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Hong Kong Startup News Roundup - 12 April 2020


Hong Kong fintech startup Neat raises $11 million Series A to give small companies more banking services

Neat, a Hong Kong-based fintech startup, announced that it has raised a $11 million Series A to help small businesses do cross-border trade. The round was led by Pacific Century Group, with participation from Visa and MassMutual Ventures Southeast Asia, and returning investors Dymon Asia Ventures, Linear Capital and Sagamore Investments. 

Neat also announced a strategic partnership with Visa which means that in the next few months Neat will start issuing Visa credit cards to SMEs and startups. 

Neat co-founder and CEO David Rosa told TechCrunch that businesses are still looking to digitize more of their operations despite the worldwide impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, MassMutual Ventures managing director Ryan Collins said, “We’re proud to support Neat in the company’s vision to support entrepreneurs. There is a clear demand for better financial products for SMEs, especially when it comes to cross-border payments and trade, and we’re confident that Neat’s passionate and innovative team will deliver.”

Israeli travel tech startup Hotelmize raises Series B from Alibaba, opens APAC headquarters in Hong Kong

Hotelmize, developer of AI-based price prediction and profit-optimisation technologies for the hotel booking industry, is raising its B round investment largely in the Asia Pacific to expand service offerings, accelerate company growth, and capture the long-term promise of the region’s tourism industry.

The Israel-based company also announced establishing its APAC headquarters in Hong Kong as a gateway to APAC and China. This financing round is led by the Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund and Israeli-based Brilliance Ventures.

Named one of the most promising travel tech startups for 2020 by Phocuswright, it has developed proprietary technology that allows travel companies to increase their bottom-line profit by over 30% through streamlining and automating their procurement processes.

Inspired by algorithmic trading in global capital markets, the start up’s AI-based technology monitors the fluctuations in prices of hotel rooms from the placing of a reservation through to the vacation date and trades the rooms the same way that algorithms trade stock in the capital markets. Room prices change dynamically, similar to options or warrants, which also come with expiry dates.

Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2020’s Fintech Superstars - Mellow and Qupital

In keeping with annual tradition, Forbes has released its annual 30 Under 30 Asia list, which features 300 disruptors, innovators and entrepreneurs from the region, all under the age of 30.

This year's list sees 25 fintech professionals in the list compared to last year which saw 19 people make the cut. 4 Hong Kong founders were part of this list: 

Chester Szeen and Teresa Chan, the cofounders of Mellow

Chester Szeen and Teresa Chan are the cofounders of Mellow. The Hong Kong-based startup operates a personal finance and digital payment app, which is connected to a Mastercard debit card, to help children learn about money management, such as saving toward a goal and keeping track of spending. Last year, it was one of 18 graduates from AppWorks, an AI and blockchain-focused accelerator in Taiwan. In 2019, it was named as one of the 12 top startups of Jumpstarter, a not-for-profit initiative curated by the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund in Hong Kong. Mellow is supported by Cyberport, Accenture, the Japanese government, Mizuho Bank and New World Development.

Andy Chan and Winston Wong, the cofounders of Qupital 

Founded in 2016, Qupital aims to provide financing to SMEs that are underserved by traditional banking institutions. The Hong Kong-based startup offers short-term lending and liquidity to companies and matches them with investors interested in covering the loan. Qupital claims to have funded loans and business invoices worth more than HK$1 billion (about $130 million). In March 2019, it raised $15 million in a Series A round of financing led by Chinese wealth and asset manager CreditEase FinTech Investment Fund. Its investors also include the Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund and Chinese VC firm Gobi Partners.

Hex Trust Is Now the First Licensed Crypto Asset Custodian in Hong Kong to Integrate with R3’s DLT-based Corda Platform

Hex Trust has reportedly become the very first licensed crypto-asset custodian in Hong Kong to integrate its services with R3’s Corda platform.

The integration will allow the blockchain or distributed ledger technology (DLT) platform to be used by Hex Trust’s virtual asset custody solution. R3 confirmed that Hex Trust’s custody solution is also available to the company’s network of business partners.

The “Hex Safe” custody solution provides security, which is enhanced by a partnership and integration with tech giant IBM’s LinuxONE solution. Crypto assets on Hex Trust’s platform have insurance coverage which has reportedly been provided by AON.

Coronavirus: Hong Kong set out new HK$137.5bn relief plan, including employee salary subsidies and MTR fare cuts

The Hong Kong government has announced a new HK$80 billion subsidy package to help employers retain and pay staff members. The scheme is part of a HK$137.5 billion relief fund to aid citizens and business as the city’s economy is hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a press conference on Wednesday that economic activity in Hong Kong has been widely affected by the pandemic, with some industries such as tourism and aviation facing a “complete halt.”

To prevent large-scale layoffs, the government will fund eligible employers to pay 50 per cent of their employee’s wage, capped at HK$9,000 per month for a period of six months. In return, employers have to pledge not to fire their staff. Audits will take place after the funds are distributed in order to ensure employers use the cash appropriately.

The subsidy will be distributed in two instalments, with the first one handed out no later than June. It is estimated that around 1.5 million workers will benefit. A one-off grant will be given to around 215,000 self-employed persons who make MPF contributions.

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