Asia’s biggest startup event is finally upon us. More than 5,000 attendees have descended into Hong Kong, ready to do some ‘legendary networking', engage in bit of startup matchmaking, and enjoy a couple of not-so-tame nights out in LKF.
He’s been based at QRC Garage for two months, and we’ve since had the opportunity to get to know the man, and the many idiosyncrasies of someone who grew up in Dublin but loves to surf, and will go from rugby practice to a meditation session.
His eclectic experiences and interests goes back to his student days at University College Dublin, where his holidays were spent travelling and working in Vancouver, Atlanta, and all across Southeast Asia, just to name a few.
It was during one of these trips that he met a friend who would eventually offer him a marketing position in San Diego. Having graduated around the time of the global financial crisis, which left few opportunities in Dublin, he made the move out to the Golden State and soon discovered being an Irishman in America is a pretty sweet combination. The surfing, scuba diving in Mexico, and skipping a couple of rungs in the career ladder didn’t hurt either.
In post-recession 2012, with more foreign investment coming into Western Europe, he moved to the UK to work for an American marketing agency in London. One year and one LinkedIn message later, he was boarding one-way flight to Hong Kong.
Similar to every other time he’s relocated to a city on the other side of the world, it was an audacious spirit that was the main motivation behind his decision to accept his current position last September. This time, it would be a city he describes as having «the opportunity to distinguish itself as a major tech hub in the world.»
Jimmy sees Hong Kong as the bridge between Chinese and Western technology, a city characterised by the distinctive yet harmonious presence of these two cultures and its approach to business practices. It’s this attitude that gives the local startup community the edge, or globalised system, to fulfill its potential tech hub status.
«Compared to London, [Hong Kong] is a lot more approachable. Everyone’s very open to meeting new people, even if someone who just reached out to you on LinkedIn. This would never happen in London; they wouldn’t even respond. This is great for someone who just moved here for business.»
The second reason for his move relates to an abiding personal aspiration, of which the position’s immersion and exposure to innovation and technology would be invaluable. He hopes to one-day tackle the issue of depression and anxiety among young people, an ambition that’s influenced by health professionals in his family.
Technological innovation is a double-edged sword in this case; while it has facilitated the growth of every industry to impact our lives in a positive way, scientists also align its rise to the alarming prevalence of depression and anxiety among young people.
«Technology is the problem, so it has to be the solution. There needs to be a connection.»
Will this aspiration manifest in a non-profit venture of its own? Only time will tell.
For the time being, he’s enjoying life in Hong Kong; being new to a place is nothing new, and Garage Society has helped with the transition. Even though he hasn’t had a proper weekend in the two months leading up to the conference, he’s quickly become an active member in the community. But mornings are no-talking and all-email because, well, we’re not all morning people.