For the 50th anniversary of gender diversity at HEC, the editorial team put women in the spotlight!
For about a decade, Karen Contet (M.05), co-founder of the global tech summit Hong Kong Fintech Week, has been making waves in the Asian Silicon Valley. Learn more about this enthusiast of new worlds.
Her favorite video game when she was a teenager? Mario Kart! Born in Versailles, Karen Contet spent her childhood in Japan. Her family relocated there in 1985 when her father was tasked with setting up a liaison office for the Renault group in Tokyo. She lived in the Japanese capital until the age of thirteen, marked by a futuristic gaming universe.
A math and technology aficionado, Karen Contet studied computer engineering between France and Canada. She had no doubt she would become a trader, and made it happen by earning a Master’s in International Finance at HEC. In 2005, she started her career at JP Morgan in Tokyo, in the heart of computer science and financial news, specializing in exotic derivatives. “It really suited me. It was intense, but really great. Now, I still work fifteen hours a day, but I’m my own boss,” she jokes.
When someone managed to raise $500,000 at that time, they were considered a rock star!
In 2010, Karen Contet shifted her focus to Hong Kong, where many banks had relocated after the 2008 financial crisis. Inspired by the entrepreneurial buzz in the city, the trader decided to go back to school to learn how to code her website and, in 2014, founded the company WHub with her best friend, German entrepreneur Karena Belin. The two partners launched their platform to reference companies, helping them be visible and highlighting a mission rather than a product or service.
The W in WHub was carefully chosen in reference to the book “Start with Why” by author and speaker Simon Sinek. “It really was the birth of a tech ecosystem,” explains the co-founder. “We were fascinated by entrepreneurs and the fact that they could talk about their start-up for hours.”
Directory of start-ups, job board, fairs, hackathons… Quickly, Karen Contet created links between companies, talents, and investors. The WHub community stirred up the tech scene in Southeast Asia at a time when terms like fintech, fundraising, or unicorn had not yet entered business jargon.
“The word start-up was not even mentioned by the government in their annual budget,” she recalls. “When someone managed to raise $500,000, they were considered a rock star.” This enthusiasm for the industry led to the creation of the Fintech Association in 2017 to “collaborate and have more influence with regulators.”
$20 million in investments
Also working to support women in IT with the Women Who Code Association, she tries to push an industry that remains predominantly male towards more diversity. Karen Contet also manages AngelHub, an organization approved by the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), the regulator of the Hong Kong market, allowing professionals to create their own start-up portfolios.
Her Club Deal application proposes to syndicate in a private network, with family or friends, around investment projects. “Put your money where your passion is, that’s really the goal,” she adds. “It’s great to be at the forefront and see all the new technologies develop.” With AngelHub, this natural ambassador for fintech in France and Asia currently supports 24 companies with $20 million in investments.
Karen Contet speaking at the Hong Kong Fintech Week 2023.
A Future Development in Europe?
Above all, Karen Contet organizes one of the world’s largest tech conferences: the Hong Kong Fintech Week, which brought together 800 speakers and 35,000 visitors in two days this year. “Conferences are meant to strengthen networking and tech education. Information sharing is key,” she says. The agenda? Artificial intelligence, Web3, cryptocurrencies, blockchain… Talking to the entrepreneur, one can sense her amazement at these subjects. “The possibilities are truly incredible. We can now own a part of the web or buy elements of a video game!”
And now? The “queen of tech” has just planted her flag in Europe… Already busy launching investment funds, she would like to develop AngelHub, her crowdfunding platform between investors and start-ups, while continuing to play the role of business ambassador between Paris and Hong Kong.