Spoiler alert! You might want to read our Day 1 blog before proceeding.
Natalie: Can I just start by saying how proud I feel for everyone involved? I was at the first Startup Weekend HKU, and I must say the quality of presentations and prototypes this time were at a whole other level. Perhaps the massive venue they booked and the cocktail bar they had this past weekend contributed to that.
Nayantara: HKU’s second Startup Weekend was definitely on a bigger scale than last time, with much more diverse and ambitious creations. I wasn’t around for most of the creation process, but it definitely looked like an exhausting weekend for some of the participants. Now that the 54 hours have come to a close, they’ll finally be able to get some sleep – and some of them have gone home victorious.
Natalie: All of them have gone home victorious with the new insights and new connections they have made. We live-tweeted all the 13 final pitches on Twitter, and if you haven’t heard already, here are the results:
Overall winner: ShopIG
1st runner up / Best business model: Botomatic
2nd runner up / Best customer validation: CollegePars
Crowd favourite / Special mention: I’M IN by InJoy@HKU
(FYI: Poll results)
Nayantara: I’m happy to say that the products I was most fond of made it into the top four, although one of my personal favourites, HappyCorner, didn’t. Their idea of creating an Airbnb-like platform for rooftop events and parties was something I really liked, but it might have been a little too niche market for the judges’ tastes.
I’M IN was something we were quite happy about, and they won the Crowd Favourite award by a landslide. Think Facebook events but tailored to your preferences, with a special little calendar showing all the events near you. Definitely something that could be used to create a good few crazy house parties (see Project X!) Their concept, bolstered by a snappy presentation and a well-designed prototype, definitely had the votes of most of the audience.
Natalie: I thought HappyCorner was a breath of fresh air among the fitness and social apps we have today. Rooftops are quite an integral part of urban culture in Hong Kong, yet their scalable business model allows for renting out under-utilised private spaces across the globe.
Let’s talk about our grand prize winner. The team of three at ShopIG offered a rather all-round solution to leverage the e-commerce potential of Instagram. Instagram shops are really popular among locals, but the app limits its own ecommerce capabilities because it doesn’t allow hyperlinks in posts–so no link to purchase or to more product information, unless it’s a sponsored post or the “link in the bio”. But the team took it to the next level by feeding Instagram content onto their own e-commerce platform, which makes much more sense with a Buy button and a shopping cart.
My concern, though, is that ShopIG is built on the assumption that Instagram would allow their own content and user database to be fed into a third-party platform for commercial purposes. Remember when Twitter cut Meerkat off its social graph? Ouch.
I do look forward to what these guys would create in the future. Nelson, one of the technical co-founders, told me he sees himself working with his business co-founder Louis, whom he had just met this weekend, in the long run. Looks to me the team has great chemistry for the #startuplife — and for that I am glad events like Startup Weekend exist.
Nayantara: I thought ShopIG was definitely one of the better ideas, and I wish I’d paid more attention to it during the initial pitches. The same goes for Botomatic, a multi-tasking app that allows you to do several things simultaneously by using a custom-developed ‘bot’. For example, a bot might allow me to tweet, send an email, post to Facebook and check Pinterest all at the same time. The group’s revenue plan was to charge a certain price for the API keys, so any programmers who may want to develop a bot would have to pay for the privilege. It’s also worth mentioning that the group’s prototype app was really aesthetically appealing.
Meanwhile, there were a lot of apps that some members of the audience felt were quite superfluous. Prof. Mandarin (learning purpose-specific Mandarin with the help of a specially selected online tutor) and CollegePars (aggregating job/internship opportunities and student-led initiatives specific to each university) were two of these apps, with some audience members claiming that TutorMing.com and Jobsdb.com respectively are more or less substitutes. However, the CollegePars team impressed me during their pitch, and they definitely seem to have impressed the judges enough to get through to third place despite the audience skepticism.
Natalie: I like the fact that CollegePars included job listings for student-led initiatives alongside jobs on the market. Student groups like TecHKU mostly rely on Facebook, physical posters, and mass emails for recruitment (from my personal experience, those are methods with pretty low ROI). Our message could have better reach on a college-oriented careers platform like CollegePars; Facebook’s news feed algorithm can leave Page owners disappointed at times.
(And yes, TecHKU IS indeed recruiting. Shoot us an email if you are interested to join us as an editorial contributor / video producer / branding strategist, covering the burgeoning tech & startup scene in HKU and beyond! :D)
Nayantara: Can’t have a tech event without at least one vaguely sexist app, so I had my dose of that with Fitland, an app for women’s health that combines fitness with a game by a team called Hello Fitty. Cute idea. Very cute, had the team not opened their pitch with “Women complain a lot about their appearances, but never really do much to fix it.” In my humble opinion, if you need to make a joke about women to sell your app, it’s probably not a great app.
Natalie: If I may interrupt — Regardless of what you say about the nature of their app, Fitland had hands down the best original graphic designs out of all the prototypes. Props to their designers.
Nayantara: Then that’s great for them I suppose…
There was also a product called Micro Probe, which we were very skeptical about during pitching, as you can see in our Day 1 blog. The final pitch did not make me any less skeptical, to be honest. It’s a great idea in theory but developing something like that would take a seriously intense research budget and a lot of time. I really do admire your ambition though, guys, although I was a little confused about whether you were selling the Micro Probe or an insurance plan.
Natalie: Let’s talk about Tour4U. I am surprised they pursued the original idea from the first pitch on Friday. This travel app is definitely one that’s on the creative end. People who cannot travel, perhaps due to their disability or financial ability, could log onto their platform and join tours by local tour guides in the format of “follow-me-around” live video. A lot of attendees I talked to agree that it is a unique way to experience the world without setting foot outdoors as you get to interact with your tour guide, but I can foresee several problems when it comes to implementation. First, since the quality of these tours depend highly on live stream quality, it would not be feasible for users to have guides visit remote terrains like Mount Everest for them, however exciting that might sound. Perhaps better QC has to be done to ensure that guides have stable Internet connectivity when conducting tours. This leads me to the second point: Can the monetary return from the app cover the guides’ costs of having a good cellular data plan?
I do appreciate the team for letting their imagination run wild– they hope to integrate their service with the 360° camera and VR headsets.
That sums up the final pitches at SWHKU #2. We believe we will be around to witness a third SWHKU in the future, hopefully with even more participants and exciting product developments. (Organisers said it might be held at a joint-university level.) We wish all newly-admitted Startup Weekend alumni the best of luck in their future endeavours!
Be sure to keep an eye on our Facebook page as we will be posting video recaps of the event (with exclusive interviews) over the next few weeks!
Disclosure: TecHKU was a community partner at Startup Weekend HKU.