“It is very easy, straightforward and quick to set up a company in Hong Kong and in comparison to the US the cost of doing business is much cheaper.”

Cory Kidd, CEO. Intuitive Automata

Intuitive Automata was established in mid 2007 by its three US founders Cory Kidd, Ph.D – CEO, Erica Young – Chief Design Officer and Bill McCord – Chief Technology Officer to pioneer the commercial application of socially interactive robots. In early 2008 after Cory successfully completed his doctorate in humanrobot interaction at the MIT Media Lab, the founders decided to relocate the company to Hong Kong to benefit from Hong Kong’s strategic business advantages and financial support for start-ups. The company is currently in the final development stages to mass produce a robotic weight loss coach targeting the burgeoning US healthcare industry.

Low cost of doing business

Intuitive Automata’s first product “Autom” is an in-home companion robot designed to help customers successfully manage their weight loss programme. Autom helps keep track of a dieter’s meals, exercise and progress to achieving their weight loss goals, as well as providing encouragement and advice in conversations that are never the same. “Autom is a complex product using sophisticated hardware and software. It made much more sense to be based in Hong Kong than in the US so we could easily travel and work with the engineers in the Pearl River Delta that have helped us develop and will be manufacturing Autom,” says Cory. “It is very easy, straightforward and quick to set up a company in Hong Kong and in comparison to the US the cost of doing business is much cheaper in terms of hiring staff and office rental,” headds.

Financial support for technological start-ups

Before moving to Hong Kong Intuitive Automata successfully applied to join the Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks incubator programme. The support provided in the threeyear programme includes rent free office space in the Park for the first year and half-price for the subsequent two years. The opportunity during the incubation period to access a package of financial aid valued at over HK$630,000 subject to agreed milestones being met. As tenants the company has access to all the facilities in the Park including laboratory services, reception services, shared meeting rooms, dedicated internet access, business centre services and a fitness/recreation centre. Being co-located with other hightech start-ups the staff have easy access to a cluster of like-minded entrepreneurial talent.

Since setting up in Hong Kong the company has also successfully applied for a HK$2 million interest free loan to match the investment the founders have made via the Small Entrepreneur Research Assistance Programme (SERAP).

SERAP is a technology entrepreneurship programme which provides pre-venture capital stage financing to support technology entrepreneurs and small enterprises to carry out research and development work for starting new businesses and conducting market validation. As a SERAP funded company Intuitive Automata was also eligible to participate in the Internship Programme that subsidies a large part of their two student intern’s salaries.

InvestHK support

FInvestHK has been working with Intuitive Automata’s founders in the US and Hong Kong to support the relocation of their business to Hong Kong. “InvestHK provided advice on the process to set up a Hong Kong business, introduced various government support programmes, gave us shortlists of business service providers, facilitated our visa applications and our move to Hong Kong. They also ensured we talked to the right people in the Immigration Department and Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks,” says Cory.

Hong Kong: Perfect for Young Entrepreneurs

“Hong Kong is a very exciting place and very work driven. People here are warm and friendly. I am impressed by the large amount of green space and the beautiful beaches in the city, which provides a lot of choices for outdoor activities. The environmental issue is not really a concern, Hong Kong is just like any other major cities in the world,” says Cory.

“Setting up and running a business in Hong Kong is very simple and cheap, it allows us to concentrate our energy in developing our robot and running our business. We think this is the best place to start a company, especially for start-ups with limited budget just like ourselves,” concludes Cory.