22nd Biennial Conference of the International Telecommunications Society (ITS): "Beyond the Boundaries: Challenges for Business, Policy and Society", Seoul, Korea, 24th-27th June, 2018
This study examines the factors contributing to the success of startups in attaining a unicorn status by comparing three successful companies, namely, WeLab, SenseTime, and GoGoVan. We investigate the development of these startups and the various stages of their growth, with a focus on the success factors for getting continuing funding from various sources. We found that a competitive business model of a startup is a first factor to nurture a unicorn. The second factor is the executive power of the founder(s). Almost without exception, there are ups and downs of running a startup, which highlights the importance of leadership. The founders do not need only vision and passion, but soft skills in managing the business and attracting financial support as well. We also found that all three startups have a "China" element. The attractiveness to Chinese market and capital seems to be a must for Hong Kong unicorn to come into shape. Interestingly, profit is not that important a factor for a startup to become a unicorn. Very often, investors buy on the potential of the startup rather than immediate profit. The four factors, namely, competitiveness, executive power of founder(s), attractiveness to Chinese market and capital, and future potential have proved to be important for a startup to succeed in Hong Kong. At the end of the paper, we discuss three different models of running a successful startup. It ranges from facilitating financial loans, using innovative AI technology to solve specific problems, to providing a one-stop e-commerce platform. We anticipate that more startups will succeed in Hong Kong since the unicorns have thrown light on the path which latecomers can follow.