8 Companies You Didn't Know Were Born in Hong Kong
November 15, 2022
Hong Kong was met with unparalleled economic growth between the early 1960s and 1990s compared to the rest of the world, granting the sticky label of being a ‘financial hub’.
From fishing village to trade port, this humble little island climbed the ranks as one of the Four Asian Tigers to challenge the economic policies prescribed at the time. While the reality of Hong Kong’s current economic prowess is still up for debate, we can’t deny that the creative flame of Hong Kong remains lit, fanned by the entrepreneurial spirit of people who call this place home.
Let’s take a moment to look back at these internationally recognised brands and companies based in Hong Kong that have modelled their services to solve real problems around the world from the 2000s onwards.
Founded in 2006 by Kevin Chen and Yongyue Jiang, Italki is a revolutionary app that brings language learners together through a community-based platform. Whether you wish to learn a new language to enhance your career path or reconnect with your cultural heritage, there is arguably no better way to fully immerse yourself in a new language than learning with a native-level teacher.
That’s exactly what Italki helps you do. With all the roadblocks and hurdles that come with learning a new language, Italki takes a no nonsense approach to help you start practising the language you’ve been reciting and repeating from outdated and culturally inaccurate textbooks.
When you sign up with italki, you can test the waters with a teacher of your choice with a trial lesson. Once you’ve found a teacher that works towards your personal language objectives, you can schedule lessons that suit your day-to-day timetable. This impressive community built on the shared love for languages is a huge testament to what modern-day technology can do for aspiring polyglots everywhere.
You’ve probably seen Sophia the Robot around on your timeline at some point, perhaps on Forbes magazine, 60 minutes, or when she famously sang a duet with Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show. Her brain, visible through the transparent scalp cap, is a jarring design choice – perhaps deliberate – to remind people that although she looks, acts, and even sings like a human, she isn’t quite one… yet.
Developed by Hanson Robotics, Sophia the Robot comes straight out of a Sci-Fi story, complete with a skin-textured face, a robotic body, and the shocking ability to simulate real expressions of human personalities with Hanson AI. For those who have seen the 2014 Sci-Fi drama ‘Ex-Machina’, the existence of Sophia the Robot is a little alarming, but you can’t deny that the research and creativity behind the project isn’t impressive.
Hanson Robotics’ robots can engage emotionally with people, maintain eye contact, recognise faces, and hold natural sounding conversations by learning through experience – all in the name of recreating the admirable traits that all humans have; love and compassion for others.
Prenetics (Circle DNA)
Featured in TechCrunch and Forbes, and probably on your Instagram ‘for you page’, Circle DNA provides a comprehensive genetic breakdown to help patrons make healthy choices based on their DNA. Their mother company, Prenetics, was founded in 2009 by Danny Yeung, Lawrence Tzang, and Michael M Yang, with Circle DNA operating on a direct to consumer genomics basis.
So how does it work? You will be asked to provide a little bit of your DNA through a cheek swab to return a comprehensive health report. These reports, depending on what package you purchase, can cover family planning, food sensitivities, and even your likelihood of developing certain behavioural traits.
Circle DNA’s goal with these reports is none other than ‘prevention over treatment’ – a saying that gets thrown a lot in the medical practitioner’s world. By equipping yourself with the health insights written in your personal genetic coda, you could make slightly more informed decisions on what your body needs to thrive – whether that is more hours of sleep, cutting out certain foods from your diet, or staying vigilant about high risk diseases that might run in the family.
You’ve spent hours, nay, days, to find the cheapest deal on that one item you’ve wanted for ages – or perhaps you’ve just found the perfect gift ever for an important person in your life, and you decide to hit buy. It’s not the cheapest purchase, but you know it’s worth it – and now all you have to do is wait and pray that it comes to your doorstep unharmed.
Founded in 2011 by Teddy Chan, Andrew Chan, and Dante Tsang, the ‘a-geeks’ over at AfterShip provide a suite of data analytics tools that cover every step of the shopping experience.
While marketers and retailers can also use Aftership’s other services that focus on marketing and consumer retention, shoppers can feel much more at ease about delivery times and online shopping safety with their core product: the shipment tracking platform.
From user engagement features such as product recommendations, performance tracking of carriers, and many other tools – it’s no wonder that Aftership is trusted by 10,000 retailers around the world, monitoring more than 6 billion shipments each year. Consumers can make the most of the shipment tracking platform to receive live updates and notifications on where their package is at all times, so you can rest easy that your delivery will arrive in one piece.
Founded in 2018, Avant Meats tackles one of the most pressing ecological and social problems in the modern world: sustainable eating. Our collective growing demand for meat has led to globally intensive animal agriculture operations, sparking heated discussions on ethical and sustainable eating on every platform imaginable.
When it comes to the consumption of fish, we’re talking about destroying an entire ecosystem that humans need to survive. The agricultural industry for fish is still hugely dependent on catching from the wild, which damages coral reefs through trawling and causes unrecoverable imbalances in fish populations. Not to mention the manmade pollutants that have made its way into the produce itself, such as microplastics and heavy metals.
Avant Meats caters to both the consumer and the environment by using state of the art biotechnology to grow and nurture healthy fish meat. This is possible by isolating and extracting small samples of cells from healthy fish, nurturing those cells in nutrient-rich conditions, and providing them time to grow. In the end, you’re left with a hot plate of ethically grown, cruelty free fish fillet, and the ocean is left untouched and ready to heal.
Founded by Edwyn Chan in 2013, Spottly is the world’s first picture-based travel guide to help you find the best places to make your pit-stops in a new country. The Spottly app was previously featured in Forbes, Travel Leisure, and the Los Angeles Times, best described as a mash between Instagram and TripAdvisor for the 21st century traveller.
When it was first launched, the app was an innovative way to merge our love for taking photos and travelling, to help others better enjoy their overseas adventures. While the project is currently on hold, you used to be able to share your favourite restaurants, shops, cafes, and sightseeing spots from wherever you were to friends and fellow spot hoppers. Whether Spottly was bumped off in favour of more extensions on Instagram or by other competing travel apps, it was still a valiant and innovative effort for a small band of four developers.
In the same travel category, Klook has seen more success by being a little more specific and streamlining the travel-leisure booking experience. Founded in 2014, Klook allows users to find and reserve experiences and services for all travel purposes or even local experiences. Popular attractions such as M+ tickets, tours, transportation, to more unique experiences such as seafaring activities and parachuting can all be found on the app, which provides over 100,000 offerings in more than 400 countries.
The platform is extremely intuitive, with great UI/UX design that demonstrates how well Klook understands its user base. Supported by some of the world’s biggest investment firms, such as Goldman Sachs and Sequoia, it's no wonder that Klook has been able to stake a big claim in the ever-growing free independent travel market.
The birth of 9GAG and other forum aggregators, such as Reddit, iFunny, and 4Chan, seemed to dominate the internet in the early 2000s, at least with younger internet users. 9GAG, founded in 2008 by University of Hong Kong student Ray Chan, started as a simple side project. What began as a straightforward web platform for sharing internet memes and funny images evolved into this budding community of users who make the Internet a livelier place to be.
Also an app, 9GAG retains the best parts of an old-school meme-sharing platform, whilst opening doors for discussion among users. 9GAG users have grown up with the platform, moving away from rage memes and bolded text overlays to a more nuanced sense of community. Even if you haven’t visited the site in a while, it holds a certain sense of nostalgia that feels strangely welcoming — like visiting an old friend.
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