Since I had the honour of taking part in CoCoon’s official opening three years ago, I have been extremely pleased to see the initiative prove to be such a success. CoCoon has grown into a network of over 12,000 people and over 160 teams have made pitches, attracting HK $240 million in early-stage investments. Hong Kong has significant and unique attractions for entrepreneurs, and has well-known advantages as a business centre. These include excellent and institutional infrastructure, such as superb transportation and telecommunication links; sound legal and financial systems; and benign regulatory and tax environments. On top of that, Hong Kong has a traditional entrepreneurial culture. Despite what some observers say, Hong Kong entrepreneurs often have a “can do” attitude and an innovative spirit. It can be observed in the success Hong Kong has had as a hub for overseas talent and investors, in popular culture, and in particular in the way young people embrace change and new ideas. Bernard Charnwut Chan, GBS, JP President, Asia Financial Holdings
Around two years ago, Ms. Erica Ma, co-founder of CoCoon, invited me to be a judge at one of the CoCoon Pitch Nights. I remember how the moment I stepped into CoCoon’s workplace, I was energised and amazed by the light green and orange theme colours. The atmosphere is not like an ordinary office setup, but rather a place that resembles the company name: a CoCoon in which groundbreaking ideas are nurtured and transformed into success stories, just as a caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly. Over the years, I have witnessed how CoCoon has grown into a community of over 12,000 people, and has helped entrepreneurs raise over HK $240 million in early-stage investments. It is such an extraordinary accomplishment for CoCoon to have successfully built this platform, and have gathered talent and resources to make entrepreneurs’ ideas come true. Over 20 years ago I embarked on a similar journey trying to set up my own asset management business. Back then there was very little support for entrepreneurs. From day one, Value Partners had to compete with international financial giants and global brands that dominated the Hong Kong market. Needless to say, my company faced one battle after another throughout the 1990s; some were internal problems, some external market turmoil. Discipline, perseverance, non-stop learning, courage, and readiness to adapt to changing environments all play a key role in the early stages of building a business. I believe that all of these traits are essential to being a successful entrepreneur. Since then, Value Partners has grown from a “value-investing hobby shop” that managed US $5 million into a financial institution listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, managing over US $14 billion.
In today’s world, where technology creates groundbreaking changes to how a business operates and how we live, no single industry or sector can isolate itself from the tech revolution. As a dynamic player in the market, Value Partners is also vigorously exploring “fintech”, a short form of “financial technology”, in order to expand and enhance the value of traditional fund management to our clients. This book shares the stories of 100 entrepreneurs, and from there gives some insight into the minds, philosophies, principles, and experiences of people who have chosen to create their own businesses. It is truly encouraging to read how CoCoon and its members nurture and strive to turn innovative ideas into real businesses. Dato’ Cheah Cheng Hye Chairman and Co-Chief Investment Officer of Value Partners Group Limited
Max Ma Co-founder, CoCoon
Erica Ma Co-founder, CoCoon
Theodore Ma Co-founder, CoCoon
COCOON JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND MILES
The purpose of CoCoon is to cultivate a safe environment to facilitate opportunities for entrepreneurs to innovate in Hong Kong as we evolve with the information world. Hong Kong, once a “barren rock”, is built upon entrepreneurial spirit – the spirit of turning dreams into realities. I must consider myself one of the luckiest people to have witnessed the phenomenal growth of China and Hong Kong in the past 40 years. In order for Hong Kong to continue to prosper in the information age, innovation through entrepreneurship is one of the most important engines of growth since its days as a “barren rock”.
space of its kind has since started a movement in Hong Kong. The team and the community of CoCoon are inspirations to me with their commitments, and I hope CoCoon will contribute in its small way to foster an innovative spirit in Hong Kong. People have questioned me many times on how to make a profit from CoCoon. This book is my answer to them. These 100 wonderful stories are the first hundred steps of a most profitable and rewarding journey of a thousand miles! Max Ma Co-founder of CoCoon
Since 2012, I am glad to see that CoCoon, as a start-up for startups and a pioneer in the co-work
COCOON FEAR AND HOPE
I find that fear and hope are the two biggest emotions entrepreneurs experience, oscillating between the two day in and day out. Fear comes from a place of inexperience and ignorance. I personally had no idea what a coworking space was four years ago and never thought my career would lead me to building an entrepreneurship community. When we opened the doors, I was scared, concerned, worried - how are we going to get people to gather at CoCoon? We had no marketing budget and so at the time, Theodore said, "run events, if we gather likeminded people here through events we can grow." Given the direction, I still had no clue how to do it. What kinds of events should we run, would anyone care? What if no one shows up? What if our assumptions about the need for entrepreneurship in Hong Kong is completely wrong?
The last four years have taught me that the only way to fight fear and ignorance is to try, explore, experiment, prune and iterate. We are an organization that never lacks ideas. But as a typical startup, it's possible for too many ideas to stifle action. So we prioritize ideas that are aligned with our values and goals of building an ecosystem for entrepreneurs and we act on them. Some of our programs work, others fail, most need tweaking. So we just spend our time focusing on activity that delivers value to the community and constantly try to edit. This experience has given us the chance to grow our resilience muscle and accept that the landscape will continue to change rapidly. There will be lots of unknowns but together, we have what it takes to tackle challenges and rise to opportunities. Erica Ma Co-founder of CoCoon
COCOON A BRIDGE TO THE FUTURE
Our hope at CoCoon is to reignite the entrepreneurial spirit of Hong Kong.
students are curious about the world and ask "why" and "why not" questions.
My co-founders, partners, and I believe in the evolving world of start-ups, and that the businesses and talents in Hong Kong can play a much larger role. Not only do we have many seasoned investors, industrialists, and entrepreneurs, but also regional and global corporate headquarters that are interested in innovation and new business models.
We know entrepreneurship is not for everyone – in fact failures and risks are always associated with it. However, we also believe that “success is a journey and not a destination.” As a community, we can share our experiences of failure and mitigate our collective risks of inexperience. More importantly, we will also get to enjoy the challenges of solving problems and helping others as we collectively choose to embark on journeys to make the world a better place.
I see CoCoon and CoCoon Ignite Ventures serve as the bridge between like-minded talents and industry leading companies that aim to grow "from Good to Great" through innovation. As for the sustainability of our community, through the CoCoon Foundation we will be able to introduce entrepreneurship education to universities, vocational centres and high schools, places where
Theodore Ma Co-founder of CoCoon
CONTENTS Startup Stories Alexis Bautista
Patrick Kosiol Perkins Ho Renee Boey Ryan Cheung Sarah Garner Sebastian Beer Sleiman Matar Stuart Corby Timothy Tsui Tony Wong
32 36 39 42 44 46 49 52 56 60
Investor & Partner Stories Allison Baum
STEP CoCoon Community and Development Team 13 Questions we asked our CoCoon members
112 121 125
Alexis Bautista Founder and CEO, Kokonuzz #CoCoonpitch Spring 2015
"Failure is only failure if you give up. If you take hardships as challenges that force you to think smarter or to be creative, then those hardships are just stepping stones towards success.”
ALEXIS’ PATH TO HIS “DREAM STARTUP”
KOKONUZZ AND ITS CHALLENGES
Alexis created his first startup in 2007. Although it was not his dream company, it was a company he thought would grow quickly, make a lot of money, and offer an early exit that would be able to fund his “dream startup”. However, despite a very good start, the market collapsed in 2008. Alexis struggled for a long time before creating Kokonuzz.
In 2012, Alexis decided to follow his passion, despite having insufficient funds. Alexis started Kokonuzz, a viral entertainment developer and licensor. By developing viral media to sustain global licensing programs, Kokonuzz created and owned a group of lifestyle brands targeted at the teen, child, and baby markets.
Kokonuzz plans on using funds raised to grow and maximise all the international opportunities available to the team. The company already has deals that span six different countries. What Alexis has found the most challenging is that “raising money for a hybrid creative design and technology company in Hong Kong has not been easy.” Fortunately, the team has found people who really understand
what they are trying to do and see the big picture.
ALEXIS’S THOUGHTS ON COCOON Alexis likes that CoCoon is constantly trying to think of ways to help the startup ecosystem and the entrepreneurs within. CoCoon is proactive, constantly looking for ways to further develop itself through ideas and programmes.
Alexis Bautista Founder and CEO, Kokonuzz #CoCoonpitch Spring 2015 Founded in: 2012 Category: Entertainment Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org LinkedIn: https://hk.linkedin.com/in/alexisbautista Website: http://www.kokonuzz.com/
Angus Cheng Founder, Baller Industries #CoCoonpitch Fall 2013
"Do things that other people don't do. If you mess up, at least you're seen as a trail blazer, but if you're right? Then you're a genius. It's a win-win."
Angus Cheng is the founder of Baller Industries, a (now twoman) video game agency. We found out how he accidentally became a full-time indie game developer, what drives him to make wacky games (and what doesn’t), and how he dealt with a devastating attack from a major gaming platform.
FROM ONE TECH WORLD TO ANOTHER Angus did not jump into full-time game development straight away. He first worked at a software consulting company, creating SQLServer database systems,
before joining a French EPS company called Ingenico, where he wrote firmware for their EPS machines. “I absolutely hated it. All software in the payment industry goes through several rounds of certification. It is really important that there are no bugs, because these bugs could lead to the companies using the software losing a lot of money. Therefore, the development mentality at Ingenico was to write as little code as possible, to not break anything, and to never redesign any of the crappy design decisions that were made twenty years ago.”
ACCIDENTAL STARTUP As for Baller industries, Angus says he started it kind of by accident. He finished his first game, “Get Rich or Die Gaming”, in his free time when he was working at Ingenic, and put it on sale at the Xbox Live Indie Game Store. “I was really surprised at the sales figures. It sold seven thousand copies in the first week. I immediately resigned from Ingenico and decided to start a new life as an indie game developer.” Angus has since published five games, each creative with surprising elements. For example, “The Rise of the Gaddafish” was created in 2011, and has the following description: “The CEO of a board game company has turned you into a fish. You escape him by swimming to war-torn Libya, where you encounter a new set of problems.”
We asked Angus where his inspiration comes from. “It could come from anywhere. Sometimes from a book, sometimes from a story someone tells me, and sometimes from a documentary.” Although Angus really enjoys developing games (he insists that there are a lot of really cool algorithms in game programming), it is not all easy. “The most difficult thing for me has been making money. I was lucky that my first game was a hit, but my subsequent games didn’t do very well. My second, third, and fourth games were commercial failures.”
TRACTION AND REALITY Despite the façade of freedom, Angus muses that he cannot develop the games he would like to, rather, he has to create games he thinks people want. “Another important thing is to design games with short development cycles. I would much rather work on a game that takes three months to develop
than a game that takes one year.” This is becoming all the more important given the rapidly changing gaming landscape. “I have learnt that it is good to create games we can later expand on, so that if they become successful we can improve them and charge for the extra features.” Angus’ recent creation “Phoney Girlfriend” is an example of this. His colourful documentation of the development process on BallerIndustries.com is a testament to how much heart he poured into “Phoney Girlfriend”. Unfortunately, just as “Phoney Girlfriend” was beginning to make a profit, it was falsely accused of violating certain guidelines and it was taken off the Google Play Store. Angus’ Google Play Developer account was shut down soon afterwards. “It was a pretty terrible experience. The worst part was that it was so impersonal – we received a computer-generated
email message, and that was it. It felt like being fired. “Phoney Girlfriend” was generating a lot of revenue, and it all stopped coming in immediately. When that happened I wanted to give up on being a programmer and do something else”. “Since then I have realised that I don’t want to develop software for a platform with so much control. I am a lot more interested in web development due to this experience. No one can take down your website for an arbitrary reason”. Despite these setbacks, Angus’ passion for telling engaging stories and making good games
helps him pull through. “I really love watching people play my games on YouTube, especially when I get the intended reaction out of them. It is a very satisfying feeling when I make someone laugh at a joke that I wrote into a game. For the next year, the company’s focus will be “Phoney Messanger”, which is similar to “Phoney Girlfriend”. “Phoney Messanger” is a role-playing app that centres around a Whatsappstyle user interface. “You can play as a fictional character and interact with all the people in this fictional character’s world.”
ADVICE FOR ENTREPRENEURS “Don’t plan too much. I see a lot of people planning and having lots of meetings and talking about what they want to do, but never actually doing anything. Just start working on whatever you would like to create.” In particular, Angus emphasises that making games independently has made him a better programmer. “Writing all the code for a project in different languages and for different platforms has taught me a lot of different technologies and sneaky techniques.”
Angus Cheng Founder, Baller Industries #CoCoonpitch Fall 2013 Founded in: 2010 Category: Gaming/Entertainment LinkedIn: https://hk.linkedin.com/in/angus-cheng-86838849 Website: http://ballerindustries.com/
Gilbert Joa Co-founder, Hong Kong PrimeGolf Society
"Every time I fail, I learn from the experience and try to improve for the next time. I learnt by starting my second company that I should start a business in an area in which I have adequate knowhow and market knowledge."
FAILURE AND PERSISTANCE “According to statistics, 80% of all people will give up after failing”, states Gilbert Joa, the co-founder of Hong Kong PrimeGolf Society Limited. Everyone knows that persistence is a key ingredient in the recipe of success. However,
imagine that your first two startups have already failed – would you still be confident in starting a new business? Gilbert’s answer is a definite “yes”. We got to know his story. An American expat, Gilbert came to Hong Kong two years ago and started learning to play golf.
As he was eager to meet more golfers, he tried to organise golf groups. However, in most of the gatherings only a few people showed up. “I remember that one day no one came to the gathering and I played golf alone. At that time, I was really confused.” However, instead of giving up, he persisted with the help of his partners. Now, PrimeGolf Society is a tight knit golf community targeting young professionals in their prime. PrimeGolf Society’s services include taking members to exclusive golf clubs all over Asia, organising golf tournaments, and holding mentorship programmes that invite experienced golfers to be voluntary mentors to new golfers. In the near future, PrimeGolf Society would like to offer golf activities to corporations as team-building exercises.
THE REAL COMPETITION Gilbert is not afraid of sharing his failures from his first two startups. He started his first company for high frequency traders when he was only 17 years old, but failed due to his lack of entrepreneurial experience. He later set up a home automation company, which suffered the same fate. Although Gilbert’s third startup, Hong Kong PrimeGolf Society Ltd, is now on track and the number of members is quickly snowballing, he humbly called it a “small victory”. “The real competitor is not in the market, but rather in ourselves.” Once Gilbert can fight against his own negative emotions when faced with obstacles, it will no longer be difficult to compete with others in the market. Gilbert’s ultimate aim is to promote the “prime spirit” of golf to all of society. He
hopes to amend the common misconception that golf is only for wealthy and retired people. “Golf is all about grass, sunshine, and energy! It is a perfect tool for young professionals to construct social networks and find jobs, mentors, partners, and even lovers!”
to that of CoCoon, as it enables young entrepreneurs to broaden their social circles and seek professional advice. Speaking with Gilbert, we witnessed a prime example of “go-getter spirit”: lively, passionate, and above all, persistent.
GOLF AND COCOON Gilbert commented that the nature of golf is very similar
Gilbert Joa Co-founder, Hong Kong PrimeGolf Society Founded in: 2013 Category: Sports Contact: Website http://www.hkpgs.com/
Henry Hu Co-founder, Cafe X #CoCoonpitch Spring 2015 2nd Runner-up
Cafe X has all the elements of the classic startup story: a founder dropping out of university to start a company, a futuristic robot café, and a vibrant team – but were these really necessary? Is the technology in their product novel enough to attract customers, and was dropping out of university worth it? In this interview, Henry and Jack share their grand vision for the advancement of humanity, the importance of their vision, and their approach to getting there.
THE WORLD’S FIRST ROBOTIC CAFE Open an app, order with a tap, and get incredible coffee at a robotic café in 10 seconds. This is Cafe X. “We’re not here to make money, we’re not here to sell a lot of coffee, and we’re not here to take over the world. We’re just trying to do something that’s really good for humanity”. Henry views mechanisation not as harmful to workers, but as
necessary for the advancement of mankind. “Pressing buttons on coffee machines, moving cups around, giving someone change for cash, or even communicating with the customer for the sole purpose of placing an order – it makes sense for these jobs to be replaced with an automated system”. Henry believes that these menial tasks are unproductive, and that automating them unlocks peoples’ capacity to create. “We are not killing the job of the barista. We are putting the barista in a lab to create recipes, to manage the supply chain, to source the beans, and to control the quality of the roast; tasks that really require hard-core barista skills. In this way, their skillset can be enjoyed by many more people.” This has been Henry’s vision ever since he dropped out of university after studying entrepreneurship at Babson College for two years. “It wasn’t a hard decision. It’s the personality – I like to make
things happen.” Henry believes that the most effective way of learning is on-the-job, talking to experts and real people. He felt that his university tuition money was better spent starting a company. Henry says that they “don’t want to make this a typical vending machine experience”. Many Michelin-starred restaurants leave part of their kitchen open as people want to see how the food is made. Robots have also been used to produce cars for many years, and yet very few people have actually seen these robots in action. “When you go on YouTube and you watch these pieces of metal working together to create an amazing product, it’s actually really fascinating. From the beginning we decided that this experience was not going to be a box – it wasn’t going to be hidden. We were going to show everyone how the product is made.” As with any new technology, Henry must convince potential consumers that their technology
is better than what is already out there. They believe that his technology is not simply there for the sake of technological innovation; it actually makes the product better.
MOST SURPRISING THING ENCOUNTERED Henry says the most surprising thing Cafe X encountered was convincing so many great people to join the company. In six months, they went from two to seventeen employees. “I think we are really lucky to have built such a strong team in such a short time. Since we are a startup, we have limited resources, but fortunately we have been able to efficiently distribute these resources between the talented members of our team.”
“I think our team’s biggest motivation was seeing a concrete version of our product. There are some bugs that we will fix later on, and we can now look forward to developing the new versions.” Cafe X has been testing their first prototype for a month. It has been a very busy time, with over 3000 orders and over 2000 new users in just two weeks. “Keep in mind that this is in the Hong Kong Science Park, in the new Territories, which is not
In just a few months’ time, the team has seen the fruits of their labours. They have seen the robotic café come to life, and they have seen people using it.
exactly the biggest coffee market in Hong Kong!”
CAFE X ON THEIR FIRST PROTOTYPE Henry believes their first version is “probably a D”, but that they can realistically get to a “B” in the near future. It is almost impossible for a startup to reach the same standards as Apple straight away. As they have only had six months to create this prototype, there is room for a lot of improvement." The company did not want to waste time trying to make the first version perfect. “I don’t agree with that mindset, because the next version can be much better than the first, and I believe that as more versions come by the product will get perfected – you just have to throw yourself in”. When they encounter a problem, Henry likes to go in and fix it. “There’s nothing much that keeps him up at night” say Henry’s colleagues. “It’s normal though – every day there are aspects of
life that you worry about. Having a great team, and knowing that if there is a problem they will figure it out, helps. The confidence we have in Cafe X grows every day as we see people enjoying a cup of coffee and enjoying the service.” One thing Henry has been having trouble with for a while is not being able to raise money in Hong Kong. Even with the number of rich people, Hong Kong still invests less money in startups than the Philippines. “It’s terrible, but there is nothing we can do about it.” In the long run, Henry has big dreams. “We would like for people to be healthy and happy at an incredibly low cost. We are experimenting with ways to create meal replacements.” They would like for users to be able to customise a breakfast or lunch option with different flavours through the app, and save both time and money while staying healthy.
What’s more, they would like to move into space. “I’m serious. We will be the first café on Mars.” Assuming humans will eventually colonise Mars, they will need efficient businesses to be able to operate there. “You don’t want a guy on Mars pressing buttons.”
Henry Hu Co-founder, Cafe X #CoCoonpitch Spring 2015 2nd Runner-up Founded in: 2014 Category: Food & Beverages Contact: email@example.com LinkedIn: https://hk.linkedin.com/in/henryhu1 Website: http://cafexapp.com/
Joyce Kan Co-founder, Carshare #CoCoonpitch Spring 2013 Champion #CoCoonpitch Fall 2015
"Not everyone is suited to working at a startup. It's a very high-pressure environment because you have to be responsible for all your decisions. You have to be determined and persistent."
Joyce Kan joined Carshare, a peer-to-peer car-sharing platform, as Marketing Director shortly after completing her degree in Economics and Finance. Before working at Carshare, Joyce interned for 4 months at Lane Crawford, where she helped them launch their e-commerce
platform. She found out about Carshare through a friend who knew the founder, Christopher Yeung. Joyce had been interested in eBay and e-commerce platforms as a student, and had wanted to work at a startup for a while. We asked Joyce a few questions on her experience working with Carshare.
WHY WORK AT A SHARED ECONOMY STARTUP? “I joined Carshare not only because I thought I could learn something, but also because I was interested in the idea of a shared economy. Shared economy adopts a peer-to-peerbased access of sharing goods and services. One of its aims is to utilise idle resources more effectively, which is helpful both environmentally and socially. It is both time and cost efficient. Therefore, by joining Carshare as a startup, I am hoping to directly contribute to society.”
HOW THE EXPERIENCE DIFFERED FROM EXPECTATIONS “I tried many different things to see what worked. The concept of a shared economy was still new when we started, so very few people had heard of peer-to-peer sharing. It was tough initially.” In the beginning, there were
significant trust issues, even with Carshare’s tailor-made insurance and telematics device for each car. Many people on car forums were sceptical of the idea, and said they would never try it. When Carshare launched in December 2013, they had five interested carowners. Now they have over 2000, and are continuing to form new partnerships including partnering with electric car manufacturer BYD Auto to offer electric cars for members. “It has been really popular. Many people want to drive electric cars.” With time, Joyce has changed her way of working. “Initially, I just tried things out to see if they worked. I still do that, but now I try to do things more effectively. I am very particular about how much time I spend, at what cost I complete a task, and which results I achieve.”
STARTUP WEEKEND AT COCOON “Startup Weekend gives a good impression of what working in a startup is like. Although it’s a far cry from the real thing, it’s a first step. Most importantly, there will be opportunities to network with many people who are interested in startups. I have made many friends at Startup Weekend, even if they don’t end up working in startups themselves. They are still interested in the ideas, and we still keep in touch. Others might not immediately quit
their jobs and join a startup, but many eventually do. Previously, there weren’t very many people interested in startups, but this situation has improved. Through meeting these people, you can exchange ideas. It motivates you to move forward and do what you want to do.” Joyce encourages people interested in startups to go to events like Startup Weekend, or to simply join a startup. “There are so many startup events, incubation programmes, and so on.” She believes many people don’t want to work in a
startup because they are afraid of failure. However, she would like to encourage people to do so anyway, despite the risk: “The experience you will gain will really help you grow, and if you don’t try, you will really regret it. You have nothing to lose when you’re so young”.
responsible for all your decisions. You have to be determined and persistent.” “Read up on 36KR.com, a mainland version of TechCrunch. There are a lot of articles about Chinese startups, and how Chinese people overseas view startups. I really enjoy reading them.”
“Not everyone is suited to working at a startup. It’s a very high-pressure environment, because you have to be
Joyce Kan Co-founder, Carshare #CoCoonpitch Spring 2013 #CoCoonpitch Fall 2015 Founded in: 2012 Category: Share Economy/Travel Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joyce-kan-5739a360 Website: http://carshare.hk
Patrick Kosiol Co-founder and CEO, Swapit #CoCoonpitch Spring 2015
Patrick Kosiol, a German national living in Hong Kong, graduated from Hochschule Harz in Germany with a degree in computer science. Having a deep understanding of technological possibilities, he co-founded several companies. Given his solid entrepreneurial experiences, he has been able to raise funds, receive grants, and work at several incubators of his choice. However, he has also experienced failure and has at one point lost all his money. Nevertheless, his entrepreneurial spirit has never been beaten up, and his journey has been both exciting and dramatic.
Swapit is a mobile app allowing users to buy and sell items nearby. It is a location-based trading platform for previously loved possessions, which runs entirely on a mobile platform. Patrick co-founded his first project, S4BB Ltd, in 2006, together with his long-time business partner Boris. Their latest venture Swapit is a spinoff
of this company. We asked Patrick a few questions about his experience.
WHERE INSPIRATION COMES FROM â€œBefore the birth of my daughter three months ago, I had to buy a lot of baby items, so my colleague
William introduced me to some "buy and sell" Facebook groups. Within a month, I had found a car seat and a baby cot for less than half the normal retail price. The condition the items were in was as good as new, so I was satisfied with the purchase. However, the process of obtaining those items was rather cumbersome. There are many downfalls to using Facebook groups for buying and selling items. With my technological background, I knew we would be able to streamline this process much better than
anyone else, and I knew that using an app would make a lot more sense. As a result, we started working on Swapit in mid-December 2014.”
FEELINGS ABOUT COCOON “I like that CoCoon offers startups the opportunity to pitch every month. It’s great because most startups don’t have time to wait half a year or a year to attend pitching events. I think CoCoon is useful in obtaining more exposure
for Swapit, and potentially in establishing connections with investors who share our vision, and who can help us grow Swapit into a successful international company.”
ON DEALING WITH FAILURE Patrick feels that it is important to always keep trying. He believes that “new opportunities and new challenges will arise.” “In 1999, I – like many others – got into the dot-com bubble. Being blinded by the craziness of the dot-com time, I spent almost all my money on the stock market. When the dotcom bubble burst, I lost it all and pretty much went bankrupt. During that time, I realised that money isn’t everything. Sometimes you have it, but most of the time others have it.” “I told myself that tomorrow is another day. I am still alive, I am still healthy, and I can still create something new. It is important to move on, and not to look back;
the future is not written yet. Always remember one thing: the best mistakes are the ones that can only be made once.”
PATRICK’S PERSONAL MOTTO “Each new day is a chance to try something new and exciting. Take that chance! The glass is half full. With enough faith
and endurance, your startup journey will be less tough, and filled with energy and power. A good community with the right resources can be a catalyst to success. If you have some innovative ideas, don’t hesitate – act now!”
Patrick Kosiol Co-founder and CEO, Swapit #CoCoonpitch Spring 2015 Founded in: 2015 Category: Information technology and Services Contact: email@example.com Phone: +852 28927330 LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/patrickkosiol Website: http://www.swap-it-hk.com/
Perkins Ho Co-founder, Yunnke #CoCoonpitch Spring 2015 1st Runner-up
“I’m not afraid of working hard, and I’m focused; but at the same time, I’m very hands-off, and willing to hand things over to my colleagues.”
Perkins Ho is one of the founders of Yunnke. This is not Perkins’ first startup; his journey started much earlier with Pillow2, another travel tech startup involving trip planning. “At that time it was more casual – we liked to travel, so we received funding from the government and made an app. The idea was good, but because we didn’t have much experience in the industry, the user experience wasn’t great. Additionally, we didn’t know how best to promote ourselves.”
RUNNING OUT OF RUNWAY “After two or three years, we ran out of money. Fortunately, a
larger travel company acquired us in order to work on their projects. While we were there, we learnt a lot about the industry, especially about the industry in China. We built a booking platform for them. After working there for two years, I got a bit bored and wanted to try something new.” “While I was working at the larger company, I got to know about kezhans, i.e. boutique hotels. Kezhans in Southeast Asia have two main needs. The first is brand maintenance: they want to differentiate themselves, but they can’t compete with chain hotels like Shangri-la or Hotels.com, and that they aren’t
well represented on AirBnB. The second is capped revenue amidst intense competition. The number of rooms they can rent out is fixed, so they need to find new sources of revenue. These can include local tours, transfers, or food and beverages. I started Yunnke to help kezhans achieve these aims.” After nine months, Yunnke had their product. The next phase was improving the system and finding customers. “It is difficult to sell to kezhans because of the cultural differences,” Perkins said, “so I delegate sales to my team.” “Before I went to the US to study at Cornell, I thought I was pretty smart. Now I know I need to find people who are good at what they do, because there are many people who are smarter and more accomplished than I am. This was an important realisation for me. I know a lot of people who think they are really clever – and they are – but they can only do so much.”
“I am fortunate to have a good team that I trust and get along with, as it frees up time for me to relax and do other things. It is difficult to say how to find a good team though. For me, it was by chance.” Perkins’ core team includes an engineer from his Pillow2 days, and an owner of multiple kezhans.
GIVEN THESE DIFFICULTIES, IS STARTING A COMPANY FOR EVERYONE? “Startups are not for people who are unsure of what they want to do. Currently, startups are seen as "sexy" in Hong Kong. However, this is not necessarily a good thing, as a lot of people know very little about the startup world. They have no idea how a company is run. I think it is best to get some experience first. Consider the level of bureaucracy in large corporations. Why do they have these practices even though the managers are sensible people? By working in
these companies, it will become apparent why they ended up like that after scaling, even if it is hard to appreciate.” Perkins also notes that money is not a good incentive for those interested in startups. We asked him what he thought was most important to him. “Being happy, not affecting my family, and contributing to society. Through these things, I believe that the company and myself will be more balanced. With regards to expectations: now that I have a two-year-old son, people often ask me what hopes I have for his future. I want
him to enjoy his work, and to be a person with integrity. I have similar hopes for my startup: to make a contribution to society. I know there is a price to pay for this. However, I think the result will be worth it in the end. Throughout the past few decades, we have taken plenty of wrong turns. However, so far nothing has gone seriously wrong, so I am still committed to what I do. Ten years down the road, I want to open a few kezhans. I don’t know where, but if I have the money I will open some in a beautiful place, relax when I have time, invite friends to stay over, and travel to other places.”
Perkins Ho Co-founder, Yunnke #CoCoonpitch Spring 2015 1st Runner-up Founded in: 2014 Category: Travel Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org LinkedIn: https://hk.linkedin.com/in/perkins-ho-2a830727 Website: http://www.yunnke.com/en/
Renee Boey Founder, Baker & Bloom
“You have to love some core element of what you offer wildly and blindly, but you also have to learn to manage the other aspects of building a system that delivers value. One thing that’s invaluable as a CEO is to find people who complement what you bring to the table – ideally people who are smarter and better than you.”
“CoCoon was where I launched Baker & Bloom. It was the perfect environment, as both the students and the teachers loved the open space and energy. Even
though our classes were held in separate boardrooms at CoCoon, the students learnt a lot just from seeing people who are starting their own enterprises, and from
hearing about startup ideas. This element of innovation continues to be what differentiates us from the myriad of learning centres in Hong Kong.” “In terms of our mission, it has always been to provide the best opportunities to cultivate innovative learners and leaders. However, the way in which we do this has evolved and grown over time. We now have a richer range of courses and programmes. We also have a clearer definition of our goals: to cultivate intelligence and character. The beginnings of Baker & Bloom come from
the joy I find in learning and seeing other people learn, and from my teaching experience. For example, taking children on school trips to museums in New York, doing drama skits, and learning about Project Zero.” “I want to extend and deepen the impact of Baker & Bloom. We have designed classes that are creative and original, either in content or approach. However, in terms of logistics, it can be hard for students to schedule classes or come to our centre after school.”
â€œWorking with more partners such as schools and nonprofit organisations to provide different learning experiences would be exciting. There are some excellent online platforms as well of course, but I love faceto-face and hands-on learning, so we will have to figure out how to keep that personal connection if we pursue online options. Regardless of what form teaching
and learning take, I believe that developing an innovative, meaningful curriculum and identifying what skills and mindsets the next generation calls for will remain at the heart of what we do at Baker & Bloom.â€?
Renee Boey Founder, Baker & Bloom Founded in: 2014 Category: Education Contact: email@example.com LinkedIn: https://hk.linkedin.com/in/renee-boey-0b11842 Website: http://www.bakerandbloom.com/
Ryan Cheung Co-founder, Clipper #CoCoonpitch Summer 2015
Ryan Cheung, co-founder of Clipper, witnessed how high rental costs have taken most retailersâ€™ marketing budgets away. He also realised that there were not many promotional tools out there to help small shops deliver messages to potential consumers in an affordable way. He therefore felt that it was the right time to start Clipper. Knowing about the difficulties that small companies often face, Ryan was inspired to promote an entrepreneurial spirit and a fairer business environment. He aimed to provide the most effective, easy to use, affordable and aesthetic marketing solutions. By delivering online-
to-offline solutions, Clipper brings online consumers to realworld stores. Being one of the largest coupon apps based in Hong Kong, Clipper provides a revolutionary coupon experience, and the most attractive deals for free. As in most startupsâ€™ journeys, Clipper has also had its challenges. Most of the partners Clipper is working with are small-scale local businesses. Big chain stores may hesitate to work with startups due to the difference in scale. Nevertheless, some giants do have confidence in Clipper, for example Samsung
who is their strategic partner. Clipper will keep working hard and spare no effort to expand both the user base and partner base in order to deliver what they want to achieve.”
KEY SUCCESS FACTORS WHEN RUNNING A COMPANY As a startup company, Ryan believes that successful products and services cannot miss the pre-design stage. Products need to be optimised after receiving feedback, and iterated over time. Ryan believes that the best approach to raising public awareness of a new product is
to get a quick start and make continuous improvements. Skipping the first step could make it harder to find the right direction.
WHAT RYAN LIKES ABOUT COCOON CoCoon creates a startup community and perfects the ecosystem. It organises various startup events to connect startups with industry leaders and angel investors. CoCoon’s Pitch Nights are also a good place to showcase startups’ projects and what they have achieved, as well as potentially meeting investors.
Ryan Cheung Co-founder, Clipper #CoCoonpitch Summer 2015 Founded in: 2014 Category: Information technology and Services Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryancheung-00601520 Website: http://www.clipperconcept.com Acquired by a Singapore Company in 2016
Sarah Garner Co-founder, Kai Tak Youth Rowing Club #CoCoonpitch Spring 2016
“We are working on a youth rowing club in the Kai Tak area. This will be a charity organisation aimed at improving the daily experiences and opportunities of underprivileged young people in the area. Rowing, endurance training, and swimming can all change peoples’ lives. Those we affect can be inspired to perform at the upper end of their abilities in all areas, and form new ideas and intersects that shape their chosen path in life.”
“I started rowing at age 13. Rowing changed my life in many of the same ways that we hope to change others’. In particular, I reflect on how lucky I am to have had the many coaches I did. Without fail, these people were highly inspiring, often a little crazy, and driven by a love for the sport and the experience of having a positive impact. I would like to help facilitate this experience for others. My partners feel similarly, and have been positively affected by their
mentors and coaches in the rowing world in much the same way. Each member of our team brings their own special talents to the endeavour.” “We are applying for land, promoting rowing to the general public, and hopefully developing a mobile boathouse platform that can get us started in the absence of a land grant. Once we get onto the water, we will start recruiting and training. By year two we hope to have approximately 500 people per year who are engaged in our courses, and 250 full-time members.”
“Kai Tak is on the verge of being redeveloped. Now is the time to weave rowing, and more broadly youth involvement and enjoyment of this unique and beautiful part of the harbour, into the area’s long term fabric.”
Sarah Garner Co-founder, Kai Tak Youth Rowing Club #CoCoonpitch Spring 2016 Founded in: 2015 Category: Sports Contact: email@example.com
Sebastian Beer Founder, Clarity #CoCoonpitch Fall 2015
TEAM BUILDING “Building a team is essential if you plan on expanding your business and you want to create a sustainable platform. You can only go so far by yourself, and so leveraging social capital is key to your business success. Nevertheless, it is critical to wait until you have enough to fill a role with and therefore be able to fully utilise your employees. For me, the first employee was the most difficult one to hire.”
WHAT STARTING YOUR FIRST COMPANY IS LIKE “It was both empowering and challenging. You have this tremendous opportunity to create something from scratch, and you are able to influence every aspect of it. There is also a lot of pressure to fulfil your investors’ (and especially your own) expectations. As soon as you hire people, it adds another layer of responsibility and that is
certainly something one needs to be prepared for. Having to deal with questions and decisions essentially by yourself is tough, but it pays off if things turn out well.”
A TYPICAL DAY “There is not really a typical day for building your company as things can come up or move incredibly quickly, which can have a huge impact on your plans. On the other hand, in the early days of your venture you basically have to do everything yourself (unless you are funded through the roof). One day you act as CMO, the other as CFO or Head of Ops. Generally, I try to start my days early in order to get my day planned ahead of any calls or meetings. Additionally, I think it is important to take some time for yourself and to do whatever gives your life balance. Going to the movies, doing sports, reading a book, and going to dinner with friends are all fruitful choices. There is always room for more strategizing,
research, and redesign; but if you don’t find the right balance, the quality of your work will dramatically decrease. Many ideas or solutions to a problem actually come to mind when I am doing something completely different.
entrepreneur is convinced about their own model and venture (as am I with Clarity) – but reframing failure and rejection, mentally preparing for it, is vital if you want to stay in good mental health. The sun will always come up tomorrow."
DEALING WITH FAILURE AND REJECTION
“Looking at the success rate of startups, it seems crazy to even start your own business. According to recent data, 9 out of 10 startups will fail. This means the average entrepreneur will experience at least one business failure in their lifetime – probably more. Of course, every
I think when you work with a physical product like I do, the biggest moment of validation comes when you first see your product on the shelves and people actually buying it. Knowing how much work I did on Clarity myself at the beginning is definitely something I feel proud of.
Sebastian Beer Founder, Clarity #CoCoonpitch Fall 2015 Founded in: 2014 Category: Health/Nutrition Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org LinkedIn: https://hk.linkedin.com/in/sebastian-beer-a529447 Website: http://www.clarity-smartenergy.com/
Sleiman Matar “My dream, a big one, is to do a peace project in my country.”
OWNING YOUR DREAMS With a strong academic background and a rich professional background, Sleiman’s dream is surprisingly not about wealth and fame; rather, it is a mission to bring peace back to his home country. Sleiman believes that life is full of potential, and that anything is possible.
Not only superheroes can save the world. Sleiman is an Arab born in Israel. He married his wife 11 years ago, and now the family, including his two daughters, lives a simple life on Lamma Island. At a first glance, his life seems as normal as ours. However, this ordinary family man has had a free-spirited and adventurous past.
LEAVING THE CORPORATE WORLD Sleiman’s friend once told him: “life should not be all about research, responsibilities, and work.” Inspired by this, Sleiman quit his job at IBM and began his journey around the world. Although Sleiman’s journeys were exciting, reality eventually caught up with him. After going through cycles of travel and temporary work, Sleiman finally chose to stay in Hong Kong for the next stage in his life. Given his expertise, Sleiman decided to set up an IT company that assists small and medium enterprises. Business went so well that he was eventually headhunted to join a client’s company as Technical Director.
KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS Working for someone else is not easy after being your own boss. Sleiman left the company after five years. Surprisingly, he
chose to look for another job afterwards, rather than start another company. When asked why he did not want to go back to being an entrepreneur, he shared his thoughts. “I know what I do best. I am a team player and I love working with people. I love developing strategies on a large scale. I am good at translating visions into reality, and I can use this strength to help others.” Sleiman enjoys working at CoCoon due to the support and inspiration he gains from the community around him. Listening to Sleiman, it is not difficult to be impressed by his quiet confidence, passion, and insights. When asked about the most important thing in his life, Sleiman smiled and answered “my girls and my wife.” He wants to be a part of his daughters’ lives as much as he can, because he believes human relationships are precious.
KEEP ON DREAMING Sleiman believes nothing is impossible, and it is this belief that fuels his dream of making the world a better place. “My dream is to bring peace to my country. I want to use what I know in IT and finance to give back to Israel and Palestine.”
Tired of working the traditional nine to six shift? Perhaps you will be inspired by Sleiman, put your computer away, grab your passport, and hit the open road; or maybe you want to leave the cubicle behind and become your own boss. Whatever your dream, Sleiman has the following advice: “Don’t regret anything. Enjoy it.”
Sleiman Matar LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sleiman-matar-55007481
Stuart Corby Founder, Origin Tracker #CoCoonpitch Summer 2013
"Jobs are an opportunity to learn at someone elseâ€™s expense. Take every chance you can to broaden your knowledge."
Stuart has both a sharp mind and extensive business experience. Having worked at UBS in the UK, the US, Europe, and Hong Kong, he is the founder of Origin Tracker and Authentag (among other companies), and is currently a Partner at Aptitude Global, a FinTech Investment and Advisory firm. Both companies use unique tags to track things: Origin Tracker tags receivables in the form of payments, while Authentag, founded last year, tracks physical items and allows users to spot check their supply chain anywhere on their smartphones. Stuart’s inspiration for creating Origin Tracker came when he was sitting on the board of a company that printed Australian postage stamps. At the time, variable printing – being able to change every single label or stamp you print – was just starting up. It occurred to Stuart that if you made each item unique and could somehow recognise that they were unique, it would be
easy to notice duplicates and spot counterfeits.
ACHIEVING A GOOD WORK/ LIFE BALANCE We asked Stuart how he manages to balance work and free time with such a hectic schedule. “By outsourcing! I am incredibly impressed with what the Authentag US team has achieved in such a short time. For Origin Tracker, once a client is on board they are backed by a great accounting team. With regards to aptitude, the other partners are very experienced and extremely smart (they used to run IT globally for some of the big banks), and we’ve known each other for years so our work conversations are brief and to the point.” Stuart takes outsourcing very seriously. For example, he does not know much about coding, but does not think there is much reason to learn; he would rather hire someone who is an expert
in that particular programming language. “From a business perspective, it’s not productive. Personal growth is another matter.” Stuart does not read much either. Rather, he prefers talking to experts. "You absorb information much faster that way, and there’s interaction."
ACHIEVING GREAT THINGS We asked Stuart how he got to where he is today. “After university I was lucky enough to get a job that involved learning everything about the business we were in. I met great people and had great mentors who explained all the things I didn’t understand after a meeting, or even after having lunch with a group of older colleagues. I learnt to keep quiet and listen, and then, after about 18 months, my colleagues started asking me questions that I actually knew the answers to. I think this really defined the way I try to operate now. I like to engage people and hear what they have to say, but also I speak to what I know.”
Another key learning experience for Stuart was founding his first company BioSupplies in 2002. “Your first company is always a learning experience. I learnt to look carefully at the fundamentals of a business. What are you trying to achieve? Who will pay for it? What will the payment terms be? Finally, is it sustainable?” At Origin Tracker, Stuart has worked with two of the world’s largest alcohol and dairy companies, Diageo and Fonterra. Although Origin Tracker did not end up completing a deal with either, the knowledge they gained was invaluable. “Authentag now tracks items for one of the top three suppliers of products to the US government who buys from multiple third world parties. Without the depth of knowledge gained from both Fonterra and Diageo and their in-house experts, we would not be able to do what we do today. They are still very much on my Christmas card list!”
ADVICE FOR FELLOW ENTREPRENEURS “Think twice, speak once. Thinking twice is enough though. Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis.”
Stuart Corby Founder, Origin Tracker #CoCoonpitch Summer 2013 Founded in: 2013 Category: Information Technology and Services LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stuartcorby Website: http://www.authentag.com/
Timothy Tsui Co-founder and CEO, FansWiFi #CoCoonpitch Spring 2013 #CoCoonpitch Fall 2013
“I think for the future of Hong Kong as well as the community, it’s important to have more startups because a lot of traditional businesses are being disrupted by startups. I see a changing of the guard, and this is where I think startups will benefit.”
We first met Timothy, CEO of FansWifi, at a STEP Career day in April. A little over a month later, we interviewed him. Little did we know how much had changed for the already wildly successful startup in such a short space of time.
FROM BIG CORPORATES TO BIG IDEAS “We’re going to Singapore in August 2015 for a Tech in
Asia conference, the largest IP Expo in Asia. There, we will be having a demo with Ruckus, a major router producer and listed company. We will also be following up with Changi Airport, who is interested in using our product. Aside from that, Tencent just met with us recently to say that they liked our product and wanted to integrate with us more by changing WeChat’s API. That’s the equivalent of Google coming to you and saying: 'I like your company'. I’m pretty amazed.”
FansWifi produces software for wireless routers that enables shops and other providers to add social media enhancements. When users sign in to access the WiFi, they are given coupon codes or incentives to like the business’ Facebook page. Sam, the cofounder of FansWifi, realised the cost-effectiveness of coupon codes in acquiring customers when he started a Groupon business. He coupled this with his expertise in WiFi to fund FansWifi, which was originally called SocialFi. Timothy has been working on a new product this year, and customers are already lining up to get quotes. They have more inquiries than the company can immediately deal with. “It is very important to prioritise. You can’t do everything, and you have to be very focused. We work hard every day, and we put the time and effort where we believe it will be of most value.” For Timothy, this means filtering companies that are considering investing in
them and collaborating with distributors. These distributors help the company sell their software on top of routers, so that they do not have to do all the marketing themselves. Their proposed bundling with Ruckus’ routers is a prime example. “It’s a much better use of time and resources. This gives us more time to improve our product.” Timothy only started working on FansWifi earlier this year, and has since witnessed its hockey stick growth. He first worked at Goldman Sachs, then joined UBS for seven years, and was then part of the investment team at China Life for four years. His experience at China Life was particularly eye-opening, as they had invested in the Alibaba group pre-IPO, and also in JD.com. “I was able to see how these companies worked and how they evolved, and met some of the C level staff such as Jack Ma and Joe Tsai.” Timothy describes the experience as “really cool”. “In order to do the due diligence before the investment, I had to
understand a lot about it and do a lot of research, which kickstarted my getting into tech companies.” At the same time, co-founding FansWifi was not an obvious path. “Five years ago I would not have imagined that I would be involved in in FansWifi – but it was an evolvement; a natural progression. I live and breathe FansWifi now.”
STUDENTS AND INTERNSHIPS As for advice for students interested in startups, Timothy
suggests joining a startup as an intern and learning as much as you can. “Learning through an internship experience at a startup is very valuable. In a very short time you will know if you fit in at a startup. You will learn something about yourself, about the company, about the business, and about the ecosystem.” This way, if you realise startups are not for you, you will know quickly. FansWifi also hires student interns. “They like where we work and the stuff that we do. We actually tell them to make
PowerPoints that we send to clients, and make an 100 impact on the company. We ask them to take meeting minutes during client meetings and even investor calls. We want to offer a learning experience to the interns that a large company cannot or will not offer, where they can learn what
a startup is all about. You may only be 20 or 21 years old, but you can make useful, impactful things, as opposed to data entry or sorting the mail.â€? Timothy expects that the startup environment in Hong Kong will change a lot in the next five years.
Timothy Tsui Co-founder and CEO, FansWiFi #CoCoonpitch Spring 2013 #CoCoonpitch Fall 2013 Founded in: 2015 Category: Information technology and Services Contact: email@example.com LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/timothy-tsui0b717731 Website: http://www.fanswifi.com/
Tony Wong Co-founder, Shopline #CoCoonpitch Fall 2013 Champion
Shopline is a do-it-yourself e-commerce platform for merchants in Asia. They provide a full-service package that gives merchants an online shop, which is optimised for all desktop and mobile devices. The app contains a myriad of features, such as regional logistic and payment gateways, a wide selection of designs, integrated marketing, and local customer support that complements the business. The team understands the E-commerce landscape in different Asian markets. They would like to work further to provide more localised
features and new marketing and promotion services, in order to support all types of merchants in growing their business and brand. Having graduated from 500 startups two years ago, the Shopline team has grown from three to thirty people across Hong Kong and Taiwan. We asked Tony a few questions about his experience with Shopline. â€œLast year, our main focus was in expanding the Hong Kong and Taiwan market. We hosted numerous top merchants such as Tony Moly, Loey, DCFever, Elle
Taiwan, and BBQueen. Looking forward, we are actively planning to move into new markets in Southeast Asia. Our long-term vision is to build a user-friendly, all-in-one e-commerce platform that drives greater value for both merchants and consumers.
STANDING OUT The immaturity of the local e-commerce environment has presented Shopline with both challenges and opportunities. “Compared to mature markets in Taiwan, Japan, and even Mainland China, peripheral support for e-commerce is lacking. Key factors ranging from localised payment gateways and logistical support to marketing plans and industry professionals who can help companies strategize and execute online sales are yet to be put in place. This is why the team has never stopped tailoring our approach to the market. We are continuing to expand our local partnerships and provide onand offline training materials to help our merchants grow their knowledge and online business.”
INTERACTING WITH MERCHANTS Shopline is committed to educating local merchants so that they can build and grow their online business with Shopline. We asked Randal, the marketing and growth manager, to tell us more about it. “We have seven times the amount of blog subscribers we had just four months ago. We were overwhelmed with all the positive feedback on our education seminars. We will continue to invest in our merchants’ development so that they can make the most out of their stores.”
VARIATION FROM COUNTRY TO COUNTRY
support, but also understanding the culture and offering localised solutions to fulfil market needs.”
When it comes to e-commerce, Tony believes there are huge differences from country to country. “In Taiwan, we have developed unique delivery integrations to accommodate order pickup services across the 7-Eleven convenience stores’ network, which has become near-standard for shoppers who order goods from online stores in Taiwan. It is a way of providing more than just local language
ULTIMATE GOALS We asked Tony what lies in store for Shopline in the future. “Shopline will continue to focus our efforts on building a more robust platform. We have targeted developing more advanced and personalised features for merchants to take full control of their businesses. For example, tapping into data analytics, customer-relationship management, and improved payment and logistical support for their business expansion.” Tony’s ultimate goal is “to make Shopline the go-to solution for any business that wants to build their online store”.
Tony Wong Co-founder, Shopline #CoCoonpitch Fall 2013 Champion Founded in: 2013 Category: Ecommerce Investment: US $1,200,000 Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org LinkedIn: https://hk.linkedin.com/in/tonywongk Website: https://shopline.hk/en
INVESTOR & PARTNER STORIES
Allison Baum Managing Director, Fresco Capital
â€œAt a startup, there are always uncertainties ahead. This is why guts and grit are essential in order to confront the proverbial rainy days.â€?
If you are a budding startup that occasionally broods over how to attract investors, then you might be interested in what Allison Baum, Managing Director of Fresco Capital, has to say about the mindset of an investor, and her secret cocktail to success.
TURNING POINT Having graduated with a BA in economics and a second degree in film from Harvard University, Allison joined Goldman Sachs as an Analyst (Equity Derivative Sales), where she gained
remarkable hands-on experience in investment banking. After having worked there for three years, she quit her job that so many desperately vie for. When we asked Allison why she took a leap of faith and left Goldman Sachs, she replied: “I am adding value to society.” Looking back, perhaps it was the hidden curriculum at Harvard that enlightened Allison’s journey of self-discovery. Besides learning about economics and film, the things that influenced her most in her studies were the sense of independence and the value of incentives. Indeed, Allison’s passion of learning about herself and contributing to the community has not died down, nor has it vanished since she finished university. To begin turning her dreams into realities, Allison joined General Assembly in New York when she left Goldman Sachs. There, she wanted to work on integrating different mindsets, along with leveraging on current resources, to help individuals fit into the startup world.
In 2012, Allison launched General Assembly (GA) in Hong Kong, with an objective to support the startup ecosystem in Hong Kong. Riding on a wave of extraordinary popularity, GA classes and Bootcamps were well received by local participants who yearned to polish their front end and back end web development skills. Allison, the then Regional Director of GA, managed to catapult the community into huge success under international spotlights.
COCKTAIL FOR SUCCESS Although sometimes realising your dreams can seem like reaching for a pie in the sky, Allison believes there are three simple qualities for a successful startup: “curiosity, purpose, and courage.” Startups need to be open to new ideas, to embrace new concepts, to believe in their goals, and to have genuine faith in their capabilities.” It is important not to forget the significance of courage.
Allison thinks overcoming the biggest hurdle in business could be the most thrilling and exciting process. “Each project is unique and you will get to investigate the industry and its competitors thoroughly.”
WHAT IMPRESSES INVESTORS As an entrepreneur and an investor, Allison pointed out some principles to us. First of all, and most importantly, “stay true to your goals”. Never forget what drives you and why you are here. Second, try to “know everything about the market” and beef up your expertise. Third, “be open to change” – adaptability is seen as a high prized quality as your business could change course from time to time. Finally, do not take things personally as this could undermine your team’s potential. Allison also reminds us that investors are also human. Although impressing them with your business skills is important,
they are investing in you as a person. Showing that you are a strong leader and a good team player can be equally important. Investors may easily forget your name or your grand ideas, but your charisma, professionalism, and versatility will leave a lasting impression.
SUCCESS LIES IN YOUR CELLS Communities are made up of people. This is why Allison sees CoCoon as more than a place to work, but also as a place that connects people. Through CoCoon, entrepreneurs can learn to engage with the world from a different perspective. Allison is currently working on a project to helps startups to fit into the business ecosystem. There is a long-standing myth that “everybody could build a startup”, but Allison does not agree with this. She does not think everyone is suited to be a founder.
An online tool is currently in the pipeline to help users to identify their strengths and weaknesses before they start a business. As success is largely determined
by external factors, perhaps you should invest in getting to know yourself if you want a shot at being successful.
Allison Baum Managing Director, Fresco Capital Founded in: 2012 Category: Investment Contact: email@example.com LinkedIn: https://jp.linkedin.com/in/allisonebaum Website: http://frescocapital.com/
Chris Lau Director, Future Services at SmarTone
If SmarTone, one of the most prominent mobile phone operators in Hong Kong today, were to honour its most loyal employee of all time, Mr Chris Lau would certainly take home the prize. Throughout the past two decades, Chris, the Director of Future Services at SmarTone, has seen the company grow from being a startup to being a publically listed company. The blood, sweat, and tears he has poured into this company have propelled him to the top – a place where he can steer the company towards greater success. Educated in the UK, Chris worked in Canada for six years before embarking on his lifelong career journey in Hong Kong. In the early years, he engaged in fixed network services, as well as transmission fields in the telecommunications industry. As a recent graduate, Chris was not fascinated by
telecommunications. However, the opportunity came to him, and he made the most of it. Before long, Chris found himself completely immersed in the industry. Chris finds rapid changes in technology and customer behaviour captivating. The miniaturisation of devices and the transition from analogue to digital, and the upgrade of 3G to 4G are just some of the most monumental milestones over the past twenty years. The work was so interesting to Chris that he even lost track of how much time he spent in the industry. “Once you get attracted to it, you will never be able to pull your foot out of it!” “There are changes every three to five years. It’s moving so quickly. People were talking about dot-com in the late 90s, and shortly afterwards came 3G, 3.5G and 4G, and the integration of telecom and the Internet.”
Apart from the reliable and high-quality network SmarTone provides, the company also prides itself on providing the best customer service. In this respect, SmarTone is far ahead of its competitors in this area. As the Director of Future Services, Chris is a pioneer in adopting new technologies from other industries to mobile services, and he constantly looks for breakthroughs in a bid to bring mobile services to the next pinnacle. Like many visionaries and pioneers, Chris is an avid reader. However, he
does not have much faith in any “key to success” books. Instead, he strongly recommends fellow entrepreneurs read more about history. “I am a firm believer that history will repeat itself.” According to Chris, looking at things from the author’s perspective when reading can be an important part of the learning process. Chris perceives CoCoon as an ideal place for people of a similar age to sit together, mingle, and learn from one another. He believes CoCoon can further capitalise on its
assets by getting even more seasoned entrepreneurs to share their success stories. Most importantly, as everyone’s circumstances are different, there is no golden rule that fits all. “Things are constantly changing. You can’t put yourself in a straightjacket.”
It is important for new entrepreneurs to have dreams and aspirations, but to Chris, it is equally important that they realise this is a business world; only the competent can survive.
Chris Lau Director Future Services, SmarTone Founded in: 1992 Category: Telecommunication Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Linkedin: https://hk.linkedin.com/in/chris-lau-47262a Website: www.smartone.com/en/
Jason Chiu Co-founder, Cherrypicks
“Failure is the mother of success.” How can we truly embody wisdom into practice? How can we maintain faith during hard times? As one of the founders of the world’s leading mobile experience company, Jason Chiu believes in being persistent in his vision and being flexible in his practice. Cherrypicks is one of the leading mobile marketing, shopping, and commerce space developers in the world with over 80 local
awards, including: Enabling Technology Company of the Year in Mobile, presented by Mobile Marketing Association Smarties™ APAC 2013; New Media and Entertainment APICTA 2012 Winner; and Hong Kong ICT awards, including Award of the Year 2012. Perhaps the name Cherrypicks itself seems unfamiliar to you, but you may have heard of its products being widely used in the commercial world, for example TVB fun,
Voting Solution for Miss Hong Kong Pageant, iButterfly, Samsung Tablet 3D Video Wall, HKJCmobile betting app, and MTR mobile.
then used the US $2 million of seed funding from his clients with whom he worked during his days at Deloitte to start a mobile marketing platform.
In addition, Cherrypicks developed iButterfly, which received the UN’s World Summit Award 2012 Mobile Global Champion (widely regarded as the Oscar of IT) in Business and Commerce. Cherrypicks thus became a pioneer of iOS and Android apps.
As the concept of social media prevailed, Jason recommended that the mobile carriers offer free SMS services to students in China. Seeing the regional differences in privacy laws, and how investors in the social media industry were not making much profit, he decided the idea was not viable for implementation. Thus Jason finally sold the SMS platform.
Finding the best business model for a company in a fast-paced digital world is never easy. Jason explained to us that his company actually went through various stages of transformation and innovation. “I had several living experiences of making the first pot of gold from scratch.” In 2000, Jason along with five co-founders foresaw that the entire ecosystem of mobile communication would shift from voice to data, which would create an entirely new value chain. He
In 2008, when smartphones became popular and dominated the market, Cherrypicks rebuilt its business empire and reached its peak. “The mobile marketing business before 2008 was quite dark and blurry. The overall ecosystem was not ready for the business to take off and we were eight years early. However, when smartphones hit the market, we knew that we were the most experienced
and tech savvy players in the market. Our technological knowhow and business experience became extremely applicable and valuable. Our whole potential was unleashed.” Despite the evolution of their business model, Cherrypicks continues to uphold its vision. “We never presented ourselves as a mobile app developer. Rather, the best provider for user experience on mobile applications. Smartphones and applications themselves are just the tools, but it’s the user experience that really matters when it comes to fulfilling the satisfaction of the customers.” Being in charge of 180 people in major cities like Shanghai, Zhu Hai, Jakarta, and Hong Kong, Jason always thinks ahead. Although his company was always recognised as an innovative company, Jason aims to create a world-class product. “There is no reason why a technology company in Hong Kong cannot carry the same brand value as other Chinese
technological giants.” Jason is not only a go-getter, but also a dreamer. His company is structured with various innovative teams aiming to attract expertise, and turn their creative ideas into reality. He wishes to share his experience of creating his “first pot of gold”. He therefore takes multiple roles in CoCoon, as an investor, a judge for pitch nights and an advisor for various startups. “CoCoon is a gem that Hong Kong seems to be missing. You can find facilities, financial grants, and incubation programmes offered by the government in Hong Kong. Yet, CoCoon is a place about people that allows creative and innovative ideas to take place.”
Looking back on all the ups and downs along his entrepreneurial journey, Jason wrapped up with two words: â€œbe innovative.â€?
Jason Chiu Co-founder and CEO, Cherrypicks Founded in: 2000 Category: Information technology and Services Contact: email@example.com LinkedIn: https://hk.linkedin.com/in/jachiu Website: http://www.cherrypicksalpha.com/
NiQ Lai Chief Talent & Financial Officer of Hong Kong Broadband Network
“I think we can box ourselves in our own success, and we want to break free from that.”
NiQ Lai is the Chief Talent & Financial Officer of Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN), the fastest growing and most profitable broadband provider in Hong Kong. In this feature, NiQ shares his insights on what corporates can gain from being involved in startup events, on taking calculated risks, and on engaging talent. Though on track to becoming the largest broadband provider in 2019, in 1992 HKBN (then City Telecom) was a startup with only 10 people and CA$100,000. At the time, there was not a lot of infrastructure available for
startups, so they had to struggle in order to get to the top. “We are very different. We are not one of those large Hong Kong companies that branched into telecommunications. We have a lot of mutual respect for startups. We have had many failures and some successes, so if we could turn back the clock and share some of our experiences, that’s something we would be very keen to do.” After visiting CoCoon, NiQ was impressed with what they were doing, and became much more
involved; sharing that, “it’s very much aligned with what we’re doing in terms of providing bandwidth.” NiQ’s own motivation for being involved with CoCoon’s pitch nights is the two-way mentoring: offering his experience, and gaining from the drive and unlimited ambition young entrepreneurs have today. At the pitch nights, NiQ is able to engage with young, unestablished, and uninhibited entrepreneurs. He is particularly impressed with the range of perspectives and opportunities everywhere that are easily missed. “Learning about some of the companies was pretty cool. One of them took an Xbox 360 and turned it into a 3D tool for viewing apartments. Things like taking an off-theshelf technology and converting it into a commercial application – this inspires us to look at things differently.” In keeping with HKBN as a company of entrepreneurs, NiQ seeks to stay current by giving
HKBN talents the opportunity to attend pitch nights and other startup events and conferences, and by encouraging them to read relevant books. “We are doing quite well as a company. We have had a very successful IPO, and a lot of people have made a lot of money, so it is very easy to fall within our own comfort zone which is highly dangerous.” Another way of staying within one’s comfort zone is not taking enough risks, an area where corporates can learn from startups. NiQ is keen to emphasise the importance of small failures. “If we succeed in everything we set out to do, it is not because we are a successful company. It is because we understand the target. Our approach is: as long as we can afford the downside, we should generally take the risk.” Of course, risk has to be managed
according to a different threshold since, unlike startups, corporates cannot afford to go bust. By defining what they can afford, managing it, and taking smart, calculated risks – risks where they have a LUCA (legal unfair competitive advantage) – HKBN has done very well so far. It is not all easy though. In seeking to achieve their core purpose of “making our Hong Kong a better place to live”, it can get challenging. “Engaging is not necessarily easy. We expect you to outperform in a 9 to 5, not in a 9 to 11 – so that’s a big challenge. If that’s the kind of platform that you would like as a person
– you’re serious about work, but you have priorities, other things in life, and you don’t want to live your life for work – then this is a great place to be. We want our culture to either be you love it or you hate it, but you’re certainly not indifferent about it.” How can they make Hong Kong a better place to live? “You change things for the better, and when you’re good at doing it, you make money. Other people will then follow. It sounds like a ‘Miss Universe’ kind of statement, but in making Hong Kong a better place, we are making the world a better place.”
NiQ Lai CFO and Head of Talent Engagement, Hong Kong Broadband Network Founded in: 2004 Category: Telecommunication Contact: HKBNbroadband@hkbn.net LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/niqlai Website: http://www.hkbn.net/new/tc/
Roland Yau Managing Partner, CoCoon Ignite Ventures
WHAT SHOULD ENTREPRENEURS BE AWARE OF WHEN THEY FUNDRAISE? Fundraising in itself is not a validation of an idea and founders need to be aware of why they are fundraising. Early stage companies certainly do need capital to operate the business but founders should carefully plan what their exact needs are and how they will use proceeds raised. I firmly believe in founders bootstrapping for as long as they can before they present the company to investors. By the time investors see the company, rather than the investors accessing the numbers of the company, the investors should be focusing on the grit, ambition and creativity of the founders to get the company to where it is. This approach, I believe, gives founders leverage in a fundraising negotiation as they are clear on what they can do with how much, and they know how much or what they
need to get to the next stage. This leads to more balanced and fair investment terms between founders and investors and both sides have similar incentives to push the company forward.
WHAT DO I LOOK FOR IN ENTREPRENEURS? I look for founders with a great work ethic which can be demonstrated by something as simple as being punctual. This shows the founder has control over his or her time, and more importantly, over his or her priorities. When a founder is faced with a million things to do, the very least the founder can do is to decide which task to approach first. I also look for founders with a great sense of humor, there's something funny in one's ability to change the world, there's also something funny in one's failure to do so.
Simone Chao Managing Partner, CoCoon Ignite Ventures
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR WHY ARE YOU BUILDING AN IN GREAT ENTREPRENEURS? ECOSYSTEM? In my mind, a great entrepreneur would possess the following qualities: 1. Vision - Vision is what inspires people to join or buy into a mission. 2. Passion - Passion functions not only as a great sales tool, it also translates into perseverance, which is key to sustain the unpredictable entrepreneurship journey. 3. Resourcefulness - The ability to quickly derive solutions and overcome challenges is very key too. Only problem-solvers can move the process along towards success. 4. Integrity - This is a key ingredient to building trust, and trust is the foundation of social interactions. Without trust, there will be no followers, no consumers, no success.
All business survivals require a healthy, supportive ecosystem. A healthy ecosystem comprises of diverse resources that can collectively defend a business' survivability. After decades of development and refinement, Hong Kong has become a wellknown financial and service ecosystem that supports established businesses. However, the support required for new ideas and businesses generation, especially in technology advancement, has been very fragmented or hidden in Hong Kong. Here at CoCoon, we understand that "it takes a village to raise a child" when resource is scarce. Thus, a facilitative business environment act as an essential role in fertilizing the growth of startups. So while visionary entrepreneurs make a dive into building the future of our city, we do our best to consolidate the support system to help increase their rate of success.
HACKATHONS CoCoon Event
Throughout the years, CoCoon has provided a platform for Hackers and Makers to challenge each other and create innovative ideas.
2015-03 MASTER OF CODE BY ANGEL HACK
2015-11 FLIRâ€™S BRING THE HEAT HACKER & MAKER CHALLENGE
2014-11 STARTUP WEEKEND @ COCOON
2015-03 STARTUP WEEKEND EDU @ COCOON
2014-09 HACKING HEALTH HONG KONG @ COCOON
NETWORKING CoCoon Event
This series of events, including workshops, talks and seminars have gathered over 10,000 participants.
2015-06-23 WOMENâ€™S FOUNDATION
2016-02-02 BOUTIR CNY PRESS EVENT
96 NETWORKING EVENTS
2015-09-16 INNOVATION FOR LUNCH
2015-06-19 FLYAGAIN.LA 2015-06-19 FLYAGAIN.LA
2016-02-03 FOUNDER INSTITUTE
2015-12-02 HBS ANGEL SERIES
98 NETWORKING EVENTS
2015-08-08 MAKER CAMP
2016-10-15 MAINLAND EXPEDITION ON ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND TECHNOLOGY
COCOON MARKET MEETUP CoCoon Event
Since 2014, a series of 18 Market Meetups have been held with 46 speakers sharing their business ideas and showcasing their profiles to almost 2000 audience members. Every month, multinational enterprises, service providers, and startups from various strata are gathered here at CoCoon Market Meetup to exchange business ideas, skills, and technologies.
102 COCOON MARKET MEETUP
COCOON PITCH NIGHT CoCoon Event
Since 2013, CoCoon Pitch Night has been the highlight of our events. Entrepreneurs give five-minute pitches before an audience and a panel of judges. Collectively, the teams have raised over HK$240m in early-stage investments, demonstrating the vibrancy of Hong Kong startup scene.
106 COCOON PITCH NIGHT
2015-04-16 COCOON PITCH NIGHT FINALS SPONSORED BY NEW WORLD CLUB
2015-05-21 COCOON PITCH NIGHT SEMI-FINALS @ KPMG
108 COCOON PITCH NIGHT
2015-10-22 COCOON PITCH NIGHT SEMI-FINALS @ FRESHFIELDS
The Student Training in Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP) began in January 2014, springing from the idea that entrepreneurship education for the youth will make a significant impact to the number of upcoming entrepreneurs. STEP aims to be a bridge for students to get access into the entrepreneurship community - to be inspired by entrepreneurs, work inside startups, and acquire an entrepreneurial mind and skill set. STEP is an innovative model focused on T-shaped learning where aspiring entrepreneurs will have the widest exposure to the entrepreneurship ecosystem and also an immersive experience in working with start-ups.
urship is a
"Thanks CoCoon for giving me a feasible work schedule to strike a balance between academics and working."
"I got great inspiration from the speaker about the impact of marketing. I am amazed by the power of the social network and media! I am looking forward to the next workshop."
"I love the idea of career day which actually gives students a chance to meet the entrepreneurs in person and chat with them, so that we can have a higher understanding of their company."
"Nobody can guarantee whether one can succeed, but their pursuits for breakthroughs in the market have driven me to rethink the goal in my career life."
2015-7-21 STEP PITCH WORKSHOP @ HKUST: STUDENT GROUP PRESENTATION
(2016-1-5) JOINT UNIVERSITY STEP 4-DAY WORKSHOPS
2016-O1-O7 COMPANY VISIT @ JOINT UNIVERSITY PROGRAM SPRING INTAKE 2016 ICLICK
2014-08-22 COCOON STEP: LEADERSHIP AND ADVERSITY WORKSHOP
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT TEAM
HOW HAS THE COMMUNITY CHANGED SINCE YOU BEGAN?
“CoCoon has changed tremendously since I joined three years ago. We started out with two staff members, and a drive to be the best co-working space in Hong Kong. Since then, we have grown to become a premier destination for hundreds of startup events and a platform for promising early stage startups to seek investments.”
WHAT WAS YOUR HAPPIEST MOMENT AT COCOON?
“Since I am responsible for CoCoon Pitch Night, I spend a lot of time with many different startups. When they successfully present their pitch or raise money or get into an accelerator programme, I feel really happy and delighted. Seeing startups grow gradually is certainly the happiest moment of all.”
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A PITCH TEAM?
â€œMy favourite startups are those that can identify both hidden market needs and positioning. They also require people who are passionate about what they are working on, open-minded, and humble enough to take their business to the next level through feedback and criticism. Finally, the best teams possess outstanding execution abilities and disciplined plans."
WHAT WAS YOUR HAPPIEST MOMENT AT COCOON?
"Many of the entrepreneurs come to CoCoon with ideas they have been contemplating for a long time. They are passionate and excited to turn their ideas into real businesses. I am most happy to see CoCoon entrepreneurs successfully find co-founders, teammates, interns, and business partners via our online job board, referrals, and events."
WE ASKED OUR COMMUNIT Y MEMBERS
Q&A 1. What is important to you? 2. What does entrepreneurship mean to you? 3.When did you found your own startup? 4.How did you come about the solution that your startup tackles? 5.What was it like to start your own company? 6. Why does entrepreneurship matter? 7. What does a typical day in your life look like? 8. What was your greatest challenge, and how did you deal with it? 9. How do you deal with failure? 10. What is it like to build a team? 11. What is it like being a part of the CoCoon entrepreneurship community? 12. What advice do you have for students looking into startups? 13. What differentiates your business from other businesses?
Q U E S TI O
QUESTION 1: WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU IN LIFE? “Full and free sharing of information, be it intellectual, emotional, or technical.” Michael Bendy, Wallhawk
To find my passion; things I enjoy and love to do. Unless you know what your passion is, it will be very difficult to enjoy life and keep yourself moving forward.” Keith Li, Innopage “To be able to contribute to the betterment of society and people around me. This could be through the creation of new ideas, spread of education, or thinking outside the box. This is my source of inspiration and happiness.” Anuja Agarwal, PinWorld “Making a true impact in all aspects of life, ranging from truly revolutionising the activities space to making a name for myself in my career.” Eric Gnock Fah, Klook “To expand the business by bringing it to more people. When we were young, our life goals were about earning money, being cool and famous; but now, as men already in our forties and with children, our attitudes and values have changed. For us now, social responsibility is crucial.” Ben Chien, SeeDoctor
“I just do my own thing. The two most important things to me are my family and doing my own thing. I don’t really care what people have to say if they aren’t family.” Ryan Lee
“To keep exploring myself.” Tom Tong, Holumino “Making every day of your life enjoyable and memorable. Life is short; make sure you are spending your time on the right thing with the right person every day without any regrets. As an entrepreneur, remember to spend time with your family while fully focusing on your project and business, as they are the one who will truly support you without any vested interest.” Colin Tsang, Founder of Tuttee
“Storytelling, and creating things that are enjoyable and interesting to people. Being a bit wacky.” Angus Cheng, Baller Industries
“Being happy with what I do, and making the world a happier place doing that.” Alexis Bautista, KOKONUZZ
“Realising my vision.” Stev Tam, GadMobe
QUESTION 2: WHAT DOES ENTREPRENEURSHIP MEAN TO YOU?
“When it comes to starting a business, your friends and your network are important, but so is the way you treat people. If you want to succeed, starting from today you’ll need to change yourself, your attitude, and your actions.” Kevin Leung, Muku Labs
“Stop wishing and start doing. Well done is better than well said.” Elizabeth Yeung, HK Beauty Bible
“Listen to users. We need to develop a close relationship with them, understand who they are, listen to their opinions, and solve their problems. They are game experts. They know more than us.” Simon Siu, Fly taxi
“Never give up. It’s old but true. As an entrepreneur you face an enormous amount of problems that you would never possibly have anticipated, but you must believe in yourself and your partners. It will be worth doing so, if you look back in the future.” Eric Gnock Fah, Klook “Don’t waste your time doing something no one wants, and make sure that whatever you’re doing impacts the world in a positive way.” Enrico Susatyo, Beacon Maker “Every entrepreneur likes to make something new. It doesn’t matter what you are making, be it a picture, a dance, or something else, these are all like ‘babies’ that belong to you. All startups need time to find their ways. Some people may think your creations are all the same, but you know the whole story behind them, and they reflect your ideas, values, and who you are. This process to me is totally worthwhile!” Kelly Yim, LikeFunding “An interesting thing I have learnt is that joy from ‘eureka’ moments outlives any amount of money earned from them; so follow your passion and live out your dreams!” Anuja Agarwal, PinWorld
QUESTION 3: WHEN DID YOU FOUND YOUR OWN STARTUP? Born and raised in Hong Kong and educated in the UK, Paddy is a rock climbing and scuba diving instructor who programmes games and websites in his spare time. He began his first startup organising scuba diving adventures from a web platform. Patrick Williams, Hong Kong Adventure Tours Patience worked with a lot of startups in Hong Kong while at school. She has been a UI/UX designer with Coachbase for over 18 months, and went to the TechStars Nike+ Accelerator Program in Portland, USA in 2013. She founded UmbrellaHere in 2014. Patience Lee, Umbrella Here
Graduating from one of the top high schools in Hong Kong with flying colours, Cheng and Chan parted ways briefly before ending up at the same university in the states: Dartmouth College. They are well equipped with years of work experience at both Goldman Sachs and McKinsey. Together they founded Playroll in 2013. Enoch Chan & Hing Cheng, Playroll
A fresh graduate from the University of Hong Kong, Jah Ying’s first stint as a communications intern at the United Nations motivated her to dedicate herself creating social change in her community. Jah Ying, LaunchPilots Wendy graduated from Boston University majoring in Hospitality. She first worked at JW Marriott before changing to a completely different job as a leasing manager for apartments in Soho. She then started her own restaurant, Hakka Yé Yé, in 2007. Wendy Cheung, Snakehead Justin, Jaclyn, and Eugene, Altitude Labs’ partners, are software engineers with a mix of tech startup, venture capital, investment banking, and online marketing experience. They were trained in San Francisco and New York. Justin Yek, Jaclyn Tsui and Eugene Choi, Altitude Labs In his first year of primary school, Kevin threaded needles to help his family earn a living. Kevin went from a child living in a partitioned flat to an entrepreneur having sold 30,000 selfie remotes in one year. His determination has allowed him to push through obstacles. Kevin recently decided to quit his job in finance to pursue his own startup. He has put his heart into everything he has done, which has gotten him to where he is today. Kevin Leung, Muku Labs
QUESTION 4: HOW DID YOU COME ABOUT THE SOLUTION THAT YOUR STARTUP TACKLES?
“When we Googled ‘travel blogs’, we couldn’t find travel blogs at all – so we founded Notey, a website and app that brings users the best of the blogosphere on over 500,000 topics. People have told us that Notey is like a combination of Tumblr and Wiki: if Tumblr is a fun waste of time, and Wiki is learning, then Notey is a fun waste of time learning!” Kevin Lepsoe, Notey “The property market is heavily monopolised by a few chains, and this is taking its toll on many small and medium sized businesses. Realising this, I decided to build an entirely new property market platform in hopes of bringing the service to the next level.” Amy Chan, Landlord Perks “Since coming to Hong Kong in 2007, I noticed that Hong Kong has become less friendly; people are less motivated when it comes to real-life interactions, and often shy away from talking to strangers. As a neighbourhood based social platform, MyFlat provides an online avenue to foster stronger community bonds.” Matthew Tam, MyFlat
“My sister was studying fashion design. She told me she and her classmates didn’t have the opportunity to design what they want and achieve their dreams. Many young designers are talented but simply lack capital and opportunities. This is why we came up with ZAOZAO. We really hope these talented designers can become visible to the fashion market.” Ling, ZAOZAO “The four of us started this project called the Interaction Award, where one of their topics is to design something that facilitates communication between people and communities. We remembered that during rainy days, people without umbrellas would just stand outside subway stations waiting for the rain to stop. The four of us experienced times where we had an umbrella with us but felt very embarrassed asking people nearby to share our umbrella with us. This is why we came up with Umbrella Here, a signal that helps you tell people that you are willing to share an umbrella, instead of needing to ask a stranger.” Patience Lee, Umbrella Here
QUESTION 5: WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO FIRST START YOUR OWN COMPANY? “I have so much more grey hair!” Kelly Yim, LikeFunding.me
“When I first started, I knew it would be hard but I didn’t know it would be this hard. Knowing the path is different from walking the path. It’s actually an advantage not knowing how hard it will be when you first start. I think that’s why Steve Jobs said: “stay hungry and stay foolish”. Staying foolish means you have the audacity to dream big and you won’t let the difficulty of walking the path scare you.” Andrew Kwan, Outwhiz and Edore
"A leap of faith - an absolute necessity" David Attali, The HK Fixer
“Starting a company is super tough. It looks as though it’s an endless road. Make sure you are really well prepared and get involved in a startup. You will spend tons of time building it without any reward. You will receive tons of “no”s and rejections from people around you. You will always have the moment of loneliness and desperation pushing you to give up; so be prepared.” Colin Tsang, Tutee
QUESTION 6: WHY DOES ENTREPRENEURSHIP MATTER?
“It was hard for me to adjust to Hong Kong in the beginning. However, being Chinese, I felt that it was my responsibility to contribute back to the society where I was born and raised.” Ben Chien, Seedoctor.com.hk
"What drives me and my colleagues to go on is to add more fun values to the world. Both our business and the toys we sell tell a story: if you want it, make it happen. Don’t underestimate yourself.” Hin Kwan, Vodcart
“It is a shame to see passions washed out just because the opportunities for them to get in touch with what they truly aspire to is lacking. We believe the world would be better if everyone pursued careers they’re passionate about. People would be happier and more productive, and we as a society would be better positioned for innovation.” Jah Ying, LaunchPilots
“We are not satisfied with building great products. We want to cultivate innovation and be part of building the community in Asia. We really enjoy executing our vision to help people create something that doesn’t yet exist.” Justin Yek, Altitude Labs
QUESTION 7: WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE? For Andrew, it depends on which stage his startup is in. At the shipping stage, when they are continuously making refinements, he spends most of my time talking to customers and trying to get their feedback. This way, he can make sure his product continues to evolve and solve their needs. Andrew Kwan, Outwhiz and Edore
Stuart wakes up early, does some work, and plays with his son. From 8am to 11am, he talks to the US East coast. He picks his son up from school, then talks to Europe and the UK at around 4:30pm. His son goes to bed at 7:30, so Stuart either passes out with him, or heads out to catch up with friends. Stuart Corby, OriginTracker and AuthenTag David begins his day with early morning meditation and a family breakfast. His days include creative, strategy, and vision writing, meetings, and block email time. He likes to exercise during the day (yoga or swimming), and make time to play with his 6 year old daughter and help her with her homework. David Attali, The HK Fixer
Eric gets up at 7am, and reads emails and news updates in order to analyse market trends. He spends some time with his children before driving to the office. Eric's day includes meetings, handling clients' requests, evaluating product performance, and checking and planning the marketing plans. He then goes out to meet clients or potential business collaborators before coming home for dinner and spending time with his children. After they are asleep, Eric continues working on unfinished tasks until 2am. Eric Ng, RedSo Patrick starts his day at around 7am at the office. He has a cup of coffee, processes emails, and watches the news. This is followed by reviewing progress of various projects and re-adjusting priorities to meet our internal deadlines. He also likes to schedule meetings in the morning. Patrick enjoys reviewing customer support enquiries, as it keeps him directly in touch with the most important part of his busiess: his customers. At lunch, he exchages ideas with his co-founder, and processes more emails. His work in the afternoon differes widely, and includes internal meetings, administrative work, accounting & financial forecast adjustments, reaching out to existing and new partners, and brainstorming new ideas for existing and future products & services. He leaves the office at aroud 5pm to see his baby daughter before she goes to bed. Patrick processes yet more emails before falling asleep next to his BlackBerry. Patrick Kosiol, Swapit
QUESTION 8: WHAT WAS YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGE, AND HOW DID YOU DEAL WITH IT? 100
“As a mum of two very young kids (and now expecting another one), my greatest challenge has been to find a work-life balance that doesn’t leave me feeling either guilty or useless! I wish my business school had given me lessons in that. I am still working on this and hope to find a happy balance somewhere down the line.” Anuja Agarwal, Pinworld “This startup is truly the greatest challenge I’ve taken on. Coming from a financial background, this is all new to me. Perseverance has been the answer to finding solutions that deal with all sorts of uncertainties.” Eric Gnock Fah, Klook “I think my greatest challenge has been to try to grow my startup at the same time as having a family and being a good father. I am doing my best to have a good balance and to stay happy.” Alexis Bautista, KOKONUZZ “During the infancy stage of my startup, I have faced constant challenges with resource limitations. My team and I managed to tackle this by prioritising all tasks using a quantifiable approach.” Stev Tam, GadMobe
“Making tough decisions that will change the course of the company direction. For example, once we reached a certain size and accumulated a certain number of long-term customers, we needed to decide whether to scale up the consulting business, or whether we should keep a relatively small elite team and spend a portion of our time doing R&D on new products. In my case, we made the decision to keep a small scale until we could spin off our product into a separate company.” Keith Li, Innopage "Managing my own psyche every day. Some days you wake up and think you will change the world. Other days you wake up and you don’t have the confidence you had the previous day. I deal with it by truly coming to terms with the fact that startup entrepreneurship – for all the emphasis on speed – is still a marathon. Running a marathon is different from running 100 metres, so you have to manage your psyche differently.” Andrew Kwan, Outwhiz and Edore “Our team is composed of four designers who have no experience in business and electrical engineering. The biggest challenge for us has been to figure out what the best business model is, and how to design its electronic components. Fortunately, when we first started working on Umbrella Here we were still at school. We were able to reach out to different professors and tutors for help. Meeting different people and getting different comments from them is one of the things that helped us bring Umbrella Here to our current state.” Patience Lee, Umbrella Here
QUESTION 9: HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH FAILURE?
“Very well. I am thick skinned and know that the world is full of opportunities. This one may be a no, the next one will be a yes." David Attali, The HK Fixer
“Through our process, we have been through a lot of ups and downs. The way our company survives failure is that we relax and play a game of League of Legends, and then go back and review our failure.” Patience Lee, Umbrella Here
“Failure and rejection is expected; both success and failure are part of the journey. When we get a successful deal, we need to plan and execute; when we get rejected, we need to evaluate and do better next time.” Eric Ng, RedSo
“There should be thousands of failures during the process and people may give you different advice. Sometimes, you may think of giving up. A clear and strong mindset then becomes very important. Of course, after ten years, you may succeed – but there would be loads of failures behind that which people can’t see. If you know how to deal with failure, you may get more answers than frustration out of it.” Andy Ng, ChuangMengXiaoDou
“Try again; fail again; fail better. Everyone must have gone through failure. I am not afraid of failing; I try my best to fail better every time.” Elizabeth Yeung, HK Beauty Bible
“People always label the difficulties they encounter in entrepreneurship as setbacks. Whether they are setbacks or not actually depends on how you think. If you really regard them as setbacks, it is hard to continue; you would feel better if you think of these only as part of the journey.” Melanie Chan, ChuangMeng XiaoDou
QUESTION 10: WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BUILD A TEAM?
“I discovered that the hardest part of growing a Startup is creating a good, motivated team. This is also where I think I am learning and improving the most.” Alexis Bautisia, Kokonuzz
“We want our vision to be reflected in each of our company members. It’s hard to find people who share our vision and passion. By maintaining a joyful culture and positive atmosphere in this company, I hope that Root & Choice can truly be a social enterprise that makes peoples’ lives better." PJ, Roots & Choice
“There is only so much you can do as a single person, and a product is not only about the product itself; you need a lot of people working on the marketing machine.” Matthew Tam, MyFlat
“Find the right people; trust them; empower and grow together with them.” Eric Ng, RedSo
“Building a team is very rewarding but not an easy task. It is an essential process in my growth as an entrepreneur. Learning that you cannot do it all yourself, which elements of the work you should delegate, establishing the work culture and values, finding talent, building trust, and leading the team are major endeavours. When flow is achieved, results start pouring.” David Attali, The HK Fixer
“It’s like a family. We work really hard together. There’s no petty politics – in the US we all live together in the same apartment.” Benedict Wong, Bindo
QUESTION 11: WHAT IS IT LIKE BEING A PART OF THE COCOON ENTREPRENEURSHIP COMMUNITY? 100
“People here are really nice and supportive. It sounds like a cliché, but it is not. I would like to call it an oasis in Hong Kong.” Tanya Cheng, PartnerSSS
“I am so inspired by the people here who are all so passionate about what they do.” Vaughn Hew, WhoGotStuff
“We really like the space and the co-working area; the location is convenient for a bunch of things. I also appreciate the company of other entrepreneurs. It’s good to just have other people around you to exchange ideas.” Vicky, ZaoZao
I think it’s really more than just a working space. They have done so many pitch nights and things like that. I think it’s really creative and good for startup people.” Tania Cheung, Miss Runner
“It’s good to have social enterprises like CoCoon, which cater to innovative local Hong Kong people. Hopefully CoCoon can continue to help train more entrepreneurs in Hong Kong!” Mei Chen, AquaPlay
“CoCoon is brilliant because it is accessible, it is affordable, you meet people, and it is helping us to formalise our business in a positive way.” Chris Thomas & Chris Lloyd, Leodan
QUESTION 12: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR STUDENTS LOOKING INTO STARTUPS?
“In life, there is no turning back. Always be prepared because you do not know when the chance will come and you need to be ready to grab it with both hands.” Elizabeth Yeung, HK Beauty Bible “Never give up. It is old but true. As a startup, you face an enormous amount of problems that you would never possibly have anticipated, but you must believe in yourself and your partners.” Eric Gnock Fah, Klook “Always make time to relax, for example by playing board games or table tennis. They help simulate new ideas and get you into a better mood, which are essential tools for problem solving and decision making.” Tom Tong, Holumino
“Focus, because it’s so easy to get lost in what you’re trying to do and what people are telling you to do. There are things that matter and things that don’t.” Justin Louie, Zeus Controls “I think the key to success is to tell ourselves: ‘everything is possible’. People may keep telling us otherwise, but if we also believe that it is impossible, it will fail in the end.” Melanie, ChuangMengXiaoDou “Always follow your dreams, never give up, and always look for new opportunities. Persistence is the key.” Sabrina Sakhrani & Tiffany, Loc8Food
"Don’t be afraid of trying something you know nothing about." Patience Lee, Umbrella Here
“Be creative, and always keep yourself posted on industry trends. Although based in Hong Kong, many startups lose sight of the advantage this international city brings and focus only on the local market.” Stev Tam, GadMobe
QUESTION 13: WHAT DIFFERENTIATES YOUR BUSINESS FROM OTHER BUSINESSES? “The main difference is the prices. TextMaster provides services at a much cheaper rate than other translation agencies.” Guillaume, TextMaster
“What distinguishes Vodcart from other existing online gadget shops is the personalisation of the products. For example, our toy plane items come with a blog post about the history of planes.” Hin Kwan, Vodcart “HotelQuickly not only benefits travellers and businessmen; it also settles the problem of occupancy in many hotels. On average, 25% of hotel rooms in Asia are empty and wasted every night, so we established HotelQuickly to improve the situation.” Raphael Cohen, HotelQuickly
“A striking feature of White Owl Coffee is its zero overhead costs. This is why White Owl Coffee can distribute its coffee beans at almost a wholesale price.” Sean Okihiro, White Owl Coffee “In comparison with other luxury brands, Le Cuir lacks brand awareness, which makes it hard to compete with well-established designer labels on equal footing. However, its competitive pricing strategy has allowed many customers previously denied access to luxury products an opportunity to experience products of supreme quality.” Tania Cheung, Miss Runner
“With conventional delivery, parcels are separately sent to each customer; but with our system, we centralise the delivery and pick-up. This helps to increase customer satisfaction, reduce operating costs, and improve efficiency and productivity of a logistics network.” Christian Secci, EasyPack
HKBN has generously sponsored CoCoon's 1 GB Wi-Fi since 2014 bringing connectivity and productivity to the CoCoon community on a daily basis. Their support has also made the printing of CoCoon First 100 a reality.
MaBelle has generously sponsored the CoCoon space and community since 2012 bringing together entrepreneurs, corporate partners, media, academia and investors. Their support has also made this book, initially just a seed of an idea, a reflection of the diversity of the community.
Connect and grow your network with Asia's brightest business masterminds. DBS Business Class connects start-ups with SMEs. Together with CoCoon, DBS held the F&B Disrupt Transformation Pitch.
Our special thanks to DBS for their support behind CoCoon First 100.
SPONSORS Our gratitude to all the sponsors and supporters of the CoCoon community who helped us publish CoCoon First 100:
Pa rtner, Assur ance at
Ernst & Young
THANKS AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS We would like to thank all the people who have made this book a reality. Their support of the entrepreneurship community and their ideas have made the stories in this book examples for budding entrepreneurs. We know and understand how hard entrepreneurship is, and therefore we appreciate every ounce of positive and authentic energy into this ecosystem. Special thanks to Mr. Bernard Chan, GBS, JP and Dato' Cheah Cheng Hye, for writing the forewords. This book would not have been possible without the hundreds of hours of writing and editing by our team of talented and creative writers and designers. They include Andrea Hernandez, Dion Tang, Erica Wu, Helen Ma, Isaac Cheung, Jessica Yung, Kaki Tong, Mancy Ho, Maria Chow, Michelle Chan, Milette Riis, Nadja Niesner, Natalie Tao, Richard King, Roland Yau, and Tina Kwong.
"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever."
- Steve Jobs