to open accounts for US citizens due to US government regulations. Your second choice is Standard Chartered Bank, which, although not used by as many people, is still used quite a bit and is reputed to be much more eager to win your business.

If you’re going to be involved with any sort of tech startup, then you’ll likely want to get plugged into the community. The best way to do this is to start following StartupsHK before you arrive here.

Once you do arrive, start attending the events listed on their calendar. StartupsHK is the foremost startup organization in Hong Kong, and it’s entirely grassroots.

@JoshuaSteimle / MWI Hong Kong

It’s good to get familiar with the city first. If you already have friends living in the city, that’d be helpful since the city can be somewhat daunting for someone who’s never been here before.

Secondly, it’s key to establishing where you would like to setup your office space, be it in your own apartment or a serviced office for the short-term. If you are working out of home, be sure to get a larger apartment and one with a view preferably so that you don’t go insane spending all that time a in a cramped space.

@BrianTong / Deals Hong Kong

As an entrepreneur arriving in Hong Kong, the first difficulty you will likely experience is obtaining the right visa. I would advise young entrepreneurs starting a new business to arrive with a working visa.

@AdrienLopez / Ado Studio

It’s important to build your own network, try to join as many networking events as possible, also try to locate your business in a convenient location, a good address will always give you credibility.

A good starting point would be to join a Co-Working space. It is a great place to meet other fellow entrepreneurs, to share experiences and to even find synergies.

Here at WYND we strive to build the star up community and encourage and sponsor events that do so. We also help to support the application for the visas if needed.

Beware of the rules and regulation of how long you can stay in HK for, especially for obtaining a valid visa. Research on the accommodation, which location you wanna stay, and the budget for it

Otherwise, things in Hong Kong are easily assessable, HK is very international, and its easy for new comers to settle in.

@MichaelMa / WYND

Learn some Cantonese: To quickly earn respect of Hong Kong people, learn 50 major words and 10 major sentences in Cantonese. Not only you will make friends faster, even your employees can’t stop saying ‘YOU ARE SOO SMART”

Best investment idea – a helper: The best thing I ever invested while being in Hong Kong is a helper. She’s like my sister, friend, nurse… that’s it… nothing else !!. The luxury of home cooked meals 3 times a day and being able to eat Indian, Indonesian, Thai, Italian keeps me healthy, happy and gives me much more free time to concentrate and work harder on my business.

You can do everything, it’s safe here: Hong Kong is very safe, crime rate is super low, alcohol and drugs are not a big problem. Therefore you can go anywhere anytime with the feeling of safety and confidence.

Macintosh of countries- so efficient: Well, if you are relocating from Europe, USA, Australia or South Asia, then the first thing you’ll notice here is how people work so hard here, the infrastructure is advanced, public transport is cheap and the Government doesn’t interfere with day-to-day life.

Not Rude at all: I’ve heard a lot of people visiting Hong Kong that they think Hong Kong people are very rude however I’ve always argued that it’s not that they mean to be rude, it’s because the manners are different here.

So to explain this, first, the Cantonese language doesn’t help because it’s so fast and straight to the point (it’s a pictorial language) and when a Cantonese speaking person, speaks in English with the same concepts, it sounds rude.

Second thing I noticed that with confined spaces, people are not inviting therefore you may experience in the elevator of your residential building that people try to ignore each other.

Groups: After you get here, there are lots of meet-up groups (meetup.com, asiaexpat.com etc) for you to socialize, meet people, get advises, hiking etc.

Alternate Living: If you have read all my tips then here’s a bonus and the best kept secret. Hong Kong has a lot of alternate living experiences such as boats, huts, warehouses, farm houses etc. etc. I’ve lived on a boat for last 4 years and have even run my startup in initial months from a boat office.@SaralKochar / TechPacker

Be very aware of what your are using Hong Hong for. Is it a testing bed, is there a local market for you here or is it for specific expertise? People underestimate how competitive the local market is and the cost of the market can disappear pretty fast.

If you are seeking investment, it can be hard to come in Hong Kong unless you have an established trusted network. That does not mean don’t come, but understand you need to be in a position to deal on level terms with investors or be educating them.

@ChrisGeary / BSD Academy

Hong Kong has a great nightlife, watch out with your drinking.

@JeffreyNg / Zorpia

Hong Kong is a free city. There are bunch of opportunities here, but its important to get connected. Joining more meet ups, and getting to know more other entrepreneurs and talented people in related fields would help growing. People here are generally open minded, and like to help each other.

@KifHong / Alitobit

Ask anyone and you’ll quickly find out that Hong Kong has very little red tape for setting up a business. You can quickly launch your product and let the market decide whether you’re on to something. Launch quickly and then tweak!

One important tip I would recommend to those thinking they can simply bring a successful concept from the US to Hong Kong is to not underestimate the staying power of the local Cantonese culture in influencing shopping habits. While Hong Kong has physically changed dramatically, traditional habits remain forceful so don’t expect people to change them overnight.

@TimothyKau / LuxTNT

There’s this funny Tall Poppy syndrome thing. Educate yourself about it, learn how to dodge it. You will encounter it.

@DrorBen-Naim / Smart Sparrow

Depends on what industry you are in. Office rent in HK in general is expensive. Choose your location wisely.

Talk to secretarial companies or tax lawyer offices to understand procedures of starting a company and the taxes in HK. Especially if you are coming in from the USA where you have price transfer and global taxes issues.

May want to see if your industry qualify for Government incentives, such as funding grants, or establishing a company at science parks.

@WayneCheung / Soundfreaq – Undertand the country you are going to, not from Wikipedia or lonely traveller, but by personally going there with a open mind.

– Hong Kong is NOT China; Hong Kongese have their own culture and the language is called Cantonese, to mandarin. Yes, Jackie Chan is from HK, and Jet Li is from China.

– Try and understand the nuances of the culture, like how real estate conditions peoples eating habits in a dense metropolis.

– Please don’t try and act like a local if you are not. Imagine the role reversed. Just be yourself.

– Don’t be exasperated when they dont understand you: be patient, not everyone knows your language or has to speak it.@ZachHegde / Ming Global

You will likely experience problems hiring enough quality developers, designers and PMs in Hong Kong.

@JasonNgan / Bindo

Research, research, research! Research the cost of living. Hong Kong is not a cheap city. The cost of living for a single individual coming to Hong Kong is vastly different than the cost of living for a family with children.

Research the types of entrepreneur support resources that can help you, and try to get plugged in with some of them. There are many co-working spaces and incubation programs now that encourage the start-up scene.

Be aware that fundraising in Hong Kong can be a lengthy process, so recognize how long you can operate your business without income. Fundraising can be a challenge because many investors prefer more traditional types of assets like property or stocks.

Research the visa requirements. As a foreigner, you will arrive on a visitor visa which is valid for 3 months. Submit the application to register your company soon so that you can obtain a work visa to remain in Hong Kong.

@MatthewTam / MyFlat

Knowing the difference of Hong Kong, China and other Asia countries is key – some startups put too much focus on the HK market while hoping the product will work in China or the rest of Asia.

If you’re looking at the China market, you may want to see Hong Kong as a transient step before moving to China. Other than culture shock, do take note of the relatively expensive rent in Hong Kong.

@AndrewChan / AfterShip

Hong Kong is one of the best places on the planet to do business. But unless your business is focused on the expat community, try to live and work with as much of the local community as possible if you are yourself an expat.

After all, if you wanted to be around people like you all the time why did you leave home and come to Hong Kong?

@DanielLevinson / Kovurt

Know exactly why you want to start or relocate your business here.

Hong Kong is one of the most expensive cities in Asia to live in. What competitive advantage will Hong Kong bring to your business?@AlanTsui / Kites

Hong Kong is all about networking. Hang out at one of the many co-working spaces and get involved in the startup scene. There are many meetup groups, Facebook groups and other associations that host formal and informal events all the time.

Great starting points for startups include: CoCoon, Startups HK and General Assembly- they all bring entrepreneurs together to mingle and collaborate and share war stories.

@SonalieFigueiras / Green Queen & ekowarehouse

Image credit: stuckincustoms

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