Interview with HKSTPâ€™s Fanny Law Karen Farzam
HK vs Singapore as start-up hub Start-ups: WHub and Ambi Climate Events, trends and much more
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Strong education supports HK entrepreneurship GINN FUNG, SHARON LI Waves of new entrepreneurs will power Chinese innovation EDWARD TSE What HK could learn from the Singapore start-up ecosystem FREDA WAN
Karen Farzam, WHub WONG YAT HEI
Julian Lee, Ambi Climate WONG YAT HEI
Michigan’s multidisciplinary action projects take students to Mongolia CHRIS LAU Business schools to create the next generation of start-up ‘kings and queens’ BILL KOOSER
How Hong Kong can become the start-up capital of the world JOSHUA STEIMLE
HKU SPACE’s Go Cambridge competition keeps entrepreneurial spirit high ANDREA ZAVADSZKY
Inside Entrepreneurship is published by Education Post, South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
pports u s n o i t a c u Strong ed eurship n e r p e r t n e HK GINN FUNG, SHARON LI In this exclusive interview, Fan-
ny Law, chairperson of HKSTP, explains why she believes healthcare and science will be the next focuses of Hong Kong business. Photo: Berton Chang
What are the qualities needed to be an entrepreneur?
lectual curiosity are the qualities needed.
First of all, you have to have a dream and the pas-
We should see failure as an opportunity to learn.
sion to realise it. But being an entrepreneur is hard,
And that’s why I think we also need the community
because you have to start from scratch.
to look at failure in a different light. Because in a culture where you only celebrate success and con-
Risk-taking is inevitable. Entrepreneurs must pos-
demn failure, it’s very difficult to have serial entre-
sess an intellectual curiosity and be proactive be-
preneurs. We want people to try again, even if they
cause you don’t wait for people to tell you what to
fail the first time.
do. You have to be proactive, and do it yourself and keep track of trends because if you want to succeed,
To you, where do the opportunities lie for Hong
you’ve got to know the market and keep tabs on the
Kong start-ups? What are the challenges?
latest developments. Initiative, proactivity and intel-
Hong Kong has a lot of strengths. Maybe these are
we have a very strong brand as an international financial centre. But indeed, we also have very strong research capabilities in our universities and many home-grown scientists. We have three universities ranked among the top 50 in the world. And we have very good professors. That’s one advantage. The ageing population means that there will be demand for health services. We have two world-class university hospitals, and professors who have already introduced or made major discoveries. For example, professor Dennis Lo, of Chinese University (CUHK), studied circulating DNA, which eventually led to non-invasive pre-natal testing for Down’s syndrome. That was a break-
We have the brains, the facilities and the foundations. There are very strong grounds for us to encourage biomedical sciences
not readily recognised by the community because
through discovery. We also have Yuen Kwok-yung, who studies infectious diseases. Traditionally, many of our brightest students have wanted to go into medicine. Several top students who featured in the latest DSE exam results want to be doctors. So I think we have the brains, the facilities and the foundations. There are very strong grounds for us to encourage biomedical sciences. This will cover stem cell research and regenerative medicine in healing the knees of our elderly people. The other area where we are also strong is robotics. The University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has an automation centre that has already nurtured many young entrepreneurs, although they started their businesses across the border. For example, DJI is the world leader in unmanned aerial systems, and they are trained in Hong Kong. The other area which is a real world trendsetter is supercomputing and data analytics. I think we are not far behind others in this area. There is also a lot we can do in the area of technology in financial services concerning big data. E-health, for example, involves big data. We have two universities that are leaders in metal technology – Polytechnic University (PolyU) and City University (CityU). In the mainland’s 12th FiveYear plan, material science is given a great deal of emphasis. So these are the areas where we can reInside Entrepreneurship
ally complement both the expertise in the mainland and the objectives behind it. What are the drawbacks? What is it that we don’t have right now? Is there anywhere you think there is room for improvement? I think what we need is a holistic policy on innovation and technology and the areas that we want to focus on. For example, how are we going to go about biomedicine? It should not be solely the responsibility of the Science Park; instead, there should be a concerted effort in the community including the training of talent, overseas promotion, investment and nurturing. For nurturing, we need people with expertise in biotech to tend start-ups. So it is the whole value chain that we have to link up, from basic research to transnational research, IP protection, investment, product design, prototyping and creating a local market for this product, and then overseas marketing and global market access. If you are a large commercial company with in-
Why did you choose science?
house R&D, you have different departments, all under the same management, dealing with these
I was very interested in detective stories. There was
various phases in the overall value chain. What we
a radio programme about them that attracted me
need now is to link up all these phases through the
and I listened to it every night when I was doing my
efforts of the ITB (Innovation and Technology Bu-
homework. I liked chemistry because I found that
reau). There should also be a coherent plan, so that
organic chemistry is similar to detective stories.
each organisation playing a part in that value chain will know where the role starts, where it ends and
I also liked medicine because I found that the hu-
when it passes on to the next stage.
man body is so miraculous. In fact, before I enrolled in the University of Hong Kong, I had been accept-
Secondly, we need to promote and attract more tal-
ed by a British university to do pharmacy. But my
ent to Hong Kong. Very often, STEM (Science, Tech-
father wasn’t well and my family thought: why go
nology, Engineering and Mathematics) graduates
all the way to such a cold place if I got an offer from
join different professions such as banking, because
HKU? So I did chemistry and biochemistry, which is
we don’t provide enough employment for them. But
close enough to pharmacy. Because I entered the
if we really promote innovation and technology, we
medical faculty to do biochemistry, I married a doc-
can keep them. If we could offer more career path-
tor, as I always attended courses at the faculty.
ways for our young people, we would also improve the quality of life: if we have biomedicine, if we have smart cards, if we have e-check, then there are many benefits.
Lacking an entrepreneurial background, how would
you cope with doubts about your leadership at HKSTP? Leaders support the experts in order for them to do well; leaders make the connections and look at the strategic direction, but shouldn’t be hands-on
The model concept of leadership is that you lead from behind while experts go in front
in dealing with all things. What is important is that leaders should have an open mind and be willing to listen. I think that is important. I believe I have an advantage because I have a scientific background and I like science. I think that by the time you move up to a higher level, the proportion of time that you spend on the technicalities is proportionally reduced. So you don’t expect the chairman to be dealing with the day-to-day coaching of the incubatees. But rather, you want to listen to what they want, what their problems are, and then think strategically. I believe that my political background helps me to formulate these views to help the incubatees, and that this is really my role. The model concept of leadership is that you lead from behind while experts go in front. What kind of help or services does the Science Park provide in order to help young entrepreneurs right now? At present, we have various programmes for entrepreneurs. We have an incubation programme that offers 18 months to four years of free rental. We also have state-of-the-art facilities and a very beautiful working environment that can inspire innovation. For the researchers, we provide lab facilities. If they lack capital investment, we have shared labs for people who need this facility. We also provide a whole range of support for incubatees including professional services, business advice, mentorship, and financial services. We also help them link up with industries and investors.
eurs n e r p e r t n e w Waves of ne ovation n n i e s e n i h C will power EDWARD TSE US Vice-President Joe Biden blasted China recently in a speech about foreign policy, arguing that the country hasn’t produced anything innovative. “China - and it’s
true - is graduating six to eight times as many scien-
tists and engineers as we have. But I challenge you, name me one innovative project, one innovative change, one
innovative product that has come out of China,” he said.
11 protection, rote-learning education and an overbearing state sector. Outsiders tend to think China lacks the fundamentals for successful innovation. But this view is both simplistic and superficial. Lack of intellectual property rights protection is a real issue, but it hasn’t stopped innovation taking place. Over the past decade, there have been many examples of innovation in both product technology and business models. As for the dominance of the state economy, even that sector can innovate. Large-scale examples include China’s space programme, its expanding high-speed rail network, the world’s highest-elevation railway (to Tibet), and the world’s fastest supercomputer. Like complex world-changing innovations anywhere, they would not have happened without intensive government participation, and it will take years to see their full impact. However, most of China’s upcoming innovation will not come from the state. It will come from the companies and individuals who compete in China’s increasingly open economy. China is undergoing a measured but definite process of deregulation, sector by sector. The government reaffirmed this trajectory at its third plenum when it was emphasised that market forces will play a “decisive role” in economic development and non-state capital will gain access to more sectors. The size of China’s market, and the potential for profPhoto: Reuters
it, mean that when the government opens up a sector, it becomes an arena for some of the world’s most
In the same vein, in an article in the Harvard Busi-
intense competition. This forces companies to create
ness Review, US academics Regina Abrami, Wil-
the best products, services and business models.
liam Kirby and Warren McFarlan sought to explain “Why China can’t innovate”.
There’s also a strong “why not me?” mentality among Chinese entrepreneurs. They see themselves as inno-
Biden and the academics are wrong.
vators, and when an opportunity opens, they go for it. Most may fail, but with such a huge population,
Does China breed innovation? Most who get their
even a small percentage of successes will encourage
information from the western media wouldn’t think
many others to try their luck. In short, waves of new
so, as China is often associated with copies, lack of
entrepreneurs in China will be pushing for greater
freedom of speech, poor intellectual property rights
experimentation and more innovation. Inside Entrepreneurship
Xiaomi, one of China’s leading smartphone players,
already has over 600 million registered subscrib-
is an excellent example of an innovative company
ers and over 350 million active users. It introduced
in a highly competitive industry. Xiaomi’s leader, Lei
voice capability before WhatsApp, along with a
Jun, understood the power of the internet and built
more recent payment capability that is undercutting
his company’s business model by “listening to cus-
China’s dominant incumbent, Alipay of Alibaba.
tomers” through social media – the concept known as crowdsourcing. The strategy is working so well
Telecoms operators see WeChat and Sina’s Weibo
that Xiaomi’s revenues grew from zero in 2010 to
as competitors because they eat into their own text
US$5 billion last year, with the company now re-
messaging businesses, and the prevalence of the
portedly valued at over US$10 billion.
internet, in particular wireless internet, is fast cutting out traditional distribution methods. Only a few
The late Steve Jobs didn’t believe in focus groups;
years ago, Gome and Suning were the dominant re-
Lei takes the opposite approach, and is convinced
tailers through their “bricks and mortar” stores. To-
customers will be the best ones to tell him how his
day, Suning is having to quickly transform itself into
products should be designed and how its service
an “O2O” (online to offline) retailer.
model should be developed. All of this should be seen from a historical perspecAt a more basic level of innovation, Haier, a leading
tive. China’s market economy is still developing,
Chinese white goods manufacturer, quickly gained
and it’s now slightly over two decades since Deng
market awareness and share by introducing a wash-
Xiaoping’s now famous southern tour in 1992. This
er capable not only of cleaning clothes but also
fundamental transformation from a fully planned
potatoes, among many other products. This sprang
economy is still just a small blip in China’s long his-
from a customer complaint and is an example of
tory. As China’s economic transformation continues,
Haier’s “customer-centric” management philosophy.
more and more monopolies will be broken down. Much of this will be driven by the government but
Some say Chinese companies can’t develop tech-
some will be driven by the market. State-owned en-
nology. However, in seven years, Shenzhen-based
terprises will remain important, but non-state com-
DJI Innovations, started by young entrepreneur
panies have, for the first time, been put on an equal
Frank Wang Tao, now supplies more than 50 per
cent of global demand for unmanned aerial vehicles for the commercial and industrial sectors, and
Experimental free trade zones like that of Shanghai
continues to expand.
will eventually be established in more cities, and efforts made to create economic conditions conduc-
Not every Chinese company will be like Haier or
tive to innovation.
DJI, but the market is changing so rapidly that there are major incentives for Chinese companies – along
Entrepreneurship is vibrant and omnipresent in Chi-
with foreign ones and joint ventures – to be agile
na. This spirit and the intensive competition drive
innovation, at an unprecedented speed and intensity. An arrogant view that China can’t innovate is not
To successfully breed innovation, a country must be
only shortsighted but also untrue.
tolerant of mistakes and failures. These failures will include short-lived innovations, but they are part of
Edward Tse is founder and CEO of Gao Feng Advi-
a process necessary to sustain a culture of innova-
sory Company, a global strategy and management
tion. Tencent’s QQ, for example, was a precursor
consulting firm with roots in Greater China. He is
to WeChat, a fast-growing Twitter/WhatsApp type
also the author of The China Strategy.
of platform. Although only three years old, WeChat
Originally published on SCMP.com
rn from a e l d l u o c What HK ecosystem p u t r a t s e r o p a the Sing FREDA WAN Contrary to the belief that Silicon Valley was suc-
ed with the end goal of exiting, Viki’s journey was
cessful because of the absence of government in-
seen as a heartening tale. It grew from a student pro-
terference, Singapore’s start-up ecosystem has been
ject by the founders when they were at Stanford and
proactively created by government.
Harvard, to a website featuring two billion video streams and crowd sourced subtitles in 25 languag-
The results speak for themselves. There have been
es, and finally to a successful sale to the Japanese
recent cases of successful exits, such as the vid-
eo-streaming site Viki. There are also examples such as online supermarket RedMart, which enjoys con-
Series A-funded online grocery store RedMart,
tinued investor interest and rapid revenue growth of
which is just over two years old, managed to raise
20 to 30 per cent per month.
US$5 million on the angel investment crowd funding site AngelList. This was only months after Red-
Viki was acquired by Rakuten for US$200 million in
Mart had completed a bridge round of US$5.4 mil-
September 2013. This was big news for Singapore
lion in funding in January, from investors including
entrepreneurs. Since most tech start-ups are found-
Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin. RedMart’s
notable investor line-up also includes former Skype head of engineering Toivo Annus. These start-ups are the product of around a decade’s effort in making creativity and entrepreneurship part of the nation-building strategy since a 2003 economic review committee white paper. For every common obstacle a start-up could face, Singapore offers a solution. Start-ups need capital, and Singapore’s government agencies provide a host of funding schemes. Major funding is offered by the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), the National Research Foundation, A*STAR (Agency for Science Technology) , the SME development agency SPRING, and the Media Development Authority (MDA). One of the largest venture capital funds in town is Innov8, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SingTel, which is a subsidiary of Temasek Holdings, the investment arm of the Singapore government. There are so many funding schemes that the term “grantrepreneurs” is often mentioned partly as a joke and partly as a cautionary scenario where start-ups could not survive withPhoto: Bloomberg
out government funding. Start-ups need space, and the Lion City answers with Block 71, a formerly declining industrial estate now transformed into a vibrant environment with relatively affordable rents. Currently, Block 71 hous-
World Economic Forum (WEF) 2014 Rankings for Factors Related to Tech Entrepreneurship, Singapore vs Hong Kong Singapore
Overall rank (out of 148)
Higher education and training
Intellectual property rights protection
Quality of scientific research institutions
Availability of scientists and engineers
Source: WEF Global Competitiveness Index 2013-14. The table shows selected rankings. Inside Entrepreneurship
es 250 start-ups and 1,000 people in total. In March
With all these advantages on offer, Singapore’s ap-
2014 the government corporation JTC announced
proach in creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem is
that, together with five other government agen-
not without its sceptics.
cies, it would double the size of the Block 71 area, re-naming it JTC Launchpad @ one-north.
On closer examination, the high-profile start-ups
“Beyond government assistance and funding, start-
eign nationals attracted to Singapore because of the
ups need access to networks and opportunities to
availability of funds and the market in Asia. There
markets beyond Singapore,” says Tan Kai Hoe,
are some who believe that foreign nationals and im-
SPRING chief executive. “We encourage start-ups
migrants are conducive to an entrepreneurial spirit
to get plugged into the LaunchPad community, and
in Singapore, while others point to the risk-averse
establish partnerships to accelerate their growth.”
Asian culture to explain why local young people
An educated talent pool also contributes to start-
still resist setting up their own businesses.
such as Viki and RedMart have been founded by for-
ups. Some of Singapore’s top universities, including the National University of Singapore (NUS) and IN-
Singapore’s founding president Lee Kuan Yew,
SEAD Asia Campus are located within a 20-minute
speaking at an event in June 2013, was asked about
drive of Block 71. NUS also has an incubation cen-
the observation that relatively few native Singapo-
tre at Block 71.
reans follow the entrepreneurial career path. Lee attributed this to the government’s success in eco-
Start-ups also need a community. Singapore’s solu-
nomic development and welfare policies which
tion is JFDI.Asia (Joyful Frog Digital Incubator) and
provide stability for the people.
several other incubators. Located at Block 71, JFDI offers a 100-day accelerator to mentor start-ups
“Our comprehensive, caring government ... looks
and provide funding for equity. It also offers short
after everybody’s needs. People are comfortable.
courses and runs a co-working space. In this way,
Not many people want to take risks,” he said. “To
founders Hugh Mason from the US and Meng Weng
be an entrepreneur, you have to have a high energy
Wong from Singapore can tap into an active com-
level, [an ability] to think out of the box, and persis-
munity of local and expatriate start-up entrepre-
tence in trying again after all else failed.”
neurs and investors.
JTC Launchpad @ one-north, a startup cluster funded by Singapore government agencies
( Advertorial )
How to Champion Your Vision And Celebrate Your Success Let’s learn from the leaders. What makes Starbucks unique?
It offers you coffee in the most personable manner with upbeat, friendly staff who call you by your first name.
This is their vision statement:
“To inspire and nurture the human spirit-one person, one neighbourhood at a time.”
What makes Apple innovation so irresistible?
It introduces innovation in design elegance and cutting-edge change that upgrades our lifestyle.
Their vision statement reads something like this:
“To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”
What does a vision statement do? It describes what a company’s future will look like. It is a forward-looking statement that shows people what will happen in the future. It establishes the direction the organisation is heading in, sets out its strengths, and differentiates itself from its competitors. Lastly, it defines the essence of the company through its purpose and values. A company without a vision is like a lost ship with no proper navigation support, not knowing where to land. A person without a vision will drift from day to day and function with a weaker sense of self and direction in terms of what they want out of their life. This explains why we, as capable executives and entrepreneurs, can have a sense of feeling lost, trapped in the rut of monotonous chores and eventually getting burned out. The reality is that we have a way out and can live with a more defined sense of who we are, what we
want, and live the kind of life that we want for ourselves. In the same way that a vision statement helps build a company, a personal vision statement puts us back in the driver’s seat of our own destiny. Creating your own vision statement can be a rewarding journey of self-discovery. It is one of rediscovering the hidden talents and facets of your makeup that ensure you are special as an executive, as a successful entrepreneur, and as an individual. Here are the three key elements in creating your own vision statement. - Know What Motivates You Our life is a palette of different elements ranging from career, finance, family, and health to social and achievement. It is commonly referred to as the Wheel of Life.
( Advertorial )
Through the course of our lives, different elements may take on a higher priority than others. For instance, education and career may be higher priorities in our early development years. Family and financial stability may become more important as we mature. In any event, there is always a facet of life that matters most to us; it is this motivation factor that gets us excited and keeps us going. How does it sound if there is a way for us to achieve success faster? What about having a razor-sharp focus on what we want to accomplish that allows us to work in a smarter fashion? A well-defined goal is the best way to develop a solid strategy and clear tactics to realise our vision. This vivid vision is the incentive that constantly keeps us going. - Know What Makes You Courageous Do you know of people who live courageously? Those who know what they stand for, what they want, and refuse to compromise despite all odds? Nick Vujicic is a man committed to living positively despite his handicap. He is a living example of a resilient person who champions his values and makes a positive contribution to the world. Nick is someone who lives and operates by his values to the fullest. Values are qualities that have the strongest impact on us. They are the inner radar that tells us if we are heading in the right direction; the decisions that keep us happy and strong. Since we function best within our values, it is wise for us to start exploring what our values are, whatâ€™s important to us, what moves us. Neuroscientists believe that integrating our values with our vision puts us in a resilient state where we become more convincing and powerful as individuals. - Discover and Hone Your Talents Execution makes success possible; otherwise, vision with no action simply creates an illusion. Capitalising on our strengths is the ticket to a higher success rate. A numbers person will succeed better as a Chief Financial Officer instead
of someone who enjoys aesthetics and design. Each and every one of us has our unique gifts and it only makes sense for us to operate in the way that benefits us best. As an entrepreneur, it pays to have a clear sense of your natural strengths and talent, where you know how to play to your strengths and are familiar with the other types of talent you need to build a strong functioning team. Calvin Klein is the perfect example of complementing strengths, where one oversees design and the other handles the finances. - Your Vision Statement All in all, a vision that is not thoroughly thought-out will only become an illusion. A vision statement that is solid can become the roadmap to a satisfying journey of fulfillment, value, and purpose. This vision statement model is developed from a cluster of disciplines including positive psychology, neuroscience, results coaching, strength coaching, and gallop strength finder.
About Code R Code R is a training company founded on the commitment to promote purposeful living. Living with purpose gives us a clearer and stronger sense of who we are and what we want out of our lives. It puts us in control of our well being and inspires us to become more resilient as a person. For more info, visit code-r-vision.com
Co-founder, WHub WONG YAT HEI
Photo: Bruce Yan
After leaving her job at an equity bank
moved to Hong Kong in 2010. Seeing the boom in local start-ups, she founded WHub, which connects entrepreneurs ed
Farzam was the regional winner in the Talent Unleashed Awards Asia category of “Inspirational Leadership”. Sir Richard Branson and Steve Wozniak were both on the judging panel. How did you get started with WHub? It all began over a cup of coffee on a Monday morning. I and my friend and now co-founder, Karena Belin, wondered why so many talented people
and business experts, enabling
could not find a job they really cared about. At the
together to build a successful
my own business and I realised that I had left many
them to exchange ideas and work
time I was looking at several opportunities to start
ideas unexplored simply because. I could not find
“Women Who Code” a non-profit or-
ganisation which inspires women
to excel in technology careers.
the right partner to bounce them off. I dug deeper into the start-up ecosystem and discovered that one of the biggest challenges for passionate entrepreneurs and exciting start-ups is recruiting
the right team to help them unleash their full poten-
Currently our focus is on Hong Kong, but in the
tial. We finally had a match!
future we plan to expand to Singapore and other Asian countries.
I built the WHub.hk website by myself, having done a three-month course with General Assem-
Please talk about your work with “Women Who
the skills to build my own website.
Despite the booming software industry in Hong Kong, I noticed that there weren’t any particular
What do you see in future start-ups?
meet-up groups aimed at female software devel-
Start-ups can offer flexibility in terms of time, lo-
opers, so I founded my group in January this year,
cation and responsibilities, as well as a chance to
along with Michelle Sun of First Code Academy. It is
make a direct impact on society; that’s the advan-
a forum and open meet-up for women who want to
tage they have over large corporations. We believe
collaborate and learn from one another.
in the contagious energy of the start-up ecosystem to attract highly skilful and motivated individuals.
We gather every month and the group serves as a
That’s why at WHub, start-ups showcase more than
source of inspiration to other women in tech, with
just their products or services. WHub lets start-ups
varied topics, including robotics and web develop-
share their company mission, products and current
ment. “Women Who Code HK” has informative
job openings. While start-ups can’t always offer
talks, exciting hackathons and collaborative forums
the most attractive compensation packages, they
for women in tech to learn and exchange ideas.
can provide perks such as flexibility, great working hours and the opportunity to make a positive impact
Who is on your team?
We are currently a team of four working on WHub. In addition to my co-founder, we have two interns
By promoting the passion and advantages of start-
working on marketing and web development.
ups, WHub helps entrepreneurs bring the right talent into their team, find co-founders or just meet and
We try to live by what we encourage our start-ups
exchange ideas with like-minded entrepreneurs.
to do: energising the team with our own passion for what we want to achieve, communicating a clear
Who makes use of WHub?
vision and end-goal in mind to guide decision-mak-
Our customers are passionate entrepreneurs and an-
ing, and providing a mixture of trust and facilitation
yone else interested in the start-up ecosystem who is
for each of our talents, allowing them to contribute
willing to make a difference.
to their maximum potential. Needless to say, the only hierarchy we believe in is the quality of ideas.
We want to help the community and assist people in finding a job they really care about and where
What do you do during your free time?
they can make a difference, be it getting out of the
I have a girl and a boy, my free time is family time. I
“Matrix” [corporate life], returning to a more flexi-
will take my kids swimming or hiking during week-
ble workplace or starting up their own business.
Smart living, such as using mo-
How did you come up with the concept of
bile phones or other devices to
the air conditioning for it all day when I am out
control electrical appliances at remotely,
but Julian Lee, CEO & co-founder of technology start-up Ambi Cli-
mate, thinks a lot more can be
done with the concept of smart living. Air conditioning is con-
sidered one of the greatest inventions greatly
of life. Lee sees a market for technology that can help optimise the setting of air conditioning
I have a dog and it is way too expensive to turn on working. I thought it would be great if I could find a way for the air conditioning to be self-regulating, by switching it on only when necessary. That was the beginning. I did a lot of research in Hong Kong and Japan, and discovered that many people think optimising the setting of air conditioning is a function that consumers will find useful. Who are your target consumers? I think three types of people will be interested in the product. Number one are people who love to use technology to improve their life. There are many devices to measure activity, such as heartbeat and
to further enhance it. Two years
the number of steps taken every day, and now here
of Ambi Climate, a device that
home. Group number two are elderly people. They
ago he launched the development collects a home’s environmental
data, such as changes in temperature and humidity throughout the
day, to optimise the setting of the air conditioning. The product
is expected to hit the market in early 2015.
Julian Lee, co-founder Ambi Climate WONG YAT HEI
Photo: Berton Chang
is a new device for you to collect data about your tend to be less sensitive to change in the environment and by the time they feel it is too hot or too cold and they need to adjust the setting of the air
well. The device will help them stay comfortable at all times. The last group are frequent travellers. Hong Kong’s humid weather makes it easy for mould to grow and it is impossible to switch on the air conditioning all the time when you are out of town for weeks. Ambi Climate will help monitor the situation, and the air-conditioning will only be switched on when required. What are the challenges of developing a new frontier in the market? We are developing a product that no one has come up with before. With no references of any kind, we dare not be too ambitious with our product development. We keep carrying out user research as we develop the product. I don’t want to commit too much in the way of resources in developing a de-
I think three types of people will be interested in the product. Number one are people who love to use technology to improve their life
vice – only to find out there is no market for it.
con, it might be too late; they may be feeling un-
What advice do you have for people who want to launch a start-up? A start-up has limited resources. Everyone needs to go the extra mile and work together as a team. When
artificial intelligence specialist on our team. Now
building a team, I think it is more important to find
we have 10 people and I am looking to double the
like-minded individuals who share the same vision
size of the team next year as we prepare to launch
rather than focusing only on recruiting someone
who you think has a suitable skill set. What do you like to do during your free time? You can expect a start-up to encounter many prob-
I have a one-year-old baby girl to take care of. That
lems, and often there are not enough resources to
leaves me very little free time. But if I am lucky
solve them all. It is important to learn how to pri-
enough to have some time of my own, I love to de-
sign housewares. I am a huge DIY fan. Recently I made a device to divert the air coming out of the
How did you put your team together?
air conditioning in the office so that staff will not
My professional background is in business manage-
feel too cold.
ment. I worked for more than 13 years in the commercial sector before deciding to start my own business two years ago. I joined Startbase Hong Kong, an online platform that supports local tech start-ups. Like many others, I joined the platform out of interest, then I met up with other like-minded individuals and we decided to found Ambi Climate. We have app developers, hardware engineers, and an Inside Entrepreneurship
Michigan’s multidisciplinary action projects take students to Mongolia CHRIS LAU
On heading to Mongolia in March,
But as soon as the former Intel employee landed,
Nikhil Gudikandula, a student
he saw something quite different. “I was pretty sur-
of Business at the University
Ulaanbaatar is,” says Gudikandula, who was there
at the Stephen M Ross School
prised by how advanced and developed the city of
of Michigan, had little idea
for an internship with the United Nations Business
what to expect. If anything,
he guessed it would be a fairly tranquil scene, with images
of sheep and nomadic horsemen usually coming to mind.
Development’s (UNBD) Ulaanbaatar branch. His trip was a result of his school’s interest in multidisciplinary action projects, or MAP, which help students gain hands-on experience. These programmes also recognise the importance of getting a taste for managing day-to-day business in a real workplace as early as possible. Kwon Soojin, Ross School of Business director of admissions, says that is why students are required to embark on MAP in the first year of their studies. “MAP is the ultimate immersion experience,” Kwon says. “Throughout their first year, MBA students take core classes to build their fundamental under-
standing of business, and MAP is their opportunity
Having no previous experience of such a large-scale
to [practise] what they’ve learned in the classroom
project, it gave him plenty of insights into dealing
with real-world application.”
with cases on a macro-economic scale.
Typically, the seven-week programme involves
Gudikandula was not the only Ross student to come
groups of four to six students being sent to different
to Asia, though, since the school is keen to have
countries to work at a variety of ventures – from cor-
more MAP involvement in the region.
porate to non-profit. “Our plan is to connect with more companies in Students see what it takes to identify untapped mar-
Asia this coming year,” says Gale Amyx, managing
kets, come up with innovative marketing strategies,
director of the Office of Action-Based Learning at
and devise plans to boost business turnover. “Along
Ross. “We look to partner with companies and or-
the way, they learn valuable lessons about busi-
ganisations from a broad range of industries which
ness, teamwork, and their own leadership skills,”
have real challenges that need solutions.”
Kwon says. Andrew Fons, who has worked as an architect in For Gudikandula, the challenge was to help Mon-
Shanghai, chose Beijing as his destination. There,
golia, with a GDP of US$10.27 billion in 2012, to
he has learned more about communicating ideas in
reform its economy.
a clear and logical way, so that people from other cultures can easily understand. His team has also
Despite improvements over the past decade, the
focused on studying the different types of consumer
country still relies heavily on its mining sector,
behaviour in China.
while small and medium-sized businesses face all sorts of challenges.
“The key takeaways from MAP are understanding how to contribute positively to a highly capable
“There are many small businesses in things like
team of graduate students and doing so on an actual
cashmere, meat and dairy products,” he says. “The
client project, not a simulation,” Fons says.
main idea is to help them prosper and grow.” The chance to do this in a fast-paced environment The key task for Gudikandula and his team was to
like China was an added bonus.
help the UNDB come up with new ideas and liaise with local governments to lessen overall reliance on
“I am certainly considering opportunities to work in
the mining boom.
China after graduation and can see myself returning at some point in my career,” Fons says.
Business schools are touting their ability to create the next generation of startup ‘kings and queens’ BILL KOOSER Photo: AP
One of the most significant business school trends
for learning by doing, but having formal training
in the past 10 years has been the explosive growth
can help to develop essential skills and avoid some
of entrepreneurship programmes. It seems that
wherever you look, schools are touting their ability to create the next generation of start-up “kings and
From my standpoint, there are several key elements
queens”. Entrepreneurship has become one of the
to a successful programme. You need:
most popular majors – in some schools second only to finance – and business plan competitions centred
on setting up new ventures now abound.
Courses which cover the basic concepts of creating, funding and managing a new business. These should include topics such as devising a
Nearly every business school has recognised stu-
business plan, assessing market opportunities,
dents’ extraordinary interest in entrepreneurship
evaluating competitors, and raising financial
and the concept of creating one’s own future. But
what do these programmes really provide and how
successful have they been?
Faculty members who conduct research in entrepreneurship. To properly understand what makes a successful entrepreneur or new ven-
One question often asked is whether entrepreneur-
ture requires teachers who also do research
ship can be taught at all. Many influential voices
and analysis in the field. It is not enough to use
still suggest that entrepreneurs are born, not made,
rules of thumb or a “seat of the pants” approach
and that the best training for starting a business is to go ahead and do it. There is certainly a lot to be said
to starting and developing a business. •
Opportunities to practise what you’ve learned.
Basic concepts of entrepreneurship can be taught in a traditional classroom setting, but they don’t really come alive until you try to apply them in a real-world setting. Business plan competitions, “pitch” events, and evaluations by actual entrepreneurs and venture capitalists provide an opportunity to gain vital experience Support and encouragement to take business ideas to the next level. Business incubators and accelerators can provide critical support to turn a good idea into an operating venture. Having office space, basic infrastructure and regular advice can mean the difference between a successful launch and a flop. •
Mentorship and guidance from those who have gone before. Frequent input from faculty members, venture capitalists and successful entrepreneurs can provide insights, connections and new ideas to keep the venture on track during the testing early months.
Programmes such as those at Chicago Booth’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (www.chicagobooth.edu/entrepreneurship/) have launched numerous businesses. They have also enhanced understanding of
Entrepreneurship has become one of the most popular majors – in some schools second only to finance
in a low-risk environment. •
entrepreneurship and, most importantly, provided students with the skills and confidence to drive their careers in new directions. As a result, these programmes have become integral parts of the overall business curriculum and greatly enhanced the experience and skill sets of graduates. Looking ahead, there is no doubt that entrepreneurship will continue to grow in importance. That is not simply because many students want to create their own businesses, but also because the creativity, analytics, salesmanship and general management skills taught in entrepreneurship programmes are increasingly important in an ever-changing business environment. The ability to think like an entrepreneur – taking appropriate risks, seeing opportunities and acting on them, and creating something from nothing – are necessary skills for any business today. Students with these abilities are also in demand for what they can do for established firms and, by extension, to boost the economy of a city or region. Inside Entrepreneurship
How Hong Kong can become the start-up capital of the world
JOSHUA STEIMLE Photo: AFP
The news these days, and not just in Hong Kong,
a financial downturn. Between the policies of the
is full of talk about Hong Kong and start-ups. There
United States Federal Reserve and China’s central
are articles in Forbes and the Wall Street Journal,
government, the global financial system is in a per-
while Cyberport is handing out HK$200 million
ilous state. The slightest downturn in one part of the
to tech start-ups. Whereas there were virtually no
world could collapse the house of cards that has
start-ups in Hong Kong just a few years ago, Start-
been built, leading to serious repercussions for a
Base now lists hundreds. StartupsHK, the largest
city like Hong Kong. Hong Kong needs to diversify
community for start-ups in Hong Kong, has over
– and fast. Start-ups, and tech start-ups specifically,
5,000 followers on its social media channels. There
are the solution because these companies can pro-
is now more start-up activity in Hong Kong than
duce wealth and jobs faster than virtually any other
ever before, and – unlike the dot-com boom of the
type of business.
late 90s and its subsequent bust – this time startups are here to stay. The question is what role Hong
If the SAR government is wise, it will take steps
Kong will play in the global start-up community.
to turn Hong Kong into the start-up capital of the
Will it be a major player, producing the Facebooks
world. Here are three steps the government could
and WhatsApps of the future, or will it merely give
take that would turn Hong Kong into a global desti-
rise to a minimally successful, small-time start-up
nation for entrepreneurs and start-ups from around
here and there?
Some may question whether Hong Kong needs start-
1. Start-up visas. It was relatively easy for me to get
ups at all. As a financial centre Hong Kong is flush
a business investment visa when I moved to Hong
with cash, which has trickled out to buoy up the
Kong from the US one year ago. I can’t even be-
real estate and service sectors. But it is precisely
gin to imagine how much easier it must have been
this reliance on a single industry – finance – that
than for someone trying to move in the opposite
leaves Hong Kong weakly positioned to weather
direction. But it still took three months, and that’s
too long in the start-up world. Entrepreneurs don’t
order to test them out for one to two months. If this
wait three months, or even one or two, to decide
works out, I make an offer of full-time employment.
where to base their business – they make the deci-
This allows the employee and me to make sure we
sion in days. Hong Kong needs a one-week approv-
want to make that full-time commitment. But le-
al process for visas for entrepreneurs. The Immigra-
gally I can only do this with permanent residents,
tion Department could crowdsource the approval
which dramatically shrinks the pool of workers I can
process by involving local entrepreneurs who can
choose from, slowing down the speed at which I
determine the legitimacy of an applicant in sec-
can grow my business. While this policy may ap-
onds. The cost of increased visa processing can be
pear to provide better employment opportunities for
covered by the applicants, making it zero cost for
permanent residents, in reality it hurts Hong Kong’s
entire economy, making everyone worse off. Instead of requiring non-permanent residents to have an
2. No taxes on start-ups for five years. Start-ups usu-
employment visa sponsored by a company in order
ally aren’t profitable for several years and therefore
to work in Hong Kong, the government could grant
don’t pay taxes anyway, so what does the govern-
qualified individuals work visas that don’t require
ment have to lose? But Hong Kong has everything
sponsorship. Rather, the visa would be approved on
to gain in terms of positive press by formalising this
an annual basis, and would follow the individual re-
into policy. Sure, Singapore and other governments
gardless of who their employer is. This would create
get a trickle of press coverage by giving out grants to
greater mobility amongst workers and allow them
start-ups, but zero taxes would be the kind of news
to find their most productive place in the economy
that would get entrepreneurs worldwide to take no-
faster, which would ultimately benefit everyone.
tice. Hong Kong could follow this up with added incentives in the form of tax breaks for investors and
Naturally, doing all this would create some chal-
employees in start-ups. This isn’t just my crazy idea,
lenges that would have to be worked out, but we’re
it was proposed by Peter Drucker, the father of mod-
talking about the economic future of Hong Kong. If
ern management theory.
Hong Kong does not diversify its economy, the day will come when the financial sector encounters a
3. Eliminate restrictions on hiring non-permanent
major setback, and the entire economy will suffer
residents. Large corporations can easily sponsor
greatly as a result. Making these investments to pro-
visas for foreign workers, but the cost is daunting
mote entrepreneurship and start-ups now will help
for many start-ups, and the process is confusing and
Hong Kong prepare for a prosperous future.
difficult for entrepreneurs who have never been through it before. In my business, I typically hire an employee on a part-time basis to work for me in Inside Entrepreneurship
HKU SPACE’s Go Cambridge competition keeps entrepreneurial spirit high ANDREA ZAVADSZKY We seldom stop for a moment to consider what it
ial initiatives have been given support by the HKU
means for someone not to know their date of birth.
School of Professional and Continuing Education
Unicef reports that only half the children in the
(HKU SPACE) Go Cambridge Enterprise Competi-
world are registered, with numbers especially low
tion 2014 programme, which gives full sponsorship
in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The list of the
to postgraduate students to participate in a tightly
consequences of not having a birth date is long.
organised four-day study trip to Cambridge.
“Without authentic birth documents, these children
“Applicants had to put together a business plan or
are more vulnerable, from quiet discrimination to
research proposal for a product which they believed
anti-social activities including child labour, early
would be commercially viable or could be put into
marriage, prostitution, inappropriate sentencing
practice as a social enterprise,” says Dr Josephine
following criminal offences, and other dangers that
Jim, HKU SPACE’s associate head and senior pro-
come from being ‘invisible’,” says dentist Dr Jayaku-
gramme director at the College of Business and Fi-
mar Jayaraman, a PhD student at the University of
nance, who is also the programme’s facilitator.
Hong Kong (HKU). Simply participating in the HKU SPACE Go CamWorking with a research team in Britain, Jayara-
bridge Enterprise Competition was already a great
man has developed an evidence-based method of
learning experience, according to Jim. Students pol-
estimating age from dental development. Aware of
ished their projects and developed their presenta-
the serious consequences of not having any birth
tion skills, obtained feedback from the judges – who
records, in 2013, Jayaraman set up the Date of Birth
were all important industry players – and networked
(DOB) Foundation, the first charity in the world
with both judges and participants.
for the improvement of birth registration policies globally and providing ages for children without
However, the real bonus was winning the sponsor-
ship of HK$27,000 for the study trip, including return flights, full board and participation in the Enterpris-
This and eight other outstanding local entrepreneur-
ers programme packed with information, knowledge
31 and inspiration for the young entrepreneurs. Run by Cambridge University’s Judge Business School’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning, the demic teaching, talks by successful entrepreneurs and experiential learning through thought-provoking, creative and inspiring activities. “The Enterprisers programme was very inspiring and full of fun. The training programme varied each day. Some of the sessions were big lectures; there were also group activities and competitions in which we achieved certain missions together as a team,” says Caroline Huang Jianqiao, from mainland China. Huang’s project is to develop apps which are fun but also have educational value. Her team has already made the first app game, which has players put together as many Chinese characters as possible within three minutes from radicals – building blocks of Chinese characters – available on the screen. The programme has given Huang more self confidence and she is keen to launch her business once she finishes her MPhil in Linguistics at the Universi-
The real bonus was winning the sponsorship of HK$27,000 for the study trip, including return flights, full board and participation in the Enterprisers programme
Enterprisers programme is a combination of aca-
ty of Hong Kong this summer. “I think the most useful part of the programme was to learn how to pitch our ideas effectively to potential partners and investors. There were practice sessions where we got feedback from fellow students and experienced entrepreneurs,” Huang says, add-
ing: “I got some new and brilliant ideas from fellow
portant opportunity for young entrepreneurs to link
students and am looking for some potential corpo-
up, and find support and co-operation opportunities.
rations through this programme. I also understand my own project better.”
“I have also gained both an international and a local network. I was surprised to see that there were quite
Participants – regardless of age and gender – were
a few collaborative opportunities with other partici-
thrilled by the experience of building a rocket. “The
pants from Hong Kong,” Kum says.
rocket-building exercise was an eye-opener for me, as I never imagined we could build a rocket which
Huang agrees. “During the programme we had a lot
flies so high with real explosive,” says Kum Hiu
of networking activities and made a lot of friends
Fung, from Hong Kong.
and potential partners,” she says.
Kum set up the social enterprise careerXchange to
Jayaraman had a breakthrough understanding of his
provide information and opportunities for career
enterprise during the four days. He says: “Many of
development for Hong Kong youth. He too is excit-
my colleagues said that the method of providing
ed and can hardly wait for the moment they finally
age from dental records has a huge commercial po-
launch the website.
tential. It was during this programme that I made a concrete decision that this was not a commercial
Kum was impressed by the session where they had
product for making money. Most children who do
to write a letter to their future selves. “This made me
not possess birth records are under-privileged and
reflect a lot and be more determined to pursue my
socially downtrodden. Having a birth date is a
dream,” he says.
fundamental human right; giving birth dates helps children regain their value and prevents them from
They also played the game BaFA BaFA, which pro-
becoming vulnerable in society.”
motes awareness of cultural difference. Kum found this particularly useful, as he is a co-founder of an-
Following the enthusiastic response to the inaugu-
other organisation called VolTra, which promotes
ral project from participants, HKU SPACE is keen to
intercultural voluntary service.
make Go Cambridge Enterprise Competition a regular annual support programme for entrepreneurs.
The Enterprisers programme has also offered an im-
Jim is now seeking partners for next year’s event.
Postgraduate Diploma in Business (Entrepreneurship)
About Postgraduate Diploma in Business (Entrepreneurship*) focus on financial skills and management knowledge for launching startups and running enterprises. *Entrepreneurship is one stream of the HKU SPACE Postgraduate Diploma in Business series, which offers a wide variety of streams. Including Global Supply Chain Management, International Strategic Management, Wine and Spirits Studies, and Managerial Psychology. For detailed information:
Who should apply? People who have an interest in starting up a new business or existing business owners. They may come from private or public, business or social sectors.
Enquiry Tel: Email:
Programme basics Part-time mode 6 modules (120 credits) within 1-3 years 2 semester per year, 3 modules per semester No thesis. Assessment includes coursework and a final examination.
Programme fee: Application Fee:
HK$48,000 (HK$8,000 per module) HK$200
HKU SPACE is a non-profit making University company limited by guarantee
Published on Aug 12, 2014
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