LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Welcome to the first issue of Jumpstart Magazine! It goes without saying that the Hong Kong startup community has grown rapidly over the past few years; there are pitch nights galore, dozens of startup groups where like-minded entrepreneurs come together, and coworking spaces in nearly every neighborhood of the city. With so much going on, we spotted an important opportunity to bring all of these exciting developments together by creating a community magazine that focuses on sharing news, upcoming events, and ideas with entrepreneurs as well as anyone who is interested in this exciting space. In this issue, you’ll find the latest directory of coworking spaces, interviews with some pretty cool startups, an article on growing your business from start-up advisor and educator Paul Orlando, tips on how to hire on a shoestring budget, and lots more.
UPCOMING EVENTS TRANSITIONING TO ENTREPRENEURSHIP
HONG KONG’S 23 COWORKING SPACES
5 ENTREPRENEURS SHARE THEIR STORIES
HOW TO BUILD YOUR STARTUP’S USER BASE
STUDENT ENTREPRENEURS OF HONG KONG
HIRING ON A SHOESTRING
CROWDSOURCE YOUR NEXT DESIGN
Our magazine is free, and we always welcome your stories and ideas for future issues. Thanks for reading!
Yana Robbins Editor-In-Chief
Editor-In-Chief: Yana Robbins
General Inquiries firstname.lastname@example.org
Editors: Jennifer Steventon Joni Wilson
Designer: Bobbie Miltcheva Sales Manager: Paul Oddicini Circulation Manager: Jamie Bennett Contributors: Kevin Bluer Dani Friggi Lu Rachel Lyubovitzky Paul Orlando Laura Windisch Sandra Wu
Advertising email@example.com What’s Up In Hong Kong firstname.lastname@example.org Upcoming Events email@example.com
Cover Credit: Retrorocket
Ask Dani Column firstname.lastname@example.org facebook.com/jumpstartmag
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Copyright 2014 Jumpstart. The contents of the magazine are fully protected by copyright and nothing may be reprinted without permission. The publisher and editors accept no responsibility in respect to any products, goods or services that may be advertised or referred to in this issue or for any errors, omissions, or mistakes in any such advertisements or references. The mention of any specific companies or products in articles or advertisements does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by this magazine or its publisher in preference to others of a similar nature which are not mentioned or advertised. Printed by Magnum Print Company Limited. 11B E-Tat Factory Building, 4 Heung Yip Road, Wong Chuk Hang, Hong Kong.
WHAT’S UP IN HONG KONG The Hong Kong startup community is growing and changing at lightning speed. Here are some of the latest developments: The Hong Kong Government steps up support for startups with the launch of iStartup@HK Portal (istartup.gov.hk), an online and offline platform serving as a one-stop shop for tech startups to showcase their businesses, or to find mentors and investors. StartupsHK and Recruit.net launched startbase.recruit.net, a job board focused on tech, creative and digital jobs to help connect startups with talent. Startup Grind (startupgrind.com/hong-kong), the popular event series for entrepreneurs and investors opens its Hong Kong chapter. Cyberport and the Cyberport Startup Alumni Association (CSAA) recently joined forces to kick off the e+startup Internship Program 2014, aiming to give young students a taste of the startup world by developing projects closely with founders over the summer holiday. The artist community finds a haven in Sheung Wan, with the opening of PMQ (pmq.org.hk) a creative hub for designers. Their mission is to nurture local “createpreneurs” and designers. The world-renowned Founder’s Institute (fi.co) has finally made its way to Hong Kong, offering a four month program to develop entrepreneurs. Google and The Chinese University of Hong Kong partner to boost entrepreneurship in Hong Kong, with the launch of “Empowering Young Entrepreneurs Program (EYE Program),” aiming to empower young entrepreneurs and students in Hong Kong. The program includes mentorship and Cross-Disciplinary Entrepreneurial Training. The future certainly looks very promising for our startup community!
To be included in What’s Up in Hong Kong, please email email@example.com
Tuesday, May 20th – Thursday, May 22nd ASIA BUSINESS ANGEL FORUM
Wednesday, May 14th 9:00am-4:00pm STARTUPBOOTCAMP PITCH DAY
ABAF 2014 – previously held in Singapore, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai – will see business leaders, angel investors, venture capitalists, policy makers and proven startup specialists from across the world coming together on one stage to engage in dialogue, and address and train Asia’s top entrepreneurs and angel investors.
On the 14th of May, Startupbootcamp FinTech welcomes you to Hong Kong for Startupbootcamp Pitch Day. The Startupbootcamp FinTech team will select the most promising teams from all applications, and those teams will be invited to pitch, get feedback and learn more about the Startupbootcamp FinTech program. www.startupbootcamp.org
Mobile Asia Expo Thursday, May 15th 10:00am-5:00pm 6TH RETAIL CONFERENCE – SUCCESS & SUSTAINABILITY The “Retail Conference – Success & Sustainability” organized by the Hong Kong Retail Management Association is entering its sixth year. This key annual retail industry forum will be held on 15 May 2014 (Thursday) at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. A number of high profile speakers from local and international retail and related organizations will share their innovative ideas and management wisdom in developing e-commerce business and lifestyle brands with fellow retailers.
www.apcsc.com/expo Thursday, 29 May 2014, 6:30pm COCOON PITCH SEMI-FINALS CoCoon Pitch event enables entrepreneurs to present their products or services to a variety of audiences and seek potential funders, co-founders, team members, customers, partners or publicity.
This class will help newcomers to the startup scene get acquainted with the exciting emerging world of entrepreneurship in Hong Kong. The session will be followed by drinks and networking.! www.generalassemb.ly/hong-kong
Friday, June 6th THE BRITISH CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND STANDARD CHARTERED BANK ANNUAL BALL 2014 The Chamber’s biggest yearly event - the Annual Ball is not to be missed! www.britcham.com
Thursday, May 15th AN INTRODUCTION TO CROWDFUNDING
Mark your calendars now to be a part of Asia’s fastestgrowing and most exciting mobile event. Mobile Asia Expo 2013 had over 20,000 business and consumer attendees, as well as an incredible conference, innovative exhibition and impressive line-up of programs.
Wednesday, June 18, 7:00pm - 8:30pm INTRO TO HONG KONG STARTUP COMMUNITY
Wednesday, June 11th – Friday, June 13th MOBILE ASIA EXPO 2014
The talk, conducted by FringeBacker’s Executive Director and Founder, Maryann Hwee, will provide an introduction to the crowdfunding model and demonstrate how it can be applied to entrepreneurial projects.
Hong Kong International CRE & Innovation Leadership Expo is aiming to provide a cross-industry platform for enterprises to “open up, communicate and collaborate,” to expand oversea markets, build up regular communication, achieve collaboration, and improve companies’ international competitiveness.
BCC Annual Ball
Thursday, June 12th – Friday, June 13th HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL CRE & INNOVATION EXPO
Wednesday, June 25th, 8:00-10:00am HONG KONG BUSINESS ANGEL PROGRAMME 2014 ANGEL BREAKFAST EVENT The Business Angel Programme runs a series of events every year which allows shortlisted candidates to present their business plans in front of a panel of investors and enjoy the opportunity to network and make valuable contacts. www.hk.tie.org
TRANSITIONING FROM A CORPORATE JOB TO ENTREPRENEURSHIP
“Transitioning from a corporate job to the entrepreneurial lifestyle is not dissimilar to going on a first date - you are full of excitement with a little nervousness and a whole lot of ‘I wonder where this will go’. It is all roses until a few bumps appear in the road when you start to question ‘Is this for me? I’m working crazy hours, I’m struggling to get clients, I don’t know what I’m doing,’ and more.” Marika Lewis marketingmindsetmentor.com.au
“Transitioning from the security of a full-time job to jump into self-employment was scary to say the least. Before making the full transition, my business partner and I worked 18-hour days to build the business on the side while continuing our ‘day’ jobs. After jumping into full-time entrepreneurship, the difference between going to work every day and going to my office was startling. Early on I suffered from socialization withdrawals, but quickly found ways to interact with my peers and friends from the home office.” JP Jones, www.collipsis.com
“The transition from Tax Lawyer to Entrepreneur was initially immensely challenging. Going from being supported by a team who’d supported my needs to having to worry about every aspect of a business proved to be a real ‘shock to the system’. However, being in full control of my destiny and being able to build a meaningful business is hugely rewarding and I don’t regret making the change. Beyond the professional satisfaction, I’ve also been able to change a number of aspects in my personal life - I’ve lost 18kg and am much more personally happy.” Alan Tsen www.spectrumtuition.com
“If you love what you do, then you’ll never work a day in your life! “
“For 5 years I had what felt like a ‘behind the scenes’ job taking care of clients and coworkers. For a long time, I’ve wanted to feel valued and noticeable in what I do for others. It wasn’t until last year I realized I wasn’t in alignment with my true self and it was time for me to shine and share my gifts with the world!
I boldly took the leap of faith and followed my heart. I’ve never looked back and have been so happy every day that I wake up and get to do the work I love! If you love what you do, then you’ll never work a day in your life! “ Kali Kennison www.kalikennison.com
“When I stopped working full-time in order to fulfill my dream of having my own pottery business, it was not without trepidation. For a few years we had to cut back on small luxuries like eating out, going to shows, and traveling. We even ended up having to get a roommate to help stones to success. Make a point to stay focused pay the mortgage for the and know there is no push button for instant first two years. But as my success, nor would you want there to be. Enjoy business grew, and my the journey in getting there - it’s what will customer base became attract people and clients to you in the long more solid, the strain began ~ Jeff Olson run, so take that journey!” to disappear, and in its place Author of The Slight Edge I found the joy and freedom Jessica Abbott, www.jessica-abbott.com that comes from using my gifts to follow a dream. Starting your own business is scary at “After 10+ years in the corporate fashion world I left a very comfortable times, and almost always difficult. The position to pursue my own sustainable kid’s wear business. At the time of hours you put in can’t be counted. But transition there was so much anticipation as to how it would be to work for me it was completely worth it!” from home and alone, but it was a tremendous period of growth and increased self-awareness; that was the most thrilling part. At Marianne E. Tolosa first it was great to work alone, but there comes a time in every business www.whitepeachpottery.com where you need to be a part of the surrounding community and market your business. The best part is that you can choose which part of the community you want to participate in based on your business philosophy and ethics. “The transition from a secure, full-time salaried position, Participating in business/entrepreneurial associations, forums, and courses for a life of self-employment, opens the door to the world of entrepreneurs that may be at similar or was riddled with dread and different stages of their businesses. They are a great place to learn and doubt, seasoned with tinges grow and share your trials and tribulations, as well as your successes.” of excitement, but ultimately it was one of the best decisions Karina Kallio, www.kallionyc.com of my life. I vacillated between the insecurity that I was not ’good enough,’ and the “There’s no better time to start working on your idea than now. Use weekends and financial fear of not receiving nights and keep your day job or consulting gigs. Aside from the obvious benefit of trying a regular income. Despite the something without having to start the “money clock”, it will test your ability to work increased hard work, long hours, insane hours and see if you are truly passionate about your idea. accountability and stress, I now The devil is always in the details so the sooner you get started, the better you’ll find out if have both creative freedom the idea (or the whole entrepreneurship thing) is for you.” to implement ideas swiftly and quickly, and the personal Daniel Arroyo, www.artgonia.com, www.sharinggiggles.com freedom and flexibility to work from wherever my family The future is always a bit terrifying when looking into the unknown but I life requires me to be during the day.” cannot help but feel very optimistic. Despite all the challenges and stresses of that leap into a startup, I have yet to be remorseful of that decision.” Christine Smith www.eezypeezyparties.com Charles Sankowich, www.friendthem.com
“My dream was to walk away from that corporate job and say ’sayonara suckers, I am on to better things!’ It was absolutely exhilarating at first, the time and freedom had me in an almost euphoric state. Then I slowly floated back down to earth. I realized I was responsible for making my business happen - I alone - and guess what, it is a lot of work! If you treat your business as a business it will become one, and if you treat it like a hobby, then the same is true. I needed to sit and develop a daily, weekly and monthly schedule with consistency. I have had many failures along A quote I love: the way, but those failures were stepping
“It’s never too late to start; it’s always too late to wait.”
Explore the Coworking Spaces of Hong Kong
8080 TOUTS THEMSELVES AS THE TALLEST COWORKING SPACE IN HONG KONG
here: Vodcart, MyFlat,
8080Space www.8080space.com 8080Space is a multi-purpose studio space in Kowloon whose aim is to attract people from different fields to come and create together. Price: $1,800/month Location: Unit 2913, 29/F, 1 Hung To Road, Ngau Tau Kok Perks: Great view, professional photo studio & equipment, event space Get In touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Companies you may meet
Sai Kung’s first business café. Exclusive privileges such as access to the latest toys (Mac, PCs, large format copier, scanner) registered office and post boxes, hot beverages and the rooftop seating area.
Membership: $4,000 to join and $2,000 annual fee Location: 37 See Cheung Street, Sai Kung Perks: Business consultancy services (legal, media, technology, accounting), free meeting facilities, free subscription to Dragon Law, rooftop Get In touch: +852.2792.8329
One of the largest coworking spaces with 14,000 sq ft of space, meeting rooms, photo studio, kitchen and event space. Price:
$2,000/month, $1,500/ quarterly Location:
3/F Citicorp Centre, 18 Whitfield Rd, Causeway Bay
Get in touch:
Twoodo, Little Steps Asia
Cowork CHM provides a comfortable working space for freelancers, as well as coffee lounge and a garden terrace. Price: Starting at $1,500/month. Day pass $200 Location: Unit B, 4/F, Mackenny Centre, 660 Castle Peak Road, Kowloon Perks: Event space, garden terrace, coffee lounge
CoCoon Pitch night, weekly events, photo room, plants, lots of space, Ping Pong table, kitchen, floor to ceiling windows
Get in touch: email@example.com, +852.3547.0288
COWORKING SPACE FOR ARTS & CRAFTS
THE ORIGINAL HONG KONG HACKERSPACE
The Crafties thecrafties.com.hk The Crafties is a 1,200 sq ft coworking space for Arts & Crafts, rentable by the day, hour or month. You can work on your own project or come for a workshop. They also sell arts and crafts from local artists. Price:
$800/month, or $200/day
1/F Sing Kui Commercial Building No. 27 Des Voeux Road West, Sheung Wan
Dim Sum Labs
The Garage Society
The Good Lab
The Garage Society is the largest coworking space in Central, occupying two floors. They offer a collaborative workspace, dedicated offices/desks, hot desks and virtual office on flexible rental basis.
The Good Lab is a coworking space for people of various fields to collaborate and take action for a sustainable, innovative and equitable future. They rent spaces on a 6-month basis. Over 10,000 sq ft.
Price: Memberships starting from $2000/month. Day pass $400
Locations: L1, The Sparkle, 500 Tung Chau Street, West Kowloon
Perks: Advisory team, 24/7, outdoor terrace, business concierge service, free drinks, IT support.
Good Lab @ Prince 5/F, Le Prabell Hotel, 372 Portland Street, Mong Kok, Kowloon
Classes and events, crafts and fashion shop, machinery to make crafts, wifi, projector, coffee, charming event space Companies working here: borisdesignstudio.com, permanenze.com, Vic & Lily Get In touch: firstname.lastname@example.org, +852.3461.1368
Calling themselves “the original Hong Kong hackerspace,” Dim Sum Labs is for life hackers and inventors who love to create cool things. Their aim is to bring creative artists and specialists together for community projects. Price: $5,000/year, or $500/month Location: 14/F, 100 Jervois St., Sheung Wan Get In touch: +852.9278.3306
Location: 9F, 33 Des Voeux Road, Central Companies you may meet here: General Assembly, Cornerstone Management, TedxKowloon, Artprice, and One Two Six Get in touch: email@example.com, +852.3952.7200
Price: 20 hours/month for $380. Day pass $180 Perks: Fresh vegetables every Thursday afternoon, library of entrepreneurship books, social entrepreneurship Companies you may meet here: Verybite, Permaculture Institute, Party Lasts, Reformer.hk, Parenting Forum Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hive www.thehive.com.hk
The Hive is a coworking space for creative entrepreneurs, freelancers and startups in Hong Kong. They recently opened two new locations in Kennedy Town and Saikung. Each offers flexible memberships, free coffee, outdoor space and nice dĂŠcor. Their flagship location occupies three floors in Wan Chai and has over 6,000 sq ft of space, an outdoor terrace, and professional events.
Price: Varies by location Locations:
21st Floor, The Phoenix Building No.23 Luard Road, Wan Chai 12P Smithfield Road, Kennedy Town Tai Mong Tsai Road, Sai Kung Companies you may meet here: Affordable
Art Fair, AirBnB, Darren LebeufPhotogrpahy, Youth Arch Foundation, Shop des Createurs Get in touch:
Hong Kong Commons
Hong Kong Commons offers private suites for 2 to 12 people and dedicated hot desks. Venture-backed and committed to supporting entrepreneurs and startups, they aim to offer affordable no-hassle rates. All campuses offer 24/7 access, 24/7 A/C, conference room time and Internet at no additional cost.
Incu-Labspace is a 4,000 sq ft creative coworking space for change-making entrepreneurs and innovators from various fields. They work closely with various incubators, industry associations, government departments and overseas angels to create impact.
Price: Hot Desks $1,000. Dedicated desks from $1,600. Dedicated suites from $6,000 Locations: 25th Floor, Workington Tower, 78 Bonham Strand, Sheung Wan Suite 909, Kwong Loong Tai Bldg., 1016-1018 Tai Nan W Street Cheung Sha Wan, Kowloon Companies you may meet here: Lots of Buttons, Good Chow, Bonham Strand HK Get in touch: email@example.com, +852.3563.9215
Price: $1,900/month, Day pass $200 Location: Unit 2102, 148 Electric Road, Tin Hau Perks: Video and audio studio, meeting room, exhibition room, event space for up to 70 people, events Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org, +852.3171.7624
Innovation Lab www.innovationlab.hk
Innovation Lab is an 8,000 sq ft coworking community and private office space. They have seven private offices and over 1000 sq ft communal reception, meeting and showroom space. Price: $4,000 and up Location: 12P Smithfield Rd, Sai Wan, Kennedy Townâ€¨ Get in touch: email@example.com
PARTNER HK OFFERS A CAFÉ WORKING ENVIRONMENT
The Loft www.theloft.com.hk
The Loft is an 8,000 sq ft creative coworking space in San Po Kong (by Diamond Hill MTR) providing a comfortable and inspiring atmosphere for creative professionals.
Membership ranges from $1,500 - $3,800. Day pass $180 Location:
12 Ng Fong Street, San Po Kong, Kowloon
Conson Coworking Space - Opening June 1st
11/F, Tower 1, Cheung Sha Wan Plaza, 833 Cheung Sha Wan Road, Lai Chi Kok, Kowloon
Companies you may meet here:
Fine Arts Photography, Hero Century, Face House, Nexsoft Technology, Anbang Real Estate Get in touch:
Perks: Sun terrace, BBQ court, 24-hour access, concierge,
Partner HK offers a café working environment, an hourly rate and has copy & print, scanning, meeting room and AV facilities to support your work.
29/F Cheuk Nang Plaza, 250 Hennessy Road, Wanchai Get in touch:
Location: 3/F, Nam Wo Hong Building, 148 Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan
www.papercliphk.com 5,000 sq ft workspace that holds Startup Academy, coworking, office, classroom and event space.
Perks: Coffee, mentoring, events Get in touch:
Price: $2,000 and up
COWORKING SPACES WITH OUTDOOR AREAS The Hive Biz Box HK The Garage Society The Loft Cowork CHM Wynd
A RELAXED ENVIRONMENT TO CREATE AND COLLABORATE
Smart Space Cyberport www.cyberport.hk
Platform provides a coworking and event space for those seeking a comfortable and relaxed environment to create, collaborate and simply showcase some awesome stuff. Over 5,000 sq ft space. Price:
Starting at $1,500 a month. Day pass $200 Location:
1-3/F 120 Connaught Road West, Sai Ying Pun Perks:
Retro Spot is an 1,800 sq ft creative coworking space in Quarry Bay. Members can have 24/hr access to the space and thereâ€™s a photography studio. Location: Unit 4H, Tung Kin Factory Building, 200-202 Tsat Tzs Mui Road, Quarry Bay
Rates start from $800/month Price: $2200/month Part-time (M-F 9am-8pm), $2800/month Full-time (24/7 access). 50% off for students, $200/hr Photography Studio, $500/hr Event Space. Day pass $180.
Wynd Wynd is located in LKF. They welcome creative individuals and entrepreneurs, as well as startups and SMEs from overseas who would like to build their business in Hong Kong.
Cyberport, Pokfulam Perks:
3 floors, events, kitchen, lockers, shower Get in touch:
SMART- SPACE Cyberport is a flexible and scalable working space for ICT startups. They offer private offices from 2-10 people, coworking flexi-spaces as well as designated workstations. There are currently four Smart Spaces within Cyberport with different layouts and setups to suit a variety of business requirements. 40,000 sq ft of space.
Perks: Photography studio, event space, pantry, free coffee, branding services, recruitment services, model agency, events
24-hour access, concierge, break-out area, free meeting and gym facilities, free subscription to the Cyberport Collaboration Centre.
Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org, +852.3568.4012
Get in touch:
Price: $2,400 and up. Day pass $280. Location: 10/F, 43-55 Wyndham Street, Lan Kwai Fong, Central
Terrace, multi-lingual staff, flexible membership (no long-term contract), nice views. Companies you may meet here: Architecture Commons, Made in LES, Cottonwork, iVenture Capital, Build Republic Get in touch:
Everyone remembers times when we were friendlier with neighbors and people helped one another. Technology helps to connect us with people around the world, but what about people who live next door or upstairs?
for school and work, but we all call Hong Kong our home and agree that Hong Kong is a great city. So what is making people feel nostalgic for ‘times past’? The answer is a complicated mix of changes in technology, society’s tolerance levels, distribution of knowledge, and increased material consumption. Through brainstorming, the cofounders recognized that a social group which has negatively been impacted by technology is the ‘neighbor group’. Everyone remembers times when we were friendlier with neighbors and people helped one another. Technology helps to connect us with people around the world but what about people who live next door or upstairs? This was when the idea of a neighborhood social network started to take shape. A social network is the ideal platform to start connecting real neighbors through a modern channel that is familiar and embraced by a tech savvy society.
WHO DO YOU HOPE WILL USE THIS PLATFORM?
INTERVIEW WITH THE TEAM OF
We believe there is practical
TELL US ABOUT YOUR STARTUP!
know any of their neighbors.
a good doctor or tutor nearby,
While technology is great in
you can seek information on
Myflat.hk is a neighborhood
many ways, it is also something
local shops, you can share
social network for Hong Kong
that has moved us away from
resources, you can plan bulk
that aims to better connect
face-to-face contact. Social
purchases to get discounts,
residents with their real
networks connect people across
you can buy or sell items, you
neighbors, thereby creating a
cyberspace but don’t necessarily
can plan collective recycling or
stronger community in which
connect people across the
donation opportunities, you
hallway. This is where Myflat
can inform your neighbors if
We often hear people say that
differs; we want to connect
you see anything suspicious
Hong Kong is less friendly than
people with their real neighbors.
downstairs, you can share
before and that they hardly
Why do we want to do this?
taxis…the list goes on and on!
value in connecting with your neighbors and being part of a stronger community. You can ask for recommendations for
There are numerous ways to utilize a platform that connects people who live close to one another. Aside from opportunities to help and support each other, it creates a community of neighbors who are friendlier. And we believe that these are all good things for Hong Kong!
WHO ARE THE BRAINS BEHIND THIS BUSINESS? HOW DID THEY COME UP WITH THE IDEA? The idea evolved over time. There are three cofounders (Matt, Antony and Doug) who were initially interested in building value-added tools and services for the property sector in Hong Kong. However, at an early stage, they realized that they wanted to create something that could benefit a wider segment of users and also be a more sticky application that users would visit regularly.
The idea for a neighborhood social network developed out of hearing common feedback from friends and associates that Hong Kong is less friendly than before. The Myflat team have all spent time overseas
We hope that the majority of Hong Kong residents will sign up for this platform. By growing the user base and having more engagement between neighbors, we will see more benefits to the communities through information sharing and practical support.
“...we take pride in being part of a small team that is building something for Hong Kong.”
Myflat.hk is available via mobile, tablet or PC. There are 17.1 million mobile service subscribers in Hong Kong, representing a 237% penetration rate (source: OFCA 2013). There is also an 83% household broadband penetration rate (source: OFCA 2013), which means that Hong Kong is a highly connected society. Given that most residential buildings contain hundreds of units, it is quite a statement that people on average know only about 3 neighbors*, and this is something Myflat.hk wants to improve. (*We conducted a Facebook survey recently.)
WHAT ABOUT SAFETY? Myflat.hk verifies the identity of our users by requiring all users to register with their addresses. We understand that this may be a concern for some people but this is necessary for us to ensure that we are granting access to people who actually live in the neighborhood they say they live in. Most social networks only require you to register using an email address but this means that anyone can register from anywhere. The key point about a neighborhood social network is that it is a network of actual neighbors and, as such, it is fundamental that our process integrates a verification process to confirm the identity of our users. We value the trust of our users, which means they have to be able to trust the integrity of the network. The requirement of a user’s address is a one-off request to set up the user account. The address details will not be displayed to other users on Myflat.hk nor will they be shared with third-party vendors or advertisers. Myflat.hk places a high priority on data security and protection. From a
technical perspective, the site is built with SSL 256-bit encryption to ensure we safeguard our clients’ information.
IS THERE ANYTHING SIMILAR IN HONG KONG? WHAT’S YOUR GREATEST COMPETITION? Currently, we are not aware of another neighborhood social network in Hong Kong. However, there are a few estate blog sites and Facebook district groups that exist, but these usually do not verify the addresses of their users which means that anyone can join. While the blog sites and Facebook groups do represent some competition for Myflat.hk, we also view them as positive confirmation that there is demand and interest from Hong Kong residents to have a communication platform connecting them with their local community. And this is where Myflat.hk is wellpositioned to offer this service for neighborhoods across Hong Kong.
HOW WILL YOU GET A CRITICAL MASS OF USERS? We are a startup so we do not have a large budget for marketing and advertising. To date, we have been utilizing social media to increase the awareness of Myflat.hk on Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. We have been joining startup events in Hong Kong, plus we have plans to contact various publications to generate media coverage. Furthermore, we will reach out to property management companies for partnership opportunities, as we also see Myflat.hk as a platform that can better connect residents with their property management companies and vice versa.
ARE YOU WORKING OUT OF A COWORKING SPACE?
No, we are renting a small office space in Kwun Tong.
TELL US ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE OF BUILDING THIS APPLICATION.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS!
One way to describe the experience of building this application is that it has been filled with ups and downs, and we know this is not unique to our startup. To build something from scratch is exciting but the execution requires long-term commitment. When there are wins, we take pride in being part of a small team that is building something for Hong Kong. When there are setbacks, we try not to dwell on them and instead just move to the next milestones. In the beginning, one of the challenges was to grow the IT team with the right resources. As a startup with a small team, there is greater emphasis on collaboration so hiring the right people has always been paramount. With some luck and patience, we now have a solid IT team that is committed to developing Myflat.hk’s platform and features. Myflat.hk has already launched and we are continually working on further development and on increased market exposure. Each phase has brought challenges and rewards, but all of us (especially those from previous corporate backgrounds) would agree that the challenges are learning opportunities and the rewards are more personal. Overall, the experience has been positive for all of us.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGE AT THE MOMENT? I think we are going through what many startups experience: different challenges for different phases. Currently, we are fundraising plus trying to grow our registered user base.
FOUNDER OF VIC & LILY After years of buying vintage items for myself and friends, I decided to try out selling the pieces I found on Etsy.com as it seemed like the ideal platform for such a venture. I was excited to share what I was able to find with others. After a year, what started off as a small part of my life has grown into something I spend more and more of my time on. It has always been a dream to have my own business and now it is a reality. My favorite part of the business is searching for the pieces for my shop as
well as upcycling pieces which have hidden potential. I also like selling pieces to lovely people around the world, and being my own boss!
IS ‘UPCYCLING’ A NEW CONCEPT IN HONG KONG? If there is one thing I’ve noticed about Hong Kong, it is that the majority of people believe that new is better, so I guess you could say that the concept is new. There are a few like-minded groups of people like me that try to re-invent, or at least appreciate things from the past like clothes and furniture.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES IN RUNNING THIS BUSINESS? From an online perspective, people know what they like and those who look for vintage items understand and appreciate them. One thing I have noticed about selling face-to-face here in Hong Kong is that many people still see the item as ‘second-hand’ and believe it is not special. For me this is the toughest challenge I face. I am working on ways to market the idea of vintage and upcycling so that the clothes are more than just ‘second-hand’.
WHERE DO YOU SOURCE FOR ITEMS TO UPCYCLE?
DO YOU LIKE USING ETSY.COM AS YOUR SHOP?
The majority of what I find is sourced here in Hong Kong. I have mastered the art of ‘rummaging’ - something I didn’t think I had the patience for before! I also try to find pieces whenever I travel, to keep the collection interesting.
I love Etsy, it is so user friendly for sellers and buyers. They continually update the system to make it easy for us to use. It also great as the people who are part of the Etsy community are all crafters or vintage lovers: the ideal consumer group!
WHERE ARE YOUR DESIGNS AVAILABLE?
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE FASHION SHOPS IN HK?
At the moment I sell online through my Etsy shop, and there are a few selected pieces available at The Crafties in Sheung Wan. I will also be doing some Handmade Hong Kong markets this year in Discovery Bay.
My wardrobe is a mixture of pieces that I have found on my sourcing trips, places like Fa Yuen St in Mong Kok, and the odd piece from Zara and H&M. Ideally I’d like to be dressed in COS, though - they have so many beautiful pieces.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR VIC & LILY? I’m hoping to create new styles from tired vintage pieces thereby taking upcycling to the next level. This could also lead to custom orders.
You can find Vic & Lily designs here: www.facebook.com/ vicandlilyvintage www.etsy.com/shop/vicandlily Crafties in Sheung Wan
VERYBITE WHO ARE THE BRAINS BEHIND THE BUSINESS? HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA? Julie Ng is the founder of Verybite and a graduate of Accelerator HK. For Julie, life in Hong Kong is fast-paced and for a workaholic, sometimes it is relatively hard to take time out to cook herself a meal, let alone buying groceries and preparing the ingredients. Additionally, she faced frustration that healthy food and food with no MSG is not easily available everywhere. Julie started to source meals from local peers when she paid her roommate to cook for her. She found out that for her roommate, itâ€™s easier to cook for two people instead of one. In time, Julie started to think that this might be a scalable idea if there are more people like her that would desire these types of services.
This contributed to the birth of the idea of Verybite, which was modeled on the travel website Airbnb. Verybite is a platform that allows homecooks to list their food and product offerings, and a foodie to order that service. All food are strictly no MSG or additives, they are made-to-order and there is zero waste in the system. The menus come from local homecooks who have great talent; each homecook is certified by Verybite. The vision is to create a lifestyle where consumers can have healthy food readily served wherever and whenever they want. Not only do our members eat healthy, but they can also avoid the long queues at restaurants. By organizing food listings within a marketplace that is both userfriendly and personalized, members can order food in a few clicks according to their dietary preferences and get personal recommendations.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE FOODS AVAILABLE ON THE WEBSITE? One of my favorite main course (and great for yogis, too) are Ayurvedic Spiced Spinach & Chickpea Stew, which is a perfect dinner for me when I ate
a heavy lunch and feel like detoxing. Also, when I crave something more flavorful for my Malaysian taste buds, I go for the Mexican Platter. As for snacks, Banana Bread is a great sharing food for me and my colleagues to boost our energy during the day. Last but not least, I like healthy desserts, especially gluten-free brownies - itâ€™s like eating chocolate without any pang of guilt. :)
TALK ABOUT YOUR CRITERIA FOR ACCEPTING HOMECOOKS All homecooks go through approvals before getting featured on our platform and all of their products are open for public reviews by past customers. We have everything from a talented homemaker to an experienced chef. They receive orders, prepare them, label and package them, and send them out [via Verybite]. There are four main criteria for homecooks to get approved - kitchen hygiene, expertise, passion and location. It is of utmost importance for homecooks to demonstrate their hygiene practices. The Verybite team meets each and every homecook personally to taste their food and
watch their preparation process. We also speak with all homecooks to understand their motivation for joining the platform to ensure their commitment when they start to receive orders. Last but not least, as Verybite is a location-based service and, unfortunately, we have yet to cover all Hong Kong regions, only homecooks that are within our current service area will be accepted. However, those outside of the current service area will be kept informed when we expand.
The vision is to create a lifestyle where consumers can have healthy food served.
INTERVIEW WITH FIONA LAU
WHAT ARE SOME TIPS FOR HOMECOOKS WHO WANT TO SUCCEED IN PROMOTING THEIR CREATIONS?
THE COFOUNDER OF SHOPLINE
From our experience, to generate more foodie demand and buzz, there are three aspects that homecooks should look into. First, foodies generally react better to food creations that are more unique (not commonly seen in the commercial space). It could be unique in terms of a special recipe, food from another country, specific dietary preferences (vegan, organic, etc.) and new ways of combining of ingredients. Second, photos make a huge difference in foodies’ perception. It’s worth investing in cooking a meal for the purpose of taking photos. All the small details matter, such as using the right plate for different foods, the photo lighting, portion size, the mix and match of colors of the ingredients and the background. It’s also a must to arrange the ingredients in a more tidy way rather than mixing all of them together. Third, prepare a short but sweet description about your creation. This is information that could not be conveyed through photos and needs to be conveyed through text. Homecooks should highlight the specialty points about their food and which sorts of tastes are best for which types of foodies, as everyone has their own preference.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR COMPANY! Shopline is a shop creation platform to help merchants in Asia sell and market their products. We provide the easiest no-coding-needed way of creating a beautiful self-branded e-commerce web and mobile site within minutes. There is a huge opportunity in this market as many businesses are just starting to utilize the Internet and do not have the technical know-how to get their brand online.
WHO ARE THE BRAINS BEHIND THIS BUSINESS? WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START THIS COMPANY?
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES HOW HAVE YOU BEEN PROMOTING YOUR WEBSITE/ TO RUNNING THIS BUSINESS? BUSINESS IN HK? We are an O2O (online to offline) business and one of our main challenges is the offline logistics of delivering the products to foodies from the homecooks. The scalable way of doing it would be hiring our own driver and using our own transportation, however, as we aren’t at that stage yet, we are currently doing a lot of things in a manual way until we have a steady flow of business.
As we are a tech-based business, most of our buzz is generated online through Facebook and search engines. Constant updates of our new products through various social media are how we keep our communication with all our users. Additionally, as we are a location-based service, we are also increasing our offline marketing by partnering with different events as one of their event caterers and setting up a booth at a community carnival to increase exposure.
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We have a great team of three at Shopline – Raymond Yip, Tony Wong and Fiona Lau, who cover design, development and business. We met at Startup Weekend back in April 2013 while working on different projects. We share the same passion and vision in e-commerce, particularly mobile commerce. We all feel that online commerce will be a big growth area for Asia in the coming years. Small- to medium-sized businesses are on the rise and are looking to expand quickly on the web. In the meantime, traditional businesses are beginning to see the real value of having an online presence and are yearning for the same type of expansion.
HOW HAS THE PROGRESS BEEN SO FAR? After our beta launch in November, we now have over 500 shops on our platform, mostly Hong Kong and Taiwanese merchants. Since our product is in English and Chinese, we plan on aggressively growing our network of shops in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, before we enter other countries in Asia.
WHAT KINDS OF COMPANIES USE YOUR SERVICE? Our early adopters are extremely diverse, ranging from brick and mortar stores aiming to reach more customers
via their own online shop, to entrepreneurs launching purely online businesses. We also have a nice mix of industries represented in our network – everything from accessories to clothing brands, to electronics and watches and even food!
WHAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT FROM COMPETITORS? There are some larger global players but the competition in Asia is extremely fragmented. Our competitive advantage is our simplistic setup process, knowledge of the Asian selling culture, and that we are entirely optimized for mobile, both for the merchants and the consumers. Our target market is merchants who do not have the technical know-how of setting up an online store and are just entering into e-commerce. We are developing a process that is extremely easy and smooth thereby lowering the entry barrier for these merchants. As we understand the importance of mobile, all shops that use our platform get responsive sites, meaning the experience is consistent across all devices.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES IN THIS TYPE OF BUSINESS? One of the bigger challenges is getting the merchants to understand that e-commerce really isn’t as difficult as it seems! With our product, the process is simplified, creating fewer hurdles for businesses to get started. Additionally, e-commerce has thus far been heavily focused on marketplaces in this part of the world; platforms such as Taobao, Yahoo, and to a lesser extent eBay. These huge marketplaces have solidified themselves as the go-to places to conduct online transactions. However, these conventional marketplaces do not help businesses to build their brands online. Many merchants are now beginning to understand the value of having their own self-branded online shops and Shopline is poised to provide them with a low-cost solution that fits their needs.
ARE YOU PART OF A COWORKING SPACE? Yes, we work out of Cocoon. We love it for the entrepreneurship community, events and the people we get to meet. The collaborative nature of these coworking spaces fosters a sense of sharing and support that you will not get from a traditional office or business center.
FRINGEBACKER Interviewee: Maryann Hwee, Executive Director at FringeBacker. Ms. Hwee has over 20 years’ experience in direct investment, marketing and business development in IT businesses in Hong Kong, the PRC, and Southeast Asia.
rewards to their supporters. Benefactors therefore have the opportunity to actively engage with a project and have public recognition for their support, which makes it different from traditional
The easiest way to open an online shop www.shoplineapp.com
owners offer exclusive
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS
creative, entrepreneurial and
As a Network Partner of
charitable projects, allowing
the UNESCO Observatory for
FringeBacker is the world’s only
individuals and organizations
Local Cultures and Creativity
entirely bilingual crowdfunding
to present their work and
in Education (RLCCE), we
website, with everything
engage directly with others
make a big effort to support
in English and Chinese. It
in order to raise awareness
the arts, education, culture
is an online platform for
and funding. In return, project
and the sciences.
WHO ARE THE BRAINS BEHIND FRINGEBACKER? HOW DID THIS IDEA COME ABOUT? I have been doing direct investments for many years and have come across numerous projects with great potential, but unfortunately they were not compatible with traditional investment strategies. Then, in 2009, we first came across crowdfunding in the USA. I was fascinated to learn that this new channel allowed growing ranks of entrepreneurs, artists, IT developers and many others to raise money online. Crowdfunding has proven to be very successful in filling the gap where projects have great potential to succeed, but are not yet at the profit generating level for venture capitalists or angels to invest. With that in mind, we decided to use our fundraising, investment, and technology experience to set up FringeBacker.
to make it as easy as possible for backers to support projects, hence why we also facilitate payments by bank transfer or cheque. Another unique quality is our thorough verification process. This provides validation for project owners and backers alike. By challenging project owners to meet the standards we set, this helps them gain a surer footing with their proposals which in turn produces a higher quality project, and potential benefactors can be confident of its value and integrity.
WHAT WERE THE EARLY DAYS OF FRINGEBACKER LIKE? Very exciting! Our inaugural project was undertaken by an esteemed collegiate a cappella group from King’s College London
who successfully raised nearly HK$100,000 for their international music tour to Hong Kong and Singapore. Our projects have since been extremely diverse – including computer games, art exhibitions, theatrical productions and even an iPhone movie – and it is thoroughly enjoyable to work with such enthusiastic and talented project owners.
WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL CAMPAIGN THAT GETS FUNDED? First and foremost, it is important to recognize that crowdfunding is not a passive activity and you need to work hard to receive contributions. We encourage all our project owners to be creative with their campaign and interact with their
backers. As a starting point, it is very important that project owners plan ahead before their campaign starts. To ensure the success of their campaign, they should identify their target audience and put a plan in place to reach out to their community for support.
As we operate in English and Chinese, we open up fantastic opportunities for projects owners, particularly entrepreneurs and startups, who wish to reach a wider audience and access markets in Chinese-speaking territories.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SUCCESS STORY THAT CAME OUT OF FRINGEBACKER? One of our favourite and most successful projects to date – which in turn achieved a world first by crowdfunding for a professional athlete – was to help the International Equestrian Jacqueline Lai raise nearly HK$500,000. Jacqueline’s story is particularly touching as she miraculously recovered from a potentially career-
SOME MAY ASK, WHY NOT KICKSTARTER? WHAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT? We have several distinguishing qualities that make us stand out from Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms. As we operate in English and Chinese, we open up fantastic opportunities for project owners, particularly entrepreneurs and startups, who wish to reach a wider audience and access markets in Chinese-speaking territories. Our payment system also appeals to a wider audience. The Amazon payment system used by Kickstarter is not friendly or convenient for application by non-US citizens, so applicants from Hong Kong – or anywhere else in Asia – who don’t have a US connection really struggle. That’s where FringeBacker comes in. FringeBacker allows you to raise funds in multiple currencies. We try
ending injury after falling off her horse while training in Denmark. Not only did the money she raised then help her to compete and represent Hong Kong at the All-China National Games, she successfully won a silver medal in her category.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR FRINGEBACKER? We will endeavour to continue to provide a platform for creative and talented individuals as well as entrepreneurial projects. FringeBacker also celebrates the many achievements of Hong Kong’s charitable organisations and we hope to develop our support of their virtuous fundraising efforts. In addition to this, we are working with independent arts festivals and partnering with UNESCO to further promote and sustain arts, creativity, and culture.
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Rolling Up Hills or Climbing Up Steps Sometimes startups think of progress as rolling up a hill. You start off with almost nothing: a first iteration with no users and questionable value. But you believe that you’re able to roll up that hill to grow. Sometimes, depending on what you are building, rolling up a hill cannot work. The hill, metaphorically speaking, is too steep and instead requires discrete steps to climb. Just as in the physical world, after each step you have a little place to rest and build. The steps may lead you to an indirect path, but you’re getting closer to the goal and maybe with less exhaustion than if you had plodded ahead.
To show you what I mean, let’s look at examples from the professional social media site, LinkedIn, and the vacation rental site, Airbnb. In 2003, LinkedIn’s founders sent the first iteration to 350 of their friends, then followed up with anyone who didn’t create a profile and by the time a month had passed, the site had grown to 4,500 users. With additional feature development and investment, things kept going from there until users reached the hundreds of millions. As they grew to scale, they were able to develop business models around premium accounts, advertising, and recruiting. Airbnb had a harder start but grew past its small 2008 early user base by improving rental conversions with free professionally photographed apartments and also grew users by spamming renters on Craigslist.
But these two companies differ in terms of what is needed for them to provide value. For example, even if there is only one member of LinkedIn, it’s partially valuable, because visitors can still view user profiles and learn about their careers. In that way, early LinkedIn functioned as a professionally focused version of About.me. And in the early days, you couldn’t really do all that much with people in your LinkedIn network. However, Airbnb had a steeper hill to climb. Its service always needed both sides of the network to work. Simply listing your apartment with professional photos is more of a hassle than a benefit, if no renters ever book nights. While both LinkedIn and Airbnb achieved massive scale in the beginning, from the way they moved forward, I’d say that LinkedIn was able to “climb up steps,” but Airbnb decided to (or had to) “roll up a hill.” If Airbnb had not had funding, it might not have lasted long enough— or it would have been forced to do things differently. I want to share how you can use the step-climbing concept to survive long enough to make your way forward Instead of Airbnb’s progression of improved conversions (professional photography) and signups (Craigslist spam), what steps could it have used instead? Here is a hypothetical example of a step. In the early days when there were few people renting the apartments, Airbnb could have tried to use “single-player mode”—a tactic that startup expert Joel Gascoigne and startup entrepreneur Kevin Dewalt have described. Make something that has value even when there is just one person using it. For LinkedIn, this could have been the online career history. For Airbnb, this could have been a competition to have the coolest apartment listed. Even if no one is renting yet, there’s value in pride, a contest, or perhaps interior decorating awards. Activities such as these could have gotten enough people on the network so that later on renting becomes an option.
“Make something that has value even when there is just one person using it. For LinkedIn, this could have been the online career history. For Airbnb, this could have been a competition to have the coolest apartment listed.”
I want to go a step further and propose a No-Player Mode. Can your startup be valuable to people even if no one uses it yet? And how can that help you climb up steps? I think I can guess what you’re thinking: “What do you mean, ‘valuable before anyone uses it?’” Here’s what I mean, continuing with the LinkedIn and Airbnb examples. If LinkedIn’s founders were not well-connected and didn’t have hundreds of friends to spread the service, they could have pulled data from existing career sites to compile a report on current employment. What jobs are growing? What are average salaries? What cities have the most opportunities for designers? No one is using “LinkedIn,” and yet they are able to provide value. Similarly for an “Airbnb” with no users, the founders could have looked at data from AsiaXpat, Craigslist, and other Paul Orlando cofounded and apartment listings to come ran Hong Kong’s first startup up with advice on what accelerator, AcceleratorHK. rental prices will do. You may have a He advises startups around sophisticated view of what the world on lean startup, your startup will do. You may customer development, and have a grand vision. That’s great. But if your startup analytics. Paul now lives in is unproven and no one California and just published a knows you exist, you need to book called Startup Sacrilege, consider your tactics. For startups that require which is written for startups critical mass, how could you outside of tech hubs. step your way to usefulness and an audience? Ride on top of existing groups to either collect input from them or fit right into their behavior, all without requiring them to actively join your
startup or current experiment. Instead of trying to get enough people signed up to gain insight from their actions, can you go today to where people are already doing what you want, in some other less elegant way, perhaps on some other network? They are not aware of it, but they may already be educated customers. For example, here’s the SinglePlayer Mode play using a question and answer (Q&A) network (a difficult service to pull off well). In the beginning when no one has heard of the new Q&A service, go on existing large public networks, such as Twitter, and search for questions being asked. You will find thousands of people asking their followers questions about all sorts of things. This is where your Q&A service starts to selectively answer the questions with good quality responses. You’re providing value for people who are not yet your (official) users. You can even provide VIP service to people once they join your service. For the No-Player Mode twist on this, instead of actively answering existing questions, make the collection of data a first step to climb. What are the most asked types of questions about coffee? About dim sum? About investing? I bet that for any niche you think you’ll build for, there are already a ton of people already doing things together. This is a way to start to provide that value to them. That data can form the first part of your product. I hope that these tools help you out as you build your startups. Let me know how it goes.
Student Entrepreneurs of Hong Kong In every issue we’ll highlight several remarkable students who pursued enterpreneurship while still in school.
STANLEY PANG FOUNDER OF GOLD MINE
Stanley is a student at Hong Kong University, graduating this June 2014.
he ambition for my project, Gold Mine, is to transform the perception of a locked screen to users. Our Android app idea started with the question, ‘Why should there be a locked screen for a phone?’. Our team thinks that the current locked screen is boring but it could be fun. By providing a fun experience and customized contents within the 2 seconds used for unlocking, the Gold Mine team hopes that users can indeed feel that they are using a ‘smart’ phone.
FOUNDER OF DIRECTION.HK
Being a student and an entrepreneur at the same time is not easy. First of all, it is very hard to find student start-up partners in Hong Kong. Many do not want to give up their highly paid ibank offers in exchange for an unpaid start-up role. Also, fundraising takes a lot of effort, as it is not easy to make people trust inexperienced teenagers. Fortunately, the endorsement by Cyberport of this project has helped us to gain partners. Despite all the limitations, we have never thought of giving up as we are so passionate about our project and nothing can extinguish the fire in our hearts.
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began my startup company, direction.hk, when I was studying for a degree in economics. My company is based in Hong Kong and specializes in providing high-quality, tailor-made T-shirts, polo shirts, jackets, customized corporate uniforms, and fine gifts for different organizational groups. From a young age, I had an interest in business, and while at university I set a goal to start my own business. My inspiration was because of my childhood background. I studied in England, and my parents worked hard for me to have that education. Therefore, I wanted to start a business to earn money and have flexibility to spend time with my family.
The reason I chose to start this business was because I noticed that the uniform and T-shirt market was monopolized by a few companies, and I felt that there was an opportunity in terms of sales volume. At the beginning, I promoted the company through my network of friends and relatives. Then I shifted the focus to online social media marketing, such as Instagram and Facebook. One way I promote is through the distribution of leaflets. I go to corporate offices, organizations, and schools as the most direct, effective way to reach the clients. Managing my academic work and my business is difficult. However, I feel the key factor
in balancing the two is time management. I schedule time for work and time to focus on academics, which often means giving up free time with family and friends. I also balance work and school by cooperating with my partners. It is important to have partners who are willing to help share the work. The uniform and T-shirt industry has a low barrier of entry, meaning that many people can enter the market with few resources. This has caused a challenge for my company, as more competitors start to appear. Hong Kong is a very informationmobilized society, and my goal is to continue to have my company stand out in the market.
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UNMESH RAJENDRAN FOUNDER OF THEGIGWEEK.COM
I was trained to play the tabla (Indian percussion instrument) for 13 years, after which I switched to the guitar. This gave me insight into the exposure that other musicians in Delhi were getting. The options for musicians were to teach, work in band competitions, or sing for Bollywood movies. I felt this was unfair to devote such hard work and be shoved away by a selfish industry. I felt it was time to give a platform for musicians to play the music they loved and for music lovers to be exposed to the music and learn to love it. I was able to go to school and also work with TGW, as it
hen people think of Indian music, they either think of Bollywood or Indian classical music. Few people are aware of the talent present in the independent music scene in India. In 2011, I started to analyze this music segment and discovered the immense potential. There was a great opportunity to establish these independent artists and get them signed for recording deals or help them play to a bigger audience. Hence, along with two friends, we came up with the idea of The Gig Week (TGW). It was positioned as India’s first independent music festival. The idea was simple—seven days, 24 artists, playing at a pub/lounge in the local neighborhood. The mechanism involved scouting for 18 independent artists who needed that extra push to reach profitable numbers. The remaining six artists would be recognized artists in the industry, essentially crowd pullers. People would come to the gig to listen to the headline act, but would end up loving the music of the other two/ three artists. This strategy helped the headlining acts sustain their fan base, and it also showcased the talent of the independent artists to an eager musicloving audience.
has always been slotted in the summer months, which would not coincide with any other college competition or national music festival. The university gives students off from May to August, so I had time to work really hard at school and also prepare for TGW. I do take time off on the weekends or during spring/mid-term break to stay in touch with the team, and I am always on call if I am required for an important discussion. We have now grown into a bigger brand and people in New Delhi (our home turf) recognize us as the final step for an artist to get established.
During the past three years, more than 40 artists have played for TGW. We have attracted crowds of more than 3,000 people every year, and the plan is to reach more venues. The strategic move is to go national and look for a wider audience base, listening to a broader talent pool. We wish to expand our roster to more artists across the country and want to establish more partnerships. There are discussions to move the TGW concept to Mumbai or Bangalore, where there is a greater demand for live music. Let’s see what’s in store for the future. My mission is to have a TGW in every city of the world!
HIRING ON A SHOESTRING Bringing an employee on board is no simple task. In fact it’s a balancing act in which you have to consider at least these three variables: finding the candidate with the right skills, the time needed for training and availability of financial resources to attract and retain such a candidate.
WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS IF YOU ARE ON A TIGHT BUDGET? Interns are often willing to work in return for references and valuable on-the-job experience rather than for a monetary wage. The positive side of this is you get work done with no cash outlay, you can feel good
about furthering someone’s career and there’s also a good chance that your talented intern will end up as a valued full-time member of your team. On the down side, interns who lack experience (possibly a majority of them) will need a lot of guidance, i.e. a lot of your valuable time. There could also be issues with limited availability,
not to mention the risk of interns leaving at short notice because they find a paying job or deciding to go back to school. Entry level employees may have a higher skillset, require less guidance and be less likely to quit unexpectedly. Many of them would also welcome the opportunity of working in an entrepreneurial environment where they could try their hand at different disciplines and enhance their professional profile. However, their initial output is likely to be low—and it’s you who will be paying for that.
Experienced mid-tier employees can be among the hardest to bring on board; not only because of cost but also because of their reasonable concerns about job security in a firm that hasn’t established itself in the industry yet. That said, as a bootstrapped organization, the chances are you won’t need any mid-tier workers in the near future. And by the time you do, you should have no difficulty affording them. Executive/upper management. At this level there are even fewer options. You might be able to persuade someone to work for you for equity and/or use deferred or minimal payment. Prior to going this route it’s wise to review your current skill set and determine where you are in the life cycle of both the company and the product in order to decide whether you really need a team member of this caliber. For example if you still have months of work ahead in developing the product, bringing
in a VP of Sales at this stage is liable to be an unnecessary expense. If you decide to move forward, don’t skip the necessary due diligence as this can have a significant impact on your growing organization moving forward.
OTHER OPTIONS Consider setting up hourly or projectbased engagements with professionals. This way you’ll be able to manage costs and be sure of getting a job done well by a professional who will require little or no supervision. The same approach can work with accounting, lead-gen, legal or similar tasks. For design and copywriting work too, crowdsourcing is a great idea. It can also provide a marvelous opportunity to evaluate prospective employees prior to bringing them on board if that option exists. Apart from saving on the payroll, you won’t have to invest in a new computer or find additional office space.
Friends, relatives, and professional networks can come in very handy as well. They can allow you to brainstorm; they can act as your future focus group, or maybe even as your future client. Friends, relatives, and professional peers who believe in your cause will usually be more than willing to help out. For example, if you can’t afford to hire an expensive UI design outfit right away and this is something you need, find people you know who would be willing to go through your pilot, point out issues to you and tell you how they would want the application to work—a free and very informative focus study. There are many resources available on attracting the right candidates for a startup experience, with LinkedIn and your local college job board topping the list. There are also specialized sites such as angel.co, workinstartups.com and others. Rachel Lyubovitzky http://playground4abi.blogspot.hk
How do I politely decline giving a reference to a past colleague?
Don’t feel bad about saying ‘no’! There are polite ways to do it and your approach should vary according to your reasons and relationship with the person. For example, you could explain that you don’t feel you are the best person to write the recommendation and then suggest another person they could ask. If you need to be more specific, you can simply say that as you haven’t worked together for such a
long time, your comments are no longer accurate. If you don’t know the person very well, you can state that you haven’t worked together long enough to be able to write a proper recommendation. It is important to be true to yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable, it is better not to give a recommendation at all rather than just giving vague comments that may not help the person and could even jeopardize your own professional image.
Dani Friggi Lu is the founder of Boosting Passion – Consulting and Coaching for Change (www.boostingpassion.com) Send a business etiquette question to: firstname.lastname@example.org
How do I nicely tell an employee to tidy up her desk? It has been piled high with paper for months and I can’t seem to find the right words.
Workplaces can be very revealing! As well as telling us about the employee, they also show the company’s culture. Many years ago, I used to work with a guy who simply wouldn’t put any paperwork away – he preferred to leave it all spread out in piles on his desk. He used to say that his mess was different as it was “organized chaos”! When I saw his cluttered desk, I struggled to understand how he could get any work done! But people are diverse. We all have different habits and different ‘operational systems’. I wanted to respect my colleague’s style of work but I also needed to be honest about its impact on my productivity as we shared the same working space. One morning, over a coffee, I told him that I respected his personal style of work, but as we shared the same working space, we needed to agree on some common basic standards. I offered to help him tidy the desk that week and then bought him some folders to kick-start the organizational process. Later that week, I arrived at the office and there was only a small pile of paper on his desk, the one he was working on. I was impressed! In fact, it turns out all he had done was put the other documents in a box under his desk! It didn’t matter though. With the new system we were both happy and could be productive again.
5 SIGNS YOU SHOULD CROWDSOURCE YOUR NEXT DESIGN By Laura Windisch Laura Windisch is a senior member of the marketing team at 99designs, which launched its localized Hong Kong site in 2012.
There are a ton of important things that go into launching your own business, and guess what? Being an entrepreneur means you’re in charge of every single one of them. Part of that involves building a network that you can rely on for help.
or one, you need a graphic designer to help you create a compelling visual identity for your brand – and the first step is a customized logo. Branding is often thought of as something that can be put off until later, when business is steady and time allows for you to focus on the process. But it’s important to create a memorable logo early on to be able to achieve that success in the first place. For many entrepreneurs, crowdsourced design is an ideal way to create a visual identity in order to launch as quickly as possible. Here are five signs you’re one of them:
1: WHEN IT COMES TO CREATIVITY, YOU WANT OPTIONS. What if instead of having to rely on one single designer to nail it the first time, you were able to tap into a resource that connected you with thousands of designers, dozens of whom would work on your design project at the same time? That’s the beauty of crowdsourcing. Here’s how the process works at 99designs, the world’s largest graphic design marketplace: You hop on the website, describe the design you’re looking for, and decide what you want to pay. Designers from around the globe then submit a wide variety of concepts and you give them feedback to refine the designs. Within a week, you pick your favorite and become the owner of an original new design.
2: YOU HAVE A STRONG APPRECIATION FOR EFFICIENCY. Chances are your schedule is packed with meetings, interviews and the critical day-to-day tasks required to run your business, leaving you just enough time to skim the surface on other important projects. Running a lean startup is about getting things done and launching a minimal viable product quickly.
There are a ton of important things that go into launching your own Crowdsourced business, and guess what? Being an design enables entrepreneur means you to save time you’re in charge of every and money by single one of them. Part communicating of that involves building with that dozens a network you can of for designers rely on help.
simultaneously. As the design concepts pour in, you can quickly decide whether designers’ interpretations of your idea are on target and give feedback to guide them in the right direction.
Modern crowd-based services like 99designs are made for this, providing entrepreneurs with a quality design quickly on a startup budget. Explaining your company’s history, mission, target audience, and vision for your logo design takes time. Say you go the traditional route and hire a single freelance designer or agency. If it turns out they just don’t understand what you’re looking for, you’ll either have to start from scratch and hire someone else or use a design you don’t love. Crowdsourced design enables you to save time and money by communicating with dozens of designers simultaneously. As the design concepts pour in, you can quickly decide whether designers’ interpretations of your idea are on target and give feedback to guide them in the right direction.
3: WHEN YOU NEED SOMETHING, YOU NEED IT FAST. With so much going on in your business, it’s easy to continue pushing off important projects that don’t have hard deadlines. You think, “Oh, that can wait until tomorrow.” But then tomorrow comes, and you end up saying the same exact thing… until you’re out of time. Speed is a key benefit of crowdsourced design, with the process typically completed within one week. While entrepreneurs often find themselves wanting a new logo in a hurry, many also find sites like 99designs valuable when they realize they need a new brochure, poster, t-shirt or other marketing collateral for an event that seems to be approaching far too quickly. Again, by leveraging the power of the crowd, you can go from a vague idea - “Wouldn’t it be cool to give out cool branded t-shirts at that conference next week?” - to getting an actual product in your hands within days.
4: THERE’S NO WIGGLE ROOM IN YOUR BUDGET. When it comes to design work, you may have noticed that fees are rarely set in stone. In the traditional scenario you find a designer or agency, negotiate rates, approve an estimate, and begin collaborating. The designer will let you know if they think they’ll need to spend more hours on your project than anticipated, but this doesn’t really help you in the grand scheme of things if your budget is set. You’re not just going to tell them to stop the design project before it’s finished, right? More likely you’ll just sigh and find the extra cash, or try to speed up the process by settling for a design that’s not the best it could be.
With crowdsourcing, on the other hand, you can hire on demand for a specific project without the threat of scope creep. At 99designs and many other crowdsourcing platforms, the cost of each design project is set up front, so you know exactly how much you’ll pay. No surprises! And some, like 99designs, offer a money-back guarantee if you’re not completely satisfied.
5. YOU WANT TO BE INVOLVED IN THE CREATIVE PROCESS. As a startup, your logo, website and all other design elements are undoubtedly important to you. You take pride in your brand, how it is presented and what it represents to your customer. Not everyone understands you and your brand the way you do.
Trouble is, you’re not a designer. But with crowdsourcing sites, you do get to be involved - in fact, it’s pretty much a requirement. Providing feedback to designers is probably the most crucial part of the entire contest. The process is all about collaboration. The more engaged you are in it, the more motivated the designers will be to deliver the perfect design. Bottom line? Don’t let your logo - or any other design you know you absolutely need - be an excuse for delaying your launch. Remember, you can upgrade, tweak or revise your design at any time. Whether you choose crowdsourcing or another method, there’s never going to be a better time to get started than right now.
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