This post first appeared in TecHKU, the HKU Journal of Technology. (Text by Aman Gupta and Photos by Niko Wong and Gayathri Sivakumar)
The third Startup Weekend HKU (SWHKU) concluded last Sunday and it was a day full of surprises. As teams lined up to pitch, reporters from TecHKU (who are also the organisers this time around) kept guessing what the products of companies such as Aftercrap or FaceAsk could be.
On Saturday, During the final judging, we could clearly see that this year, the ideas, presentations, and pitches were of remarkable quality. Over course of the weekend, 8 mentors, 3 pitch “doctors”, a workshop on UI/UX design for mobile apps and another one on landing page essentials. The participants had come up with amazing products in a very brief period of time. Managing to do market research, make demos, identify any issues, pivot their idea, and then go through the cycle all over again in the span of the weekend! Not to mention they also had to allocate time for consultation with 8 mentors, rehearsed their pitch with 3 pitch “doctors”, and attended 3 workshops specifically on the Business Model Canvas, UI/UX design for mobile apps, and landing page essentials! Although sometimes in such competitions, there are always clear winners and losers, this time at SWHKU it was impossible to shoot down even a single idea because they were all good!
Some of the judges told us that evaluating the winners was a very hard task especially for the prize of The Best Validation. The award finally went to DATAmined, a team of academic researchers who came up with the idea of bridging the gap between researchers who require data that is lying waste with companies. DATAmined will be an online market place that would allow companies to sell their research data to academics in universities who are willing to buy it for their own research. The team spent a lot of time fine tuning their idea by speaking to researchers of HKU and also evaluating the market model to gain the best returns for itself.
The Best Design and Evaluation Award went to team MusicSpark who pitched a business venture to encourage high-school students to collaborate and learn music. Differentiating themselves from the competition, the team gave a live demo showing their prototype’s ability to convert voice into MIDI musical notes leaving the judges very impressed. Although I was personally skeptical about the MusicSpark’s idea, after talking to their team briefly, I realised that the application could have potential as a Slack for musicians.
Finally, it was Paperfox, a subscription management platform that bagged the biggest prize, The Best Business Model. A company with the biggest team at SWHKU, Paperfox plans to help its customers reduce their expenditure on their unnecessary subscriptions such as gym memberships and Netflix while customers are away on vacations. The company had a very strong pitch and reassured the doubters in the audience that partner companies that live on the subscription model will like to sign-up for their apps since it promises the companies a chance to auto-renew subscriptions and eliminate the hassle of maintain their personal subscription renewal databases. Judge Daisy Jiang said Paperfox showed the most promise out of all the thirteen pitches that were presented to them at SWHKU.
However, there were several notable entries at SWHKU; an interesting one was Aftercrap, an app to register customer complaints of companies, small or large. They wanted to “meme-ify” the complaints by adding hilarious distortions and slogans to the complaint letters. Aftercrap plans to attract companies to their platform to address these complaints in exchange for a fee. Another interesting idea was MELT, a company to eliminate order-time and WAITERS from restaurants. MELT would provide its customers with the ability to place an order to a restaurant while they are on their way to it and provide a payment portal to settle bills. While applications such as Weavle promised its clients an event and location sharing app with a targeted advertising revenue model. We also saw two job-hunting / networking apps and two travel apps among the 13 ideas presented. The pitches also included other companies that offered services such as counselling to graduates, a marketplace for local goods, as well as an idea to make another object-tracking hardware (but with a difference).
Overall, it was very satisfying to see that this year, all pitches were for ideas that were for the betterment of the society. The quality of ideas is only improving every year and I personally, cannot wait to see SWHKU next year!
Just 5 weeks after our previous article, Startup Next Hong Kong Spring 2016 is almost over. We have been impressed by the teams’ progress and are confident that they will do great after the pre-accelerator. Big thanks to W Hub, for organising this edition with us and Jessica Choi from Hirely.
Startup Next Hong Kong is proud to present you the 8 teams that were selected for our second cohort!
When we brought UP Global’s programs (now Techstars Startup Programs) to Hong Kong in November 2011, little did we know how big our community would be 4 years later. Excitingly, we went from half a dozen of organisers to over 50; 70 alumni to 1,500+ and 1 edition to 16! An additional achievement is bringing Startup Next to Hong Kong for a cohort in fall 2015.
Startup Next, a Techstars program, is the #1 startup pre-acceleration program in the world
It prepares startups for accelerators and seed investment, by providing high quality mentorship and leveraging a global network of investors, mentors and founders.
The program is designed in such a way that founders are able to continue building their product, since it’s part time and consists of 3-hour weekly sessions for 6 weeks. The program is free of charge and no equity is taken.
Even though Startup Next is part of Techstars, it’s not exclusively preparing startups for Techstars accelerator programs. Over time we have built a strong network of accelerators and investors worldwide and work closely with them to refer our accelerator/investor-ready alumni.
We are back for Spring 2016 and things look great already!
With the help of W Hub, we selected 8 teams out of 81 applications and met them for the first time on April 5th. The entrepreneurs will be under a lot of pressure to grow their business and make sure they are ready to pitch at our Demo Day late May.
- myfairtool – digital solution to increase business results on trade shows
- TapTab.io – a DIY platform to create interactive music lessons
- ME Solution – E-Learning Platform for High School Students
- Pilgrim Coffee – a community-built worldwide map of specialty coffee
- Vaultarch – securing the world’s collectable cards against counterfeit, fraud & loss
- Todi – smart door lock using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies
- Coinvenience – machines converting spare foreign currencies into useful outputs
- Steel Available – marketplace for customized steel products dedicated to the heavy industry
We have partnered with great organisations to provide opportunities for our teams and open doors for them:
You can find more about our lead mentors, mentors and speakers on our event’s page here.
This post has been written by Thomas Merritt – Find the article on Medium
Last year, Hirely was selected to join the first batch in Hong Kong of Startup Next, a Techstars program. Startup Next is the #1 startup pre-acceleration program in the world and was designed in a way that founders are able to continue building their product. The first edition was co-directed with Nest and Startup Weekend HK.
The timing was perfect for our startup as we were in the final stages of product development, gained steady traction with beta users and demonstrated proof of concept in a controlled group.
Joining the accelerator program helped us focus on our business goals, set objective KPIs and measure our progress from week to week. During the 6 weeks, we perfected our pitch, sharpened our business model and gained an invaluable business network.
Here are the top five takeaways from Startup Next:
Test, test, test again.
We were reminded early that no simulation compares with getting live feedback early from the target market. We met and interviewed over 135 party vendors and entertainers in Hong Kong to test our product along every stage — from an idea on a napkin to a prototype to final launch product. Without testing with our potential customers, Hirely would not be as useful to them as it is today. Meet your market, understand their pain points, internalize feedback and tweak your solution. And repeat.
2. KPIs & accountability are king.
You can’t underestimate the importance of measuring quantitative progress. We were required to develop a set of KPIs to be accountable for every week. This enabled us to measure your progress step by step as well as keeping close count of what works and what doesn’t. Setting yourself growth targets is key but identifying the right parameters is just as important and they vary from one startup to the other. To this day (3 months on), we still use similar weekly KPI metrics that we developed from the Startup Next program.
3. Jump back into the arena.
It’s better to draw a blank during a test pitch then on demo day. To prepare for my first solo pitch, I practiced a one-minute pitch for days to perfection. However, under pressure, I lost focus and, in a blink, the pitch was over before I could recover. As embarrassing as it was, it was a useful reminder that things don’t always go to plan. In spite of the bruised ego, I put this behind me and delivered a 3-minute final pitch effortlessly a few weeks later.
4. You get what you put in.
Joining an accelerator (or pre-accelerator) program is a big commitment in both time and work. Do your research, identify in advance what you want to get out of the program and from the mentors. Once you’re in the program, respect your own and others’ time by putting in the effort that’s required to get your startup to the next level. Everyone is there to help you along the way, but if you don’t pull your own weight, all efforts are lost.
5. Invest in your network.
The raw energy from being in a room with like-minded individuals with a common hunger was addictive. It was inspiring to see so many people volunteering their time to offer mentorship and support the start-up community. Through the network of Startup Next, we sponsored our first event and met business partners. Two mentors from Startup Next remain to be our advisors today.
Startup Next is back in Hong Kong for round two this spring with a kick-ass list of mentors. This time, it will be co-directed by W Hub. I encourage early-stage startups looking to join world-class accelerator programs or kickstart fundraising efforts to apply. Applications are due on March 22nd and you can submit yours here. Feel free to reach out to me at thomas[at]hirely.asia or hk[at]startupnext.co with other questions.
Tom is the cofounder of Hirely, an online marketplace that simplifies the way people find, compare and hire curated event professionals that make their events truly unique. Hirely recently launched in HK.
Startup Next, a pre-acceleration program run by Techstars, is kicking off in Hong Kong with the help of Nest VC. The free program provides local entrepreneurs the opportunity to work with great mentors and coaches to get their business to the next level.
We have been organising Startup Weekend in Hong Kong since 2011 and through the 12 editions, we were able to positively impact over 1,000 participants. We are humbled by the passion people show during the intense 54 hours program. Complete strangers come together to create their very own tech startups and with hard work, make it a sustainable and fast growing company. We start to see the important impact of our events on the Hong Kong Startup Ecosystem and that encourages us to move forward.
Based on general feedback from Startup Weekend, we discovered that we could and needed to go one step further to help entrepreneurs in the following areas:
- A deeper dive in the customer discovery and development processes;
- More hands-on mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs;
- Clear focus on preparing projects to successfully apply and get accepted into world-class accelerators and raise seed funding.
To help startups with these challenges, we have brought Startup Next to Hong Kong for the first time! As an example of its quality in different cities around the globe, the program has assisted over 20 startups to get into top accelerators, including Techstars and 500 Startups, while 11 more startups have collectively raised $11.1M for their seed rounds in 2014.
How does Startup Next work?
Startup Next is a six weeks, mentor driven pre-acceleration program that brings established teams together for three hour sessions on one evening each week.
The three key components of the program are:
- Working 1:1 with top local mentors to address the main challenges each startup is facing, in order to help get the team focused on growth.
- Learning from successful entrepreneurs about their experience on various topics like Product / Market fit or funding, which are crucial for founders to understand.
- Getting feedback from a group of mentors on the strategy, execution and startup pitch.
Startup Next Hong Kong is run in a collaboration with Nest VC and a number of community partners, venues and the most amazing people helping startups and entrepreneurs to reach the next level. We’re proud to team up with some of the greatest co-working spaces in Hong Kong to host our teams for each session. Startup Next participants will discover KPMG, Blueprint, Brinc.io, Paperclip, the Infiniti Lab and the DBS Vault.
We are excited to announce the 7 teams that will take part of Startup Next Hong Kong this Fall 2015:
- Limezy, limezy.com -> a leisure learning video platform focused on food and beverage;
- Salon7, salon7.meteor.com -> a professional space for the shared economy of ideas;
- Smartcasual, smartcasual.co -> an iOS app to meet with professionals in the next 3 days with time and location pre-posted;
- Holumino, spincle.photos -> Spincle is an app to create animated panoramas & generate 3D content in VR;
- Easy Take, easytake.hk -> end-to-end medical app that includes appointment, payment, recording and medical reminder features;
- Hirely, hirely.asia -> introducing local event service vendors to individuals and corporates organising events for their upcoming parties;
- Deal N Ship, dealnship.com -> flash deal site that focuses on luxury “big ticket” items.
The program starts this Saturday and we will share teams’ updates on a regular basis. It is organised and facilitated by Jessica Cheung (Nest.vc), Mark Koester (Techstars), Tony Verb (Nest.vc) and Matthieu Bodin.
Interested in helping these teams, sponsoring or investing? Contact us at email@example.com for an introduction.
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.
We are at the second Startup Weekend HKU, a three-day event for participants to meet like-minded peers to take their startup ideas to the next level. They will be pitching, validating, and prototyping their ideas all within 54 hours. The organisers just wrapped up the initial round of pitches– here are our thoughts and insights.
Natalie: What did you think of the ideas pitched? I can definitely sense a recurring theme here – matching apps, i.e. Uber for X apps. Amongst others, there was an app matching fashionistas with those who may not have the sharpest fashion sense when choosing outfits, a platform to find an owner for your old furniture, and an app to find someone with free time to clean your house.
Nayantara: Yeah, and there were also some ideas that were similar enough to be streamlined. They could integrate their ideas and business models and make something really great. The “Surprise” app combined with the “Plannable” app for example – a surprise event planning platform mixed with a way for busy parents to plan their children’s birthday parties more easily. I actually really liked “Surprise” in particular; I thought their idea of “gift-giving consultations” was really cute.
Mass-market oriented things like this are all good, but there were a lot of ideas that seemed super unrealistic though, don’t you think? For example, ProCram, or as the would-be creator describes it, “Reddit with an academic twist”. In theory, I like the idea. I like it a lot. Who wouldn’t want teachers and TAs on standby to answer questions that the lecture slides and textbook can’t? The issue I find with this though, is that why would professors and TAs even be on standby? They would almost definitely have better things to do.
Natalie: Yes. There was an idea for a biomedical startup to detect and offer treatment for different stages of cancer. Finding a cure for cancer has been a long-time challenge for the medical field – How would the team here be able to prototype this idea in two days? And they hope to offer treatment- that’s what hospitals are for, right?
Another problem I noticed across the pitches was that they were super niche. A rating platform for dog salons only caters to dog owners. Perhaps this team could upscale it by rating vet clinics or grooming centres in general. So OpenRice but for pet care.
I liked the idea of a platform for sharing mistakes. Experience –not Google– is the best teacher. What better way to learn than to learn from others’ mistakes? But I am not sure what their business model is. After all startups got to be sustainable and earn profit. We haven’t heard a lot about monetisation from the participants.
Nayantara: A lot of the pitches seemed very hardware-oriented as well, so I’m interested to see how they’re going to implement them. One of my special favourites was the idea to create a vending machine with ‘fun’ food: pizza for example! “Look and Taste” would let users select their food and watch it being made. This pitch came from the frustration of being on campus until late and having absolutely nothing to eat – a frustration I can definitely understand when writing this on campus at 10:20 pm! I can definitely see a lot of robotics going into the ‘Look’ part of it though, so let’s see if the group refines their plan to just the ‘Taste’.
Smart bands are also featured heavily in this year’s pitches. Eric, the man behind “I-Care”, pitched a medical smart band with basic biometric sensors for blood pressure and heart rate, and also special features like reminders for taking medicine and a way to automatically alert hospitals to any medical emergencies.
I think another thing that really stood out to both of us was one of the last pitches, one that proposed to produce menstrual cups for women in developing countries. Cost-effective to produce, reusable and supposedly with fewer health risks, menstrual cups could really make all the difference to women on their periods. As a supporter of both menstrual cups and the use of the word “vagina” in public, I loved the pitch, but unfortunately I don’t really see how it’s a startup, and I really don’t see how it relates to tech. It’s an R&D-intensive, biology-related project and in this case the R&D has already been done. Which leads me to ask, what exactly is the group planning to do with this idea?
Ideas we liked
Natalie: Ricky’s “Seat Finder” uses the WiFi access points at computers or smartphones in the library or a canteen to generate a virtual map of the space, so that students could easily find vacant seats once they enter the premise. In fact the official HKU app has this feature implemented for the Main Library, the Oval, and the Chi Wah Learning Commons. It would be cool if “Seat Finder” could provide the same solution for virtually any public space– I totally see myself using it.
“I’M IN” would sound exciting for those who want company at an event, like watching a movie or having hotpot. You get to propose, browse, and join events by saying “I’m In” on the platform. I personally don’t mind experiencing things alone, but it would suit those who want to make new friends, especially when you are in a new country or environment, as the creators have mentioned.
There was this feel-good app that gets people to think positive by sending encouraging messages when they check-off items on their to-do list. It may well be just a to-do list app, but it does help restore my faith in humanity, a bit.
Nayantara: “Look and Taste”, once they’ve solidified their concept – I could definitely do with some hot pizza in the middle of my midnight studying. At this point, it’s unclear how they’re going to achieve what they’re envisioning, especially if they’re set on having the vending machine cooked from scratch. There’s this and a hundred other problem points to consider, but hopefully they get it together and we’ll see a prototype on campus soon! I can definitely see myself single-handedly making up half their revenue.
There were a lot of ideas that seemed great in concept but would be tough to implement – for example, there was an idea proposing selling warm, home-cooked meals to people. I can definitely go for a warm, home-cooked meal at any time of day, but not personally knowing the cook would be awkward. Not to mention, the person cooking the meal might not want to let strangers into his or her home in the first place. And there’s just something very secure about knowing (or at least hoping) that a restaurant is only operational if it follows government-mandated health codes. So I’ll put this idea down as a maybe. Again, if they can figure out the kinks in their model, then I’m all in.
(Side note: apparently I’m only interested in food-related apps. Huh.)
Natalie: I’m looking forward to how these ideas would pivot in the coming two days– after all participants had only 60 seconds to pitch their idea. It wouldn’t surprise me if we end up having a whole new set of startup ideas from the teams on Day 3. Follow us on Twitter for live updates at the final presentations. Goodnight!
You will be judged – A Startup Weekend experience
Written by Joanne
“Which box can I put you in?”
“None”, I replied.
For a dubious looking group of people, it’s a not-so-typical Friday night gathered at Cocoon’s co-working space in Tin Hau. They have chosen to sacrifice their entire weekend of freedom for 52-hours of planning, plugging and pitching. It’s Startup Weekend’s first education edition!
Already not fitting in…
I arrived straight after work and was warmly greeted by co-organizer Kitty Ng (BSD Academy). After being handed an orange nametag signifying my skills and experience in education, I swiftly immerged myself into the crowd… I clocked a few fellow oranges, said hi to some greens (service-providers) and found myself gravitating toward the food table. Munching and mingling there with me were reds and blues (businesspeople and techies, respectively).
The small talk had already begun but along came Marcel Ekkel, co-organizer of the event, to make sure the ice was truly broken. Bingo! Each box on our piece of paper contained a certain skill. The goal was to find as many different people in the room with the desired skills and fill our page with their names.
“Know how to use a business model canvas?” asked a green.
“Ever organized a Facebook campaign?” asked an orange.
“Know about wireframes?” asked a red.
Questions were flying in all directions and my answer remained the same: “No!”
At this point the voices of self-doubt that visit us all from time to time piped up (yes, already!). Nevertheless, I hung in there… I was sure that I also had skills to bring to the table. So I laughed off the fact I couldn’t be put in a box and got busy scoping the skills in the room.
One fast and fun pitch warm-up later and playtime was over. The microphone beckoned any daring individual with an idea in education to win their peers over in a quick fire 60-second pitch. All you had to do was state the gap in the market, your brilliant idea and who you needed to make it happen- web developers, curriculum writers, game developers and so on… Simple!
I fell flat on my face.
Why am I here?
To be honest, I didn’t have any one, fully formed idea ready for pitching when I signed up for this. Ed-tech was also unfamiliar territory, but I wanted to go anyway; talent, creativity and can-do attitudes all in one space? Experts and mentors at hand? Sold! I resolved to maximize every opportunity presented to me.
As per my personal promise, I jumped in the deep end and gave pitching a shot. Just putting myself out there and doing it was a massive learning curve. Ok, I didn’t do as bad as I made out- it turns out I have very high expectations of myself! So I added that to the list of things to remember next time, along with all the mental notes I took whilst watching the other pitches.
Pick me! Pick me!
After casting votes for the ideas we liked best, a third of the ideas remained. For this special 10, the challenge of recruiting the people and skills necessary to make ideas a reality began. My off-the-cuff idea didn’t make the cut, and although teams began forming around me, I didn’t feel myself gravitating to any which one. I rooted for many other groups, but either felt my skills didn’t match their needs, or the group was already too large for me to make a worthwhile contribution.
That’s when I saw three others floating in limbo, having the same dilemma as me. I liked these guys. They were switched on, had great visions in their pitches and we all hit it off too. Sparks flying, we truly got into the entrepreneurial spirit and forged our own path… we made our own team. Badass.
We got busy blending the best of our ideas, stopping just in time to grab the last MTR home…
A new day, a new problem
Saturday presented new challenges. Other than myself, there were three guys in the team… Leo the startup entrepreneur, Ben the finance guy, and Marc the academic researcher-turned-math teacher. We sure hit it off Friday, but for an Ed-Tech event we were no “dream team” skills-wise. We really could have used someone with tech skills to develop a prototype and address some of our app development concerns. Being such a small team, it also had to be all-hands-on- deck from here on in.
To make sure that happened, the team appointed me their project manager for the weekend. Far from being the know-it-all of the group, I took note of their strengths and assigned tasks accordingly. Everybody was important and we spent rest of the day researching, number crunching, tech talking and even laughing…. With all the hard work ahead of us, I was glad to have such a good- humored team to get through it with!
Meeting the mentors
The event organizers were always on hand to help out… Chris Geary (BSD Academy Founder) stopped by with reminders of the judging criteria and Marcel regularly tipped us off on what we should have completed already.
They’d also arranged for experienced professionals to visit us and share their pearls of wisdom. Mark Koester (UP Global) listened to our proposition and left us with some tips about the current market and potential competitors. That really helped us to determine our edge.
We were especially grateful to mentor Jah Ying Chung (founder and air marshal of LaunchPilots) who walked us through the business model canvas template still staring blankly at us. Marc’s on-point responses later in the Q&A session were also largely based on her sound advice. (Thanks, Jah Ying!)
By the end of the day, we were pretty worn out and one man down (fever… far too much excitement!). Despite this, we went our separate ways that night with that quietly confident feeling that we were onto a good thing.
Sunday aka THE day
After a few hours sleep, we arrived charged and ready for the sprint to the finish line…the final presentation scheduled for 5:00pm that day
T minus 8 hours
With work pending and deadline looming, there wasn’t much time for chitchat. Ben worked on product validation whilst Marc finalized some market research. A whizz with PowerPoint, Leo had been drafting our presentation materials. It was a good time to check in on his progress and identify any gaps in the presentation whilst we still had a few hours to fill them.
I worked with Leo to ensure the presentation unfolded in a logical manner, erasing any ‘not-essential-right-now’ information that would just clutter the slides and detract from the main point. Consistent formatting and relevant content to headlines are paramount too — why jeopardize our chances with clashing colours, misused semi-colons or comic sans font?!
The basic content of our slides looked something like this:
- Identify the gap in the market
- Highlight why already existing companies and potential competitors aren’t effective
- Introduce and summarize our business
- Outline the edge over other services
- Demonstrate the user interface
- Detail how the business earns revenue
- Further evidence of market validation
- Social impact
At this point, we realized our vision has shifted since Friday evening and our name is no longer representative of the business itself. Brainstorming is not ideal so late in the game… panic and creativity are not the best of friends! A catchy name and concise tagline define and wraps up your business into a pleasant, unintimidating package. Luckily, a challenge for the most fantastically terrible pun for a name dramatically eased the tension… Out of the madness came a moment of clarity: our (child-friendly) name was born!
The presentation space was reserved and all ours. We walked through the presentation a few times and gave each other some helpful tips. Nerves kicked in!
Allison Baum, co-organizer and managing director of Fresco Capitol, reminded us of the goodies up for grabs and the first few presentations fly by. As we stood the green room patting each other on the back, our name was called….
5 minutes to sell.
Leo proved his presentation skills and achieved just the reaction we wanted… Laughs and nods all around from the audience and judges! Perfect! He was the right man for the job. It doesn’t matter that he didn’t get enough time to talk through the final slide; Marc knew the numbers and coolly and calmly answered the judge’s questions…
We took our seats once again and relaxed somewhat. Just one pitch more, and all that could be done was done. The judges headed out clasping their notes tightly to their chests. The nerves and anticipation in the air were certainly palpable… But even though every team wanted to win, you could also feel the support and mutual respect from everyone in the room.
“You will be judged!” (Chris Geary’s honest words of warning from day one!) The panel returned and took to the stage. Everyone was sitting up straight, eyes forward; ready to hear what the experts had decided…
Staring back at us were the following successful individuals:
- Tytus Michalski (managing director, Fresco Capitol)
- Irene Chu (partner in KPMG China, Head of High Growth Technology and Innovation Group in Hong Kong)
- Crispian Farrow (Learning Technology Advisor and Facilitator)
- Justin Harman (Educational Technology consultant)
Irene Chu cleared her throat.
“Good presentation, team work and sound idea. In moving forward, I encourage them to seek further market validation… Third prize goes to…”
I was very, very happy with that and so were the guys. Of course we were in it to win, and I think everyone should be, but the real winners are those who learn. It’s all about what you do next! We walked away with prizes, certificates, newly acquired skills, top tips, and friends.
I’ve since met up with a few people I met that weekend for a coffee catch up, to get some advice or even get involved with their current projects. I’m very excited about their potential as well as the opportunities opening up to me.
Hong Kong’s startup community is a competitive yet welcoming one. Things get done here in Hong Kong. Does that intimidate you or incredibly inspire you?
No, I don’t want to recommend the Startup Weekend to you… I want to challenge you to it! Or go do whatever it is you’re scared of! Like best selling author Karen Salmansohn said, you’re an unfinished work in progress and “one of the good things about life’s challenges: you get to find out that you’re capable of being far more than you ever thought possible.” So, what will it be?
Joanne works in Human Resources and Communications for a group of schools across Asia and has been living and working in Hong Kong since 2010. Her passion for people, positivity and progression makes her well suited to her role in education and administration. Twitter: @jomariebrent
Post written by Charlotte Fernandez
Now that the next Startup Weekend Hong Kong is coming up, I can’t help but do a recap of the last one. The obvious reasons are that it was a great learning experience, crazy fun and the best crash course in startup-isms there is. Anyone coming out of SWHK can attest to this. However, not everyone can walk away with hands-on knowledge on what it takes to have a perfectly balanced team. It’s nothing short of sitting in a Formula 1 car knowing that the machine was meant to be driven to win.
The best part of SWHK #7 was my kick-ass team. I know that sounds like a very cheezeball, sentimental and un-business-like thing to say, but I’ve got the facts the prove it. The facts come in the form of SWHK #7’s Crowd favorite and Execution/Design awards. 😉
Unlike many of the teams doing the hustle at Cocoon that weekend, the business canvas model was a secondary tool to building our startup. We jumped into what we felt actually mattered to people – the journey. Guided by the bright minds of Apogee, Dan and Jo, we found the best way to validate our idea. We let people tell us their stories and experiences with “sifus.” Our prompts were completely open ended and they could tell us anything they wanted – this is where our team hit gold: 98% of the people we talked to had a horror story about dealing (finding, hiring, scheduling and paying) with a sifu. The remaining 2% had parents who were gracious enough to handle the matter.
We collected these stories and analyzed them. We built our product around the patterns we found across the experiences, not the other way around. That’s what created product value for “C Fu” and made it resonate with the general public; we listened to people’s horror stories then provided a solution.
The comedy value from the stories we heard during customer validation were the icing on the cake! We had giggles to last for weeks and that showed through in our pitch which you can see here:
Now this short recap is basically 54 hours condensed into a two-minute read. But I need to stress that because of my brilliant team, all 54 hours of SWHK really were as seamless as it sounds here.
Not one of us played second fiddle in any sense and we all pulled our own weight towards the same goal. Individually, we each knew what we were good at and played to our strengths – which providentially checked all the boxes for a winning (yes, twice) team! But big ups to TofuPay and GranChat, the other big winners at SWHK #7.
Team C Fu didn’t think we could fix every single problem in HK. We only discovered a situation that was generally a painful experience for many people in Hong Kong, ex-pats and locals alike. We set out to solve it, without any intentions on making big revenue, just by making something that could work. Thanks to everyone for all the encouragement to keep working on C Fu. Next steps? Building an ecosystem that works…
Check us out and get on our list at: C-Fu.co
Post written by Charlotte Fernandez
Nest’s due diligence team were asked to be judges at the StartupWeekend event over the past weekend.
Participants were given 54 hours to find cofounders, build a team, validate a business idea and hack out a prototype.
This was the first university-themed StartupWeekend in HK and was hosted at Hong Kong University. The participants were 75% HKU affiliates and lended a lot to the very tangible energy in the room.
Alongside Alyssa and Jess on the panel were notable HK entrepreneurs Ray Chan, founder of 9Gag and a HKU Alumni as well as Raymond Yip founder of Shopline, who actually formed his all-start team at a previous Startup Weekend event himself.
The teams worked hard to find their cofounders and validate their ideas. Ultimately, four teams out of the thirteen stood out in particular:
1. Business Model Award – #Ask
Team #Ask created a solution to connect tutors and parents. They identified the outdated method by which parents now find tutors for their children as outdated and inefficient. Tutors are similarly unsure of how to reach out to students who require their knowledge and expertise. The key concern from the judging panel revolved around verification and trust, which is often the most important element for parents. With some refinement on this front, this team could be onto something very interesting.
2. Validation Award – Talent4U
Another recruitment-based idea, Talent4U matches freelance copywriters with people requiring their services. Though their manual vetting process might be a ‘bottleneck’ to scaling rapidly, judges saw potential in the other verticals that they could expand into. The validation they had done to differentiate themselves from their competition was impressive, as was the charismatic and well-rehearsed presenter!
3. Execution and Design Award – Spots
What’s a weekend without some drama? The enthusiasm and energy from this team was unrivalled, and they certainly ruffled a few feathers with their idea. Within minutes of their elevator pitch, tweets started pinging in with:
— Douglas Crets (@DouglasCrets) March 15, 2015
— Nayantara Bhat (@scarychica) March 15, 2015
For an app that essentially promotes ‘stalking’ (the founder’s words, not ours!), they had gone through the processes that are encouraged at SW events, testing their app with the market (by spending the night at LKF no less) and building a good mock up of the final product, which earned them the Execution and Design Award.
4. Special mention – CloudBox
CloudBox aimed to improve the lives of shoppers and tourists by providing lockers around Hong Kong and a delivery service for everyday use. Sort of an Uber for shopping crossed with delivery/pickup solutions that are taking off overseas, this team has identified a clear market need that with some more research and thought, could certainly turn into a viable business solution.
A very well done to all the teams who participated. As usual, it has been inspiring to see how much can be achieved in such a short time!
The next StartupWeekend will take place at BluePrint, April 17th. Register here