The Asian startup ecosystem is set for a huge boost, with Alibaba Group announcing that it is launch a not-for-profit foundation to support Hong Kong startups.
The e-commerce giant will be putting HK$1 billion – about USD$130 million – into the Alibaba Hong Kong Young Entrepreneurs Foundation, which it hopes will enable them to grow their startups into mainland China.
Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba Group, said in a statement that the foundation is a sign that Alibaba is passionate about fostering entrepreneurial spirit among young people.
“We hope to create life-changing opportunities so that Hong Kong’s young people have an opportunity to build thriving businesses that will serve as a bridge between Hong Kong and China.”
Set to launch later this year, the foundation will provide selected startups with venture capital and mentoring, with the company stating that profits from the venture investments will then be put back into the company for re-investment, ensuring an evergreen funding source.
The foundation will help the startups sell their products through Alibaba’s Taobao Marketplace and Tmall shopping sites.
In addition to the funding, the foundation will also be choosing 200 Hong Kong university students to intern at Alibaba Group’s various businesses in mainland China.
The foundation is big news because Hong Kong startups have historically found it difficult to make a significant splash in China due to various differences between the two markets. The size of Hong Kong has also been a barrier to growth for many local startups.
The announcement also follows months of student-led protests in the city last year, with Hong Kong’s youth worried about the role of mainland China in the city’s economy. The foundation will be looking to strengthen trust in and boost understanding of China among Hong Kong’s youth.