EHK Talks to Swire’s New Tech Accelerator ‘blueprint’ – Part l
This interview with blueprint’s Hilary and Charlie was conducted and condensed by Hannah Leung of EntrepreneurHK (EHK).
EHK chats with Swire’s New B2B Tech Accelerator blueprint’s Hilary and Charlie about the founding of the program.
Applications have just wrapped up for blueprint, Swire’s new B2B tech accelerator and co-working space. Now the blueprint team is going through dozens of applicants to select the final 10 in the first accelerator program ever. The lucky batch will be granted working space in Swire’s headquarters, situated right in Taikoo Place, which we’re told will sport many perks. (Coffee and yoga are included on the long list).
This immersive 6-month program will provide mentorship programs, professional support, access to corporations and resources and the vast network Swire has to offer. If it sounds too good to be true, there’s one downside: the time only lasts a blissful half year. Upon completion of the accelerator, Swire takes no equity or charge admission from start-ups.
Set to open Feburary 2015, we were given a tour of the modern space, still under construction. We sat down on sofas covered with crinkly plastic to chat with Charlie Melvoin, the Project Leader for blueprint, and Hilary Szymujko who manages the Startups, Investors & Mentors side of things for blueprint.
Charlie, who has a background working in Beijing at Groupon and Baidu, initially pitched the idea of blueprint to inject some creativity into Hong Kong. Hillary made the transition from law into startups – and is bringing her valuable connection of Seedcamp – where she worked for two years, into the program.
How did this venture come about?
Charlie: Last year, I pitched the idea to our CEO to see how we can create this type of space and allow corporate involvement. I was made the corporate leader. Our property is interested in understanding technology and how it would affect retail space. We’re lucky to have the support of senior management. In a big company like this, to have this creative license is really unique.
What’s in it for Swire?
Charlie: This is a new opportunity for us to experiment, as a pioneering developer. We did that before with the space called ArtistTee, which was a huge space in Taikoo Place dedicated to arts and culture, which hosted philharmonic concerts and fashion shows in the past. To adapt to tech companies like Uber and Spotify that employs 10 people one month, 100 the next, 300 and etc, you need to rethink office configurations. This is a way for us to rethink that, and at the same time, attract new crowds to come into Taikoo. Our CEO was also excited by how this was a way for people to get together and pursue their own business ideas.
You both have really international backgrounds — how does the creative/start-up scene in Hong Kong compare to other big cities you’ve resided in?
Charlie: Objectively, it might not stack up with global companies. There may be a lack of venues for performing or fine arts. But from the tech side, there has been a lot of growth. We hope with blueprint, we can inspire new people to get involved in tech, and that investors can contribute or spearhead corporate involvement.
Hilary: I was in London when the start-up scene really took off, and I see HK as less developed in that sense of scale. But people and spaces here have really worked hard to develop a scene here. I think there’s more education that needs to be done, but it’s taking shape.
What’s different about starting out here than say, somewhere in London then?
Hilary: Hong Kong is an interesting market. It’s relatively small. So if you are starting here, you are thinking about expansion from day one. It has its challenges, it can be a fragmented market if you were to say, think about expanding to Southeast Asia, but you see that in Europe as well.
What has been the reaction so far, in the community?
Hilary: Our first step is just to get the word out in Hong Kong, and thus far it’s been really well received. We received applications from everywhere except Africa and Antarctica. It’s been fascinating to watch how word has just spread.
Charlie: We are already giving tours! People are inspired by the innovative space.
In our Part 2 interview with Hilary and Charlie, they will talk about:
- What kind of start-ups are they hoping to recruit?
- What sorts of applications stand out?
- What will the “work day” be like, for those accepted?
Interested parties can contact blueprint via email at email@example.com.