February 19, 2019
Garage Society Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Globally-renowned talent investor and venture firm Entrepreneur First (EF) showcased a total of 13 startups from Hong Kong and Singapore. The founders entered the EF program at a pre-company stage and spent six months building their products from the ground up.
EF Asia Managing Director Alex Crompton welcomed guests and shared the news that the firm recently closed a US$115 million funding round before handing the microphone to the EF Hong Kong General Manager Lavina Tien.
Tien spoke about the firm’s reasoning behind setting up the program in Hong Kong, explaining that the quality of education and capital available in the city makes it ripe for startup disruption. She then introduced the companies, which span the biotech, big data, healthtech, robotics, and edtech industries.
“EF is a game-changer for Hong Kong. There is so much untapped talent–technical, domain and otherwise– tucked away in academia and large corporations, that the idea of coming out to build a globally important company is not always front of mind,” says Tien.
The cohort includes a number of frontier technologies, notably seen with new-generation nano-filters for chemical separation (SEPPURE) and a data converter with the potential to alter the growth trajectory of 5G and IoT (Caelus Technologies). Another theme is products that appeal to corporates, such as intelligent compliance assistant MICA by Radicali, and AI-driven due diligence solution, NOTARUM.
Hardware products were among the most memorable; Volt14’s lithium-ion batteries are challenging the industry standard by increasing the stored power of its cells by up to 70% compared to what’s currently on the market. Neptune Robotics pitched their underwater drone, which cleans biomass from ships to reduce lag and unnecessary fuel consumption.
Although an early-stage investment firm, EF positions themselves as ‘talent investors,’ preferring to reach out to individuals rather than startups. This differentiator is evident in the founders they attract, as they all boast exceedingly impressive backgrounds, where PhDs and industry awards are in no short supply.
EF has backed over 1,200 founders since 2011, building companies worth a total of $1.5 billion. –MC