Innovate or Stagnate?

A recent article in SCMP reported on the decline of HK in the global innovation index [1]. The same paper (pre-Alibaba) reported on the city’s positive movement up the very same scale 3 years ago [2].

What has (or not) changed in our city to trigger such a metric?

Coincidence? Conspiracy? Complacency? Over reliance on the “gateway to China” factor? Creative bleed? Improved government initiatives, overseas investment, archaic transactional infrastructure?

We all have theories but let’s not speculate – after all, accountants only deal with numbers, right?

Let’s take an overly simplistic but illustrative equation from a bloke called Steve Tobak who wrote an article in Entrepreneur.com [3]:

Entrepreneur + Capital = Products + Customers = Business. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, don’t start out wanting to be one. Start out with a customer problem and a product that solves it. Get capital. Make the product, market it, win customers. Someday you’ll wake up and realize what you’ve become: a guy who took a risk, started a business, and made money. An entrepreneur.

The key is that it starts with solving a customer problem. Being innovative is one of the core elements of solving problems. One definition is to “make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas or products”. Being an entrepreneur, then, is about solving an existing problem(s) creatively, not just for your profits, but primarily for your customers.

We should then theoretically have seen an abundance of this sentiment in our city throughout all sectors, ranging from consumer goods or services, banking or regulation in the past decade…that matches the rapid change in modern consumer (and merchant) landscape.

What I have observed in HK is increasing costs in the value chain and a disproportionate focus managing those costs – but this isn’t isolated to our quaint little city.

Has the pressure of being profitable stifled the innovative capacity of HK?

Perhaps a re-calibration to innovate for customers first, profits second may be counter intuitive/cultural, but naturally provides a foundation to build intrinsic value in a business.

– Adrian

Adrian Lai,  Managing Director of Cornerstone HK. Passion for challenging the community to find smarter, leaner, scalable ways to solve business and social problems.


1 http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/economy/article/2004297/hong-kong-slips-global-innovation-ranking-regional
2 http://www.scmp.com/business/economy/article/1284562/hong-ko
3 https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/244565


StartupsHK “‘Cornerstone Connect’ Helps Startups with Integrated Back Office to Make Startup Life Easier”

Original article can be found here

September 2, 2016 by












Our friends at Cornerstone are launching a suite of tools to help manage the back office of your startup called Cornerstone Connect. This will allow you more time to grow and build your startup and not worry so much about accounting, inventory control, web design, fulfilment and other back office management.

Founder Adrian Lai is kicking off this new product with his partners on September 14th at Garage Society – register here for a way to learn more about it and to get special launch discounts.

We sat down with Adrian to learn more about the product:


In a nutshell what is Cornerstone Connect?

Connect is an extension of our existing accounting practice which has two primary offerings:

  • Build integrated service and cloud software bundles dependent on the client’s business sector.
  • Provide collaborative business advisory covering areas from streamlining operations to tax and regulatory compliance

We currently offer solutions for online/offline B2C and B2B, IoT startups, consultants, fitness studios and clinics. We’re exploring a F&B bundle with a local software house, so watch this space foodpreneurs!

Why is it better to use a consolidated effort than do each of the pieces myself?

DIY is a great way to get close to your business but as an owner, with so many other items on your to-do list, it’s easy to get bogged down in the detail and you miss critical elements that can deeply impact the way your business runs in the future.

The bundles provide a core infrastructure to our clients so they can focus on developing their business, be it designing, sourcing, selling, marketing. Two key benefits:

  • The softwares can be easily extended with a ton of additional tools/apps ranging from CRM, sales/marketing, forecasting
  • A collaborative network of advisors available for your business

Who are the partner groups in Connect and what do they bring to the table?

Our first launch will be targeting new or existing online B2C businesses – our service partner is Kranberry who builds custom e-commerce ready websites, and our software partners are Xero, TradeGecko and Easyship.

  • TradeGecko is a inventory/order management software for modern merchants with B2B and B2C capability – Xero is simply beautiful accounting software
  • Cornerstone provides the software implementation, integration and monthly operational and accounting support. Tax, audit and other compliance services are also available.
  • Easyship takes the guesswork out of international shipping and is integrated into the webstore or marketplace

All of these elements are fully integrated so when a customer buys your product online, the infrastructure can automatically monitor stock movement, ship/track product and account for sales and COGS.

Take a look at our page to see what we do https://cornerstone.hk/cornerstone-connect/

What problem does it solve?

Clients come to one place and can pick the appropriate service/software combination for their business – all backed with industry expertise.

How much does it cost?

TBD – we will have something for the event launch on September 14 and on the website in the coming week or two.

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