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August 2014

Inside Entrepreneurship

Interview with HKSTP’s Fanny Law Karen Farzam

Co-founder, WHub

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


24 26

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.

Inside Entrepreneurship



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

and innovative.

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




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-

e-commerce giant.

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

Hong Kong

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


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This is their vision statement:

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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.

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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



Karen Farzam

Co-founder, WHub WONG YAT HEI

Photo: Bruce Yan

After leaving her job at an equity bank

trader in







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

business. She

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 website by myself, having done a three-month course with General Assem-

Please talk about your work with “Women Who

bly to learn Rails and JavaScript to equip myself with

Code HK”

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?

on society.

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.


Inside Entrepreneurship



Smart living, such as using mo-

How did you come up with the concept of

bile phones or other devices to

Ambi Climate?


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

the product.

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-

oritise tasks.

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.

Inside Entrepreneurship



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

common mistakes.

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 ( 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


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?

the world.

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

the government.

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-

birth records.

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-

Inside Entrepreneurship



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


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