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Innovation forum and crowdfunding meeting

September 16, 2014

I’ve been attending lots of meetings and forums.  In the morning I was at this event

I almost didn’t go, because I had a lot of programming work.  However, I’m glad I did, since I left in a very good mood.  A lot of the people that I talked to were politicians at the secretary level in HK, and one thing that politicians tend to do is to make you feel good after talking with them.  There was a lot of HK press there.

The good news is that people seemed really open and the people at the political level in HK seem to grasp the basic problem.  HK has some very brilliant people, but everyone is siloed and there just need to be some connections made.  But that gives me something to do.  The impression that I have of the HK political class is that they really, really, really want to do the right thing, but they are missing some very critical pieces of information.  For example, the people that I talked to were surprised to find out that most people working in finance simply can’t invest in local high tech firms for compliance reasons.  Also, most mainland companies can’t invest in HK because of currency restriction rules.

However, there is so much “energy” that one way or another, the linkages are going to get made one way or another.

Also, even though this was an “open forum”, some people can’t attend.  Anyone who is an office worker in Central can’t come, and most SME’s don’t have the time or energy (I almost didn’t make it).  This sort of skews the information that people are getting.  I was in the process of drafting an e-mail to some of the people at the conference, but I realized that the amount of information that I wanted to get across was just too much for a single e-mail, so it’s going to take a lot of work putting things together.

In the evening I went to a talk on crowdfunding at PaperclipHK by Jason Best.  I was a little surprised, because I was expecting to hear something more detailed about the nitty-gritty of crowdfunding, but what Best gave was a very simple overview.  This made me feel really good about crowdfunding in Hong Kong, because I realized that HK already has a pool of experienced crowdfunders, that can provide pretty detailed information on what to do….

Personally, I’m *extremely* frustrated at the lack of interest or support that the HKSAR government has put into crowdfunding and new financial technologies, particularly the SFC.  However, one thing that I like about HK, is that either the government helps you or it does nothing.  Even in situations where the government isn’t helping, people find work arounds to just get things done, and that’s what is happening with crowdfunding.

Right now HK is in this massive economic transition between a financial/export based economy into something else.  One thing that makes me optimistic is what happened the last time Hong Kong had a major economic transition between an industrial economy and a services economy

Hong Kong’s transition from an industrial economy to a services economy is a story of massive incompetence, mismanagement, and blindness.  But it worked in the end.  It’s my belief that it worked in the end because HK has a robust economic and social system that is “human resistant.”  The problem with central planning is that it assumes that human beings are perfectable.  That you can create a committee or have a meeting that is able to plan out everything in a rational way.  The problem is that human beings are flawed, imperfect, and irrational.  We are all idiots.

What makes me optimistic about Hong Kong is that you have an economic and social system that takes human beings doing flawed and imperfect things, and somehow good things happen in the end.

The good news I think is that the bureaucrats in Hong Kong (and for that matter Beijing) *realize* that there is a fundamental problem with Hong Kong (and China’s) economic system.  No one knows how to fix it, but looking at how Hong Kong handled the last set of economic transitions, I’m pretty sure that we’ll figure out something.  The problem right now is that banks and financial institutions are in “ostrich mode.”  The most refreshing thing that I’ve heard over the past few weeks is some very high level people at these forums saying basically “We don’t know what to do, and we are asking people for ideas.”  I haven’t heard anyone from the banking industry say anything like that.

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