CanCham ESBC & HKCBA: The Second Transpacific Entrepreneurial Conference

Photos and Recap: The Second Transpacific Entrepreneurial Conference

On November 30th, 2015, the Entrepreneur and Small Business Committee (the “ESBC”) of the Chamber and the Hong Kong Canada Business Association (the “HKCBA”) jointly presented the second annual Transpacific Entrepreneurial Conference. The Conference featured a wide variety of topics focusing on how Canadian companies had set up and succeeded in Hong Kong, and what sort of resources were available to help these companies do business in Hong Kong.

Similarly to last year’s conference, the objective was to continue developing Kong Kong’s entrepreneurial spirit while encouraging Canadians to set up in Hong Kong to expand into Asia Pacific.

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Panel 1 – Hong Kong: Canada’s Gateway to Half the World

Panel Discussion Chair: Douglas Betts (McMillan LLP International Limited)

Speakers: Simon Galpin (Invest HK), Jeff Kwok (Neverblue, Globalwide Media), and Irene Chu (KPMG)

Douglas opened up the event touching on Hong Kong’s historic evolution as a manufacturing hub to a services hub and as a gateway to China. There was a need for Hong Kong to evolve further due to globalization and China’s rapid development. As such, the panel was to address the issue of how entrepreneurs could successfully launch and maintain new businesses in Hong Kong.

Simon commented on recent changes in Hong Kong’s economic infrastructure. While the backbone of Hong Kong’s business sector consisted of local small-medium enterprises, there had been a recent increase of globally focused start-ups. Hong Kong was set to become a global centre in innovation and business start-ups, which was influenced by the high net worth of investing individuals, proximity to manufacturers in Shenzhen, and Hong Kong’s excellent service environment. Simon further recommended an online resource for start-ups called

Jeff shared his experience with his company on how it recently expanded into Asia Pacific with its regional centre based in Hong Kong. Jeff enumerated the various reasons to consider setting up a globally focused business in Hong Kong, well emphasizing that using Hong Kong as a gateway to mainland China should not be a major motivator. Advice was also given to have a practical reason for setting up in Hong Kong and to understand the competitive advantage of employing proper talent.

Irene talked about the issues that larger corporations in Hong Kong dealt with when faced with competition from start-ups entering the market. Size no longer equaled power and it was important for businesses to collaborate with each other to drive innovation. Irene also touched on the megatrends driving innovation, the drivers for collaboration between businesses, and the role of accelerator and incubator companies in stimulating innovation for big business. She concluded with the idea that big businesses and small start-ups should seek to create mutually beneficial relationships and learn from each other’s experience.

Panel 2 – “How I Started: How I Made it” Entrepreneur Experience Sharing Session

Panel Discussion Chair: David Armitage (Velocity Solutions Ltd)

Speakers: Christian Yan (Nanoleaf), Allan Matheson (Blue Umbrella), Wayne Bewick (Trowbridge)

David began the discussion by noting how business in Hong Kong could be seen as a hobby rather than a simple occupation and how Hong Kong was an ideal environment for such a hobby due to access to a variety of exciting groups.

Christian provided insight from his experience with his company, which recently expanded into Hong Kong and looked to provide solutions for efficient lighting. Christian stated that business should be seen as harmony of cultures that came together to create a final product, with his own business being half Canadian and half Chinese. He also talked about the importance that his company attached to combining aesthetics and functionality in a product to affect the world beneficially. He acknowledged that there existed a challenge for his company to drive sales and that his company had a need for guidance provided from experienced companies. In conclusion, the practical reasons for setting up the company in Hong Kong and Shenzhen were that it was able to leverage its cultural strengths, and the location was close to all of the company’s suppliers.

Allan gave advice to businesses to strengthen weaknesses and not just focus on existing strengths, highlighting that his company’s mandate was to always make sure it was learning and growing. Allan attributed importance to having a focused product and high sales in order to maintain a strong market share. It was also key to studiously study one’s competition with indifference, meaning that it was important to understand the competition, but not to get caught up in it. Allan asserted that business was a form of binary where one either had or did not have the skill to get things done.

Wayne began by discussing how Trowbridge was able to find a niche in the Hong Kong market by providing expats with financial services that were previously unavailable and how successful networking was key to market expansion. Emphasis was given to the importance of having good people in a company with a diverse skill set, and that the key challenge was always finding the right talent. Wayne also noted thatsuccess was to be found in failure, and that business expansion was always a learning experience.

Panel 3 – Growth through Partnership

Panel Discussion Chair: Alexandria Sham (HKCBA)

Speakers: Lawrence Nutting (The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong), Colin Hansen (Advantage BC), Michael Wong (University of Waterloo), Tytus Michalski (Fresco Capital)

Alexandria began by introducing HKCBA as one of the largest bilateral business associations in Canada. She also mentioned that the association will be hosting its 2016 national conference in Calgary.

Lawrence reiterated the trend in the increasing amount of start-ups in Hong Kong and the focus in innovation that existed even in big businesses. He also talked about how companies could achieve growth through partnership with the Chamber and HKCBA by leveraging bridging opportunities and understanding the value of networking to other members. He concluded that individuals made a difference in business and that the mission of organizations such as the Chamber and HKCBA was to support members and future members in order to create value and develop talent.

Colin discussed how the government of British Columbia was looking to continue bridging to Asia with economic agreements. British Columbia’s vision is to become the most Reminbi (“RMB”) friendly market in Asia, with the recent establishment of “dim sum” bonds and the potential of issuing “panda” bonds in Vancouver. Canada had also recently been declared the world’s tenth RMB settlement hub, serving to further promote Canada as a financial gateway from China to the Americas.

Michael talked about the University of Waterloo (“UWaterloo”) and the benefits that its students received in participating in Co-Op education. The UWaterloo Co-Op Program allowed students to gain practical business experience while studying so that they could find their niche in the business world more easily. UWaterloo students partaking in the Program had demonstrated their potential for business innovation on many occasions, and the university is looking to increase partnerships in Asia to allow for more opportunities for this body of talent to grow.

Tytus provided eight lessons to learn in conducting successful business partnerships based on his experience. This advice included forgetting “or” and finding “and”, learning to look for opportunities that might not seem obvious, finding great talent, and remembering to stay open to new ideas as part of the learning process of business.

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Panel 4 – Hong Kong: A Super Connector Between Asia and Canada

Panel Discussion Chair: Parker Robinson (The Word Factory)

Speakers: Jenny Too (HKTDC), Amanda Casgar (Lululemon), Albert Tam (Intercontinental Group), Arnold Leung (Appnovation Technologies Inc.)

Parker described Hong Kong as having evolved from a bridge to a gateway to a super connector between Asia and Canada. Its role as a super connector meant that Hong Kong was the ideal place for Canadian businesses to set up to enhance links with the mainland and expand across East Asia.

Jenny noted that Hong Kong and China had bucked recent global trends and seen an increase in foreign direct investment (“FDI’) flows over the past few years. Despite increasing globalization in mainland China, Hong Kong still played an important role there in facilitating FDI flows. There had also been growth in Guangdong enterprises operating in Canada and the HKTDC continued to play an important role in bringing such mainland businesses and investors to Canada while operating out of Hong Kong.

Amanda shared her company’s ideas in expanding to Hong Kong. The decision to do so was purposely led with the realization that Asia needed to be taken into account in the company’s world view. The company sought to motivate employees through the idea of the choice to love what you do. It practiced a decentralized business model that helped foster a culture of entrepreneurship and hard work. Concerning marketing, Amanda stated that the company relied largely on word of mouth through community connectors for organic brand growth.

Albert talked about his experience in accountancy and consulting and how he used it to help Canadians integrate comfortably into Hong Kong and use the region as a base for expanding into mainland China. He recommended Hong Kong as a good place to connect with the mainland and the Shanghai Equity Exchange as a useful resource to get into the market there.

Arnold explained the reasons for choosing Hong Kong as the location of choice in Asia Pacific due to not only its proximity to China, but also the ability to conveniently provide service to Asia. He also listed several other benefits including the excellent legal system and the straightforward business culture.
Panel 5: How We Are Helping Canadian Companies Expand Their business into Hong Kong (and China)

Speakers: Lynn McDonald (Consulate General of Canada), Henri Arslanian (APrivacy)

Lynn focused on the role of Canada’s federal government in Hong Kong. The government operated through embassies and consulates not only to negotiate agreements with other governments, but also provide consular services to Canadian expats. Trade commissions were also located at the embassies and consulates, as well as in regional offices across Canada, operating with a vision for excellence in facilitating partnerships, deal flow and FDI to Canada provide a range of services to Canadian businesses abroad, such as market assessment and recommendation of qualified contacts.

Henri built on Lynn’s presentation by asserting how Global Affairs Canada had been positively affecting businesses abroad through the embassies and consulates. He gave an overview of his company as providing electronic email security to diplomats, militaries, and financial service providers. The Consulate General in Hong Kong was pivotal in facilitating the company’s expansion to Hong Kong through providing the contacts and networking needed to do so.

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