The Jay Kim Show #48: Casey Lau (Transcript)
Today’s show guest is one of my friends and fellow podcasters in the trenches in Hong Kong, and his name is Casey Lau. Casey is one of the co-founders of Startups Hong Kong which is basically the very first startup community that was ever set up in Hong Kong. What started of as a simple meet-up group for people in Hong Kong who wanted to learn about startups and early-stage investing has grown into becoming the leading platform for startups and entrepreneurs in this city.
Casey and his team have done so well, in fact, that they got the attention of the organizers of Web Summit. The organizers there were looking for a venue and a local partner to do a conference in Asia. They chose Hong Kong, and who better to partner up with than the pioneer himself, Casey Lau. RISE is now the largest technology conference in Asia, and they have an amazing lineup of speakers. This week is RISE Week. We have Gary Vaynerchuk, Dave McClure, along with a ton of executives from the top companies such as Grab, Google, Garena, and Razer that are joining us as speakers to the event.
So, Casey’s a great guy, and him and his partner Gene Soo are always generously giving to the ecosystem here in Hong Kong. His work in Hong Kong was an early inspiration for me actually because I didn’t see any sort of ecosystem here in Hong Kong which is why I spent a lot of time traveling to Silicon Valley and learning about early stage investing and startups myself. Casey was the one that basically brought a lot of that culture over to Hong Kong and cultivated the ecosystem here locally. So, we have to thank Casey for the great work that he’s done here in Hong Kong.
Casey also launched his podcast recently which is called The RISE Cast, which I’m actually very excited about because, as , there’s not a lot of high quality podcast out here in Asia, so to have a fellow podcaster out here in Hong Kong, especially, is very exciting. He has a great show with a lot of high-quality guests. A lot of them who I know personally, and so it’s been really fun listening to his show, and it’s called RISE Cast, so go over and listen to that. They’re all speakers at the RISE Conference which is this week. It’s a huge week in Hong Kong. If you haven’t done so already, grab your tickets, go over to riseconf.com, C-O-N-F.com, and check out what all the buzz is.
Let’s jump right into the show. I think you’re going to enjoy what he has to say about the conference.
Jay: Casey, thank you so much for coming on The Jay Kim Show. We’re very happy to have you.
Casey: Thanks Jay. Glad to be here.
Jay: So, for the audience that’s listening and from outside of Hong Kong, who is Casey Lau and what do you do? I say outside because pretty much everyone in the Hong Kong ecosystem will know who you are. So, for our listeners listening in from outside, please give us a quick introduction. Who is Casey Lau? What do you do for a living?
Casey: Well, I do a bunch of different things, but I guess the thing that started off in the last few years and gave me some notoriety in the startup world is that myself and three other guys, we started a thing called StartupsHK, which of course stands for Startups Hong Kong, and basically it’s a community of startups, and we started this around, I hate to say, but it was seven years ago now already since we’re in 2017. So, we started in 2010, and actually what happened was that one of the government facilities here called Cyberport held an Angel Conference in 2010 and invited a guy named Dave McClure. This is before he was 500 startups. I believe he was managing Facebook’s fund.
Jay: Yeah, FB Fund, yeah.
Casey: Yeah, and so he came to town and he was on stage with a bunch of other Silicon Valley guys talking about startups and all this crazy stuff, and of course, at that time the people who are going to that there’s an audience about 200 people are ready and everybody read Tech Crunch. That was like the thing and we’re reading about these crazy ideas getting funded in Silicon Valley and we’re like, “Oh man, we want to do that too.” So, at that conference somebody asked him, “Hey Dave, what should we do once you guys from Silicon Valley go back to the US? You create of this excitement amongst the audience here. What we do?” And I’ll never forget this because this because this is what Dave told me and every time I talk to Dave I tell him this story, or anybody I meet knows Dave, I tell them the story. Basically, he said “You guys should get together, meet at a coffee shop and start your own ecosystem.” And that’s the first time I ever heard that word outside of a science class and I was [inaudible 00:05:10] “Oh really? That’s interesting.” So, basically we just did what he said and then that was it. We never heard from him again until like a couple years later. But basically a bunch of us got together a coffee shop and we start talking about startups.
So, all of us are in the startup, all thinking of ideas, and then it was like a support group, or I like to tell people, it’s going to Alcoholics Anonymous where we’d all sit in a circle and tell everybody, “Hey I’m going to start up. This is what I do, these are the problems I have right now. Can anybody help me?”
Jay: Hi, Casey.
Casey: Yeah, exactly. It was awesome. It so much fun and that was the early days and we have some pictures I was just sharing on Facebook of those early days not too long ago and it’s funny. Not too long ago a lot of people still in the society still ecosystem and some of sold their companies. Some of them are still doing their startups. Some have gone back to corporate life. But it’s quite interesting to see how far it’s come since then, and so it’s grown from like those five guys at a coffee shop. We have a newsletter, and a social media reach of over 10,000 people who are interested in what’s happening in Hong Kong and all we do is that. It’s not a formal company. It’s more like a community. So, we just put on events all the time. So, at the beginning people just hungry for knowledge of how to build their start up, how to get customers, how to find investors and all this stuff, get media exposure. So, that’s all we did we put on the first conference back in 2010. So, it was called Startup Saturday and it was that’s [inaudible 00:06:34] and we had 500 people show up. Microsoft sponsored it, bought lunch for everybody, and it was great.
We had Douglas Young the founder of GOD. He was our keynote speaker because he was the only guy we knew that was doing his own business that was really successful. Wasn’t tech related and then Patrick Lee, I think you had him on your show before. So, he started AliveNotDead, of course, and that’s from Rotten Tomatoes, and he lived out here. So, we we had them talk to us and then with a couple of guys have gone on to YC and stuff like that, do some talks. So, it was pretty good, pretty exciting that’s basically that’s where it started and so from there, it just I think bigger and bigger. We started our own co-work space in [inaudible 00:07:17] and it was like a 1,000 square foot place. Again, I never heard this word before and it was just like an office though. An office with no walls that was what it was and it smelled funny because nobody really took out the garbage and things like that and it was just the beginning. But people crammed into that place, we had talks every week. It’s just like the beginning. It was really cool.
I can imagine something like … not like but something similar to when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak went to those computer shows and showed what they were building with everybody else. That’s what it felt like. It felt like something was happening. Just very exciting and I guess we just caught the wave at the right time as it grew up. So, that’s what I’m famous for Hong Kong and I’ve been doing after a little while now and then so that led into me being the cohost for the RISE conference which is probably the biggest tech conference, innovation conference out here in Asia outside of China. As well as working with a company in Hawaii called Blue Startups which is the startup accelerator which I’m also working with as an entrepreneur residence and a venture partner.
Jay: that’s awesome. That’s such a cool story about how you guys did Startup Hong Kong. I remember the ecosystem back then and there was nothing. It was very nascent and it was around the same … It’s funny because you mentioned seeing Dave here and then I met him just the year after when he started at 500 in Silicon Valley. Because I invested in his fund, and basically I went there because there was nothing in Hong Kong and I was like, “Okay, well I am interested in early stage investing but there’s no ecosystem.” So, I had to fly myself out a couple times a year to Silicon Valley just to get my education. So, that’s awesome. I don’t know if I’ve ever asked you this, what did you do before StartupsHK?
Casey: Well I guess the way that I actually got into all this is that I actually did my own start up back when they were called dot-com’s. I’ve been doing this for a long long time. I started when I was really young and basically, I guess … So, you could say I was one of the pioneers at the original time, like the the dinosaur time of this technology world. So, I had an eCommerce startup. It was called Actionace.com, And basically, when I first came to Hong Kong I started a Web design company that we designed websites for people back when before flash was even out. So, it’s just HTML Web sites. People wanted websites and people used to ask us after we built their website, “How do we make money off this? So, we just paid you guys like a ton of money to make this is. How are we supposed to make money?” And we said … And that was our number one thing. Amazon was starting out. We’re like, “You should start eCommerce. You should start selling things online.” That was our advice. That’s how high tech we were back then. And they’re like, “Okay, how do we do that?” We’re like, “Yeah, exactly. How do you do that? We don’t know.” Right?
There’s no Shopify, there’s no Facebook, there’s nothing like this to help you to sell anything. I think Ebay hadn’t come out or was just coming out of this time as well. So, basically we built an eCommerce engine. So, we were one of the first eCommerce sites based out of Hong Kong and what we did is we sold toys to the world, and of course, they were just normal toys. They weren’t like little kids toys. These were collector toys. So, we sold … And this is back in what ’97. So, this was also the rerelease of The Star Wars films. So, they did the special editions where they redid all the special effects, and so of course, the people who are little kids when it came out are now adults and have money to buy their own tie fighters, and light sabers and things like that. So, what we did, we used the Internet to sell that stuff out to the around the world because, being here Hong Kong, the toys that come out made in China. They would come through to Hong Kong and then they’d ship out LA for exposure to across the US. So, we get them first and people use the Internet to buy them and order them with FedEx so they’d have them first and they’d be worth lots of money because collectors were crazy and rich. So, they wanted to buy them.
Jay: That’s so cool.
Jay: Yeah, I think the Web 1.0 years … It’s so funny thinking back then. I never worked for a web company in the 1.0 years but I remember when I first learned HTML and it took me … And when flash came I was like, “Oh my God, this is a game changer.” And I think I’d hold up for a weekend, me and my buddy, and we made our first flash website. It was just landing page or something and it took us a whole weekend, and obviously flash doesn’t exist any more. But those were those are fun days. Let’s see, so fast forward. So, StartupsHK. Now, StartupsHK is literally … There’s no revenue model is just literally just organization where you are just serving the audience here.
Jay: yeah and so that’s, I think, that’s great because I think that’s … Here’s the problem. So, I have a banking background, finance, and the finance industry is sort of built around this mentality of scarcity where all you’re doing is trying to make the most money and that’s what … Everything from having a client, it’s how much can you charge them to trade with you, or how much fees can you charge for this investment banking transaction, and it’s so based on scarcity that people coming out of that model they don’t think about anyone but themselves. So, to tell someone from that background, “Oh you have to go now and do something for free.” They’d be like, “Really? What are you talking about? What do I get out of it?” Right? So, I think that’s great that you set out that way, and you’ve planted a flag pole, StartupsHK, and it’s actually grown and now it’s given you a lot in return. Maybe, not necessarily directly financially but by way of networking and what not.
Casey: Oh yeah, definitely, and you mentioned the banking angle which is true. But actually in Hong Kong, at the time that I’ve been here it’s a very commerce driven city. Nobody in any industry would help you to succeed here. So, if you were in banking, real estate, or anything where there was money to be made you’re on your own. You would never really learn. So, when we started talking to start ups and helping them for free. Of course, yeah, everyone was shocked, why would you do this for free? And also people would try to get us to sign an NDA’s before they told us their ideas. Things like that. If everyone’s like, “Oh my God, they’re going to steal my …” I don’t know what it’s like in in the States because we don’t really do this in the US. But in Asia, that’s definitely a big thing. Only recently I think people started to let go on that because people found out, Oh, just it’s just an idea. It’s like the execution is the most important part but back then it was like, “Oh, you want to sell dog products on. I can’t tell you the whole story because you’re going to steal it from me because such a great idea and nobody else can do it except for me.” So …
Jay: So funny.
Casey: Yeah, exactly. So, that was the one thing that I think that I’d really love to see change in, Hong Kong especially. Is to see people who would normally not give their time for free, giving their time for free and mentoring startups and coming out to talk. We’re getting people that are not necessarily in technology. So, it seems like in the technology world everybody’s already, “Yeah, no problem. I’ll come out do a talk.” So, I remember we did our second Startup Saturday and Brian Chesky from Airbnb was in town for another conference and I got him in the bathroom at the Grand Hyatt and said, “Hey, we’re doing another conference this weekend if you’re still here and who love for you come out and just say hi to everybody.” And he’s like, “I don’t know.” But then he showed and blew everybody away with the whole story of how he came up with this thing and it was a standing ovation moment. It was going crazy. People were absolutely nuts. So, I’ll never forget something like that. Now, today Airbnb is massive. Back then it was still just starting off but it was just that founders have that openness to just share about all the mistakes. Because all the stuff they made, the serial and everything like that. They probably run of money and all this crazy stuff.
Who would share a failure story as well? Especially and Asian. Nobody would tell “Yeah, I did some stupid stuff.” Everybody here wants look cool, smart and never made a mistake and they want to charge for it. Som, the whole start up world is just like, I think it’s really really changed a lot of people’s mind in Asia and I think that is what, if anything else, that has been its number one thing that it’s done.
Jay: So, we’ve both been sort of along the ride and seen the changes that has happened. Can you talk to the audience a little bit about the current state of the Hong Kong ecosystem versus … I think it’s pretty well known that it was nascent. There was nothing back when you started 2009ish, fast forward to today. There’s something like over 50 co-work/preaccelorated spaces. There’s a number of more prominent VC’s that are actually actively investing in startup. There’s 5,000, whatever, 2,000 startups, homegrown startups in the ecosystem. The government is obviously trying to support as much as possible as well as the corporate sector. Places like KPMG’s wise, very heavily involved in Blueprint and spaces like that. So, where do you see … What’s the current state and what are the challenges that still exist in Hong Kong that we’re facing on a daily basis?
Casey: Well, I think that, obviously yeah, it’s come a long way, and I think that a lot of the stuff that happened in Hong Kong have been thanks to ex-pats coming into the market here. I think that that is something that a lot of people looking out, or looking in from outside not knowing. It’s like The Hive was the main co-work space, a serious one. We started the first one but that wasn’t really a serious one. The Hive came in and showed everybody, “This is a co workspaces. It’s high end, it’s expensive, it’s got hosts, It’s got free coffee, it’s got open spaces, it’s got networking area. it’s got a community, it’s got all these things.” And so Constant, who’s the founder of that, came out from the UK here and brought his whole family here decided to jump into this whole new world. I’m not sure if … He has a video game background so he’s not even in from this background. But he brought his whole family out here to build this and I think when people saw that, they’re like, “Oh what is this? This is interesting.” because I think you know all those old places like the Regis’s and these business centers there.
Like Whitewalls and they charge you for everything you touch in the room, and this is a disruptor in that world, and as you know in Hong Kong, there’s tons of transients people come back and forth out of here from Europe, from the US. Doing business, trading in China, whatever. So, why not have these places where people can meet and it’s not such a drudge of life to come through Hong Kong all the time. So, I think that that’s one of the things about the co-work space that’s set up, and of course that Hong Kong’s property, there’s … I’m looking out the window right now and I see tons of empty floors in Corrie Bay here, and I’m sure somebody thinking about turning it into a co-work space. I think today somebody told me one of the entertainment companies, EEG is opening a co-work space now.
Jay: Oh wow. Interesting.
Casey: Yeah, there’s all kinds of co-work space here. So, that’s great. there’s a co-work space [00:18:36] there’s a cooking co-work space now. I think there’s a couple of them actually opened up and so I see this is as a great way to start just bringing ideas together and that’s what Hong Kong desperately needs. Is a place where people come to ideas and meet people who are in the similar worlds that don’t know each other and hopefully they can work together and create something cool.
Jay: Yeah, there’s a ongoing sort of debate amongst the people in Hong Kong, and those outside and it’s talking about Hong Kong’s competitiveness as a place to build a company. To start a company and you have this backdrop, you’re just talking about, property. You have this backdrop of did ridiculously high property prices that almost weed out a lot of the weaker players and as a start up, your scrapping pretty hard for survival, and so the last thing you want to have to do is to pay high rent. So, if you have a nice co-working space that you can go into that somewhat accommodative on pricing then that will prolong, at least your runway for a bit. And then we have this whole thing of, okay, Hong Kong itself is is losing it’s competitive edge to China, to maybe Shenzhen, and financially to maybe Shanghai. How do you see Hong Kong as a competitive city to build a company to start up, and where do you see the most opportunity for growth in our region?
Casey: Okay, so, I want to prefix this with saying that I have actually traveled to a lot of the startup ecosystems in Asia over the last few years. So, I’ve been to Japan, I’ve been in Korea, I’ve been in Singapore, I’ve been the Malaysia, been in China, Taiwan. Everywhere I’ve seen what’s happening. So, I have a, I wouldn’t say an expert understanding of the whole market here, but I would say that I’m looking at it enough that I can see what’s building and where the markets are happening. So, and of course, but I do live in Hong Kong part of the time of the year now. So, and I have been here for a while and we have StartupHK. So, people might think whatever I say is a bit biased but I try not to be if I don’t want to. That’s one of the reasons why we don’t … We’re very agnostic. That’s one thing I like. We love all the co-work spaces and we’re not on anyone’s team. We’re just happy that they’re all there where we’re happy there’s investors here. We’re happy everybody’s here and so we don’t want to choose sides or pick sides on anything. That’s the main point I think why we’re well known is because we just help everybody. As long as they’re on the level we will help them.
so looking at the landscape in Asia I’m definitely seeing that Hong Kong is one of the best places in Asia to do a startup. So, why is that? Okay, if you’re going to talk about property prices and rents, yes. But I don’t know if you’ve been to San Francisco lately but it is super expensive and I want to Honolulu and it is also super expensive in Honolulu, and on a loop isn’t as obvious of connected as Hong Kong or San Francisco is. So, people just want to live there I’m originally from Vancouver. Vancouver prices are out of control. Everybody wants to live in places that are awesome. So, Hong Kong is one of those places. But of course you can live here without totally being gouged and we have an amazing transportation system and stuff that. So, I even lived in the new territories for a while and I didn’t find it that, oh my God it’s just so far away to get to central or whatever. So, I really don’t think that those are the things … Those the things that, maybe if you’re to drive from East Bay to downtown San Francisco every day maybe that might drive you crazy, or if you’re in LA and you got to across LA of course that would drive them crazy.
But, Hong Kong, I find that the transportation system is fantastic. I also find that remembering the rest of Asia is not as open to ex-pats as Singapore and Hong Kong are. So, when you come here you get a mixture of different people. I’ve met people from around the world doing startups in Hong Kong. But I go to Seoul and it’s mostly Korean people doing startups in Seoul. I go to Japan I met one or two western founders there and I was surprised that they were doing startups in Japan for the Japanese market. So, I find that to be challenging even if you’re a Westernized person, European person going into China, wow. I think that you’re pretty brave to cry trying to tackle that market without a full understanding of the market or somebody really Chinese on your team. So, if you’re coming into … if you’re doing start up, Hong Kong or Singapore, okay. I’m going to say Singapore to a little bit of a degree because there are the easiest drops for different kinds of people and I think you need to have that mix.
the US market, people would say US, Americans. It’s not really. Go to Silicon Valley, there’s people from Russia, there’s people from all over the world mixing together with their ideas and that’s why the ideas are so great there because there’s all these different people from India, from Asia, from Europe, everywhere mixed together in Silicon Valley. It’s the place to be. So, same with Asia. You have to look for those places. People love China. China has a huge number of people but nobody wants to live there. It’s the lifestyle, the air pollution, there’s all these things that people are like, “I just can’t handle this.” The slow internet is another big thing. If you’re building a global business how can you do that in China? It’s just impossible. You’re building it for China? Great, good for you. You should be in China doing it inside China. But coming out and trying to take care of Asia from Hong Kong or Singapore, these are the places I would definitely think are going to be the places and then the last thing about that is the community ecosystem. Ecosystem’s not just investors, and startups, and developers, and creative people, it’s actually the city in general.
Why is RISE in Hong Kong? Singapore, honestly would actually love to have RISE in Singapore because it would be bring a lot. But the thing is, Hong Kong has a lot of things that Singapore doesn’t have and a lot of things that Taipei doesn’t have. it’s a place where people can easily assimilate into and easy to get around. These are great things about it. So, there’s a great coffee shops, great restaurants. There’s all kinds of stuff going on here. You live here … I think you understand what I’m saying, right? It’s the whole package rather than just one piece of the package. So, in the future though I see that whichever city can build the best talent factory, or talent attractor, magnet, that city will win. So, Singapore is doing very good job with that. Making it very easy for people to move their open offices their, tax subsidies, all this stuff. Nice housing, schooling for kids, all these things would definitely help Singapore to attract talent. But then once they get there is it deep enough for these people to appreciate?
When people come in for RISE one of the things I always say is Hong Kong has this really cool edgy feel. It’s modern but it’s also old, and so it’s a New York more than a Silicon Valley or and LA. It’s got this special feel to it and a lot of people like that kind of thing. Where in Singapore it’s a little bit too clean. That’s the word I’m going to use, yeah, okay.
Jay: It’s a little sterile. I think Hong Kong also a very unique landscape having mountains, and a bay, and harbor, water, and mountain. It’s quite rare. There’s not a lot of cities in the world they’re made up this. So, let’s say I’m an investor from the US, or … Yeah I’m an investor from the US and I’m coming to Hong Kong for the first time. I want to get my boots dirty, I want to see what’s going on. As agnostic of a view as possible where are the hot spots that I should be hitting in addition to RISE, which is probably the largest tech conference in Hong Kong. What other their areas, locations, co-work spaces, communities, organizations, events should I check out? If I would just want to get a feel for what the startup scene’s like in Hong Kong.
Casey: Well, in Hong Kong yeah, well RISE only once a year. So, that comes in an atom bomb explodes and brings everybody from around the region, all over the world to see what is going on in Asia but based on Hong Kong. But during the rest of the year there’s so much stuff going on here that it’s hard to keep track of everything. So, The Hive has a bunch of locations and a bunch of different stuff going on. There’s Garage Society, they have a bunch that going on. They have a bunch of different venues now. They have different events going on. They have a calendar on their website and in their offices and I’m just like, “Wow there’s so much stuff going on. There’s two or three things going on.” General Assembly is teaching classes here. So, now everybody’s trying to define a vertical. So, this is the main point otherwise you’re just going to go into these. Because when we started it was easy just to do general how to raise money, and how to hire people, and just the basic stuff and people everybody come out because that was the thing. Now it’s places Meta and Central might focus more on FinTech and Brink, also in central, focus on hardware and IOT.
So, now it’s becoming completely siloed which is great because I think that building tribes in these different verticals is very important, and so when people come to town I know, okay that’s the guy I talked to. Bay McLaughlin. He’s the guy for Hardware. Go talk to him. If you want to talk to the people at Meta and expose yourself to that community Tony [inaudible 00:28:07], he’s the guy. So, I’m so happy that … If I was the only guy that was doing all this I would say we failed hugely. Now, we have dozens of people out there doing stuff and you’re doing a podcast now and [inaudible 00:28:21] people from here. I’m doing a podcast. So, we all have these people that are saying different things and are all leaders and know different people that can help other people connect into the ecosystem, and I think that if I was to say, “Tell me who those people are in, say, Tokyo” I may be a little bit hard to tell you who those people are. If I said, “Who’s the leader guy that does this, this, and this.” It’s be a little bit hard. That’s why I think Hong Kong that’s great because if I don’t know the guy I know the guy who does know the guy.
So, well and same with you, and same as Bay. [inaudible 00:28:54] introduced or even the government. The InvestHK arm does a lot of this stuff. They know everybody as well. So, they able to point the guy in the direction so when they come to Hong Kong, no time wasted. I can make these connections to you before you land and then boom you have three days amazing meetings, meeting the people and then off you go, or you move into Hong Kong next, whatever.
Jay: That’s actually a good point. It was one of the first things I realized when I moved to Hong Kong back in 2005 was how, despite it being a major city with seven million people, how close and how small it actually was and I don’t know if it’s just because I was an ex-pat in the circles that I hung out with. But it just felt it is exactly what you said. If I didn’t have direct access to someone I knew someone that had direct access to that person that I wanted to meet. So, it’s definitely very good place to accelerate your company, or your networking, if that’s what you want to do. Let’s take a moment to talk about RISE. It’s coming up soon and it will be, like you said, the biggest tech event in Asia. What do we have to look forward to this year at RISE?
Casey: Well, okay. So, it’s going to be July 11th, 12th, and 13th at the Hong Kong convention exhibition center which is right in the middle of the city and which is great and it’s in the bigger section of the convention center this year. We’re expecting 15,000 people this year. So, it’s been doubling every year which is great and it’s going to be a lot of the same stuff but just amped up again. So, we have an amazing speakers coming in from around the world which I’m very excited to be helping the speaker’s team this year. Getting a lot more big names from Hong Kong up on stage. But they’re bringing in people from the US, and Europe, all over. We have a lot of Chinese speakers too which is very exciting. They are coming out of China to Hong Kong to talk about what’s going on in the mainland market which I think is great because a lot of people want to come out, listen to this and we’re going to be bringing them to Hong Kong to speak, and of course, we’ve got the startup Boost. We’ve got the … and I don’t know if you’ve been to RISE in the past?
Casey: One the things I about this event is that, okay, and remember everybody who’s listening that this is not my event. This is the brainchild of Paddy Cosgrave in Dublin Ireland who create the Web Summit, and this show is 60,000 plus people in Lisbon in November. It’s the third biggest technology show now in the world and he happened to choose Hong Kong as the location for the Asia show which he’s called RISE. Now, they’re in New Orleans with Collision, which is their US show, and we’re going to do an Indian show next year called SEARCH. So, that’s specifically for the India market. Yeah, it’s exciting. So, expanding out. They each have their own names and basically Paddy chooses a co-host in every city to be the guy on the ground the helps to call the community together and open the door for all the guests that are coming in. Basically, all the attendees are guests at this giant party that he’s throwing around the celebration of technology and innovation, and just exciting stuff that’s happening. So, it’s like … So, when you go to this thing … I’ve been to a lot if a conferences in Asia and basically they fall a similar format. There’s talks on the stage, and then there’s startup groups and then that’s it, basically.
You make your way through it. Hopefully, to get attention from somebody you want or you find somebody you’re looking for. It’s not very organized because it’s not usually run by conference people. It’s run by maybe a blog, or somebody who’s not really … Or an event company that’s not really in startup events. They kind of run it like a trade show which is not what it is either. So, Web Summit runs RISE like a networking event on steroids. Basically, people are coming in … if you’re an investor and you come in with an investor badge you’re not just … There’s a special lounge for you. You tell us like, “I want to meet early stage intech companies that are concentrating on Blockchain.” And then we set those meetings for you. So, you don’t have to wander around aimlessly through the stuff. A lot of the speakers come because they want to meet the other speakers and then we have all these speaker dinners. We have pub crawls. There’s just a lot … And then last year we’re going to do it again.
We’re doing Startup Drive where we have a bunch of Tesla’s with investors inside and then startups can sign up to take a drive around Hong Kong and pitch them idea within 30 minutes and if they don’t like them they just get left on the corner on the, on the street. No they get them back to the main location without [inaudible 00:33:21] can just do that.
Jay: That would be awesome.
Casey: Let’s pick up random startups of the street and let them pitch inside. We’re doing Startup Ferry. So, we rent out the Startup Ferry and we put up a bunch of beer on there with a bunch of startups to come around the harbor because we that’s one of the great things about Hong Kong again. We have so many of these cool things that are part of the city’s character that [crosstalk 00:33:41] a lot of people never been to Hong Kong before, an event because we don’t have these shows here. They’re mostly these trade shows that are done by the TDC that are, meet vendors from China. This is the kind of usual trade shows that are done here. So, this party atmosphere conference is not something normal but Hong Kong is totally set up for this kind of thing.
Jay: Oh yeah, it’s great. You and I have both been to tons of conferences and it’s very rare that I planned a longer than the actual conference to stay in a city but that’s exactly what people do when they come to RISE. Is they make a week or weekend or a full week out of it with weekends book [inaudible 00:34:23] it. The other thing that I wanted to mention was what I really appreciated about RISE was, as you said, it’s a tech company … It’s a startup that does it and so there the communication, like the app, and that functionality is just so slick. When I signed up last year and I came in with the investor badge or whatever, and it was literally … People were messaging me and saying, “Oh this meet up in the in the coffee corner and let’s talk.” They’re pitching ideas and it was the most slick sort of conference interface that I’ve ever been a part of, and it was so cool that it was just in the same city that I live in. So, it’s awesome to see.
Casey: Yeah, thank you. I really that too. I think that the interaction level is very exciting. But the only thing is that once it gets bigger and bigger, it’s going to … The focus and the noise level also grows with it. So, how do you stand out? How do you make the most of your time while you’re there? That you’re meeting the people. There’s a lot of different factors that we have to look at when we’re scaling these conferences getting bigger and bigger. So, they did a great job of that in Lisbon but I felt there was a lot of stuff going on but it wasn’t it wasn’t disorganized. It was absolutely … Everything was in its place and you just have to make sure you follow the tracks that you’re interested in. They started naming all the stages so you can follow that stage throughout three days. So, if you were only into eCommerce, or data science, you can just follow that. We have an auto text stage this year that people like Uber and Volvo and these kind of companies to be talking about the future of that. But you can follow those speakers around the different speaking places and the startups so that you only follow that if that’s what you’re into.
Jay: Right, that’s awesome. So, let’s talk about your podcast, man. As a fellow podcaster I’m so excited that we actually have we …
Casey: Yeah, we have no podcast before. Now we got a bunch of podcasts now.
Jay: Exactly. I love it. So, tell us about your podcast. the RISEcast.
Casey: The RISEcast. Well, no it’s just, I just listen to a lot of podcasts now. I don’t know why. All the sudden the content coming out on podcasts is incredible. I’m a big fan of Walt Mossberg who’s been to Hong Kong. I’ve interviewed him, I’ve hung out with a guy, and Kara Swisher, and they do these amazing podcasts over Recode, and all their people there. Peter Kafka and stuff, I just listen to them and, wow, these are just amazing, and they find speakers that are just … They have something interesting to say to. They have a unique perspective. Sometimes I’ve never heard the names but I listen to it and it’s like, “Wow this is so interesting.” So, because of that content I wanted to contribute to it and plus, I don’t know about you, but I feel like a lot of people I know I just know, and they my friends. So, I’m like, “Who cares?” But then I tell somebody normal that doesn’t know that person that I know them and they’re like, “Whoa, you know that guy? That’s amazing.” And I’m like, “Yeah, that is amazing. I guess I should share that I know that guy or I know that person.” and put them on and actually record because that’s another thing. Of all these events, I told you at the beginning, that we did for StartupsHK, we didn’t record any of them. Because I was always more in the moment.
Like you have to be there to be the be there. It’s like a concert. You can’t film this. You got to be there. It makes it exciting that way and who knows what somebody’s going to say. But now I’m thinking I should start to recording these and then look back at these in a few years and then the guys who I’m interviewing will look back and go, “Oh yeah. That’s weird that I said that five years ago, or whatever.”
Jay: Yeah, no, I think it’s awesome and it’s exciting when you … I’m just hoping that one of the people that either of us interview become the next unicorn billion dollar exit guy, or whoever. The next Zuck or something like that. it’ll be like “Oh yeah, I had him on my podcast when he was a precede startup founder.”
Casey: From my podcast I’m trying to interview the speakers that will be at RISE because they’re only on stage for 20 minutes and they do two or three different sessions. But they’ll only talking about specific topic. They may be on a panel, and they’re not really given any time … You should know who they are kind of thing. So, my podcast is trying to give people a little bit more insight into who they are, what they like. So, that when you meet them you might … And you listen to the podcast you can strike up a conversation that is more organic than, “Hey man. Do you have some money for my startup?” Or, “Can you publish my game?” Or whatever. It’s more like “Oh, I heard you podcast and you said this, and I thought this is interesting.” That’s the kind of things that I like to hear and when people talk to me. When they say “Oh I read the story. You said this. Or, “I heard you say this.” And so I’m thinking all these people or at least sound like they’re interested in what I’m doing, and so I that means that their homework kind of thing, and also doing the podcast is fun.
Just reading up on my friends and I’m like, “I haven’t seen this guy in a while.” I read some stories on them. I’m like, “Hey, this is interesting. I want to see what he’s talking about and then he’ll tell me more in depth.” And since we know, and I don’t know about you, but since we know the person I feel like it’s much more fun because I know the answers and I know what I want them to say. So, I kind of guide them through the questions that will deliver those answers because I know the audience will be like “Whoa, that’s cool.”
Jay: Yeah, it’s definitely … If you know the person at least you’re comfortable speaking with them. It makes for a much more engaging and fun conversation, really, and you know what I’ve noticed is that I know that you do yours in person, and I do most of the overseas. So, it’s on Skype calls but in person ones that I have done which are a handful, it’s a whole different dynamic and it’s actually much more engaging and I really enjoy it much more. So, I can see why you do yours strictly in person. So, that’s awesome. So, that’s great man. I hope that we can help you promote your podcast and I’m happy that we have a couple new high quality podcasts hitting the Asian circuit. I gotta look to wrap up here but I want to just end with a couple questions. So, as someone that is sort of a seasoned and deeply entrenched in the startup community here in Hong Kong and also in an investor with your early stage investing and entrepreneurship in residence at your fund. What piece of advice, if there’s one piece of advice that you could tell to a startup founder and aspiring entrepreneur that is maybe starting their company or they’ve just done a seed round in Hong Kong and they’re looking to scale up. What’s one sort of piece of advice that you could give them that you’ve seen can help them along the way given your experience?
Casey: Well, to me, I think the best thing is just to give back. I think that’s the most important thing. So, whenever somebody raises money, we always get to write a post, or do something, or tell us a little bit of the tricks of how they did it. So, we can share with everybody. So, I always feel like that’s the one thing. So, and there’s no one magic bullet, I guess you would say. I think that’s what you asking me, right? You want me to give you one piece of advice I would say that you might use for your start up but I don’t believe … I think that’s impossible. But I think is that as soon as you raise that money and I think that most of the startups in Hong Kong that we know, other than the ones I know personally, and through StartupsHK they’ve all done this. Is that they’ve come out and told their story. This is how long it took us to raise this 300K, or this $6,000,000 or whatever, and they’re very open about that, and sharing, and that is what I feel is the most important part because the whole ecosystem together needs to grow and learn together, and the only way we’re going to do that is that is if people share what they’ve learned. In Silicon Valley, that’s a normal thing but here it’s not necessarily that way.
I get a lot of startups out there that are raising money by mystery investors and undisclosed terms and all these stuff that it’s like, come on. This is not a guessing game. It sounds you’re doing something illegal, and then your guest last week James Giancotti. Okay, yeah, sure it’s a huge score for a series A $6,000,000. He’s very happy about that I’m sure. But going out there, writing posts, telling everybody about how he raised it, it’s not showing off, he’s just telling, “This is how I did it. This is what it we’re building. It’s a unique product for the market here that’s needed.” And there’s people that believe in what they’re building. I think that’s great and I think that we need to see that. Because I think people are looking at things the wrong things. They’re looking at Uber, “Oh, ride sharing. Yeah, let’s do that. That’s billions got dollars. We should just copy that.” It’s like, yeah, I think we got enough of those. We don’t need those anymore, and then now people are copying all kinds of stuff from China now and it’s getting a little bit out of control. We need to see innovation.
We need to see things are going to disrupt … These are the I’m interested in. Seeing things like renting bicycles. I don’t know, that’s not a thing to me but talking about artificial intelligence and VR, and disrupting data science and things that, using technology to help grow businesses. I think this is the exciting part and if you’re doing that in Hong Kong, you should be screaming about what you’re doing on top of the roof top. Let people know, Hey, this is what we’re doing. We got money for this. This is a real thing. Not just another frivolous weird app that does something weird. This is real business is going to change Hong Kong. It’s going to change Asia.
Jay: Yeah I think that’s a good thing about have … The podcast is another for us to actually help celebrate some of those homegrown wins so I think it’s a great asset for us to have as community. Any goals that you have, either personal, or professional, for this year? For 2017, Casey?
Casey: I don’t have any personal goals for that short period of time. I guess, most important thing is I’m always looking to see how I can push the needle forward in this whole startup world, technology, innovation stuff. Now, I’m thinking RISE is the most amplified way to do that, even working with startups in Hawaii, the Blue Startups program, Accelerator program. We’re looking to bring those programs out here to Asia. I think these are things that I’m working on that I enjoy and these are things I think other people need to do as well. Not just crazy people like myself. But more corporates should be out there sharing what they’re doing. I saw that New Media has an accelerator as well now. Like a digital media [inaudible 00:44:39]
Jay: Yeah, I just heard that to.
Casey: So, that’s great. I like to hear that. I think I heard another unusual vertical has an accelerator. Ling Crawford has an accelerator. So, yeah so this is what I to see, and I’m willing … I’d love to help those people out. They need help and anybody has questions about this kind of stuff definitely feel free to reach out because I definitely think that all these things are great, and the more open it is, and the more exchange of ideas I think this is what I’m about. This is what I think is the best thing about having this position and having this kind of, I guess, brand you would call it in the marketplace. So, and I want to be able to use it to help people who want to live out their dreams.
Jay: That’s awesome. So, where can people find you, follow you, connect with you, and subscribe your podcast?
Casey: Okay, so, I guess I’m mostly on Twitter. I love Twitter, and I hope it doesn’t die, and I can see people not using it anymore. I feel really sad but I love Twitter. I’ve used it for so long. I’ve met so many great people on Twitter. I’ve built my whole brand on Twitter because [inaudible 00:45:41] if people … You can’t see me on Facebook but you can see me on Twitter. If you’re from San Francisco you can see what’s going in Hong Kong by follow me so @Casey_lau is my Twitter and I mostly post about startup stuff and mostly, of course, stuff about RISE or what I’m doing. But that’s the best way to hold me, and of course, I’m on LinkedIn. I’m on every social network but I’m trying to cut down. So I’m trying to say okay LinkedIn and Twitter will be the main things [inaudible 00:46:07] oh Try to forget the rest them because it’s getting hard to … All the noise coming in from all different angles would be too much. But I’m kind of addicted to it. You got to try and balance out the life a little bit to. Not use it so much.
Jay: It’s tough. I get overwhelmed as well, and what about the podcast? So, it’s RISEcast, your on iTunes and Stitcher.
Casey: What I found is that if you go to iTunes podcast app and search for riseconf C-O-N-F, you’ll find it there and then that riseconf will work on stitcher and all the other podcast apps for iPhone, or Android, or wherever. We’re on Sound Cloud, we’re on that everything now but definitely, I listen to it on iTunes [inaudible 00:46:51] iTunes as well. So, it seems that [crosstalk 00:46:54] all come in there automatically.
Jay: Yeah, it’s the best one in the most used actually by stats, and if someone wants to buy a ticket to RISE it’s just … I guess just Google RISE conference Asia …
Casey: Yeah, it’s riseconf.com and yeah the tickets are still, I think, still on early bird right now. So, that’s definitely a way to get there.
Jay: Awesome. Well, dude thanks so much for being on the show. It’s great to have you on and share some of your insights and for all the stuff that you do in Hong Kong for the ecosystem we obviously thank you, and we’re looking forward to hearing more of your RISEcast episodes and seeing you at RISE. So, thanks a lot Casey. Really appreciate it.
Casey: Thanks a lot, Jay.
Jay: All right. Take care.
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