Plug into the potential of Hong Kong’s digital ecosystem
published : 4 Apr 2022 at 10:00
Two digitally-centric companies provide the inside scoop on why Hong Kong is the perfect place for creative businesses to thrive
Hong Kong has an enviable reputation for its financial prowess uniquely situated on the doorstep of Mainland China. Due to its geographical, infrastructural and economic advantages, it has long attracted multinationals seeking to expand in Asia through establishing an initial foothold in the city. Yet Hong Kong’s advantages weigh in strong for creative industries—a sector constantly reinventing itself while driving innovation.
Gaming and tech entrepreneur Yat Siu taught himself how to code as a teen. In 2014, he founded mobile gaming company Animoca Brands in Hong Kong, and in 2018 he pivoted the business to blockchain. After phenomenal growth, the company has emerged as one of the world’s top blockchain gaming companies today. The enterprise is one of Hong Kong’s latest unicorns, valued at US$5.8 billion. It has raised more than US$575 million to advance its mission to build the open metaverse and give users property rights over their digital assets. Meanwhile, its subsidiary The Sandbox last year also raised US$93 million.
Headquartered in Hong Kong’s Cyberport, Animoca Brands operates globally with a presence in the United States, Canada, Argentina, South Korea, Finland, Estonia, France, Germany, Australia, and the Czech Republic.
Winning in the Metaverse
Based in Hong Kong since 1994, Siu frequently points out that data is the world’s most important resource, and he wants users to have digital property rights so they can, eventually, own their data. Animoca Brands employs blockchain to ensure that its users have true digital ownership over their goods. The company’s gamers effectively own the time and assets in games, which can be monetized—and the longer they play, the more they gain.
“Play-to-earn allows gamers to be rewarded for the time they spend and contribute to the network,” explained Siu. “Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) represent true digital property rights in the metaverse.”
Animoca Brands has invested in more than 170 of the world’s most meaningful NFT and metaverse-related companies. It licenses games and applications for the likes of Disney, WWE, Snoop Dogg, The Walking Dead, Power Rangers, MotoGP™, and Formula E. It also has several subsidiaries and products including The Sandbox, a popular user-generated content open metaverse, and the highly anticipated Phantom Galaxies space metaverse.
The company recently added Hong Kong partners from the film, music, entertainment, acting, professional services, finance, real estate and gaming sectors to create a Mega City cultural hub in the open metaverse of The Sandbox.
In order to develop the blockchain and NFT ecosystem, Animoca Brands launched two accelerator programmes in collaboration with Brinc in Hong Kong. Launchpad Luna supports blockchain and NFT start-ups, and the Guild Accelerator Program helps start-ups build play-to-earn gaming guilds globally.
Siu feels that Hong Kong’s expertise in finance, capital sourcing and intellectual property rights are favourable to the development of blockchain industries. “There is a lot of capital available here,” he stated. “The talent and resources are here. The city understands the value of blockchain better than most other places. We are looking to expand all over the world but especially in Hong Kong.”
Pivoting from Physical to Virtual Events
As the metaverse expands during the pandemic, industries that previously relied on person-to-person contact had to quickly adapt. “Prior to the pandemic, bigger was better for live events—think huge LED screens and projection mapping on buildings with tens of thousands of people in attendance,” recalled Justin Choy, Vice-president of ICVFX Creative Technology Asia Pacific and Managing Director of Creative Technology in Hong Kong. “Everything was live. Within the first three months of 2020, we did a 180 degree turn from physical to virtual. It was a huge shift. The coolest part is that we probably won’t ever go back to just physical events. Certain productions can be better virtual. The pandemic essentially pushed virtual events off the deep end into unchartered waters.”
Creative Technology (CT) is part of the NEP Group, the world’s premier provider of outsourced technology, staging and production services to event organisers and content creators. CT Asia Pacific has offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, Tokyo and Shanghai and 29 global offices. CT Hong Kong or CT Asia Pacific’s services range from corporate events, investment forums, information sessions, product launches to providing technical support for immersive experiences, entertainment and film productions. The common denominator and a much valued trait amongst its staff members is their ability to think on their feet and execute workable solutions in real time. “They have to be able to shine during chaotic moments,” Choy elaborated. “Our business is about doing what’s never been done before. We have to be fearless.”
With the Hong Kong government’s support and incubation of arts tech companies, CT Hong Kong is in talks with tertiary educational institutions on programme design and recruitment potential. Gary Lee, CT’s Director of Business Development and Sales Operations, Asia, acknowledges that Hong Kong’s intrinsic advantages low taxation, free economy and multilingual populous remain attractive to foreign companies. “Business is still the focus of Hong Kong’s economy,” he noted. “And if a company wants to enter the Mainland market, Hong Kong is still the best place to do it as a gateway to China.”
“Hong Kong is a special place,” said Choy. “Everything is within reach. The very nature of Hong Kong and its talent is about problem solving and getting things done efficiently.”
To learn more about Hong Kong’s flourishing creative digital ecosystem and its latest developments, please download the following report by InvestHK and PwC titled “Creative Industries: Driving Innovation and Future Growth”
Invest Hong Kong is the government department with the mission to promote and attract foreign direct investment to Hong Kong. We work with overseas entrepreneurs, SMEs and multinationals that wish to set up an office in Hong Kong. InvestHK provides support to prospective investors at all stages. InvestHK has more than 30 offices globally, in SE Asia, we have office in Bangkok, Singapore and Jakarta.
For more information, visit www.investhk.gov.hk
- Hong Kong