A Guide to the Hong Kong Startup Community!

To say that Hong Kong’s startup ecosystem is growing, is an understatement! It’s booming! As more and more success stories pile up, HK is beginning to stake its claim as one of Asia’s hottest startup hubs.

Tytus Michalski (MD, Fresco Capital) wrote in a recent content piece that the most important factor for the tremendous progress during the past five years has been the entrepreneurs themselves. Capital from angel investors and real estate from coworking spaces has surely made it easier overall.

To be honest, there isn’t one particular industry that Hong Kong entrepreneurs belong to. Yes, we are inherently well-suited to FinTech thanks to our legacy of being Asia’s financial headquarters. Also, hardware, while easier said than done, is becoming the weapon of choice for many — attributable, of course, to the proximity to the world’s hardware capital Shenzhen. Other than these two, we’ve got logistics, productivity application, entertainment, content discovery, gaming and even online platforms for startups themselves.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the HOT boiling cauldron of HK Startups. Get the full overview of Startuptravels City Guides here!

Accelerators/Incubators to get into…

  1. Blueprint
    Backed by Swire Properties, one of HK’s most prominent property developers, blueprint is a no-strings attached accelerator for B2B startups. A batch of 10–11 startups shares the 10k sqft. space & 70 mentors over 6 months.
  2. Cyberport
    Cyberport is a HK government-run massive facility for tech companies and startups. Cyberport has an accelerator and an incubation programme. The Cyberport Creative Micro Fund (CCMF) is a 6-month accelerator that invests HK$ 100,000, whereas the incubation programme lasts for 2 years and provides support upto HK$ 530,000.
  3. Hong Kong Science and Technology Park
    The 3 incubation programmes operated by Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) — Incu-App, Incu-Tech, and Incu-Bio — are custom-made for startups involved in web and mobile technology, technology and biotechnology respectively.
  4. Brinc
    Brinc is an IoT accelerator based in Hong Kong that differentiates itself by providing easy access to the Pearl River Delta, known for manufacturing and distribution expertise. For 2015, their goal is to support >20 companies that do IoT right with a strong focus on the consumer.
  5. Nest
    Nest is a startup incubator that has invested in a number of startups over time. Over the last couple of months, they’ve launched 2 corporate sponsored accelerators for health tech and fintech startups in partnership with AIA and DBS Bank respectively.

Coworking spaces to work at…

  1. Blueprint
    No, this is not a mistaken repetition. Blueprint has a coworking space, also of 10,000 sqft., located one floor below the accelerator. While the initial capacity was 300 members, I’ve heard they have expanded that to accommodate the high volume of requests received.
  2. Cyberport Smart Space
    Cyberport Smart Spaces are aimed at helping technology companies that are seeking to grow or enter Mainland China and Asian markets and want to use HK as their stepping stone. The best things about their space are the prices, their flexibility and the view!
  3. TusPark
    TusPark Hong Kong is the latest, and by some accounts the largest (the Kwun Tong building is 9 floors!), addition to the HK scene. A subsidiary of Beijing based Tus-Holdings, it is backed by Tsinghua University and their vast network spread all over Mainland China and abroad.
  4. Garage Society
    One of the buzziest spaces in Hong Kong, GS plays host to loads of startup events providing tons of opportunities to network. The original location is bang in the middle of the business district Central, and they’ve just launched a second one a short distance away.
  5. CoCoon
    The original (maybe, second) Hong Kong coworking space CoCoon opened way back in 2012 and has been the cornerstone for the startup zone here in HK. The space is a favourite among freelancers and almost always has packed events, all year round.

Entrepreneurs to look up…

  1. Casey Lau
    Casey belongs to the first group of startuppers here in Hong Kong. He co-founded and sold an ecommerce startup in 2000, following that up with 3 more. He is the co-founder of StartupsHK, which is the leading storehouse of information on the HK startup scene. Also, he’s the APAC community development manager for Softlayer’s Catalyst Program.
  2. Catherine Tan
    An ex-investment banker at Morgan Stanley and Barclays, Catherine is the cofounder of Notey, a platform for discovering blogs. She splits her time between Hong Kong, Vancouver and travelling the world. Notey is one of the fastest growing startups in the world — more on this in the next section.
  3. Martin Kessler
    If you’re in hardware, Martin’s your man! He is definitely the man to get in touch with if you’re looking for advice or mentorship re. building hardware startups and crowdfunding for them. He co-founded Phonejoy, and is now working on developing digital marketing strategies for startups. Also, the director for Founder Institute HK.
  4. Matthieu Bodin
    Matthieu Bodin is the most popular frenchman in the Hong Kong startup ecosystem. He is the organiser for Startup Weekend HK and the monthly meetup DrinkEntrepreneurs HK. By day, he works as a project manager at a digital agency.
  5. Jeffrey Broer
    The founder of PostMortemHK — Hong Kong’s very own startup FailCon, Jeffrey is a mentor and advisor to numerous entrepreneurs and startup teams. By day, he is the founder of a Grayscale, a HK-based user focussed design studio with an impressive portfolio of websites and applications. His team and he also built Surround app, a platform for using Weibo (a Chinese social media channel) for people who cannot read Chinese.
  6. Atin Batra *bonus 😉
    Yes, that is me. I founded my HK-based digital marketing agencyab.Initio..HK in December 2013. An interest in startups and events led me to sign up as a co-Director for Startup Grind Hong Kong. Towards the end of 2014, I launched HUK, an online platform for discovering startups events in Hong Kong — it is currently paused, as we redevelop some of our key features. Also curate Founded in Hong Kong.

Startups to follow…

  1. Notey
    Business Insider chose Notey as one of the 15 fastest growing startups in the world that you might not know about, and recently raised US$1.6mn from Ryan Holmes (Hootsuite), Hugo Barra (Xiaomi, ex-Google) and Steve Kirsch (Infoseek) among others. Notey is an online platform for perusing the best blogs from over 500,000 topics.
  2. Shopline
    Shopline is a DIY e-commerce platform built specifically for Asian markets. It focusses on non-tech-savvy merchants looking for a quick and simple way to set up and manage their online shop.
  3. Easyship
    Easyship is a tech startup that provides fulfilment and logistics support to eCommerce merchants, on demand. They pick up, pack up and ship their customers’ orders all over the world. Recently won at Startup Asia!
  4. 8 Securities
    The FinTech darling in Hong Kong, 8 Securities is a leading online & mobile investing service in Asia. It has so far raised US$ 21.5 mn from investors and currently holds more than US$1 billion in client assets.
  5. Aftership
    AfterShip helps individuals and businesses track packages and get delivery notifications. AfterShip was founded at Startup Weekend Hong Kong 2011 and went on to win the Global Startup Battle.

Events to go to…

  1. Web Wednesday
    The grand-daddy of startup events in HK, Web Wednesday was founded in 2007 and is run by Napoleon Biggs. Organised on a monthly basis, it is regularly attended by 150+ people including founders, investors and service providers.
  2. Startup Grind
    Startup Grind is an international startup event series you might be familiar with. It is a monthly fireside chat that has more than 150 chapters across 65 countries. The Hong Kong chapter was launched in February’11.
  3. DrinkEntrepreneurs HK
    DrinkEntrepreneurs is the monthly afterwork of HK’s entrepreneurial ecosystem! Organised by Matthieu Bodin, it aims to be the laid back monthly event where entrepreneurs enjoy hanging out with fellow hackers and startupers.
  4. CoCoon Pitch
    CoCoon Pitch event enables entrepreneurs to present their products or services to a varied audience including founders, customer, investors and partners. So far, over 100 teams have pitched and CoCoon entrepreneurs and alumni have raised over US$14mn in funding.
  5. StartwareHK — Hardware Breakfast
    Startware is the cornerstone meetup for makers in Hong Kong. Spearheaded by Martin Kessler, the meetup is known for the minimal breakfast series where <12 founders share ideas and attempt to help each other.

Anything else we should add? Let us know in the comments below.

This is a guest post by Founded in Hong Kong and previously appeared on Medium.

Press Release: Founded X Startup Stats

Find the perfect place to start your next business

Looking to start up on the other side of the world? Jump in the Founded X Startup Statistics and find your perfect startup location. All countries in the world have their own unique advantages and characteristics. With our Startup Stats page you’re able to sort on the cost of starting a business, the availability of a startup visa or the price of a beer.

Founder Maarten van den Heuvel explains: “Traveling between countries is so easy these these days and working remotely is becoming more popular with trends such as digital nomadism and entrepreneurial retreats. Only starting a business in a foreign country can still be a hassle. We’re going to change that.”

With Founded X we’ve a clear focus on uncovering local startup scenes and this is the next step towards reaching that goal. These statistics will help you not only to discover new startup scenes but also become part of them. In the future we will continue to expand its functionality with more information and adding new ways for startup founders to connect worldwide.

Since launching our platform and community early November 2014, we‘ve listed nearly 2,000 startups on local sites in 30 countries. We’re working together with 300 local startup experts to build startup communities in over 80 countries.

We’ve started this initiative to celebrates local innovative startups globally. Not focused on the usual suspects but build around the underdogs that develop tomorrow’s innovations and are eager to participate in the worldwide startup economy. Starting a business in each of these places requires exceptional courage and persistence. The locally curated lists presented by Founded X are a tribute to all innovative startups that are proud of their local roots.

Check out Founded X Startup Stats at http://stats.foundedx.com

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Contact details

Maarten van den Heuvel

The Indian Startup Scene – An Interview with Arun Pattnaik


Arun Pattnaik is the curator behind Founded In India. As well as doing some excellent work in promoting Indian startups, Arun somehow finds time to look after an impressive client list of his own which has previously included companies such as Totango which have been on my own watch list for a while. I was delighted that Arun agreed to do this interview. His passion and knowledge make him the perfect guy to educate us on what the Indian startup scene looks like at present, the inevitable barriers to success and what the future holds for this fast-paced, developing country.

AF: What do you do Arun? Tell us a bit about you.

AP: I am a freelance UX consultant. I help startups build amazing products by engineering an intuitive and immersive experience for their users. To achieve this, I work at the intersection of 3 disciplines: design, technology and art. This speaks to my personality also, as I’ve always been a curious person with a love for solving problems with technology. I grew up during the dotcom boom, and have been fortunate enough to work with wonderful startups. I’m currently helping a startup called BrowserStack in building the world’s best device testing platform.

AF: How would you describe the Indian startup scene?

AP: The Indian startup scene has skyrocketed in the last few years. They have been raising incredible amounts of investment, which is both exciting and scary at the same time. We’re seeing a rapid rise in the number of products launched every year, and there is a wonderful wave of entrepreneurship sweeping across the country. More and more grads are opting to start their own ventures instead of joining the rat race. I hear success stories of Indian founders almost every other day. It wasn’t the case a few years earlier. I like where the country is heading.


AF: What is the toughest challenge faced by Indian founders today?

AP: Ironically, despite being the 2nd most populous country on earth, hiring good talent is still one of the biggest challenges; especially in the field of design. While the rise of engineering colleges has led to an abundance of highly skilled programmers, we have a severe lack of design talent. I know several startups who have fantastic tech teams, but still struggle to get good designers onboard. A functional product, if not designed well, has a very slim chance of being successful in the market.

Another common challenge is an aversion to taking risks. Through personal experience, most of the failed startups were because the founders were moonlighting. It’s very hard to build successful company unless you go all in. Indian kids grow up learning to stay safe and work towards a stable future. As a result they aren’t groomed to take calculated risks in future. Of late, this deep-seated mentality is changing, and it’s a good thing.

AF: India has had some great startups emerge in recent years such as Flipkart & Hike. What are the reasons behind Indian companies doing so well?

AP: One of the biggest reasons is the huge influx of money from foreign investors. Large corporations are either acquiring or investing dramatically in Indian startups. Here’s a great TechCrunch article diving deeper into the investment activity in India.

Apart from that, there has been a shift in people’s mindsets which had earlier stopped them from taking risks. Entrepreneurs have now started to learn the benefits of failing early.

AF: Which Indian startup are you most excited about and why?

AP: It’s very hard to pick one. I’ve always been interested in hardware startups. In fact I’ve backed several of them on KickStarter. I’m particularly excited about TeeWeGecko and Vishal Gondal’s – GoKii. Another Indian startup I’m very excited about is BrowserStack, which also happens to be a client of mine. It’s one of the very few Indian startups which is bootstrapped, has an elite client base, and has managed to become and stay profitable as well as being hugely successful. I also like what Housing and Zomato are doing in their respective industries. Despite the numerous challenges, startups like these continue to push boundaries through technology.

AF: What impressed you about Founded X and why did you decide to take on the role as curator of Founded In India?

AP: FoundedX is an amazing initiative. I’ve done something similar in the past, so it comes naturally to me. I was previously an ambassador for India for Startup Compass  and I like the idea of building a tightly knit network of startup enthusiasts so we learn from each other and grow together.

AF: What does the future look like for Indian startups?

AP: The future looks brighter than ever! Amazing products are being built every other day. We continue to push boundaries in every sector. I mean, we just sent a rocket to Mars for a fraction of the usual cost! As the young innovators continue to do the impossible, the next decade looks to be a roller coaster ride. I’m looking forward to some Indian startups building billion dollar businesses, and some going the IPO route in the coming years.


AF: Although we’ve seen the likes of Flipkart and other prominent startups raise huge later stage rounds of funding, how would you describe the seed funding environment?

AP: As I said before, the Indian startups are attracting a lot of high-value investors and multinational corporations. This trend has had two immediately visible effects: it has contributed significantly to the growth of angel investors in India, as more and more people are coming forward to make their first investments. Conversely however, although seed investment is growing at a rapid clip and new startup accelerators are popping up across the country, it has taken a toll on the actual amounts of money invested. The seed amounts are getting smaller every passing year. Which means startups have less money to grow with, a short runway to survive, which, in turn, puts a lot of pressure on them to either raise more money or reach profitability in a shorter space of time.

Arun’s passion & knowledge of the Indian startup scene is apparent, and he’s never short of statistics and facts on what’s been happening there over the past few years. I’d definitely recommend reaching out to Arun via twitter if you wish to know more or reach a particular startup or person within the Indian ecosystem.

It goes without saying Arun but a big thank you from the team at FoundedX! 


The Austrian Startup Scene – An Interview With Marcus Pohorely


Part of the reasoning behind the Founded X initiative was to give startup communities around the world a chance to promote what they do. When announcing the blog, we mentioned that to get real insight into these communities we would conduct interviews with not only founders of startups but also with ‘Curators’ who run the Founded in X — Country Lists. These people are passionate about the startup community of which they represent.

Marcus Pohorely is the curator of Founded In Austria — talking to him in January was a great education on what’s going on there. Not only is he a huge supporter of Austrian startups and runs Founded in Austria, he also has a few neat products of his own that have spun out of his own company Clubdesign.at. I liked this because it’s great when we see curators who are founders themselves. Here’s a brief insight to what I learnt about Austria from Marcus.

AF: What do you do Marcus? Tell us a bit about you.

MP: I’m a web developer running my own company (Clubdesign.at) focused on building websites and web apps, sometimes with clients, sometimes just for fun, like our very own product Pagelanes. I’m also part of Probots & Les Avignons crew here in Graz, which are small studios of several excellent freelancers from different genres working together closely.

AF: How would you describe the Austrian startup scene?

MP: Relatively tight-knit. Maybe it’s because Austria is such a small country, but you end up meeting and getting to know all the involved after a while. But it could always be better, which is one of the reasons we wanted Founded In to bring people even closer together and offer an overview for people starting out.

AF: What is the toughest challenge facing Austrian founders today?

MP: This is sort of a continuation from the previous question. A difficulty is generating wide-spread interest, especially outside of startup circles. Internet penetration is excellent, but people seem to be a bit reluctant to try out new products, apps or services in general and therefore finding early adopters can be difficult. Another part is the infrastructure/startup system, we don’t have very many investors taking risks. A lot of the startups are completely self-financed or side projects entirely. This is another downside to being a smaller country, but for some it’s also a key motivational factor. We’ll have to see how legislative/infrastructure decisions shape the Austrian startup ecosystem once politicians catch wind of this growing part of the economy.

AF: Austria has had some great startups emerge in recent years such as Codeship & Play.fm. What are the reasons behind Austrian companies doing so well?

MP: I think that when Austrian startups gain outside interest and traction, they’re already very mature, have the key parts of their futures mapped out and outside forces (like funding or just general media interest) will boost a positive foundation exponentially.

AF: What Austrian startup are you most excited about and why?

MP: NOKI, because the thought of combining Austrian craftsmanship with technology looks very, very good. We’re of course very proud of Codeship, Chatgrape and Crate for how they’re growing.

AF: What impressed you about FoundedX and why did you decide to take on the curation of Founded In Austria?

MP: The whole crew just really liked the idea of offering an overview of national startups, to help boost recognition and the possibilities that open up down the line. Like better connect startups with job applicants, users and also investors. We really hope that Founded In Austria will not just become a snapshot of a certain tech scene at one point in time, but sort of a knowledge base that might help something that’s an idea now, turn into a company in the future.

AF: What does the future look like for Austrian startups?

MP: I think we’ll see more interest from investors and financiers and more professionalization from startups in Austria. Let’s hope the public in general will catch up with awesome companies creating amazing products. As we say on our FiA site, considering we’re one of the richest countries, great standards of living, care systems and growing industry, we believe these positive economic factors will help the startup economy here grow, through technology and industry growing together and people taking on risks and innovations to make their vision a reality. Fingers crossed that in a few years Austria will be the hotbed for startups in Europe.

Thanks Marcus! It really was a pleasure to get chatting to you. We’re now well informed about Austria and can keep an eye on Founded In Austria to see how things progress over the next year. If anybody wishes to contact Marcus, please reach out to hello@foundedx.com and we’d be happy to make an introduction. You can also follow Founded In Austria on twitter.

Founder Interviews – Floris van Hoogenhuyze, Founder of Barqo (The Airbnb For Boats).


As you might have read in my previous interview with Brian Garret, of 3D Hubs I was in Amsterdam towards the end of January. In my interview a week earlier with Brian who is based there I had questioned whether Amsterdam was really one of the big European Tech Hubs. I found myself at Rockstart Accelerator, a startup hub right in the centre of Amsterdam only a few minutes walk from the AirBnB I was staying in. Floris Van Hoogenhuyze, is the founder of Barqo and in our early email exchanges we had agreed to meet early for coffee in the ground floor coffee shop/co-working space of Rockstart. I expected things to be quiet at this time of the morning but I walked in to what can only be described as a hive of activity and immediately my comments to Brian a week before were retracted about Amsterdam not being a great startup hub. I met Floris and within minutes we got on well, his energy is electric. The guy was bouncing already and I don’t believe it was the caffeine intake, it appeared he’s just always like that.

Floris is one of the founder of Barqo a startup in Amsterdam enabling Peer-to-Peer Boat Sharing. They’re an AirBnB for boats to put it simply.

AF: So Floris, tell us a little about you? The story of how you got to Barqo.

FV: I studied economics and then I followed that by working at Heineken on a part-time basis whilst doing a thesis on a large corporate bank. At this point I realised the corporate world wasn’t for me and I wanted to do my own thing. So in 2012 I joined a company doing video production & online video marketing called HUISenVIDEO. It was specialising in video production and marketing for the real estate sector and in the early days (2012) it was a pretty rough ride but we managed to get through it and become profitable in the first year. That company is still alive today and continues to grow. However, then one day myself and my two co-founders Sebastien de Groot and Thijs Janssen were drinking coffee outside in January 2014. We saw the first boat of the morning sail by along the canal here in Amsterdam and we happened to be discussing the possibilities of the sharing economy and in particular the success of AirBnB. I guess you might say it was the eureka moment when we started very quickly to move onto the topics of boats – Peer to Peer (P2P) Boat Sharing.. And hence Barqo was founded. The experience is huge in Amsterdam and across Holland. There are 400,000 boats in the country and so we discovered that the domestic market alone was huge. Basically you have a lot of boats that remain unused on average for 92% of the time which is staggering. Sailing is popular here in Holland but not everyone has their own boat and why should they? Barqo was created to solve that problem. So we started working pretty hard at launched at the end of the season (bad timing but worked out ok) in late August, early September 2014.


AF: How much traction did you get off your launch bearing in mind it was the end of boating season? 

FV: It was pretty good, we had a few hundred boats on the platform fairly quickly. These were requests built up prior to even launching from our landing page form. Even though the season was nearly over we still managed to get 30 transactions of happy Barqo customers sharing their boats to strangers.. Which is pretty cool right? This is all with what can only be described as a proof of concept so I was pretty pleased heading into the winter months when we really had a chance to get our head down on Barqo in time for the next season.

AF: You’ve mentioned Seasons quite a lot. Is this a seasonal product? Surely there are implications from this? 

FV: Well that was a big concern of mine too but now after seeing the majority of winter through we’re quite excited. What we found is that boat owners and sailors have a chance in the winter months to be focusing on next season. During the winter months when boats are either racking up charges for being out of the water, maintenance costs, or more commonly, sitting docked and haven’t been used for a number of months the concerns are all the same: 1. We’re not getting use of our boat and it’s costing us money 2. Nobody is renting our boats. This realisation heightens the urgency to do something about it. 1. We must get more use out of our boat 2. We must get more income from renting our boat. So winter time is a great time to be onboarding new boat owners and then during the boating season our focus is on mobilising the community which is a challenge in itself. From a customer perspective, booking a boating trip is much like booking a summer holiday.. It’s often planned ahead and booked months in advance and whilst we are encouraging customers to go on spontaneous boating trips, we’re happy for them to be booking in advance. We’re now seeing other locations in Europe and further a field sign up for Barqo where the season is year round which is a great positive but we’ve still got to figure out our strategy on other markets. Domestic focus must come first.

AF: So what is the biggest thing your team is working on right now? 

FV: We’re actually working on a huge insurance model with one of the biggest insurance providers in Holland. It’s a massive undertaking and we’re making real progress on it. It will steady the ship in a big way once that’s secured. You know the importance and how large AirBnB’s insurance model is and that’s primarly for homes so you can imagine what it’s like for boats.

AF: What’s the next milestone for Barqo?

FV: Right now it’s about stacking ‘seller side’ on the marketplace. So by February we will have 1000 boats on the platform and we’ll grow at 50% into March and April.

AF: You had mentioned growth hacking earlier to me before we’d started the interview. What tricks or hacks work best for Barqo? 

FV: For us at the moment it’s actually more of a manual ‘growth hack’. We hit big boat fairs, we don’t get a stand. The four of us split up and go into absolute hustle mode and it works a treat every time. There’s always a spike in boat signups and interest over the next few days when we do that. We’ll be doing a lot more of that as we approach boating season.


AF: Can you tell us a bit about your team? 

FV: Sure. We’re currently 4 but soon to be 5 in the next few weeks. We’re all based here in Amsterdam. 2 Developers, 1 community manager and then myself and my 2 co-founders. As founders we wear a lot of different hats and play a lot of roles within the company just now.

AF: Can you tell us a bit about how you are funded? 

FV: At first we funded it ourselves, using our own capital that we invested into Barqo. We then raised a convertible note which was really useful as it cuts down the fund-raising process significantly and takes away the need to argue over terms and valuations. Now we’re about ready to put the next round in motion. My big thing is not to get too focused on fundraising. It takes up so much time and almost becomes an obsession. We’re in a good place and the company needs my focus so although we’ll be raising another round soon, I’ll be doing my best not to get too distracted. I guess we’re in a unique position where we have a previous company that is profitable and running sustainably by itself which helps a lot.

AF: Please explain your business model.

FV: Similar to AirBnb I guess. They charge a service fee to both the owner and the tenant. We charge a service fee to the owner of the boat of 15%.

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AF: What’s a big challenge for you guys in the future? **Up until this point I was already mightily impressed by Barqo and their founder Floris, however it was only when this question was asked I saw the true operator and strategic thinker that he is. It was at this point that Barqo appeared on my personal ‘ones to watch list’.

FV: I want to grow internationally. Every startup does right? But it’s in what way we grow is the biggest dilemma. I intend to start by mobilising and encouraging the dutch community to go on boating excursions and holidays abroad and not just in Holland. After that once we start generating traction in other markets we have a problem on our hands, one which I’m already doing a lot of thinking about. It’s Uber versus AirBnB right? AirBnB centralised themselves. Yes, they have other offices but for the most part they are centralised. Uber on the other hand have went country to country — roman conqueror style. For us we’ve AirBnB’s concept right? It’s the sharing economy, but then from a growth perspective just like Uber targets congested cities, we have to follow the boat trail and our company immediately becomes logistically challenged from the get-go. **Floris elaborated further on this and revealed some of their tactics to overcome this but maybe that’s for another day**

AF: Talk me through your daily routine? **Again it was here that Floris passed his iPad across the table and I understood more about the man I was talking to. I thought I liked my daily routine and that my Google Calendar was impressive but Floris takes it to the next level. His discipline in time management was impressive and I was then able to realise that it wasn’t just because he and I were early birds that we were meeting at this time but because it’s just how he does things. For it to be quite early in their startup journey, Barqo have a lot of structure in place. 

FV: So maybe I’ll talk more about the team first. We only do 2 meetings a week. Monday and Thursday mornings are when the whole team gets together and we pretty much evaluate everything. After that we have 2 working blocks during the week where we’re all behind our screens but working on the same thing, headphones out and talking to one another. The rest of the week everyone gets on with their individual tasks which we use wunderlist for. I find meetings to be unproductive and so as a founder it’s easy to get distracted with lots of external meetings (He laughs across the table at me hinting that I am one of these ‘distracting external meetings’). So when they do come along, I make them early morning only as I don’t like stopping and starting throughout the day. For me I’m a creature of habit. I often wake early with breakfast, coffee and a newspaper (oldschool) on the agenda immediately and I’m usually in here no later than 8am to get early meetings out of the way.

AF: What was the highlight of 2014 for you? 

FV: I was playing cricket on a Saturday afternoon. After a break in play I had a quick peak at the Barqo app where I can login in to monitor performance and I saw that at that moment in time there were 6 boats out on excursions in different places around the country by first time users. It was such an amazing feeling as I had nothing to do with it. I was playing cricket after-all!

That’s it for this time but I suspect on my next trip to Amsterdam I’ll pop in and see these guys again and maybe do an update on where they are at. Floris and the Barqo team are super enthused by the work Founded In Holland and FoundedX are doing and it’s exciting to see startups supporting the cause and getting behind it. Although it’s a little premature the team at Barqo might be doing a collaboration on a community event later in the year with us at FoundedX so that is certainly something to listen out for!





Founder Interviews – Ben Lang, Founder of Mapme


Welcome to our second Founder Interview with a Founded X startup. A few weeks ago we interviewed a FoundedX Curator – Nir Kouris who runs Founded In Israel. During the interview there was a question asking Nir what startups he was most excited about in Israel and before I could finish the question he was bigging these guys up! We decided to see for ourselves and so last week had the opportunity to do an interview with Mapme.

Ben Lang is the founder and CEO of Mapme, a tool to build, launch & grow your own community map.

AF: How did it come about? Tell us a little of the founding story.

BL: Mapme is a platform that enables people to create community maps. It started as a side project for me when I was in the army here in Israel and I built MappedInIsrael just because I was interested to show off what it’s all about here in the Israel tech scene. Although it was just a fun side project, I continued to work on it and some friends joined me to help out to add a ton of new features. After a while people started reaching out saying “hey, can you build us a map” or “hey, can we do that? can you tell us how?”. It was just passionate people wanting to create a map for their own thing. Whether it be whiskey communities or even just people wanting to map their friends and family around the world. Basically any community that was built around places was wanting to use it for themselves and crowdsource information. So yeah, that’s how Mapme came about I guess. I finished the Army about 3 months ago and decided it was time to do my own thing.

AF: You’ve been involved in a few startups before Mapme. Can you tell us how thats helped shape you as a founder today? 

BL: Yeah, I did. I worked for a few different startups before this. I worked for Wibiya, Kampyle and a VC firm -Lool. My role was always geared around marketing and I guess that’s what I became good at. I did develop technical skills in the army but I prefer the marketing aspect, gaining traction and so on.

AF: Can you tell us a little bit about how you are funded? 

BL: We’re raising a round at the moment but until now we’ve been self-funded.


AF: Please explain your business model and tell us a little bit about your growth.

BL: We’re just not there yet. We’re only just getting started and its not long since the team was leaving their old roles. So right now we’re focused on getting the self-service platform live and then after that we’ll worry about revenue. We’re all about focusing on product just now. We have a ton ideas that we can experiment with when the time comes and we were able to try some of them with MappedInIsrael which was the first real active map.me community. When we’re ready we’ll look at doing the same for other map.me communities. To date we’ve had 600 requests to build maps and that number is growing steadily.

AF: You were previously enrolled in the IDF – Israel Defence Force. We’ve heard from Nir the effect the IDF has had on the Israeli startup scene. How has that experience helped you as a founder?

BL: Yes, it’s a great place to network. I would say that’s the best part of it. Lots of very smart people all working as a team. Once you finish the army a lot of people go back and hire there for developer or even cofounders. Of course it goes without saying, it really depends where you are in the army.

AF: What are your fears as a founder?

BL: Building the right team is definitely of high importance but I think I/we have done a really good job of that. After that there is definitely fear around your product. “Can I build a really good product that solves a problem”? It’s really hard, far harder than it seems.

AF: Can you give us insight into the daily routine within the team? 

BL: I’m not big into too much structure – it’s just about making sure you’re getting stuff done. I tend to dump a ton of actions into Asana every day and then quickly prioritise them in order. Once a day the whole team gets together for a fairly short workshop primarily around product but it’s more just to ensure we’re all working off the same page. We try to keep them pretty short and not waste too much time. If people need to chat they can do so in our team slack.

AF: What’s the next big milestone? 

BL: Right now we have like 600 requests for people to create maps. So we’re trying to get some Beta maps out there quickly and then after that releasing a self-service platform so those people can create maps on their own. The next big challenge after that is figuring out how to grow the individual maps themselves.

AF: What tools do the team use to work effectively? 

BL: It’s very easy to have lots and lots of tools so we try to keep it simple. For team communication we use Slack and Asana. We’ve started using Mixpanel for our analytics on the product and we also use pocket as a way to save and share findings for the rest of the team.

AF: Tell us a little about the team. 

BL: Currently the headcount stands at 6. We have 2 developers, a product/UX guy, a CTO, myself as the CEO and finally my co-founder who looks after the business, finance & legal end. You can read more about the team here.


AF: What is the coolest project you’ve seen on Mapme? 

BL: It’s a little biased but definitely MappedInIsrael was very cool. Then again we haven’t released the self-service platform so I’m sure there are other contenders lining up to use the service. The 600 requests to build community maps come in all shapes and sizes and we’re super excited to see what these people use Mapme for.

Ben is certainly a young and confident founder that seems to have the backing from everyone that I’ve spoken to who knows him or knows of him. Talking to Ben confirmed all the hype about the Israeli tech scene that Nir had proudly spoken of a few weeks ago. Many thanks for your time Ben. The team at FoundedX watches on with interest.


Founder Interviews – Brian Garret, Founder of 3D Hubs

Brian Garret (right)

I believe this is our first Founded X Founder Interview. We’ll be publishing a few more of these one-to-ones with founders from the communtiy over the next week so keep a look out!

Brian Garret is the founder and CEO of 3D Hubs, a startup that connects anybody with a 3D printer. It must be noted that in my interview with Brian, I wanted to discuss my opinion on Amsterdam not neccessarily being recognised as a big European tech hub — Brian rightly corrected me though. The interview was done virtually last week, before I’d ever got over here to Amsterdam, so I’d no real basis for my opinion other than maybe the tech media. I spent this week in Amsterdam and had a chance to meet some of the up & coming startups around the city and have been educated to how vibrant a tech hub it is!

AF: How did it come about? Tell us a little of the founding story.

BG: Bram (Co-Founder) and I were working at a 3D Printing company called 3D Systems. We sold lots and lots of 3D Printers, but we noticed that these printers weren’t used all that much after the initial enthusiasm wore off. So we started talking to some of these printer owners to find out if they would be open to print for others. We got an overwhelming yes, and the idea for 3D Hubs was born. A couple months later we quit our jobs, got accepted into Rockstart and connected our first couple printers. Now year and a half later we’ve got over 10.000 printers connected in 150 countries.


AF: You’re based between NYC & Amsterdam. How does that affect the dynamics of the team & company culture? Is it more difficult than imagined to keep on top of things or how have you managed?

BG: Indeed we’ve got two offices, we’ve been very aware of the risk of splitting teams up between locations, of course the 6 hour time difference isn’t an easy thing to beat. We’ve done a pretty good job so far, we make sure that there is always someone in New York from the Amsterdam team or there is someone in Amsterdam from the New York team. We also have a live Video Portal open between the two offices so there is a lot of random chatter between team members. Especially the informal conversation is something we actively promote because it helps keeping everyone in sync across locations.

AF: Please explain your business model and tell us a little bit about your growth.

BG: Our primary revenue stream is a 15% commission on every order that crosses the platform. We’ve seen pretty spectacular growth in 2014, on average we grow more than 30% Month-over-Month.

AF: You recently helped out Founded In Holland in their S2S (startup 2 startup) project, 3D printing their Tulip logo & sending it to other dutch startups. There seems to be a great startup community in Holland/Amsterdam yet it’s not recognised as one of the big startup hubs in Europe?

BG: I don’t really agree with that, I think Amsterdam is becoming one of the Hot Spots in Europe for Startups. All the big investors have people on the ground here, wether thats Balderton, Index or Accel they are all here because this is where it happens. Simply look at the investments raised by Adyen, ElasticSearch and Takeaway.com which totals to well over $400M.

AF: What are your fears as a founder?

BG: The biggest fear of any founder is being outperformed by your competition and not see it coming.

AF: What is your morning/daily routine & what is your most important task of the day?

BG: I start every morning (quite early) with catching up on most important email, then scheduling my day, followed by a standup with my development team. The rest of the day is pretty much filled with back-to-back meetings, calls and interviews. After 7 it usually quiets down, then I have time for some less urgent tasks, have dinner and spend about one more hour to empty out my inbox or work on something exciting and new for 3D Hubs.


AF: What is the next big milestone for 3D Hubs?

BG: In 2014 we built the network to allow anyone to 3D Print, in 2015 we’re going to deliver on that promise. We’ll have hundreds of thousands of people printing locally. In order to accomplish this we’ve got some big surprises in the pipeline.

AF: Can you tell us about a major hiccup/mistake you made along the way?

BG: We didn’t pay enough attention to our hiring strategy in the beginning, it turns out that in order to hire talent you have to go out there to talk to them and convince them to join your company. Especially tech talent is hard to find. Luckily we’ve passed that point and we now have a team of about 35 people, most of our positions are filled and people are lining up to join because we’ve built one of the coolest places to work in Amsterdam.

AF: An app, a book, a website, a blog or someone on twitter.. or something you recommend that our readers should definitely go check out?

BG: I really love Slack, it cut down on our internal email by about 50%, it also brought down the amount of shouting in the office which turns out to be a great boost for productivity.

AF: What size is the team? Are you hiring?

BG: We’re about 35 spread across the Amsterdam office, New York and a couple of people in the UK and Germany. We’ve got a couple of open positions (jobs.lever.co/3dhubs) and we’re always happy to talk to talented people that want to change the world with us.

AF: What is the coolest/most exciting 3D prinitng project you’ve seen? If applicable please include a link.

BG: It’s Strati, a 3D Printed Car: https://localmotors.com/3d-printed-car/ It’s literally printed in less than 48 hours, which means you can download the latest model and drive a few days later.

It was great of Brian to give us some time out of his busy schedule to give us an insight into one of Amsterdam’s fastest growing startups. It wasn’t until this morning that I happened to be passing 3D Hubs offices and popped into say hello very briefly (we hadn’t met as the interview was done via email). The hive of activity was evident even in the early hours of the morning. I was greated by several 3D printers situated inside the door and by a very busy Brian. We wish Brian & his team all the best with 2015!

One Man’s Quest To Showcase Bangladeshi Startups To The World

Rahim Md. Earteza is a co-founder of a tech company based in Dhaka. His company ‘The Messenger’ works in the area of making apps, mobile games and web applications. Once I asked Earteza about his journey he credited all of it to serendipity. Earteza, personally, is not a technical person. He does not know how apps work but he knows how to get things done. And he has a childlike faith. Earteza says- once you do things for a good reason and do your best, return often comes.

His involvement with Founded in Bangladesh is yet another intriguing story. For people who want to make a difference the world is a big canvas to draw and they seldom miss any chance to contribute when it comes. Earteza was not involved with the startup community in Bangladesh until he started working with Founded X few months back.

Founded X is a global startup listing platform that aims to recognize local startups in a global scale. In a blog post the platform says: “Most people know about the startup scenes in Silicon Valley, New York, London, even Berlin. No offence to these giants but there are many more places where real innovation is done the startup way.” The platform offers free curated listing medium for underexposed countries around the world.

For people who want to make a difference the world is a big canvas to draw and they seldom miss any chance to contribute when it comes.

Once Earteza came to know about Founded X movement, he thought there is something we can do as well. As a country Bangladesh is often cited globally for bad news and wrong stories. Floods, political instability, and sweatshop like garments are the headline makers when it comes to Bangladesh. But we have many great stories to tell. As a nation we are one of the most resilient nations. We fought war, floods, famine successfully and we have made tremendous economic growth in the midst of political instability and all. Today, our youth are building exciting companies and taking brilliant initiatives. We need to tell these stories to the world. Bangladesh is no more a country of floods and instability. Today we are a country of great stories, ideas and potential.

Earteza is the curator of Founded in Bangladesh - (right) The logo of Founded in Bangladesh

Through Founded In Bangladesh platform Earteza aims to tell stories of great Bangladeshi startups. Earteza started Founded In Bangladesh out of passion. He thinks there are lots of great startups out there but we don’t know about many of them let alone people from abroad. Founded In Bangladesh will work as a platform where you can find Bangladeshi startups.

Today, our youth are building exciting companies and taking brilliant initiatives. We need to tell these stories to the world. Bangladesh is no more a country of floods and instability. Today we are a country of great stories, ideas and potential.

His story of starting Founded In Bangladesh is quiet interesting. Like his main business The Messenger, Founded In Bangladesh also started our of serendipity. Once I found the Founded X community and few other communities under the platform I thought why we don’t have one in Bangladesh. I asked my engineers to build a site by using Founded X module and started to ask people to list their startups in Bangladesh. The community responded well and we are now a community of nearly 100 startups.

With a comparatively large youth demography and increasing access to mobile and internet Bangladesh is one of the most lucrative investment destinations in south Asia. Founded In Bangladesh as a community driven, open and collaborative platform may become a starting point to understand Bangladesh startup eco-system in the future.

Earteza has a lot of ideas with the initiative. He aims to add more information about startups to the listing so that it can work as an information hub as well. But at this moment Earteza wants to add more startup to the list. When Earteza started out he did not think about making money out of it. He never thought out a revenue model. He just started out of passion. He saw a gap and tried to fill it up. With community response Founded In Bangladesh is a big community now. Earteza thinks in future they might be able to make money out of it.

The idea that we need no extrinsic award to start making things other than our own satisfaction is a huge liberation. That’s the lesson we can take from Earteza’s story. There is more to life than making calculative move always and great thing happen when you can get out of that boundary.

They say-”if you would not do your job for free, then quit”. There is an advantage to it-you will never feel tired and demoralized. Earteza’s story also tells us one more thing other than this: find a problem that you can solve and solve it for no reason other than that you love to solve it, rest will follow.

There is a chance that Founded In Bangladesh will go nowhere. It will not make any money but that does not make it any less worthy an initiative. It changes certain thing about startup community in Bangladesh.

The idea that we need no extrinsic award to start making things other than our own satisfaction is a huge liberation. That’s the lesson we can take from Earteza’s story. There is more to life than making calculative move always and great thing happen when you can get out of that boundary.

Originally published on Future Startup by Ruhul Kader on January 8, 2015.

The Israeli StartUp Scene – An interview with Nir Kouris

Part of the reasoning behind the Founded X initiative was to give startup communities around the world a chance to promote what they do. When announcing the blog, we mentioned that to get real insight into these communities we would conduct interviews with not only founders of startups but also with ‘Curators’ who run the Founded in X — Country Lists. These people are passionate about the startup community of which they represent.

This week we had a great discussion with Nir Kouris. Nir is an innovation consultant & startup ambassador who is at the heartbeat of the Tel Aviv startup scene and curator of Founded in Israel. It’s hard to think of anyone that I’ve spoken to that is as passionate about their native startups as Nir. It was a fantastic insight to Israel and what goes on at ground level. Conducting the interview, I soon realised the strength of the Founded X initiative. In each startup community in the world there is a Founded X representative relentlessly promoting startups. This is something few initiatives have & is something Founded X see as core of its future plans.

Nir Kouris

Here’s some of the dialogue from the chat we had with Nir. You can find more about him here, follow him on twitter & I highly recommend you check him out on Instagram too. It’s a mix of drones, conference snaps and lots of nice pastries!

AF: (AF: Andrew Fulton conducted the interview with Nir). What do you do Nir? Tell us about you.

NK: I primarily work with startups as an innovation consultant in many different capacities & sectors. I’m working closely with startups pursuing ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), Wearables, ‘Internet of Everywhere’ (IoE), and even more recently I’ve encountered startups working on ‘Internet of Me’ (IoM). Further to this I conduct a lot of startup meet-ups and events to help both promote Israel startups internationally and facilitate international companies to utilise Israeli talent & resources.

AF: How would you describe the Israeli startup scene?

NK: Israel is full of amazing talent and startups. There’s a cult right now, where everyone here wants to be an entrepreneur. People like to ‘hustle’. Here, the country is so small that everyone is helping one and other. There’s a sense of pride that if one of us succeeds then we all share in that because it helps our country. In Israel, the people are crazy. We have this attitude which we have a word for — ‘Chutzpah’. ‘Chutzpah’ is being rude in a good way. Giving constructive feedback. Chutzpah means to hustle. You see a big company? Don’t be afraid to go straight to their CEO and tell him what you think. Also, in Israel, things move super fast. People aren’t scheduling meetings or calls, people just come and speak to you.. now. In Israel, everyone must do 3 years in the Army. People spend 3 years in the best hi-tech units of the army. They become highly technical and understand teamwork and team dynamics, much like a startup. After 3 years you finish your army service and you feel like you can do whatever you like in the whole world. You’ve learned everything, you know all the developers from your unit. They know how to work with you, you know how to work with them, and so you go and open your own startup. There’s a famous unit, unit 8200 which produce many well-known startups.

AF: Toughest challenge facing Israeli founders today?

NK: Marketing & Design. I’ve been to Europe, and the importance is held on design and marketing and it’s done to an exceptionally high standard. Here, we are very good at R&D, but lack sufficient design and marketing talent. It often means Israeli startups needing to have a growth and marketing team outside of Israel, which is good but a challenge in itself.

Nir Kouris giving a talk at a Product Hunt meet up in Tel Aviv, Israel.


AF: Israel has had some fantastic startups emerge to searing valuations in recent years such as Kultura, Waze & Trusteer. Why has Israel consistently had big returns?

NK: The big tech giants such as Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook have started acquiring Israeli startups, or have been planting R&D teams here. This has driven M&A upwards and started a trend where lots of International companies are looking to have an Israeli company in their portfolio. It definitely has influenced a lot of pre-seed & seed funding activity & certainly driven later stage founding rounds higher in price. M&A has happened for a long time now but often they aren’t successful, either it’s for the team, or the technology or the acquirer carves the company up and the founding team get laid of, or put into a different department. Here, they seem to work. Integrations with the parent company work well and often the acquirer ends up with another profitable arm of its business. I believe this is the reason for the increase in liquidity events in the past few years.

AF: What startup are you most excited about in Israel and why?

NK: Storedot — the future of energy and how we bring that to power small devices such as your smartphone. Imagine fully charging your iPhone in less than 30 seconds.

AF: What impressed you about Founded X and why did you decide to take on the curation of Founded in Israel?

NK: Founded X is an amazing initiative, by amazing people. I admired Founded in Holland. They had this lets help and promote startups attitude and lets do the same for every country. I really like the ethos. You have something to show and I have something to show — let’s collaborate. The most exciting part is that Founded X is only just getting started.

AF: What does the future look like for Israeli tech startups?

NK: I think the future is emerging markets. Our startups are very good at building products and reaching critical mass in our home market. But we need to listen to the needs of other markets: India, Japan, China etc – and scale. Many startups in Israel take an early payday of $100M+ rather than trying to scale into new markets and reach membership in the exclusive unicorn club of billion dollar startups.

AF: We’ve seen Sequoia & Bessemer, and other funds even create specialised funds for Israel — what’s the funding environment like?

NK: The majority of investing is based on fear. And investors are afraid of missing the Israeli prospects that are providing such good returns so there’s plenty of capital. We’re seeing lots of home-based accelerators & seed funds, and then the later funds are often international based. There is no ‘slow-no’ in the funding process. Elsewhere, particularly in Europe the fundraising process can take some time. It’s much shorter here. Investors & VCs will give you a no very quickly so you can move on. Lastly, it’s very easy to access the investors here. In fact there are publicly available websites with contact details for investors here making access possible for anyone, even first time founders who don’t yet have a network.

It was great getting an insight of Israel and the people that make it what it is. This is our first published curator interview and we’re hoping to do more in the coming weeks. If you want to reach Nir you can do so via email Nirkouris@gmail.com. Founded X looks forward to working with Nir in promoting the Israeli startups scene more & more.

Startups Of The Week

Welcome to our first ‘Startups of the week’ post on Founded X. Every week suggestions come in from curators of the Founded X Country Lists, with news about startups that are causing a buzz in their home markets. In our Slack Group, we have many curators, founders & startup enthusiasts from over 80 different countries. This weekly post is a chance to briefly highlight which startups are being mentioned the most and why.

This week we’re featuring 2 startups that are causing a lot fuss not only in their home markets but are being recognised internationally too.

Australian startup Safety Culture is a project management tool to allow managers to oversee audits carried out in the field. These audits are conducted by IAuditor, their auditing app, that by its first birthday had conducted over 1 million audits. Traditionally labour intensive & paper-based, Safety Culture has brought your auditing process to your smartphone, and managing auditing to the cloud away from pen and paper, creating innovation in a very traditional industry. Safety Culture was nominated by the curator of Founded in AustraliaSteven Speldewinde 

SafetyCulture Founder Luke Anear with Atlassian Founder & SafteyCulture Investor Scott Farquhar

Why are we excited about Safety Culture? They’ve just closed a $2.1M Series A round in Q4 2014 & are backed by Scott Farquhar, the founder of Atlassian. They are using the funding to open an office in Sydney & to take their product to international markets. Bringing an industry forward from its traditional & backwards way of doing things is no easy challenge. Crowdy News, was nominated by Tim Gouw, the founder of Founded in Holland.

CrowdyNews is a dutch startup with a social media curation tool. It integrates social media into an online newspaper’s output, gathering social media posts, photos and videos from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo and other channels. The idea is that it uses natural language processing to sort the relevant social posts out, and according to language.

Crowdy News Team Photo strangely taken the wrong way round by; https://twitter.com/Pepijn

Why are we excited about CrowdyNews? Its very hard to stand out & not be ‘just another social media startup’. Its also hard to be another social media tool, and still do it in a tasteful manner yet Crowdynews have managed to create a beautiful suite of products that their customers are raving about. They’ve just raised an additional 2.5million Euros to expand internationally which they have done so by securing customers such as The Washington Post and other large media outlets looking to more effectively manage their social content.