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:
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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
There is much excitement about private companies becoming more active in the space sector. But what can new space startups really offer?
When people think of space companies they often think about developing space technologies such as microsatellites, launch vehicles, specialized software and rovers to name a few. Companies like SpaceX and Planet Labs are popular examples that come to mind. Developing better, cheaper space technology is an exciting challenge after all.
But are space startups limited to the development of space technologies? Absolutely not!
At StartupWeekend Space we believe that anyone can be a space entrepreneur. In addition to innovations in space technology we want to find new ways to use space data. To achieve this we need input from people outside the space community: artists, designers, economists, developers, doctors, lawyers, and many others.
One significant opportunity for entrepreneurs is in finding new space applications. In the broadest sense, space applications is about finding ways to apply data generated by space assets, such as from satellites and space stations, to solve problems here on Earth.
In 2013, the OECD published a report valuing the global space economy at USD 256.2 billion:
The largest segment – consumer services – includes actors who rely on satellite services for part of their revenue but who are not part of the space community.
The most common applications take advantage of one, or a combination, of three key satellite services: remote sensing, communications and navigation. Some examples include an app by Viridian Raven that uses remote sensing data to measure global insect-related forest damage and a low-powered location tracker by StickNTrack to track and manage valuable assets.
There are also other creative ways to be a space entrepreneur, as is the case for StartupWeekend Space: Bremen co-lead Sebastian Marcu who founded Design & Data GmbH – a crossmedia services company that exclusively services space agencies and private space companies. His company produced a popular video series for the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission.
Whether you have an idea of how space can help your field, or how your field can benefit the space sector, the key point is that a good idea can come from anyone. StartupWeekend Space is your opportunity to present ideas and to work in teams to develop the best ones into viable space startups.
So what can a space startup really offer? The better question is what can YOU really offer.
Are you interested in trying your hand in space business? Come out to the first Startup Weekend Space in China in Shanghai on April 10-12th, 2015. Register at: https://yoopay.cn/event/swshspace
Need more inspiration? Check out these links:
- Copernicus Masters – Applications in Earth Observation – includes many examples of business ideas using Earth observation satellites.
- NASA Spinoff Homepage – a database of commercial products and services developed with the help of NASA and applied outside the space sector.
- The Space Review – The Commercial Space Boom – a great article discussing current business opportunities for aspiring space entrepreneurs.
I was one of the participants in Startup Weekend Hong Kong 2012 and my team, Dishing Up! was the champion. It was a great experience!.
Inspired by my unhappy experience of ordering takeaway, we aim to connect all restaurants and eaters through a mobile app, in which users can browse the menu and place order directly.
5 TIPs for future SWHK participants
Make friends and contribute yourself
SWHK is one of the hottest startup events in HK. It draws a lot of talents from different fields like marketing, business development and programming. It might be the first time for you to meet but don’t be shy. Keep your mind open and share as much as you can. No matter they join your team or not in the competition, they could be your startup mate or supporting team in future.
Step out your comfort zone
People in SWHK are all very talented. They might share something what you don’t know you don’t know. I know it might be hard to digest at first (Like me, I come from a pure business background and felt nuts when I was talking to programmers). Try to understand and ask for clarification honestly. Most people are friendly and mentors would be there to help if you need. Just in case they are not very friendly, you can still google it yourself. :p
Keep your team small
Like running a real startup, keeping a small team and define everyone’s role clearly makes the progress goes smoother and much more efficient. Golden team formula is 1 Designer + 1 BD + 1 Programmer.
Clear Value statement and business model. Skip animation and jargons.
Imagine you are sitting in front of the Tycoon Lee Ka Shing and he only gives you 1 min for pitching – what will you say about your business?
The competition is just the beginning.
Test the idea no matter whether you win or lose. Only market will tell if the idea works or not. Just GO and TEST! ☺
Joining SWHK is an awesome experience especially when you are tired about your current jobs. Refreshment and sparkles would be brought to you and push yourself to go further.
Article written by Meimei Cheung – read her blog in Chinese
Startup Weekend Hong Kong是什麼?
2012年5月，男友見我工作到無晒電，帶我到一個香港創業活動 Startup Weekend Hong Kong，希望讓我重拾創業的熱情 (真是用心良苦難為家嫂)。Startup Weekend是一個刺激又爆seed的活動，活動要求於54小時內與陌生人組成一隊創業團隊和把Idea實踐及推出Prototype，讓評判挑選出勝利者。
當時參賽點子叫「Take Eat All通吃」。Take Eat All是一個點餐外賣app，透過GPS得悉你的所在地後會為你提供最近你的餐廳以及它們的餐牌。提供外賣服務／自取外賣服務的餐廳更可讓你透過手機app直接落單，外賣單會直接送到餐廳，取締傳統落單方式，而時間只係需要3秒！
這個點子雖然只是改變了餐廳平日的一點運作，但已將本來Offline的冰室生意帶到線上，輕易的讓本來傳統的餐廳業務瞬間hi tech 咗，又可以透過Online平台與自己餐廳的客戶更容易地溝通！
最重要是，我常常無故地忽起上來很想吃某些食物（係！要即刻吃！吃不到會不爽），如果集齊全香港的餐牌我便可以極速知道如何找到這些美食了！（跳起Yeah!）這個點子一直放在我的心裡，在沒有準備的情況下我便膽粗粗地在Startup Weekend Hong Kong 分享了我這個想法。
2013年7月25日，首張Take Eat All Team Shot
贏咗之後係咪已經好威威？那你就錯了！現在才是開始。輾轉地花了整整一年的時間才組成了現任創業團隊（實在太感恩可以遇到我的隊友！*hug*）並將原來的idea初步整了一個Andriod Beta Version。
Article written by Meimei Cheung on her blog
It all started with a Startup Weekend event where the masterminds of Singli.com, Felix and Karson, first talked to each other. Although did not win the competition with their respective teams in SWHK, Felix and Karson realized they could make a good team together, for they are both determined to start a business of their own and with similar ideas towards the future. Singli.com is then founded not long after the event, an idea that would revolutionize the way how Hong Kongers browse and purchase their travel luggages. Startup Weekend, provided a quality platform to gather like-minded people with an entrepreneur will, has played a major role in facilitating the suitcase revolution in Hong Kong.
The suitcase revolution
As we all know, Hong Kongers like to travel during their holidays, according to Information Service department of HKSAR, a total of around 277 million passengers arrived and departed ports of Hong Kong in the year of 2013. As startup entrepreneurs with a goal to build a better future, we not only recognize a huge potential value in the market of a travel must-have — suitcase, but also try to create more efficient ways for travellers in obtaining their suitcases.
Current suitcase problems in Hong Kong
Space is one of the scarcest resources in Hong Kong, and therefore every inches of space at home should be utilize wisely. Quite a few of urbaners are living in extremely tiny “shoebox flats” in order to save on rent. Storing suitcases at home has become a headache for many Hong Kongers, as they generally consume large spaces and are not of frequent usage.
Even though some people may have some extra space to store one or two suitcases at home, purchasing suitcases can also be a hassle in Hong Kong. Although convenient, public transportation in HK is usually very crowded most of the time and carrying large belongings with you meaning you have to fight your way through the journey.
So, how can we minimize these drawbacks in preparing for our wonderful getaways? The following two startups formed an alliance with the same goal to revolutionize the suitcase industry are, therefore, being created to tackle the two major suitcase issues respectively.
Rent-a-Suitcase offer suitcases and action camera rental services to travelers, putting a stop to the headache for many families living in smaller flats. Moreover, renting travel gears means less waste and cost generated by your travel, creating a stronger sustainability and mutual support within the city.
For those travelers who need their own suitcases, the team of Singli.com works hard to make sure their suitcase purchasing process can be as seemless as possible. Trying to spare suitcase purchasers from all the hassle in transporting the suitcases across town, Singli.com offers the convenience of luggage choices for nationwide online purchase from the comfort of your desk, home or mobile device.
Just for Startup Weekend readers
Thanks for sparing the time reading our ideas on how to revolutionize the suitcase business, we have prepared some perks to all the Startup Weekend readers to join our revolution today. From Rent-a-Suitcase, type in discount code (“SWHK2015”) in reservation to get 10% off to the total on your first suitcase or GoPro rental. Use the same discount code (“SWHK2015”) when checkout get you 10% discount to the total of your bill in Singli.com.
Story written by Rachel Cheung
The perfect scheme for most startupers begins with a good idea and leads to a global company, operating in many countries.
Around 35% of teams stay together 3 months after a startup week-end and roughly 10% have raised money, says Joey Pomerenke, Startup Week-end CMO. Yet, the 2-days event is a good workshop to remind you how to build a global company.
The SWHK#7 happened 3 months after I arrived in Hong Kong. Enough to realise how thriving the Hong Kong startup scene was. A bunch of events had been organized the week before, around the StartmeupHK Venture Program forum. It was very exciting to meet so many people within the ecosystem: entrepreneurs, accelerators, co-working spaces, lawyers, governments agencies… And the Startup Week-end was a really nice conclusion to this week.
It was the first time I took part in such an event. I was really curious about the experience. It happened in Cocoon, a cool co-working space in Hong Kong, where we could work all week-end long. Startupers and students, local people and foreigners, designers, developers and business people, participants, mentors and judges, all kind of people gathered up for the week-end. More than 70 people dedicated themselves to building startups during 48 hours.
It began on a Friday night. After a short introduction, we formed teams.
The team & project.
I joined a Brazilian guy’s crew. We were 7 people. 6 business people, 1 designer and no developer. Let me quickly sum up the project we worked on.
Rafael, our team leader & Arman, our designer
Issue: In Brazil, many people order products on Alibaba. But when the products are delivered, their characteristics (quality, color, size, material…) often don’t match the order.
Solution: The idea was to create a platform, like fiverr, where Brazilian buyers could send requests for quick and cheap quality controls. On the other side, we wanted to build a community based close to the factories (in Hong Kong to get to Shenzhen for instance) to reply to the requests. A basic control would have been a picture and a few questions to answer.
Oh, something I forgot about the team. As I told you, we had one person from Brazil, but also one from Holland, one from Mexico, one from Moldova, one guy from Hong Kong of course and we were two people from France. We had so many different backgrounds to come up with the right solutions. Well, it didn’t really go as planned.
Our strength quickly became a weakness in the Startup Week-end, and we finished the event with no real valuable proposition to offer.
Being so different was very time-consuming. In 48 hours, you have almost no time to discuss. You need to get things done quickly to unveil your MVP on Sunday night. None of us were convinced with the business model, as it might not have been viable in our own countries. We lost valuable time discussing a lot.
It was very hard to get some potential-customers feedbacks as none of us but our team founder knew any Brazilian person who could answer our questions.
However, here are a few best practices I could figure out from this experience.
#0. Make your product scalable
This is a prerequisite. Startupers know that better than anyone, of course: being scalable is about creating the processes that will allow you to easily answer a growing demand.
This is how we thought our product. It was almost a tacit agreement that led us to this web platform solution, where a growing community could have quickly answered a growing demand for quality controls.
Being scalable is mandatory to access any investment money or any accelerator, as it is at Nest, one of Hong Kong top accelerator programs and as it was at the Startup Week-end final pitch. Yet, it might have been useful to follow Paul Graham’s, Y Combinator co-founder, advice there before getting into this scalable model.
#1. Test foreign markets first
During the Startup Week-end, it was highly recommended, if not mandatory, to use Value Proposition Design Tools & Business Canvas (for anyone interested in Hong Kong, you can join the Meetup Group). The purpose of this tools was to get product/market fit and so customers as quickly as possible.
Using these tools to go global and discover new markets makes completely sense. And we did it during the Startup Week-end. Here is what we learnt about the project.
It would have been very hard to get customers in France, Holland or Mexico (no trust).
In Hong Kong, nobody really saw the need for such a service. They simply change the provider if the product doesn’t match the quality requirements.
First Conclusion: When you have a product or service that works somewhere (here in Brazil), this is not obvious it would work anywhere else. So, test your markets.
#2. Think local
Another conclusion to our tests came directly from eastern Europe and Russia. It appeared the service we planned to develop, could have been useful to women from there who wanted to buy directly on markets in Chinese market. You get some products’ picture from a local community member, who can also buy it and ship it to you.
We weren’t convinced we had a real opportunity there, and we finally didn’t focus on it. But I came to a second conclusion. Think local when you want to expand a business abroad. You might find new & unexpected opportunities.
A good and local example might be Uber. They successfully launched their company here in Hong Kong and I remember this conference, where they displayed outstanding figures (regarding previous launches in San Francisco, Paris and London). I was all the more surprised that I always heard Hong Kong taxi service was really good.
Just go on their website. You will see how they adapted to the market, launching Uber Taxi (order a regular taxi through Uber) and Uber Cargo (probably directly inspired from successful companies here, EasyVan and GogoVan).
Uber website for Hong Kong
#3 Form an international team
This is stating the obvious, but good to be mentioned. Work with local people on the markets you want to settle in. You will have a way better understanding of how business works there.
From one desk in Cocoon, we managed to reach people in 5 different countries to get feedbacks on our service. We also had great insights from our Hong Kongese teammate, who knew how to deal with factories, providers and where to find them here.
Iana (Moldova), Jacky (Hong Kong) & Hosni (the Netherlands), working on our project
The Startup Week-end was, above all, a human experience, where you learn to work with others to solve real problems and create great companies. That is for sure.
Even if you have a startup already, the Startup Week-end might offer you good insights, hands-on experience and fun. That’s essential.
I’ve been observing global strategies for more than two years now, and this is the problem I am trying to solve with my partners: we created mercurr to make it easier for tech startups to go global. The Startup Week-end confirmed the ideas we had. Think global from day 1, don’t be afraid to explore & test unexpected markets and work with locals. It will get you on the road to global success.
In 2012, Thomas and I launched a non-profit media organisation, focusing on French entrepreneurs all around the world, the W Project (only available in French, but a few videos like this one!). From march 2013 to march 2014, we travelled in 13 countries and shot 70+ interviews.
Thomas, Edgar & Brice, mercurr co-founders
Post written by Brice de Matharel:
Startup Weekend Hong Kong was one of the most hands-on experiences I’ve had for learning about startups, it’s really a great place to make friends who are passionate, active and ready for challenges. Our team consisted of a designer, a full stack from silicon valley, two marketing managers, two business consultants and a fulltime programmer. We were constantly challenged by our mentors and the team built a strong bond through hard work, team spirit and persistence.
It really wasn’t easy but it was more than rewarding. To me, SWHK was a great lesson to learn more about my strengths and weakness; to run through a business idea and build a prototype within 54 hours was a great reminder of how quickly a team can move at full speed. I also built valuable connections at SWHK, in which a friend became a mentor of my current startup – JOBDOH.
After startup weekend, I was determined to head down the startup path. Knowing that having a great team with a validated idea is the key to a successful startup, I was very lucky to meet my cofounders Xania and Eric at the Google EYE programme. Our group camped at cafes twice a week to build our business model and prototype until we received our first funding from Cyperport. That was one of the first breakthroughs for us, also the one that gave the three of us the courage in working on JOBDOH fulltime.
I have learnt so much over the past year, some of the most useful ones are being able to accommodate to changes, act fast and build quickly. Being in a startup is like riding a roller-coaster sometimes, especially on bad days where you get more rejections in a day that in a year and of course awesome days when we win an award or get funding. It is almost like a sport, a continuous learning process and one of the biggest challenges that we faced was in product development. We tried to cater to too many different customer groups. Since we spent a lot of time on perfecting a product for very different groups, tweaking our service and product over and over was quite draining for the team and we ended up with a product that tried to do too much rather than a great product that focused on a segment.
We have now chosen a vertical to focus on now and that made the process flow as well as the marketing and branding plans much clearer and effective. Another challenge we are facing now is talent and hiring. In the earliest stages of a business, the biggest investment made is often the employees, both from a monetary and trust standpoint. At the same time, it’s important to build a good team and sometimes time is of the essence.
Discover JOBDOH’s profile and three job postings:
Article written by Mary Cheung
Pictures from http://startupstockphotos.com/
Photo credit: Cynthia Cheung by Kevin Nguyen (2013) @Smileforstrangers.blogspot.com
I can tell you first-hand, you will get the most out of a Startup Weekend with an open mind and open arms. I went to my first one in Silicon Valley while backpacking knowing absolutely nobody and had no idea what to expect. I made some incredible friends and enjoyed it so much that I wanted to share the energy and experience in Hong Kong, hence I volunteered to be an organiser for SWHK#7 (Nov 2014). Being an organiser not only allows you to enjoy the Startup Weekend fun (and stress) for 3 extra months, it also provides a more holistic view of the city’s startup scene. Not to mention you get to connect with some of the most amazing people who are also giving up their time and energy to help others discover their dreams, passion and make new friends. I want to elaborate on why Startup Weekend is the best place to find co-founders and talents, I know many of you came for this very reason, and I have recently found mine there!
1. The right mentality
Let’s face it, people are busy, even with no reasons.
Where else will you be able to meet someone who is willing to give up a full weekend and a couple of hundred dollars (HKD) just to meet others who will do the same? People who come to Startup Weekend want to make things happen. They are determined, focused and driven. Moreover, the unique combination of skills to make a modern startup successful are all present at the weekend for you to grab. Opportunities favor the prepared mind, what are you waiting for?
2. Make or break in 54 hours
I know hiring is difficult, finding a startup soulmate, even more so!
How well do you know a person from an interview? How well can you know a person after working with him/her for 54 roller-coaster hours? You get what I mean. Put it this way, these 54 hours will cost you a lot less than hiring / partnering with the wrong person. On the other hand, what is 54 hours when you can find a unicorn who shares your vision?
3. Up your chances
I found mine there, and I’m not alone.
Many people have asked me, “What’s the chance of anyone actually meeting a co-founder at a Startup Weekend?”. My answer is, “A lot higher than anywhere else”.
I met a fellow organiser who was enthusiastic in a problem I was trying to solve, and that’s all it took to start a mini hackathon on the side during the weekend. You make your own luck.
I hope you find this post encouraging, stay tuned, we look forward to meeting you very soon!
p.s. We are looking for sponsorship and would love to have your support 🙂
Article written by Cynthia Cheung @cyniec
What am I going to do with my life? That was my thought process going into Startup Weekend Fall 2013. I was simultaneously rejected for the Rhodes Scholarship, a consulting job, and had just wrapped up a frustrating week at a case competition; needless to say, I was not in a good mood. I figured that Startup Weekend would be a better use of my time than wallowing in self-pity.
Coming into the event, I had a vague idea for a product based off my experiences hiking. It quickly became apparent though that no one else was interested. Fortunately, I found an idea I liked, Rent My Dorm. Rent My Dorm was supposed to be the answer to a problem that plagues university students, where to get the necessities to fill your dorm. We proposed buying furniture, bedding, etc… in bulk and then renting it out to students. We soon discovered this was not realistic, as the costs for storing things in Hong Kong would make the idea prohibitively expensive.
The team then pivoted to Mungo, a mobile focused e-commerce platform. We would make it easier to buy and sell items on your phone with a particular focus on university students. Mungo was the idea we ended up pitching, but we didn’t win.
The original group’s collaboration ended with a project for our entrepreneurship class at CUHK. We further researched the idea, but our classmates and teacher were all unimpressed. As the Fall semester wrapped up, my group became to pack up and prepare for their moves back to the US and Europe. At that point, I had to decide to give up or keep going…I choose to keep going.
On my own
Like many recent graduates, especially in the winter, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I had heard about a program at Cyberport called CCMF; so, I figured I would apply. Unexpectedly, two days after returning to the US for the holidays, I was invited back for an interview. I made the decision to forgo family time for the hope I could make this idea work.
Lesson One: “If you are not willing to sacrifice everything, you will never achieve anything”.
Through a stroke of luck, I was awarded funding from CCMF while still being unsure of what exactly I was going to do. I did some research and noticed that Hong Kong’s charities were particular lacking in donations because traditional Asian culture avoids second-hand goods. I then decided to rebrand Mungo to Traider. Traider was supposed to combine Trade + Aid. Like Mungo, we would make it easy to buy and sell goods through your phone; however, if your item remained unsold we would find a charity that could use it. Like many participants at Startup Weekend, I did not know how to program nor did I have the resources to hire someone.
I spent the next few months trying to cobble together a business, but I was not getting anywhere. I had heard Cyberport was sponsoring a Hackathon; so, I figured what did I have to lose. My team and I ended up winning and were awarded a free trip to Shanghai for MoDev. Unfortunately, I suffered a serious facial injury during rugby; so, as you can tell from this photo, it was not a highlight of my life.
Lesson 2: “If you want to start a startup, learn programming”
I came back from that trip with a fascination for the amount of people who only know “business”. To be a successful founder, you need two out of the three following skills: Hustle, Design, or Programming. Regarding the last point, I don’t mean the technical talent required to manage a banking server as many HK Universities teach; instead, you need the ability to creatively program and create technical works of art. Recognizing I cannot design to save my life, I decided to investigate programming and stumbled upon One Month. While there are many great coding resources: Code School, Code Academy, Code.org, Teamtreehouse.com, One Month was the only one that taught me to build something I would actually use. After finishing the course, I launched traider.hk, but I still had no one using it.
Last May, I again returned to the US, but I still did not know how I was going to make this idea work. From talking to advisors, I recognized I needed outside help; so, I contracted On-Off Design. On-Off Design proved instrumental in transforming the idea I had into a viable business. Through them, I discovered my true passion was reducing waste in Hong Kong. I noticed almost daily there were articles about recycling not being recycled or Hong Kong’s landfills running out of room; so, we decided to do something about it. EcoPort was born from this idea, to simplify recycling. We are working with companies to turn sustainability into a competitive advantage. We also plan to work with local schools to promote recycling to the next generation.
The biggest problem impediment to recycling in Hong Kong is the government’s opinion that recycling has to be an all or nothing proposition. We believe that sustainable changes come about in stages, and we must nurture it at the grassroots level. Like the story of the young child throwing back starfishes, we believe our client’s small changes will over time make a big difference. We plan to launch our app within the next month, and will hopefully be employing the elderly who already pick up waste. We plan to provide them a more stable income and less working hours because not only does Hong Kong throw away stuff, it also throws away people.
HK’s Startup Economy
In one word, it sucks. Hong Kong’s community still has a long way to go. Some of the people you may meet: “Failed at X Tried a Startup”, can no longer make money in property so are now “angel investors”, and people like me who have a lot to learn about the world, but also have nothing to lose. One of the biggest problems is the Startup Events. They at times seem equivalent to an AA/Alcoholics Anonymous meeting where everyone bemoans their startup problems, and people offer tactile advice. We then have so called “experts” who reiterate the same concepts but are invited to speak at event after event. It would be nice to see more events that explored topics broadly. For example, I attended the CSR Asia Conference last fall and found it more rewarding than many startup events. I got the opportunity to interact with a completely new set of people and gain exposure to actual problems. I think it would be great to provide entrepreneurs cheaper access to the events, but also present an opportunity to discuss what problems they discovered. In my opinion, this would be a much more rewarding “sharing session” than the events we are currently forced to endure.
Starting a Business
Starting a business in Hong Kong, at least the registration, is a relatively painless. You find a company secretary and they will handle your incorporation. Legal and Accounting issues are important, but I have found they do not need to be address immediately. Figure out what exactly you are trying to do, and then you should be able to find reliable professional services. One solution, I can recommend, is fellow SWHK alum Dragon Law, it may seem pricey up front; however, you will reap the savings in the long term.
Visas applications are never fun in any country; however, the system is particularly straightforward in Hong Kong. It is best to have One Million HKD in your bank account before applying. This amount shows the government you are serious and also show plans to hire local talent. Stephen Barnes, http://www.hongkongvisageeza.com/ , is one of the best resources; so, if you have questions, ask him.
Talent in Hong Kong is an organic problem that increases and decreases in difficulty on a daily basis. If you are hiring recent graduates, know that most of them are good at doing one thing fairly well. Due to the paramount importance of the DSE, many graduates still lack the ability to think outside of the box. One overlooked opportunity is Hong Kong citizens who have graduated from schools outside of Hong Kong. They may be more difficult to find due to the lack of a system like JISIS; however, the success of people like Stephen Lam at GoGoVan proves it is worth investigating.
Figure out quickly how badly do you want your idea to succeed. Many people are going to tell you it will fail, or you are wasting time trying to make an idea succeed. If you are coming from a stellar academic or professional background, this may be hard to endure. If like myself, you are used to things not working out, you may find this rejection easier to endure.
Look into what programming language is best suited for your environment.
Big Data, Algorithms: Python
Social Networks, “Artsy”: Ruby
Asia, MENA, Africa focused mobile app: Java
US or Western Europe: Swift and Objective-C
Video Games: Unity or Java
Knowledge is power. If you are not constantly learning, you are missing out. I keep a Goggle Doc of some of my favorite stories; so, I can reference them later. It is also a useful exercise in extracting key details. Some of the sites I use for news.
News – General: Economist, Quartz, Flipboard
News – Tech: StartupsHK, Tech in Asia, Venture Beat, Product Hunt
Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneur Magazine, Mattermark, First Round Capital, LKR Social Media
Podcasts: Rocketship, James Altecher, Startup, Reply All, This American Life
Lesson Three: “Follow your passion”
If you are only building something to make money, you will probably not succeed. It is never easy to create something new, and you only need to read the paper to realize fabulous wealth != (does not equal) happiness. Although 90% of business fail, if you are following your dreams, you are more likely to possess the perseverance to be one that succeeds. Best of luck in your Entrepreneurial Journey and feel free to connect via Twitter jaysig91 or email Jason@ecoport.hk .
Article written by Jason Sigmon
Images from Jason or http://startupstockphotos.com/