EPiC 2023, a pitching competition for mid to late-stage global fintech startups, saw hopefuls take a 60-second elevator ride in Hong Kong’s tallest building in a bid to sell their ideas to investors and industry leaders.
Now in its seventh year, the annual Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) event puts the spotlight on Hong Kong’s investment and innovation opportunities.
This year, the event attracted entries from more then 600 companies across a record 55 economies. Three-quarters of contestants came from overseas, a record high since 2016. The event also had backing from innovation-driver partners Cathay, HSBC, MTR Lab, as well as the accelerator Plug & Play.
Fifty shortlisted semi-finalists attended the EPiC Grand Finale at Sky 100, a venue atop the city’s tallest building, the International Commerce Centre (ICC). Representatives took part in a 60-second pitch elevator pitch with judges measuring ‘uniqueness, market size and strategy’
Albert Wong, CEO of HKSTP, said: “Hong Kong is the bridge between mainland China and the rest of world, and is a mecca for talents and enterprises. EPiC is a prime example of Hong Kong capitalising on this unique advantage, helping turn global cutting edge technologies and ideas into solutions that benefit the world.”
The elevator experience
“This event is a lot of fun, but it is also real life and not a game,” explained Wong. “Going up and down the elevator is tough work. It’s pretty stressful for the judges as well as the companies taking part.”
Participants also agreed.
Sean Sanders, founder and CEO at Revix, an intelligent investment management platform, said: “I was pretty nervous beforehand. I can give you a 20-minute presentation easy-peasy, but 60 seconds is very difficult. I know some other guys struggled and choked up in the elevator.”
While Tee Pruitt, head of business financial services at Swedish impact fintech Doconomy, said: “I’ve done a lot of elevator pitches, but you never normally do it inside of an elevator with cameras around you. I was slightly surprised but it was a very cool opportunity and a lot of fun. I’m not sure I’ll ever get to do something like that again.”
The top five fintechs
Following the elevator pitches, five finalists in the fintech and proptech categories took to the stage to pitch once again for a room of judges – this time with three minutes under the spotlight.
Reaching the final fintech five was Doconomy, UK financial crime AI provider FinCrime Dynamics, Vietnam’s home financing company Homebase, China’s acoustic and speech processing fintech VoiceAI Technologies and US-based real-time graph XAI and database company Ultipa.
The top fintech gong went to FinCrime Dynamics, while the top proptech company was Skyland Innovation, which has a mission to bring robotics and AI to the construction industry.
The winner and prizes
The overall winner – Skyland Innovation – scooped a grand prize of US$60,000.
Category winners also enjoyed a US$20,000 award, while all 50 semi-finalists each have the chance to receive a maximum of US$5,000,000 investment from the HKSTP Venture Fund.
Metaverse advisory and production studio Canvasland scored the highest number of public votes – ‘My Favourite Pitcher’ – and scooped a cash prize of US$10,000, plus 200,000 Asia Miles sponsored by Cathay.
Benefits of EPiC
According to Eric Or, head of partnerships at HKSTP, the impact of EPiC for many is less about the prize money but the benefits of experiencing Hong Kong.
Semi-finalists are offered a two-day ‘Grow Beyond Hong Kong’ Immersion Programme for companies to experience HKSTP’s ecosystem through educational talks, business matching and networking with leading corporate partners and investors.
Or said: “This is about networking and opportunity rather than just the competition. Hong Kong is the springboard into and out of China.”
The sixth EPiC winner – Vriko Yu, CEO of Archireef Limited, a Hong Kong based cleantech that offers climate solutions with eco-engineering approaches for ocean ecosystem restoration, has enjoyed an impressive journey since the contest.
“I feel so nostalgic coming back here today,” she said. “Last time I was here, I was shaking and trying to memorise my script but a lot has changed. We’ve gone from making US$140,000 to $3million already this year.”
The winner of EPiC -Skyland Innovation
Fintech winner Kellyann Ripnar, COO and co-founder of FinCrime Dynamics, said: “I feel very lucky to have joined the programme. I don’t mind winning or not winning at all. On a personal level, I’ve met people who know the struggles of starting a startup and connected with them and also helped them connect with other people.”
Proptech and overall winner Jessy Wang of Skyland Innovation, said: “We really want to have a tech that can solve industry problems. EPiC has been a gateway for us to really learn all the things we need to know to grow faster and to go beyond.”