We’ve got some news here from the otherside of the world. Austin Wong gives us some insides about his experiences with Startup Weekend in Malaysia and his entrepreneural project UniStay :
You have won the startup weekend in Kuala Lumpur 2014 with your business UniSTAY- an international platform for student’s accommodation, which is going online mid of this month. After SW you won the IFA NexGen Competition for young franchising entrepreneurs. You started joining the entrepreneurship scene at the age of 19. UniSTAY.co is already the second one, next to classCART. And you have spoken at international conferences. Currently you are coursing with a start-up entrepreneurs program of Stanford Graduate School in Malaysia, right? Seems like your career is boosting up, congratulations!
So, how did Startup weekend actually kick start your project?
Startup Weekend gave us a quick boost of speed in terms of validation and execution. Work that usually take 1-2 months which could be done within 54 hours. It also validated me personally as an entrepreneur, identifying my missing gaps, way of improvements and pushed me beyond my comfort zone focusing on the development of UniSTAY.co.
Furthermore, we received incubation by Malaysia’s Largest Telecommunications Company, Telekom Malaysia’s IX Accelerator right after our winnings.
How come you decided to pitch your idea at SW Kuala Lumpur in first place?
I had always exposed myself to the start-up community when I turned 19, meeting new talents, leaders and influencers. SW Kuala Lumpur is in fact the gathering of all like-minded people. Personally, SW Kuala Lumpur is a platform for my breakthrough, to overcome my fears and boundaries. I’m an introvert by nature, but deep inside I just know I got to try. Without trying, you won’t know what might happen next. It turned out trying out SW Kuala Lumpur was in fact a great breakthrough for me. This is what I always tell my peers, “Keep trying, and every single try will reveal a better version of your previous self”.
How did you find your team and who are they? Are they still on board?
It was never easy to get my team members onboard. No one believed in the idea. Only two high school students believed in the vision, and teamed up with me. Although they might not have been as skilled as those with years of experienced, I believe that age is somewhat irrelevant because what matters more is the right attitude, the spirit of experiencing and learning. I sincerely appreciate their trust in me. A big shout out to Soh CH and Leung LW. I am sure they would have wished to stay on with the team, but we can all agree that their final high school examination.
What were the first things that happened after startup weekend concerning unistay? First steps. How did you go on?
Getting the right team to execute the idea. It wasn’t an easy journey. Because I always believed that a team is the deciding factor between making and breaking the business. Hence why we are always scouting and welcoming talents to join us, locally and globally.
You call yourself a student-preneur -how do you actually manage that?
Passion & Time management. Entrepreneurship is somehow pre-built in me ever since I was young, but I did not have the opportunity to pursue these issues due to what I call “excuses”. – like being young. But what I have learned from this journey is that if you really want something bad enough you’ll do whatever it takes to get it. That includes prioritizing, managing your time well and self-discipline. If you have an excuse to not deliver your tasks, it proves that you are in fact not passionate about your idea.
Is there anything you would have changed or done differently if you look back to the last six months?
When I first started in the entrepreneurship scene, I joined numerous seminars, workshops and competitions. Till now, I had represented my home country Malaysia to multiple international occasions and won numerous awards. But it wasn’t until my mentor, Miss Mallory Loone that gave me a humble advice on the term “Focus”, I wouldn’t have become who I’m today, launching UniSTAY.co in a couple of weeks’ time.
One word, FOCUS. And there are two aspects on the term “Focus”.
1. Focus on initiating only one idea. Too often we got too ambiguous wanting to solve many problems at a time, thinking that we have no time to lose. But start-up doesn’t work that way.
2. Focus on the core of the business, don’t lose track by the amazing conceptualization/ features that you would like to implement on a certain idea. Create a quick prototype and launch it to the market, validation is crucial. It doesn’t need to be perfect.
Do you have any advice for attendees of startup weekend hamburg 2015 to make their weekend special and successful?
Solve a problem you are PASSIONATE about and THINK SIMPLE. Focus on the core values you will like to deliver. Definitely make full use of the mentors provided by SW Hamburg. These are the people who have been there done that, they might be able to give you certain valuable insights and feedbacks. Last but not least, make friends and have tons of fun!!
Are you planning a trip to Europe any time soon?
Yes, definitely. Europe gave me the best memories from all of my travels, the joy and smiles I had with my family. Simply amazing. In fact, I’m still using the wallet I got from Europe.
Thank you so much for the interview, Austin. We will keep in touch and send you all the best from Germany.