Interview with Mr Laurent Koehler, Co Founder | HK-DTECH
HK-DTECH is a young company dedicated to the research and development (R&D) of fluorescent nanomolecules in the field of health and life sciences. Created by experts in chemistry and detection, HK-DTECH aims to become a platform, a pioneer and leader in markers related technical of analysis and imaging. The company’s vision is to improve screening and early detection of diseases to increase treatment success and eliminate side effects for the patients.
Script of the Interview
Interviewee Mr. Laurent Koehler (LK)
Position Co-Founder and CBO
Company name HK-DTECH, Hong Kong
Company website URL https://hk-dtech.com/
Interviewer John D. Evans, CFA (JE)
Interview conducted on 19th March 2021
JE: Okay, welcome everyone, to this interview on Venture Watch with Mr. Laurent Koehler, who is the founder and CBO, Chief Business Oficer, of HK-DTECH. We’ll talk in in three parts today, we’ll learn a little bit about Laurent, then we’ll talk about the company he’s founding HK-DTECH, and then talk a little bit about the industry and finish off with a recent event. So good morning, Laurent. How are you?
LK: Hi, John. First, thank you very much, you know, for having me on this Venture Watch video. I’m very happy. Yeah, I’m doing pretty well. And it’s my end of the week, everything is okay. And the situation is pretty good in Hong Kong. So, we cannot really complain. So yeah. But how are you John, how is everything on your side?
About Laurent Koehler
JE: Keeping busy, keeping busy trying to recover from last year and things are making a big comeback. So, it’s been a good start to the year. Let’s give the viewers a little bit of information about yourself. Let’s combine the first two points, start by giving a brief personal overview of yourself where you grew up, lived elsewhere, etc. And also a brief professional overview, what you studied, where you’ve worked before.
LK: Okay, so I’m from France, from Alsace, which is a region on the border with Germany, on the north east of France, where I was born and I lived up to 25 years old. And before moving to Hong Kong in 2006, basically was for an internship for six months, but I have lived in in Hong Kong since then. So, in terms of education, I’ve been graduated with a Master’s in Business Law first, and then a Master’s in International Trade Management. So, it was in Strasbourg, the capital city of our region, as well as in in Grenoble for the Master of International trade. I then I moved to Hong Kong, and I’ve been mostly working in the field of international trading and commerce.
JE: It’s interesting, I just note how many people I’ve met in my life who’ve moved to another part of the world, intending it to be a short stay, and then sometimes living there forever. It seems to be something that happens in our world. Okay.
LK: I was not expected to stay so long. You know, I was just about two, three years and 15 years after, here I am.
JE: Okay, so you’re in Hong Kong now? Are you traveling much for business? Or are you, I know we’ve had the pandemic, but in general, do you move around get around to Asia see other parts? Or is it very much focused on Hong Kong?
LK: Okay, so let’s say the past year since last year was really not a year to travel. I mean, like mostly either going back to Europe, you know, mostly for a time to see family, and bit less for work. And I was traveling also in the past, mostly to Africa or in Asia for work. That’s, yeah, that’s the way I’ve been traveling pretty often. But just since the pandemic, I haven’t been much away, just last year, I went back to France, and I hope this year will I have the chance to fly again. But that’s not so sure yet. Yeah. We’ll see how it goes.
JE: Okay. Yeah, I guess the restart of international travel is still very uncertain at this point of time. So now, is HK-DTECH, your only activity? Or are you also involved in other activities, projects, investments, etc?
LK: Yes, so I currently have no other activity than HK-DTECH. And so, it’s my full- time activity.
JE: And, and I do know that CBO, because you’re one of the co-founders stands for Chief
Business Officer. What exactly is the role of a Chief Business Officer?
LK: So just said to correct you, CBO, it’s stands for Chief Business Development Officer, so I am in charge for the business development for the company. It’s about really business development.
JE: Okay, marketing and business development. Okay, so let’s, now that we’ve given the viewers a background on yourself. Let’s talk a little bit about your company, HK-DTECH. But I realized there’s actually two companies there’s HK-DTECH and Poly-DTECH. So, give us a brief history of the company, when they were founded, the key principals and sort of the relationship between the two firms?
LK: Yeah, John, you’re right. So, we’re actually two companies, one in France and one in Hong Kong. So basically, the company has been started, you know, by Dr. Joan Goetz who is the CEO of the company in France. And the year we started was in 2018. And then we start in 2019 in Hong Kong. And so basically, I and Joan study in both Strasbourg and Hong Kong. So, he got a double PhD in this two boys’ season so got the opportunity to set up a company in Strasbourg first and also in Hong Kong as being part of those two ecosystems, right. So, that’s how we ended up and two companies.
JE: Okay. Started in 2018 in France. 2019 in Hong Kong. Is that when you joined? And did you know, Joan, or the other or the other persons before then?
LK: Yes, so Joan was a was part of our association in Hong Kong, and so I met him is just as a person coming from the same hometown and so we became friends. I knew he was studying his PhD. And after he left and started his company, that’s how he approached me to say, okay, somebody to be in charge of the operation in Hong Kong, and since we knew each other, it’s always easier, right, when you come from the from the same hometown. He said, okay, that’s what I’m going to do. Are you okay to follow me in this venture? And I say, yes, you know, so we cooperated in end of September 2019, in Hong Kong,
JE: So, he has more of a clinical background, you have a business background, but is there not
also a third co-founder as well?
LK: Yeah, so let’s talk about HK-DTECH because that’s the topic of today. I guess you will also have an interview with Joan, so in Hong Kong, we have also a third person, Dr. Chan, who is actually our CTO since Joan, being in France, right running the French company. He cannot be in both city and so that’s how we have this theme between the business side run by me and the scientifical part handled by Dr. Chan. So, Fai was also a colleague and studied a PhD together with Joan back in Hong Kong before.
JE: Okay, so they were colleagues at the university. Yeah. Which University was that?
LK: Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention, that’s a good question. So, they’re both graduated from Hong Kong BU, so Baptist University.JE: OK and we’ll come back and talk about that a little bit later, because you’ve referenced that Hong Kong Baptist University is the connection. Okay. So, what is the ownership of the company? And how has it been supported and funded so far?
LK: Okay, so regarding now the company, the shareholding is mostly like people who’ve been involved in the development of the technology since the beginning of the venture and also like, like friends and for example, like me, and now we have help to develop it. Regarding the funding, it’s mostly comes from public grants or prizes. As well as, we started within the pandemic, a set of you know, rapid test, COVID rapid test, and also some web service contract for r&d services. Yes, since our product will be ready for launch on the early next year, you know, but we still have some r&d or service cooperation in both France and in Hong Kong.
JE: I note your comment about the COVID rapid tests. I mean, was that sort of just a one off that you did last year? Or is that something that you’ll continue doing in the future with your core business?
LK: Actually, yeah, that’s a good question. So, it was it was definitely an opportunity since we incorporate in at the end of 19. So COVID came pretty, pretty right after early 2020. And so, we’re like kind of okay, what shall we do with probably have to wait, we couldn’t meet people, everything was kind of under lockdown and stressed for everybody. So, we had the chance through our network to know a company, a biotech company in China, manufacturing a rapid test for COVID for both antibody and anti-gene. And so, we said, since we are in the field of
in vitro diagnosis, we have a kind of, you know, credibility and legitimacy right to tap into this market, so we started to import test in France and, and selling them in France and in most of the Western European countries. So, it was a collaboration between the two companies one, in Hong Kong being in charge of purchase and the shipment. And the other one more on the marketing and sales side. And so, since COVID is still on, and that we get some regular clients, we’ve been running this business, which has helped us write the symptoms of financial, because that’s, and that was a regular business, and also help us to give us more exposure, you know, especially since we also like sending testing in some airports in France. So that’s a really good point in terms of credibility and image, right, reputation.
JE: Yeah. You mentioned the funding coming from grants and prizes. Now, I know you got a grant from the ITC, which I think stands for Innovation and Technology Commission of Hong Kong. Just tell us a little bit about that grant. Clearly, that’s an important development so far.
LK: Yeah. So, regarding on the HK-DTECH, we got this dispersed funding, you know. In France, we got more, but that that will be Joan will tell you more about that. And so, but this ITC funding, get a very specific funding, which is called TSSSU, and it’s linked to a university. So it means that you can apply if you are like alumni, or like post grad from a local university in Hong Kong. And it’s a tech funding also for tech startup. And we have been approved, like early this year, so, we’re very excited. It is a three-year program. So that means that next year, we should get second funding, you know, and in 2023. So, it looks pretty good. Yeah, this way.
JE: Now, I know, you mentioned the Hong Kong Baptist University just a moment ago. So, I mean, is HK-DTECH formally collaborating with the university on an ongoing basis? Or did you just qualify for this grant because you had alumni from the university?
LK: So okay, so to give you like more details about what is our relationship here. Well, first, like post grad, I mean, Dr. Chan as well as a post grad from this university, then we have you know, so we applied through the funding, I mean, for funding this TSSSU, you go through HKBU. We are part of some training program also a start-up training program, which is which really great, by the way. It was still through BU and we will be also hosted for our lab, you know, in HKBU. So that, I hope can reply to your question. Yes. So, this is where we kind of have tight link with them. And, yeah, that would be I guess, the case over the coming three years, right, at least, because we are getting this funding, thanks to them. Right.
JE: Okay. So, there will be some sort of at least physical presence of the lab, university and a relationship. Okay. Yeah.
JE: Are there any other major corporate backers, strategic partners or organizations supporting or working with HK-DTECH other than Hong Kong Baptist University?
LK: Yes. So, let’s say that’ we get the funding from ITC, we can say that in an indirect way those are supporting us, right. That’s the part of the government which is here for the for managing this funding. But we know we have to be maybe more specific to our field and the ecosystem. We are pre incubated in Hong Kong Science Park. So, this is also we get like support from the Science Park. And as well as the Hong Kong biotech organization that we are also member in. So, to give you the main partners in an organization supporting us in Hong Kong.
JE: So where is your office and or your lab? The lab may be in Hong Kong Baptist University, will your ofice or lab move to Hong Kong Science Park? Where are you physically located now?
LK: Yeah, so being pre incubating, we have access to Hong Kong. Science Park premises right, but that’s more like a co working space, right? They have a really beautiful, brand new building with all this incubation and preincubation spaces. So that’s one thing. And regarding the lab, you know, we are now waiting for the first round of funding payments to then set up the lab, which will be at HKBU and will start in August of this year.
JE: Okay, so the lab will be at Hong Kong Baptist University, not in Science Park.
LK: Exactly, for this starting, yeah.
JE: Okay. Very interesting. And so, as you’re developing your own office, your lab at Hong Kong Baptist University, are the two companies, Hong Kong and France going to continue to work closely, or will they become more independent over the passage of time.
LK: So, you know, at this stage, we are highly depending on the French team, you know, since that they are like a bigger team, they also have premises, they are going to move to a bigger lab. So, the setup is totally different. And all the r&d is now handled by them. And for all the projects will be here, they take care of this, you know, because we don’t have the physical space, right to return just for prototyping, and working on some application for, for local partners. So, we really, at this stage depend on them a lot. But in the future, as since we are working on the same technology, we will still cooperate a lot. We won’t be the same application. But since the tech is the same, we’ll definitely have a lot of collaboration or in the future. That’s also, you know, the point for these two entities and to really be able to create a synergy, right? Because I’m sure that the r&d made on one side will definitely help the other and, you know, and vice versa. So, yeah, we’ll definitely have technical cooperation on the scientific level, but we’ll also probably have some, like sales and commercial corporations.
JE: Okay. Being on two different models, okay. And as you have different customers in the future, they may have slightly different applications for the technology, but the core technology will be shared.
JE: Okay. Very interesting. So, what is the status of HK-DTECH, currently? You’ve mentioned the facilities. Do you have other staff, other than you and Dr. Chan? What is the current status of people and, and logistics in Hong Kong?
LK: Okay, so in terms of team, so we have Joan, even though he is in France. Joan is the CEO of HK-DTECH, with Dr. Chan. So, as I say, Fai is in charge of all scientific parts as our CTO. We have somebody else, you know, is here with us on the scientifical path, working with Fai and myself. So, in terms of business development, so we can say with four persons right now. And we plan to hire two technologists. When we start the lab, one will be in the field of chemistry and one will be in the field of biology. Yeah.
JE: Will they be recent graduates, maybe from Hong Kong Baptist University, or will you just
recruit them generally in the market?
LK: Yeah, we’ll probably go in through our existing network at HKBU. That will be probably the easiest because we know the profile we end up matching what we need. So, they’ll be most likely to be people graduated from Hong Kong Baptist University, or at least within the University in Hong Kong generally That’s, that’s okay. This is you know, it’s a small world and we’ll probably find in an easier way like people and the profile, you know, that that we are looking and then the profile that the types of profile we were looking for. Yeah.
JE: The one thing I’ve realized traveling to Hong Kong over the years that even though it’s a big center, it’s very small geographically. So, you tend to know a lot of people or are in the same associations and things.
LK: Yeah, you know that Hong Kong, it’s smaller is very dense, like a big village and especially the biotech is as it’s like, it’s a small ecosystem. So, it’s easy to meet and connect people around this industry.
JE: Okay, so you’ve talked about the development, the lab and hiring new people, starting in August of this year. You’ve said that you’re more focused on the APAC region. So, how long will it take until you start commercializing, generating revenue? Is there still a long r&d process? Is there a regulatory approval, when do you start focusing on business development?
LK: Yeah, so, regarding our tech development stage, so, now we are in the level of like optimization, optimal optimization and optimizing it. So, we still need to have some proof of concepts and, also, work on all like, you know, packaging, marketing things, you know, and so this will be scheduled for this year, and to be ready for like commercialization within the beginning of next year.
JE: Okay, so you hope to start generating contracts and revenues in start of 2022?
LK: Exactly. Okay.
JE: So where do you see the firm HK-DTECH in three years’ time? Will you be then fully into commercialization? Or is r&d an ongoing part of the business?
LK: Yes, so we expect to be in a few years to be definitely like, at a more mature stage in terms of tech and also lab deployments? You know, why not? Also, the first question, you know, in China, as you may know, there’s a lot of program, of cooperation between the Hong Kong and the mainland, especially between the GBA zone. So, that’s something that could be interesting, especially on the manufacturing level, since, you know, you have definitely a lot of benefits manufacturing, in China. Hong Kong is not really a place for manufacturing, for a long time. So, this is something that could be also one of the developments, you know, within those coming for years, you know, the period we’re talking about.
JE: Okay, so as the Chief Business Development Officer, what is sort of your sequence of geographic priorities? You are starting in Hong Kong? And then what the GBA or all of China and other parts of Asia? What’s the strategy there?
LK: Okay, so in terms of, in sales, on a commercial level, it’s, at this stage, were really focused on Hong Kong to get like beta testing and to start to work on some application at prototyping with different partner we have in in Hong Kong. That will help us first you know, to go through different types of application because that’s something also that will help us to improve the technology and also to try like different application knowing that the field is pretty wide. Then it would be to move to other Asian countries. So, as you mentioned, China that’s definitely an option that could come like definitely as a next step. And the further stage we went to see, in two markets, which are really like on the tech charts on the South Korea in Japan. But for those market, we will need more times because we need to make sure that everything is like perfectly in place, right? Because in those countries the level of requirement, it’s pretty high, right? So yeah, this is it, but they are very interesting markets, which is South Korea you have a lot of like biotech company, and I’m pretty sure we could find collaboration with major player in, in both South Korea and Japan.
JE: Okay. So, let’s, let’s turn now and talk a little bit about the industry. So, in general, we classify you as health and life sciences. But of course, that’s a very broad title. So how do you specifically define your company in terms of the specific sector of health and life sciences that you focus on? And what precisely is the service offering you have?
LK: Yeah, that’s, that’s a good question. You know because health care, it’s also general, is only the life science. So, we’re in a specific field of, you know, IVD, which stands for in vitro diagnoses. So, it’s everything related to detection of various biomarkers, which are like, basically, from human samples, you know, like blood, you know, human tissue. And so the aim is to detect here. So, that’s any types of disease, you know, based on new samples here, to make it short and simple to understand.
JE: Okay, now, I have a business background, not a clinical background. I know, in general, about IVD. And it seems that covers an awful lot of diagnostics for a lot of conditions, and things like that. So, your specific technology, can it be applied in any sort of IVD? Or is it for a more specific sector, like just cancer, or something like that?
LK: Yeah, that this was a very good question. Because as you say, IVD field is pretty broad industry. So, there’s a lot of techniques that you can use to detect any kind of disease. And what we do, it’s at this stage, you know, our technology is really focused on nanoparticles. So, our nanoparticles allow to enhance on the detection of any biomarker at a very impressive level. So it can be applied to any techniques of IVD. And we just come with those nanoparticles at this stage, you know, at a later stage, we will probably consider to develop our own devices, but so far, we’re just focused on knowing those nanoparticles, okay, which have an ultra- brightness, among other features, you know, and which are totally outstanding compared to the actual technology that you can find on the market.
JE: Okay, so basically, you’re offering a much-enhanced outcome of an IVD. So, you’re making it much more effective. So, who are your customers? Are they hospitals, multinational corporations who would be buying your product or service?
LK: So, yeah, at this stage, you know, and after, like, studying the market, we see at this stage, with many to market, the first one, so it’s what we call, ‘RUO’, which stands for ‘research use only’. So, it’s about research lab, right. So, could be like private or public, you know, even like within a university. So, it’s to help them to get like a better result in their research work. And so that’s why this stage because those people are more willing and keen on trying new technology, especially knowing that it could improve substantially their result. And also, by using a technology they’ll also publish. And so our naming technology will appear in various publications, which will bring us a lot of exposure and also, credit right, credibility to the market. And so this is really what is our main targets at this stage, you know. But we also have IVD companies. That’s all the companies selling and developing IVD solution and devices and products. So, they’re also interested to have a better result, better accuracy and performance of their products. So that’s really the two markets we’re targeting, at this stage.
JE: Now, in some countries, there’s a public health system, like in China, the UK, I know and maybe France. So, are some of the IVD companies, government companies and some private sector in other countries?
LK: Yes so, they are like, first, you know, all those multinational company. Just remember like Thermo Fisher, for example. Yeah. So, there is like some major player, which you can find everywhere, some are like privately owned mostly, also publicly listed. So, generally, like from the private side, but as you mentioned, China, you know, it’s like it’s a public owned company, that’s with certain control from the government. So, it’s, I would say, generally speaking, it’s still a mostly a private company profile, I would say. We have to screen all the company, for the biggest one, the bigger player, and for usually midsize and smaller one they are mostly private.
JE: Okay. That’s interesting. So therefore, you’ve talked a bit about your potential customers geographically. And also by characteristics. So, what about the competitors? Do you have direct competitors in your specific offering? Or is it unique? And if you have competitors, who are they?
LK: Yeah, so yeah, but direct competitors, even, like technology are not the same, but we’re on the same on the same market segments of the detection, you know, and how to enhance and to give the best accuracy and performance possible. You know, we can name few of them, like, you know, like AlexaFluor, Qdots, Lanthascreen and, and DELFIA, for example. So that’s the major, let’s say, players, and we’re, you know, which are based in, you know, their global operation, and you can find their product in in, in most of the lab or, you know, like, that’s very, just to take, AlexFluor, I suppose I know, it’s probably 25% of the immunoassay market. So yeah, it feels like some, some, some well-established company having a solution and is well established. So that’s to talk about competition.
JE: Now, as you mentioned, they are all large companies. And so in your field of IV diagnosis, is it dominated by large companies? Or, and therefore, are you sort of quite different being a smaller company?
LK: Yeah, I would say that generally, it’s mostly like big company. You also have, like some, also startup, not just us, but mostly in this field. It’s like, some big, big company. Exactly.
JE: Okay. Now, I’m curious, because I know in other sectors, let’s say the technology sector, a lot of companies like SAP or Alibaba, will support startups and they will become sort of or maybe a supplier or sort of a contractor to a larger company. So even though you say these large companies are your competitors now, could they also become strategic partners or customers for you in the future, given that they’re so large?
LK: Yeah, that’s also a very good question. So, regarding the company, what I can see it’s one idea that we can definitely bring something for them in terms of detection right and like performance and can help them to get to get a better result. They know this is one thing, but we are definitely not at this stage, right. Because usually, this kind of relationship usually ends up like buyer acquisition or it by being integrated. You know that that’s so, but I think we can do definitely bring something to them. And then it’s time will tell because we at this stage, it’s those players are very big and we are not ready to work with them. So, yeah, we’ll see in the future.
JE: Okay. Very interesting. So, the service that you’re currently providing, whether it’s to the research use only clients, or possibly to the IVD companies, is it something that you can basically offer yourself or with public goods? Or are you reliant on some other key suppliers or providers of technology to deliver your offering?
LK: Yes, so in terms of, let’s say, supply and procurement for our product, I would say that generally we mostly need, like kind of, let’s say, standard product, and so, which are not like, rare, rarely known, and that what, that we’ll hardly lack, right. So, there is no, really any specific key component that we could be lack of, and then be just in a situation that you couldn’t be able to produce. So, we’re pretty safe on this side. And which is very, very good thing, especially in this day, right? If you can see what’s going on in the world. Like, some resources are not always available, especially in this pandemic. There’s more attention on value selection on plastic, if you see on really different types of products. So, we are like pretty, pretty, pretty safe on that. on that level? Yeah.
JE: So, you’re not a mobile phone company wondering where your next chip is coming from?
LK: Yes. Could you repeat? John, please?
JE: So, you’re not like a mobile phone company who could suddenly get their supply of chips cut off? You don’t have that risk in your business?
LK: No, exactly, yeah, this is at this stage. You know, obviously, if we change, if the business model evolves to like building IVD like devices, then it will be another story, right? Because this is where the dispatch for nano particles, all the products we need are like commonly available on the market, you see, so it’s mostly about the recipe, right? But it’s about really the recipe to make, you know, ingredients are available, then recipe that’s the point, you know, to be to the more maybe common language, right, the recipes is the key. But for ingredient that is not a problem, not much problem to get them on the market.
JE: Okay, so, you had said before that next year 2022, you expect to start the contract revenue generation commercialization process. So, what is the general business or revenue model that you follow? You know, the nature of the customer contract, etc?
LK: So basically, we have a framing stream, we are getting a revenue model. So, the first one is basically products there, right? So, we just sell the nanoparticle to the clients. We can also do a service part, which is when people have application, but they don’t want or they don’t know how to couple, so we do the coupling directly with their product, because in the first case, we just deliver the product, so they can just then use it in the oven. It’s about service. So, we do the coupling with their product. And the last one, which is that’s for first level stage, it’s about sub licensing. And so, this will be probably more that those large companies that we talked about earlier is to give sublicensing to any large company, and to then manufacture products for very specific application, and then to have a values sublicense to be given to provide use application or according to different area of the world you know, but this is something that will come at the later stage. And then we can also, but that’s more like outside the first stage, I haven’t included into the list of the three mainstreams. We could add the fourth one, which is basically just testing services, right? You know, but that’s not really going at this stage, we do some test testing services. But that’s more way for us to get more people and more exposure, right. But we can do testing service using our technology, that’s also something we can do. But the main three streams are product sales and service, then the coupling, and then the sub licensing of technology. That’s really the framing that we, we want to develop over the coming years.
JE: It just raises in my mind an additional question I thought of when we were talking about the competitors and a large company before. I mean, longer term. I mean, the whole management team at DETEC, France and Hong Kong is relatively young. Is this a long-term business that you stick with? Or is it something that you hope to sell to a larger company in five or 10 years? What’s sort of the longer-term goal of the founders?
LK: Yeah, so let’s say that it’s a very good question, especially, you know, like, in the field we are in. So, the biotech and usually healthcare or life science, you know, that R&D takes not only cost, not only like this tech, not only money, but also time, and things are built through the over the time, you know. That’s why in the field of DTECH, but that requires a lot of development. And so, definitely when you need time, you know, you are not about to do anything in the short term. So, you need to wait mid to long term. And also on the money side, you know, that at some point, also, you’ll probably get a private investor, and can be often people from the field. And we all know that if there’s any private investor, which is related to our field, that’s usually the beginning of the exit, right and he ends up in the in acquisition. But now I know, at this stage, we are running on our own and, and so the future will so you know, state. This is a bit too early to really take any, assume anything about what’s going to happen in the future. This it’s such a long way to go and you know, both see, the way we’ll be discover longer, like working on it. Yeah.
JE: Okay, one day at a time, as we say, one day at a time. Okay. Now that that covers off the third section, talking about the industry, defining your product, the competitors, business model, all of that. Let’s revisit something that you talked about, the recent association with Hong Kong Science and Technology Park, the funding grant, etc. Walk us through the details of that about, you know, how long does the application take? What is the process? You’re getting the money in August, just give us some of the technical things so that other companies that are maybe looking at making an application will understand how it works a bit better?
LK: Yeah, that’s, that’s also a very good question. If this like are people interested in this kind of program, because Hong Kong offers a lot of programs from differentiate mainly, like Cyberport, Science Park, and then ITC as a third one, and productivity counsel as well. So, that’s the first one. So, there’s a lot of funding, regarding the TSSSU that we got to be a post grad, as I said, so that’s within, I remember, within two years after graduation, it’s with the grant is given through a university. But ITC at the back visits, ITC funding will validate and confirm it. We’re getting a mini budget, you know, and other expenses. So, we’re at the stage we should get the money and we submitted the budget, we should get it. We get the reply within next month in April. And so if it’s approved, it will be every year. So, you have, you get the amount for one year, right which depends on your proposal and what you what you asked basically. So, the amount can be different over the three years, you know, within the limits, obviously, of the funding. And each year, it’s split into three periods of four months. So, it’s not a quarter it’s for four months. And we’ll start basically with the approval, May, June, July, as a first period, then will be August, September, October, November. So, it will be over the two periods, the first year we’re doing is rolling over to see your rights. And, and then next year, at the end of the first year, we need to reapply, it’s not a grant for it’s done, nothing is guaranteed, as we say, it’s not a grant forever. So there needs to reassessed based on what you have achieved already, and to get the second one and then the third year. And you’re so this is for the desponding. Regarding the preincubation program, we are at Science Park, but it’s called STEP, which stands for Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Program. And so this is a small program, but it’s good because it gives you access, we have a coach, access to all the facility, I mean, the incubation and preincubation facility at Science Park. You get like also a minimum of funding, it’s not very big, but it’s like still money. And they follow you and this is a good step to then enter, you have a foot right already in by being in this program in Science Park. And then it can definitely be a pathway to go to the incubation. So, we are targeting also then a pre like incubation in Science Park in our field, it’s called IncBio. So, it’s sciences specific to biotechnology. It’s a much bigger fund that gives you also like, like you have a shared bench and also, like a space, a lab space. You can office. This is a four-year program. And the good thing is we can combine the two programs. Yeah, because it’s not always the case. And so that’s also much better, right in terms of development on our own. So, this is to tell you a bit more about where we are at in terms of funding. And but there are also types of funding also available, you know, in Hong Kong, and we just got to know, another one from ITC, which is called the ESS, it’s like and Enterprise Support Scheme. So that’s good funding, you know, but we need to check if we could also apply or there is some restriction in accumulating funding, which is also which is understandable. So, yeah, so that’s a bit of the situation, we’re getting the funding with those post grad university IncBio we target. And let’s see, assess if we can have any chances.
JE: Now, you’ve mentioned several different elements to the benefit. So, there’s cash funding, you’re setting up the lab, there’s incubation, there’s acceleration. I mean, do you have to make a different application for every single one of these? Or is it you get approved, you get funding,
you get a lab, you get into the incubation? Is it all one or is it a lot of different applications?
LK: No, it’s one application. And then that gives you it, let’s say it’s a package, you know. So the incubation program, you have one application and you get all of the things, same for the pre incubation that we’re on since last September. We got so as I told you this coach, access to the premises at Science Park, we get also training, there’s some training program and some, you know, some stuff let’s do like money on the financial was to get something. So, we have one application usually and then always is like as a as a package.
JE: What about, do they provide any help in terms of business development? Do they have relationships with these companies that you were talking about or research use only enterprises? Do they help on the business commercialization side?
LK: Yeah, that’s also a very good point that that I forget to mention and thank you for putting it back on, in the conversation. So, when you’re part of a program, and usually the organization, like, which, which is in charge of organizing the program will give you access to the ecosystem. So, we can, if you have any needs in terms of whatever, like, standard contract, or what it was suppliers, clients, or even for investors, we have access to all of these through either Science Park, and so which is pretty good. They also like, give us information and access or some time specific, you know, access a specific rate to some events. They can be a pitch competition, you know, what I pictured ever it can be exhibition and things like that, even in this period it’s pretty quiet. But we have this kind of, we get often mail about events. But whatever topic even can be seminar, and this really helps a lot because we can learn and meet people and people can get to know us right that we exist and what we’re doing, because that’s the first thing, is not to be working just on our side and to be disconnected. That’s not the way it’s going to work, we’re willing to be part of the ecosystem. And that’s usually our you know, you can get things can get, like, done, and in a much more organic way. Right. So, this is something that we really realized that being part of the ecosystem and doing more and more and interacting with, with companies that that’s really an organization in the field, it will really help us to make a difference and to you know, to just like grow the business. So yeah, this is also something great support and tangible support, but from those from those organizations in Hong Kong.
JE: And I guess with the relationship of your two colleagues to Hong Kong Baptist University, that’s a strong reason why you would join the ecosystem in Hong Kong as opposed to Singapore or somewhere else. You’ve got a connection here.
LK: Yeah, that’s definitely you know, at least as a starting point. It’s, even if we spread in different places in Asia, definitely to be, like incorporated in Hong Kong, due to the history of the founder and of the company. It’s like, there’s no other choice, right? It’s really, it’s a very, very beneficial situation for us and for the company.
JE: Okay. Very interesting. Very interesting. Indeed. Well, we’ve just approaching about 53 minutes in our discussion. And I always end with the very last question, is there just anything else that you want to raise or mention to the viewers that I didn’t think of asking? Just open- ended closure for yourself?
LK: Okay, that’s a good question. What I want to mention something that that’s more like, but it’s really personal, you know. I’m coming from, let’s say, more a traditional industry, and now we are startup, right? So, what is a startup and the start and just their startup world, and ecosystem is something totally new for me, and that I can see totally the difference. It has been really a great, great experience. There is a totally different understanding and mindset in opening, and like, usually, the project is usually just started to change the world, but also the people behind and so it’s, it’s very exciting and very, very fun world, you know to work within. So that’s something that I want to share, because probably many people, sometimes they say, oh, what is it about? And you know, how does it work? And they heard that 90% of the startup fail and I know that the success rate is not very high, but it’s people do it really for passion and for something more than you know, just like the financial part, right? Like saying, oh, you know, they’ll become a unicorn or whatever or be bought by big players. But there is really it’s a totally different way of working compared to a traditional, more traditional industry. So, it’s for me, it’s a total discovery, and an in something that we are like, trained through in HKBU we get really like, amazing training we also get some from, you know, Science Park. And it’s really opened up a different world that I was not aware of and that I definitely encourage anybody who is interested in the startup world or ecosystem just to have a look and maybe why not to just to join a startup, right. There’s a lot of great, great things in this in this startup world. Okay. So that’s it. Yeah,
JE: Very well said in a very fitting closure to this conversation, almost a little bit philosophical. So, I thank you for that. So that you will that ends our formal part of the interview with Laurent Koehler, Chief Business Development Officer of HK-DTECH. Hope you have enjoyed that. And we look forward to having further discussions with Laurent and his colleagues on an ongoing basis in the future as we follow the progress and development of the company. So, thank you for that.