27 January, 2016
Venture Forum 2016
1,200 people pack conference to see Elon Musk

The Hong Kong Central Government Office Complex was the place to be yesterday, as 1,200 people filled the conference room to standing-room only capacity for the invite-only event to see and hear what billionaire businessman, visionary, environmentalist, and philanthropist, Elon Musk, had to say.

StartmeupHK Festival, running January 23-30th, is a Hong Kong government-sponsored initiative that packages together innovation and technology resources and advisors in a weeklong celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit. Ecozine is proud to support the festival as an official media partner, with our Editor in Chief performing the MC duties at the Forum.

Mr. Musk, the co-founder of PayPal who went on to invest in solar energy (SolarCity), a planned Mars expedition (SpaceX), and the Tesla electric vehicle, for which he freely gave away the battery technology, was the main attraction for the Venture Forum 2016,  where he participated in a forty minute one-on-one chat with CNN International anchor, Kristie Lu Stout.

When asked what advice he had for all the hopeful entrepreneurs gathered, his reply realistically cautioned: “Have a high pain tolerance,” and, “expect a long period of quite high difficulty.” However, he countered with some optimism by saying, “If your customers love you, your odds of succeeding are higher.”

On the topic of roof-top solar in Hong Kong, he declared that “roof-top, in a dense city, won’t work.” Instead, he suggested that ground-mounted solar arrays be placed outside of high-density areas, on open land, where the power can be generated and connected to the grid. Given the size and scope of low-population density areas, he matter-of-factly proclaimed that this type of infrastructure would “power all of China with solar, absolutely.”

Of course, no talk with Elon Musk would be complete without discussing the stylish and eco-friendly Tesla line of electric vehicles. When talking about the forthcoming Model 3, which will be half the price of the Model S, Musk stated that this will be a “compelling car at an affordable price.” When asked where he sees the automotive industry going, and Tesla’s place in that future, he talked about “accelerating the advance of sustainable transportation,” and forecast that within ten-to-fifteen-years all new cars will have autonomous driving technology. However, he foresees that two-thirds of drivers will still prefer owning their cars, while one-third will opt for fleet-sharing vehicles.

He said of the current falling oil prices, “It definitely makes the transition to sustainable energy more difficult. No doubt, that is going to dampen interest in electric vehicles in general.” Musk went on to speculate that Hong Kong will have “the highest percentage of electric vehicles of any city in the world,” and reiterated his commitment to sustainable transport, especially for high-density cities.

The discussion briefly covered the newly launched Model X, with its signature falcon-wing door, which enables easier access to the second and third rows of the family-sized vehicle. Musk described this, and other elements of the new SUV, as “user-centred design”... to which Ms. Lu Stout replied, “Thank you for designing for moms and parents.”

At the end of the talk, Musk was asked where he saw the future potential for innovation and technology. Going beyond automobiles, he suggested electric aircraft. Additionally, he envisions genetic cures, and “brain-computer interfaces at the neuron level,” where our minds would be connected to the cloud. “You would never forget anything; there would be no need for photos. . . . Watch out for hacking, though!”

Musk anticipates that brain-computer technology could be used to fight degenerative diseases, and balance the disparities in education, or at least it would “lower the delta.”

Other highlights of the morning talk included: opening remarks by Financial Secretary, John Tsang, who mentioned the government’s commitment to green technology, as demonstrated at Phase 3 of Science Park; and other panelists who discussed how innovation and technology will help industry and science to find new and better ways to solve problems.

While Elon Musk was the star attraction, it was another who stole the show. A finalist in the AIA Emerging Entrepreneur competition, ten-year-old Hillary, elicited a spontaneous ovation for her flawless composure, when, in front of the over one thousand adults staring at her, the wireless remote for her presentation failed to work and she cheerfully laughed it off with, “I have to deal with that.”

As with all the problems on our planet, or the business of innovation, or life itself, Hillary summed it up with that one, single quip.
For more images of this conference, please check out our gallery
Watch the complete fireside chat with Elon Musk here!
Photos by Jean Sebastian Roy

By: Jason Sylvester


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