The inaugural Make a Difference (MaD) Venture Fellows Programme took place on 24-27 Jan in Hong Kong. The MaD Programme aims to celebrate and support a new generation of doing good and doing well entrepreneurs who seek to change the world for the better.

“We have a broad view of what make a difference can mean, because we believe “doing good” should go mainstream and sustainability should be an integral part of every business,” explained Rachel Chan, Convenor of the MaD Venture Fellows Programme and Founder and Chief Catalyst of InnoFoco. The MaD ventures can be non-profit or for-profit, but they must have a core purpose apart from merely making money. They can serve different segments of the society, but they must be innovative, have a viable business model and demonstrate strong impact.

Sixteen innovative and high impact MaD Venture Fellows were invited to present at the MaD Ventures Salon on 25 Jan, pitching to 300 people in the investment, finance and business communities in Hong Kong.  The Salon is Hong Kong’s first international pitching platform to connect start-ups with potential investors and business partners.

A distinguished panel chaired by the HKSAR Executive Council Member Bernard Chan; together with the Salon audience, selected 3 Make a Difference Venture Stars from the MaD Venture Fellows. The three winners are Insight Robotics, Hong Kong; Wibbitz, Israel and Wifinity Tech, India.

Apart from the young entrepreneurs, international experts were brought to Hong Kong to discuss the key ingredients of a vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem. Prof. Wong Poh Kam of National University of Singapore believed that Asia should not blindly follow the Silicon Valley concept.  A general consensus arising from the discussion is the importance of nurturing an entrepreneurial mindset and culture.

Wong said Singapore has committed to changing the mindset of young people through its education system and establishment of deep links with entrepreneurial hubs in the world. Similarly, Hong Kong has to develop a new generation of investors with knowledge and experience in the new sectors.

Yat Siu from Outblaze echoed the comments of Prof. Wong: “We need to look at ourselves as global citizens, able to grow relationships, networks and ecosystems across the globe. We should not limit ourselves to the domestic arena”. “Whilst the education system is very important, parents should not abduct their responsibiity,” he added.

The Salon also sought to encourage more investors in Hong Kong to join the rank of impact investors, in providing funding and mentorship to start-ups that seek to create positive changes to the society, whilst doing well financially.

“Passionate start-ups need financial, social and intellectual captial. We would like to appeal to and grow a new generation of investors who seek to make both meaning and money – people who are looking for opportunities to give back to society, to pass on their experience and to leave a legacy.” Rachel Chan said.

Brigitte Baumann of GoBeyond Early Stage Investing appealed to the investors in the Salon, “The practical side of my being an entrepreneur and investor is to make sure that we know what makes good impact. Let’s ensure that we do not impose heavy-duty impact reporting system on the entrepreneurs that makes them spend more time measuring rather than building.”

About Make a Difference

Make a Difference (www.MaD.asia) is a Hong Kong-based initiative launched in 2010 to inspire and empower a new generation of leaders. Targeting young people aged 16-35, MaD comprises an annual forum in January with 1,600 participants and over 20 inspiring speakers from different arenas around the world; and activities throughout the year in and outside Hong Kong to promote creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.

MaD is a not-for-profit NGO-public-private partnership, organised by Hong Kong Institute of Contemporary Culture and co-created by InnoFoco. The HKSAR Government is the patron and founding sponsor.