I won’t really dig into the startup issues cause my experience with startup land has mostly been from the HQ of Singapore. When I lived in Hong Kong, many moons back for about 5 years, I was focused on enterprise software and at the time Hong Kong made more sense. We were looking to grow in North Asia and Hong Kong was the better location for that. I think back in those days everyone felt that the “gateway” to China was Hong Kong. Now it seems the gateway to China is going to China. So for some the need to be in Hong Kong makes less sense than it did before.
Singapore is sometime’s known as the “gateway” to other parts of SEA region. Again – if you want to focus on Indonesia, you can just setup there. However maybe it is better to establish your HQ in Singapore for various legal reasons. Of course if you are looking at a regional play – Singapore makes a great base for SEA – easy to argue that this is a better place to setup than Hong Kong. It could be that for startup land the North Asia, SEA/South Asia split still plays out. You want to tackle Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan? Hong Kong makes a good base. You want to go for India, Pakistan, and SEA? Singapore is the better choice.
However – maybe you plan on going after the globe, this is what Spuul is doing, and you still need a home base in Asia. For this I reckon that Singapore is the much better bet than Hong Kong. Again here I am not commenting on the HK ecosystem or the I want to live there and do a startup. Or I find HK is a better city for me so I plan on doing my startup there. Great. You should do it wherever you want. That is the cool thing about doing a startup – for the most part location doesn’t matter. I will write some more about this though since I have some stuff to debunk from this article :: http://thenextweb.com/asia/2014/08/23/time-founders-southeast-asia-accepted-location-used-advantage/.
So back to the I want to tame the globe and I plan on living in Asia – which place is better? Hong Kong or Singapore? I think for this decision to be made one has to dive into some of the practicalities of living – not just the startups issues. On this note I think Singapore is the only choice. Reasons:
– The air is much cleaner. Hong Kong air pollution is epic and worsening.
– Much easier to have a family in Singapore. Yes – not all startups are devoid of real adults, with families. Singapore is easier to manage a family than Hong Kong.
– Public schooling is English first in Singapore and much more modernized. In Hong Kong an expat must put their kids in International Schools unless they speak Cantonese as their main language.
– Permanent residency is much harder to obtain in Hong Kong. Seven years of residency and employment prior to applying. I got my Singapore PR in less than 3 years of working in Singapore.
I am sure there are other issues to consider or even good reasons to refute the list above. Local people may not need to factor any of these issues but I would argue that startups are global in nature with employees from all over the world. These employees will look to settle, have families and for this – Singapore is the obvious choice.