Parental Controls

Hi, Hong Kong university students.

Your parents mean well. They want to do what they think is right for you. But when it comes to career choices in Hong Kong, especially when you want to do something less conventional in your work, you face strong parental pressure to take a corporate job. And that may not be what’s in your best interest. Or in the best interest of Hong Kong.

I’ve heard about this parental concern often enough that I thought I’d try to do something about it. So…

Are you from Hong Kong and serious about building a startup but your parents won’t let you? Then let me talk to them.

Don’t worry, I can be charming. I also can talk to the advantages and disadvantages of both pursuing and not pursuing an entrepreneurial experience. I’ve done both the corporate career and the startup path. I’ve gotten an MBA but also learned by running my own startup and working with lots of others. And if I’m not the right person for your situation, I probably know some other people who I could suggest for you instead.

Why am I making this offer?

Changing parental mindsets is essential for Hong Kong’s tech community growth.

Every year, Hong Kong universities graduate hundreds of fewer young people who would have contributed to building a tech ecosystem but instead end up in corporate roles. Don’t get me wrong. Having a corporate job is not a bad thing for everyone. It’s possible to have a great experience in corporate roles. But I also am convinced that Hong Kong has plenty of people in those roles and too few building the next stage of Hong Kong’s economy. I believe that diversifying Hong Kong from finance and real estate is needed to build the next generation of wealth here.

The first time I ran the lean startup bootcamp, I had two recent computer science graduates apply, get accepted and then drop out right before the start. The reason? Their parents wanted them to get normal jobs. Jobs where the logo on the business card is recognizable.

Since that first personal experience with the two potential entrepreneurs who were steered in a different direction, I’ve heard this again and again. The most recent time was yesterday. A woman from Hong Kong told me she was considering building her startup in New York instead of Hong Kong partly so that with geographic distance there would result in less parental oversight in the kind of job she has. Others in China are also trying in other ways to help parents become more comfortable with their children’s career choices.

So, if you’re in university or a recent graduate and serious about joining or building a startup but your parents won’t let you, let me try to open their eyes. The worst that can happen is they make you go into finance.