Fertility, AI and electric bike start-ups compete for a slice of US$5 million pie in Alibaba, HSBC-sponsored contest

In-vitro fertilisation (IVF), artificial-intelligence (AI)-supported skincare and electric bikes are among technologies being pursued by 30 start-ups that have been chosen as finalists in a contest in Hong Kong sponsored by the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund (AEF) and HSBC.

The companies were shortlisted out of more than 1,000 start-ups from 85 countries taking part in the Jumpstarter 2023 Global Pitch Competition. Seventeen of the 30 teams are based in Hong Kong, while the rest come from the United States, Britain, mainland China, Singapore, South Korea, Israel and Ghana.

AEF, a non-profit initiative launched by Alibaba Group Holding to encourage technological innovation, will invest a total of up to US$5 million in the 30 start-ups, selected after several rounds of pitching.

Cash prizes for the top winner and other honourees will total HK$1 million (US$127,000), said Cindy Chow, executive director and CEO of the fund.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

Cindy Chow (left), executive director and CEO of the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund, and Frank Fang, head of commercial banking in Hong Kong and Macau at HSBC, at a press conference. Photo: Handout

The finalists include Hong Kong-based EggLogics, competing in the biotechnology and life sciences category. The start-up focuses on improving fertility treatments with cutting-edge IVF technology.

Sorra, another Hong Kong-based start-up, develops AI-backed beauty platforms for the skincare industry, with the aim of using data to give consumers personalised recommendations and help them make informed choices.

Wahu Mobility, a Ghanaian developer of connected electric bikes, supports mobility service providers in building sustainable fleets. Structure Pal, an Israeli start-up, leverages AI to optimise building designs and cut construction costs, materials and carbon emissions.

Start-ups raising capital are facing growing challenges, such as rising interest rates and geopolitical tensions, according to AEF’s Chow.

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However, while the overall investment sentiment remains cautious and the cost of capital is still high, many start-ups are growing rapidly and can withstand those pressures, according to Frank Fang, general manager and head of commercial banking in Hong Kong and Macau at HSBC.

Fang said Hong Kong’s maturing innovation and tech ecosystem has enabled local start-ups and other business ventures to fully utilise their competitive advantages and develop a strategic foothold in the Greater Bay Area – the Chinese economic hub consisting of Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in southern Guangdong province.

“As Hong Kong is now more clearly positioned to become an international innovation and technology centre, the city has many opportunities to turn these technologies into part of the economy,” Fang said.

The grand finale of the Jumpstarter competition will be held on November 16 and 17 in Hong Kong.

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