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Hong Kong: Driving growth in a leading global financial hub

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Hong Kong: Driving growth in a leading global financial hub

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Hong Kong is a place for people to go and build their professional dreams and a magnet for talent, skill, and creative energy.

'Spotlight' reporter Chris Burns travelled to the leading global financial centre to dig in to the real-life stories of Europeans who have built their lives there.

The French population alone has quadrupled to 25,000 in a decade.

With a total population of 7.4 million, Hong Kong has the most skyscrapers in the world.

It's a regional headquarters for more than 450 European companies, plugged into a global economy that never sleeps. It is also one of the world's top destinations of foreign direct investment.

Hong Kong is a hub for start-ups in places like Science Park, with tech companies large and small in a campus-like environment.

Getting a "good turbo boost early on"

And there’s Cyberport, which has incubated companies like 'Valoot', an e-payment system used by Hong Kong taxi drivers. It’s the brainchild of a Romanian former banker.

"I couldn’t recommend Cyberport more for someone who’s trying to break ground in Hong Kong," said Ovidiu Olea, CEO of 'Valoot Technologies'.

"It does give you a pretty good turbo boost early on. We’re actually using Hong Kong as a springboard and we’re looking to expand our taxi payment project next door to Macau."

Macau and its casinos are in the Greater Bay Area, or Pearl River region that includes Hong Kong and the cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

Also at Cyberport, Pierre Mouette is chief technical officer at 'Clim8'. The start-up makes wearable heaters with thermal sensors that adjust to body temperature via the 'Internet of Things'.

"There are more than 1,000 start-ups here in Cyberport, so it’s huge," Mouette told reporter Chris Burns.

"We started in Cyberport. We became incubatees almost two years ago. So the incubation programme helped us a lot. First for money, because every start-up needs money..That's the game. But Cyberport also helped us meet with potential investors and also for all the media. So having all these kinds of start-ups just at Cyberport helps us to engage and also find the right talents.

High-rent, high-rise solutions

"We have R&D in France, we’ve got PhDs there, so it’s really good. And here we have production, based in Hong Kong and also Shenzhen - mostly Shenzhen and the Dongguan area, so for me it’s a two-hour ride, just from here. So it’s really efficient."

The shared workspace concept in high-rent Hong Kong is rising fast, making it easier for start-ups that don't want to invest in bricks and mortar.

Across the city are seven buildings belonging to 'Campfire', a firm that provides flexible office space, hot desks and common areas with creative facilities.

Among the companies there, Karena Belin founded 'WHub', now a network of more than 2,000 start-ups.

"I think the best way to describe it is, it’s one of the most diverse eco-systems, with regard to different verticals," she said.

"It’s not only about fintech. We have a lot of sectors that are involved. If we look at our unicorns, they come from various sectors. They come from fintech, they come from logistics, they come from travel tech, they come from AI. And Hong Kong is very strategically positioned geographically. You’re in a five hour’s radius of half of the world's population. And you're next to the manufacturing powerhouse, which is the Pearl River Delta. It's easy and safe. It's highly connected.

"There’s even more to come about the Greater Bay Area. It’s basically 11 cities here. And if you would need to compare it to other eco-systems like the US, if you think about putting Silicon Valley, Las Vegas and New York into one area, this is what the Greater Bay Area is."

Tamim Batcha is Head of Community at Campfire, whose job it is to stir the embers.

"We build micro-communities that are either fashion-based, tech-based, fintech-based, ed tech-based, health tech-based, prod design, marketing-based, and we put them within a space that's geographically suitable for their business," Batcha told 'Spotlight'.

We’ll be back again soon with another edition from Hong Kong, looking at how people there work hard but also play hard!