Alibaba Group Holding Ltd Launches HK$1 Billion Fund To Help Hong Kong Startups


Alibaba will also select 200 Hong Kong students every year to offer them internship opportunities

Alibaba announced Sunday that it would set up a HK$1 billion (US$129 million) not-for-profit fund. The new fund, called Alibaba Hong Kong Young Entrepreneurs Foundation, will help young entrepreneurs in Hong Kong start and grow new businesses. But there is a catch: you are eligible only if you are setting up your business on Alibaba’s platforms.

Alibaba to create life-changing opportunities

Besides funding, the Chinese e-commerce giant will also provide select start-ups with training and technical assistance to build up their businesses. In the long-run, the fund could strengthen its presence outside mainland China by creating a loyal customer base in Hong Kong. Alibaba dismissed speculations that the move was aimed at diverting public attention from its bitter spat with the Chinese regulator SAIC.

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The regulatory authority criticized Alibaba in a report last week. SAIC accused the company of selling fake goods on its platforms, and failing to prevent its employees from taking bribes. The Chinese company also rejected claims that the set-up of a new fund had anything to do with the political climate in Hong Kong. Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong have returned to the streets, calling for fair and direct democratic elections.

Jack Ma said in a statement that Alibaba aims to “create life-changing opportunities” for Hong Kong’s young people. Timmy Sung of the South China Morning Post reports that Alibaba’s move won’t do much to defuse grievances of the youth in Hong Kong over social mobility and political unrest.

Alibaba planning to set up a similar fund in Taiwan

The Chinese online retailer will also select 200 Hong Kong students every year to offer them internship opportunities at Alibaba or its affiliates. Alibaba said some of the profits generated by venture investments made by its fund will be funneled back into the foundation for reinvestment.

Juro Osawa of The Wall Street Journal has learned that Alibaba is also planning to set up a similar venture fund in Taiwan. In December, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma said at a business forum in Taipei that the company was looking for ways to help Taiwanese entrepreneurs who wanted to sell their goods to mainland China.

Alibaba shares rose 1.26% to $90.20 in pre-market trading Monday.

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