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Empowering enterprise

Universities team up with industry to offer career-focused courses for students and community

Hong Kong's economy has long been focused on the development of traditional business sectors. Funding tends to pour into businesses with proven track records, leaving start-ups with limited support.

Last November, in the hope of giving Hong Kong's entrepreneurs a new path forward, Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, announced the "Empowering Young Entrepreneurs (EYE) Program" in collaboration with Chinese University (CUHK). This aims to encourage local youngsters to innovate and promote Hong Kong as a city for entrepreneurship.

The one-year programme, which started in February this year, has attracted over 900 young and aspiring participants. It has helped their ideas to flourish and the broader entrepreneurial community to grow by providing inter-disciplinary entrepreneurship training and a mentorship programme, along with a series of workshops, seminars and gatherings. Participants aged 18 to 35 can sharpen their entrepreneurial skills and thinking, and build the best possible business models to realise their ideas.

"The programme aims to strengthen participants' entrepreneurship skill sets and encourage them to think out of the box through multi-disciplinary training," says Professor Kevin Au, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship (CfE) at CUHK. "By working with experienced mentors to establish clear long-term goals, these young creators take the first step towards successful entrepreneurship."

In the past two months, participants have been invited to join the Cross-Disciplinary Entrepreneurial Skills Training initiative, which includes workshops, seminars and mixer gatherings. During the training, they get the chance to learn the basics of entrepreneurship and technology know-how by forming teams and working on business proposals.

So far, some 150 business plans have been received. Of these, 80 will be chosen for the next stage, with teams invited to pitch their ideas in front of a panel of experienced judges to secure places on the mentorship programme.

These mentee teams will further develop their business plan or idea with their mentors from May to August. Outstanding mentees will be selected by a panel of judges and sponsored to visit Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California, to connect with the global community of entrepreneurs and investors.

A report from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), commissioned by Google, says the internet is now an indispensable part of Hong Kong's economy, worth a staggering 5.9 per cent of GDP, or HK$96 billion. BCG estimates that by 2015, Hong Kong's internet economy will grow by about 7 per cent a year - contributing 7.2 per cent of GDP.

"Part of a healthy internet existence is a growing start-up environment - one that nurtures entrepreneurs and enables young people with new ideas about how technology helps serve consumers and businesses bring their ideas to life," says Dominic Allon, managing director of Google Hong Kong. "We are here to help Hong Kong live up to its potential, with better connections and collaboration across government, schools, the business community and other key players in promoting entrepreneurship."

Hilda Poon

Saturday, May 17, 2014
Media Name: 
South China Morning Post