Qianhai Pilot Free Trade Zone. [Photo by Lin Jianping]
Chan Sing, a 33-year-old entrepreneur, found three years ago that his startup was in jeopardy due to difficulties raising funds in Hong Kong.
He recalled that banks were the main fundraising channel there at that time, but it was difficult for an internet-based startup to receive sufficient financial support due to the lack of collateral.
In 2015, he tried his luck pitching his startup to Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Youth Innovation and Entrepreneur Hub in Shenzhen, and in less than six months he received a 50 million yuan ($7.9 million) investment.
Known as the E Hub, it was established in 2014 by the Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone, the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups and Shenzhen Youth Federation, with the goal of supporting startups working in the fields of intelligent hardware, mobile networks and cultural innovation.
It is a platform for incubators, including the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chinese investment fund IDG and the Silicon Valley Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum, to provide financial, professional and mentoring support for startup teams.
Chan's startup Ekstech was one of the first to enter the E Hub, which so far has incubated 304 startups, 158 of which are from Hong Kong or Macao. Half of these burgeoning teams have gained funding, with total investments exceeding 1.4 billion yuan.
In order to become the first stop for Hong Kong and Macao youths' career development on the mainland, the E Hub provides a world-class entrepreneurship environment and many preferential policies. Hong Kong-based mentors and financial institutions are made accessible via the E Hub, and startups can enjoy rent reduction and on-site residence, with rent as cheap as half of the market price.
The E Hub is just one of the projects that the Qianhai special economic zone administration has launched to help expand Hong Kong's service industry and promote its structure optimization.
The State Council approved the overall development plan for Qianhai in 2010, and it was included in the Guangdong Pilot Free Trade Zone three years ago.
Du Peng, director of the Authority of Qianhai, said one third of the zone's land area has been earmarked for Hong Kong-based companies. The administration has provided such firms 47.4 percent of the land so far, totaling 34 hectares.
As a pilot zone of the mainland's reform and opening-up, Qianhai has implemented many novel practices, especially in the financial services industry－the pillar of Hong Kong's economy.
Newly formed HSBC Qianhai Securities Ltd and East Asian Qianhai Securities Co Ltd were approved in December 2017. The move was a major breakthrough, as previously foreign capital had not been allowed to participate in joint venture securities companies.
In 2016, Hang Seng Qianhai Fund Management Co Ltd was established by Hong Kong's Hang Seng Bank Ltd and Shenzhen Qianhai Financial Holdings Co Ltd, with stakes of 70 percent and 30 percent, respectively. It is the mainland's first onshore fund management company to be an overseas majority-owned joint venture.