A LOOK INTO A C C E L E R AT O RS AND FUNDING
HONG KONG TRAVEL TECH KLOOK RAISES US$30 MILLION SERIES B INFLECTION POINT HOW IS THE HONG KONG S TA RT U P E C O S Y S T E M CHANGING IN 2017?
INSIDERSâ€™ INSIGHT LEARN FROM PARTNERS A N D G R A D U AT E S O F T O P A C C E L E R AT O R S A R O U N D THE WORLD 5 T H I N G S S TA RT U P S N E E D TO KNOW ABOUT SECURING INVESTMENT FROM V E N T U R E C A P I TA L F I R M S
FUNDING OPTIONS IN HONG KONG
thankyou for making the EVENt a success
Join us for our autumn show (oct 2017)
ISSUE 15 May/June 2017
A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR
The startup scene has grown a lot in the past few years in Hong Kong. As the city grows as a startup and tech hub, the resources have grown as well. Over the years, the number of accelerators, government programs/ resources, mentors, investors, entrepreneurs, and coworking spaces has exponentially increased. Is all this growth helpful and where do you even start? In this issue, we take a deeper dive to assess the reallife experiences of people who have participated in accelerators in Hong Kong, Singapore, China, and the U.S. and see how they stack up. From people who have participated in the programs to those running these accelerators, you can get a different perspective on the impact of accelerators and whether they would be the right choice for you. As I run my own startup, I’ve wondered about the wide variety of accelerators and resources available. As the articles in this issue attest to, not every program and every accelerator is suitable for everyone. It does require a deeper dive to assess the best option for you at this time, and not just run off and apply to every program that people talk about. As we all know, resources in a startup, whether it’s time or money, are limited and no one can pursue every new, shiny opportunity.
ENTREPRENEURS' SHARING..................... 3 The One Thing You Wish Someone Had Told You before Launching a Startup
JUMPSTART'S PICKS............................. 5-6
Anita Chan Guest Editor
Top Books and Coffee Spots for Entrepreneurs
INSIDERS' INSIGHT ............................. 8-23 A Look into Accelerators and Funding
MEET OUR TEAM Managing Director: James Kwan
Jumpstart is available at over 350 locations, including:
Guest Editor: Anita Chan Associate Director of Content Operations: Kaden Ng Associate Director of Content Development: Chloe Wong Director of Product Development: Maggie Lau
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Founder/Advisor: Yana Robbins Contributors: Justin Tan Thomas Pun Raymond Yip Robert Neivert Ryan Shuken Florian Cornu Sam Ameen Harry Ng Janice Hewitt Tony Verb Atin Batra Ho Yin Cheung Lori Granito
Special Thanks: Leo Ku Derek Kwik Michel Debolt John Chew Sherry He Peach Poon Joyce Ngo
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SHARING FROM VENTURE PARTNER AT 500 STARTUPS Robert Neivert 500 STARTUPS IN THE U.S. VS ZEROTH.AI IN HONG KONG Raymond Yip YOU MUST REALLY BELIEVE THAT YOU WILL MAKE IT Thomas Pun CHOOSING AN ACCELERATOR IN CHINA – THEN RUNNING IT Ryan Shuken FROM ACCELERATOR TO ACQUISITION Florian Cornu 5 THINGS STARTUPS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SECURING INVESTMENT FROM VENTURE CAPITAL FIRMS Sam Ameen FUNDRAISING – WHAT ARE THE AVAILABLE OPTIONS? Harry Ng FSC.pdf
A LOOK INTO KLOOK...........................24-25 Hong Kong’s Own US$30 Million Series B Travel Tech Startup
THE INFLECTION POINT......................26-27 Hong Kong Startup Ecosystem
Copyright © 2017 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. Published articles do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Jumpstart Magazine. Printed by Magnum Print Company Limited. 11B E-Tat Factory Building, 4 Heung Yip Road, Wong Chuk Hang, Hong Kong.
on’t let anyone tell you ‘what to do’ (You quit your corporate job because of this, remember). Instead: listen, hear, read between the lines. You can break the startup code and only then you can be a success.”
o not try to do it all yourself. Hiring freelance talent is a key investment for you and your company.
ou can’t please everyone. Building a startup can be a long and lonely journey. Thus, it is important that you surround yourself with positivity in order to stay motivated. It is also extremely important to learn how to disconnect and disengage in order to reconnect and reengage, or else the burnout rate is very high.”
– Sertaç Mustafaoğlum, Founder & Designer Rec-projects.com
Keep a journal for your everyday tasks. Maintaining it every day helps you collect your thoughts and organise your ideas. Network for the joy of networking and not always with an agenda in mind always. Great and lasting connections are not made in transactional meetings.”
– Pushpendra Sharma, Founder & CEO, Spacesgenie.com
onsumer behaviour is extremely difficult to change. Start with something they are super-familiar with, then build outwards from that.”
– Sai Sudha, Co-founder, Hiddentruffles.com
urround yourself with the smartest people you know, and find people with complementary skills.”
What is the one thing you wish someone had told you before launching a startup? – Elliot Leung, Founder & CEO, Gaifong.app.link
mis-hired some of Wantedly’s early employees and suffered a lot as a consequence. I wish someone would have told me to be super careful about hiring the first 10 people for my team, and set the right expectations between the new members and the management. Once you hire the right person, 99% of your job is done because you don’t need to micromanage them and everyone can focus on getting things done.” – Akiko Naka, Founder & CEO, Wantedly.com
Photo credits to Peter Prato
– Bhavneet Chahal, Co-founder & CEO Goskills.com
o for a brand name that is easy to pronounce. It allows customers to remember your brand name in a split second. It took us half a year to realize that 75% of our customers couldn’t pronounce our company name and took us another month to rebrand everything from ‘Moinàrchy’ to ‘Mochy Kid’.”
et a good lawyer and mentor.”
– Natalie, Co-founder & CEO, Mochykid.com
– Mohan Gandhi, Co-founder & CEO, Entersoftsecurity.com 3
n May 5, the first Hack Horizon, a Travel Tech hackathon, will take place aboard a British Airways A380 flight between Hong Kong and London. The project is the brainchild of four globetrotting millennials: Kostadin Kolev, Kristy Hart, Johannes Jaeger and Sandra Sobanska. The four millennials initially connected because they shared a love for traveling the world, and soon realized that they were all involved in the innovation and technology space. Having organized and participated in over 40 hackathons around the world among them, they wanted to take the hackathon model and apply it to the travel industry in a way that could have a long-lasting, positive impact. Hack Through The Air Hack Horizon is the first travel-focused hackathon to take place on various modes of transport between Hong Kong and London - including a British Airways A380 flight. 32 of the world’s best entrepreneurs, developers, engineers, and designers have been selected from more than 670 applica-
How I Gained Profitability and a Global Customer Base with No Outside Funding In my entrepreneurial journey, Riotly Social gained profitability on day 1, achieved a global customer base, and helped over 1,000 customers. Here are some of the key insights I learned in my first 365 days as an entrepreneur:
Find problems not unique to Hong Kong Hong Kong is an amazing city, but also too small to create a scalable global business. Many cultural and economic dynamics are unique only to Hong Kong and a handful of cities globally. These factors greatly limit the kinds of businesses that can scale and succeed beyond Hong Kong. If I find a problem, I try to validate that other countries have the same problem and are willing to pay for it. Social media is a tool that many businesses and people use to grow. We focus on this at Riotly.
B2B in Hong Kong is an easier road than B2C The allure of B2C attracted me initially to entrepreneurship, but B2C companies are challenged if the population of the country is relatively small. Hong Kong’s population limits the growth of any B2C venture. If you look at Hong Kong startups that have achieved early success (Handy, Klook, Shopline, EZtable, Lalamove) all of them do not focus solely on Hong Kong and/or have a B2B element. I am not saying that focusing on B2C in Hong Kong will make you unsuccessful, but you are stacking the dice against you. At Riotly we focus on the US, Australia and European market, with Hong Kong being our 5th largest market.
JUMPSTART May/June 2017
tions to take part in this unique three-day event. The goal is to develop products and services that will ultimately improve the travel experience for passengers. With a backdrop of progression and innovation in travel, the aim of the hackathon is to enable the brightest minds to connect with industry leaders to develop new products and services that could go on to make a positive impact on the international travel industry. The best ideas from the ‘hack’ will be taken forward and grown into fledgling companies by their respective teams. The fact that Hack Horizon will take place at 40,000 feet makes it such an exhilarating experience. The participants also have the ability to immerse themselves in the travel journey and interview real-life passengers. In return, they will be able to get important customer validation for their products. The Hunt For Talent It comes down to 5 key factors: Talent, Passion, Experience, Cultural Fit and Industry Knowledge. The selection process is not only about looking for individuals with excellent technical skills. The candidates also have to demonstrate genuine interest and curiosity in the travel industry. During the hack, they have to think outside the box and be creative. They also need a positive attitude and the ability to work in a close and confined working enviornment for over 80 hours. Redefine Travel Tech Customer experience should be at the heart of all successful Travel Tech startups. This is where they can outpace and outperform the larger travel companies and offer more customized and relevant products. Sophisticated AI and data analytics and UX/UX technology are changing the industry rapidly and enabling a more seamless passenger experience.
Target a specific niche that you can dominate with your product. I find being targeted and focused allows you to be easily understood when you are pitching to clients or investors. At Riotly, we focus on e-commerce companies that leverage social media for sales.
Sexy ideas may not solve problems, but the boring stuff is what people are willing to pay for. Sexy ideas may not solve problems, and can sometimes distract you from whether you have a true business or not. I find that focusing on the problems and whether people will pay to solve those problems are keys to finding a successful business model. At Riotly, we found that social media is important for many businesses now.
Choose big markets and upcoming trends on the horizon It is absolutely important to choose big markets, with a big trend on the horizon such as machine learning, bitcoin and Chatbots. The key is to figure out what those big trends are that will make substantial changes in specific industries. At Riotly, we focus on chat technology and machine learning to tackle more complex problems. About the Author Ho Yin Cheung is a SaaS entrepreneur who grew his company from zero to 14 people in one year and with a 20% monthly growth rate. His love for social media and technology allowed him to create Riotly Social Media, a software company that uses social media big data and machine learning to help companies find and reach out to their target audience online.
Must-Reads for Entrepreneurs in 2017 1. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World
Author: Adam Grant Publisher: Penguin Books (February 2017)
Looking into the stories of successful innovators, Adam Grant—Wharton’s most beloved professor—debunks the widespread myth that non-conformist innovators are ultimate risk-takers. The data tells a completely different story: a lot of what they are doing is balancing their risk portfolios. This book is not just a unique insight into the behavior of “originals”. It also shows how we can enhance our creativity, and foster a culture of originality.
3. Negotiating the Nonnegotiable: How to Resolve Your Most Emotionally Charged Conflicts
Author: Daniel Shapiro Publisher: Penguin Books (May 2017)
Negotiation is a part of our daily life. And for entrepreneurs, a good negotiation strategy is absolutely critical in leading the business to success. Daniel Shapiro, a Harvard negotiation expert, shares the leading-edge method he used to resolve all kinds of intractable conflicts. This book is not only a profound study of the impact of emotions on conflicts. It is also a powerful toolkit that can guide us to overcome the hidden forces that stand in our way to agreement and harmony.
2. The Content Trap: A Strategist’s Guide to Digital Change
Author: Bharat Anand Publisher: Random House (October 2016)
In today’s crowded digital space, getting noticed and getting paid are the main challenges faced by every startup. Bharat Anand—Harvard Business School Professor of Strategy— argues that simply producing the best content will not make you stand out. Prof. Anand offers a compelling case for favoring connectivity over content. The key to success in this digital world is to foster and leverage meaningful connections. As the author succinctly puts it, “Don’t just create; create to connect.”
4. Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Help Others, Do Work that Matters, and Make Smarter Choices about Giving Back
Author: William MacAskill Publisher: Avery (August 2016)
Want to give back to the society? Doing Good Better is a must read for anyone who wants to maximize their personal impact. By combining both the head and the heart to guide our altruistic behavior, each of us can do an astonishing amount of good. The author William MacAskill was only 28 when he joined the faculty of University of Oxford, becoming the youngest associate professor of philosophy in the world. After developing the idea of effective altruism, MacAskill launched two non-profits based on this approach. He is the only founder so far who has got into Y Combinator twice as a non-profit.
Written by Kaden Ng
5 Unexpected Benefits of a Crowdfunding Campaign That Help You Grow
You develop an engaged audience Believe it or not, the audience you develop throughout the course of a crowdfunding campaign is the most engaged customer you will ever have. They take pride in your product’s success. They like you so much they are willing to wait until your campaign is finished, the dust has settled, and for you to have worked out the kinks in your supply chain before receiving their reward.
Your idea is validated Without sinking a ton of money into your project you can test your idea out on your target market. The consumer is your investor so if they don’t like it then you know it’s time to go back to the drawing board or think about a pivot. If they do, then you have the opportunity to grow sustainably beyond your first stage.
You learn to be a marketer, developer, social media strategist, accountant, leader, salesman, analyst, customer service agent and more An entrepreneur wears many hats, the above are but a few of these. As an individual you learn and grow every day. As an entrepreneur you have to do it faster because in 15 minutes you have to be the data entry clerk or the analyst or the graphic designer.
You know how many of your product to produce It’s that simple. Although there have been some recent instances of campaigns that experience delays in production or have not actually fulfilled any orders at all, neither scenario is one that YOU need to experience. Consider using a reward system that includes early shipment for the first 50 investors – this will take the pressure off and help your campaign start off with a bang.
You gain confidence in your idea and your abilities Don’t start thinking about your next campaign just yet - you still have to fill those orders. But you can, and should, celebrate your success! You had an idea, successfully raised your funds and now that brilliant idea can become reality. You have added many skills to your toolbox that will be put to use as your business grows. Be proud!
This article is brought to you by NextChapter.com.hk. Visit their website to learn more about crowdfunding. 6
JUMPSTART May/June 2017
Top 5 Startup-Friendly Coffee Spots In Hong Kong with Free Wi-Fi by Chloe Wong
es, we know. Startup life can get unbelievably hectic from time to time especially during the days when you have to hustle from meeting after meeting. In a densely populated city like Hong Kong, finding a calm spot with free Wi-Fi can be a real challenge. It’s frustrating when the 30-minute free Wi-Fi session times out in the middle of a Skype call! We understand that all you need is a cup of good coffee and FREE Wi-Fi. The Jumpstart Team has picked out our Top 5 coffee spots in Hong Kong for you. Enjoy these new discoveries!
Address: 18 Tai Ping Shan St, Sheung Wan Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 11:00-19:00 Sat-Sun: 09:00-20:00
Teakha is perfect for those who want to have a quick bite and recharge. Located off of a quiet alley in Sheung Wan, it is a lifestyle concept tea café with a little outdoor terrace as well as additional indoor seating. Cozy and homey, it is a must-visit for mocha and tea-lovers. Don’t forget to try their signature Matcha cheesecake! Tip: Avoid the weekends as it gets quite busy.
Address: Shop D, G/F, 126-128 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan Opening Hours: Mon-Sat: 10:00-18:00 Tue-Fri: 08:00-18:00 Sun: 11:00-18:00
Barista Jam is where you go when you need your caffeine fix after pulling an all-nighter. It is a popular spot among the startup community. With a full menu of breakfast options and sandwiches, Barista Jam saves you from hunger pangs during your next meeting! Tip: Blame it on their delicious menu, lunchtime is always busy!
It’s all about the People
Urban Bakery Works Address: Shop 322, 3/F, Landmark Atrium, Central Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 07:30-20:00 Sat, Sun & Public Holidays: 08:30-20:00
Conveniently connected to the Landmark Atrium, Urban Bakery Works is a convenient spot for meetings.Their high-quality coffee and good food are what you need to chase away the Monday Blues. With a new location opening in Tung Chung soon, it sounds like a spot perfect for jetsetters! Tip: Urban Bakery Works is busy during lunchtime because of its super convenient location.
Morrison Cafe & Bar
Address: 284 Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan Opening Hours: Mon: 07:00-16:00 Tue-Sun: 07:00-00:00
Formerly known as Cafe O, this cafe has reinvented itself. Its ground level is where you will find the cafe. Walk up one short flight of stairs and you will find yourself in a bar space. You can sit there for a long while working. No worries about your phone or laptop dying because outlets are provided. Furthermore, there is a balcony if you need fresh air from time to time. Tip: Bring a sweater as it might get cold.
Address: Shop L608, 6/F, The ONE, 100 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui Opening Hours: Mon-Thu: 11:00-21:30 Fri: 11:00-23:00 Sat: 10:30-23:00 Sun: 10:30-22:00 Located at The ONE in Tsim Sha Tsui, this is an excellent location if you’re looking for somewhere to work or hold a meeting in Kowloon. In addition to its cozy and soothing ambiance, you can oversee the hustle and bustle of the city while sipping coffee. Thumbs up!
ontrary to popular thinking, when it comes to scaling a business, money is no longer a problem. In fact, there are more funds looking for ideas today than ever before. A well-articulated concept, driven by the right team and with some solid traction will find investment; in the Valley, in Singapore, in China, and in Hong Kong. In addition, traditional barriers such as manufacturing, shipping and building digital products are much less of a concern than years before. There are entire industries built using global service providers that operate efficiently and inexpensively enough to turn your ideas into a reality. With the right systems and platforms in place, you can get an app built in the Philippines in just a few hours, and you can prototype almost anything in Shenzhen with smart and English speaking engineers. The resources are all out there, but the key to success lies in unlocking access. This means being able to find and connect with people. This philosophy of connecting people to the resources they need is exactly what drove me to create Mettā. As a platform that facilitates human interaction around innovation, every member agrees to dedicate a minimum of one hour of their time each month to sharing knowledge with others across the network. In addition, content is crowdsourced through a network of curators who are the brightest minds (and often the busiest individuals) in their fields. They are all leading domain experts in their respective industries, managing companies of up to hundreds of people. I’ve been kindly offered a column in a publication that I really respect and I intend to use this valuable space in-line with the same philosophy. Each month I will introduce readers to a professional that not only represents a unique set of skills and/ or access to important resources, but is very much open for you to connect with. I hope you will find this to be not only particularly helpful, but immensely empowering. Because in the end, it really is all about the People. Tony Verb Managing Partner | Mettā
Tip: Don’t forget to try their signature Rose Latte! 7
A look into Accelerators and Funding
Interview with Robert Neivert, Venture Partner at 500 Startups
Robert Neivert is a Venture Partner at 500 Startups in Silicon Valley with a focus on B2B seed investments. Previously he was an executive for startups having founded or worked at nine companies with four exits and four companies still operating. He was the CEO for the last two venture-funded startups. Interview by Anita Chan
How did you become involved with startups? I have been working on startups since I was at Stanford, my father started his own company, so I always assumed I would as well. I found a lot of other friends all doing startups, so I often get invites to join others, or I recruit them to join me. As a Venture Partner at 500 Startups, what do you think is the biggest value of an accelerator? You get access to experts when you need them, even if you don’t know you need them. It is really amazing to get access to so many experts. As a startup there are a lot of things you just don’t have resources to be able to do and you cannot hire an expert in every area. But with accelerators, or in our case, with our Seed Program you have access to experts from all over. That is of huge value to startups who are so short on expert resources. What personality traits of founders are best suited for an accelerator? The program is what you make it. So often you need to spend the time and effort to contact mentors, and really discuss with 500 staff the issues you face. For that reason the people who are bold and persistent tend to do better in the program. Too much is, of course, bad. You want to be polite and courteous but if you need something, ask for it. That is the purpose of the program – to get you what you need. 8
JUMPSTART May/June 2017
The biggest change due to the program is that many people avoid failure before the program. They fear it and they let it control them. By the end of the program, they learn to do rapid testing and accept small failures as being needed to achieve success. This frees them and allows them to grow much faster.
What do you think will be the next phase of accelerators, if there is one? Accelerators are increasingly becoming focused on areas (Fintech, for example) and specialties. I suspect this might be helpful to make sure there is more value from the programs, so I would expect to see more of that.
Do you think an accelerator is a must-do for all startups? No. It is very helpful, especially for young and inexperienced entrepreneurs or for companies that want to enter new markets, such as expand to the US, but it is definitely not suitable for some companies.
What are your thoughts on accelerators that allow you to join remotely? Depends on what you want from the program. I have found getting many teams together has a huge benefit, so I am not supportive of remote-only programs. However, if the program is only focused on a small thing, that does not require a lot of time, perhaps it will work rather than spend a lot of time traveling for a small benefit.
What should people look out for when considering whether or not to join an accelerator? 1. Be sure you know how the offer works in terms of the equity. 2. Be sure you speak to previous companies to make sure they do what they say they do. Check for real results, not just marketing hype. 3. Lectures/talks are good, but check to see if they really do drive results. 4. Make sure they provide support for what you need right now. If you are still working on your prototype, joining a sales and marketing program might not be that helpful, but joining one that helps with product-market fit might be great. 5. Be sure you are ready to take advantage of what they offer, otherwise, it is a waste. 6. Don’t take it for the money. There is cheaper money available. Take it for the other values they offer.
Do you have any tips for entrepreneurs who are applying for accelerators? Most accelerators have write-ups by previous graduates. Read about what the accelerator does well and poorly and make sure it is a good fit. Don’t be afraid to contact some of their graduates to ask how it was and what they got. Our audience is mostly people in the startup community. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs? Fall down seven times, stand up eight. There will be many challenges and failures along the way, even for the best companies. You will need to be persistent and keep calm to achieve success. ■
500 Startups in the U.S. vs Zeroth.AI in Hong Kong Sharing from Raymond Yip
ith the growing number of accelerator programs springing up in Hong Kong and all over the region, startups now have a slew of choices. While the likes of YC, 500 Startups and Techstars that continue to set the gold standard for seed stage accelerators globally, local programs also have much to offer. A few years ago, I had the privilege of going through 500 Startups. Soon after that I acted as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Swire Properties’ Blueprint Accelerator and most recently, I went through Zeroth.AI, Asia’s first accelerator focused on Artificial Intelligence. The latter of which was with my second startup, Designjar, an end-to-end online advertising platform for Asia. 500 Startups gave me some of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve had in my career. My previous startup was the second startup from Hong Kong that was ever accepted, which made it even more special. 500 invites a bevy of heavy-hitting mentors to advise its batch companies. Most of them were founders of successful startups and had major battle scars to show for it. As early stage entrepreneurs, learning from the lessons of others really helps,
especially from world-class founders in the Silicon Valley. The two things that 500 Startups can really help with are growth and fundraising. They can get very granular with their advice on growth strategies. In fact, they’ve gotten so good at it that they now have a Series A program dedicated to helping seed-funded companies grow their products. When it comes to fundraising, their internal team of mentors are as savvy as any in Silicon Valley. As part of Batch 10, I got much of my perspective on fundraising from folks like Marvin Liao, Parker Thompson, Rui Ma, Tim Chae and of course, Dave McClure. Since the entire batch worked out of the same space, the camaraderie among the founders was immediately there and it helped me build longlasting relationships with founders from around the world. Fellow founders would end up becoming customers of each other’s companies and partnership deals were struck. As a matter of fact, a few of my batchmates back at 500 became early customers of Designjar. The friendships and support stays with you long after the program. Some batchmates would even invest in each other’s startups, which actually happens more than one would think.
I started Designjar in mid-2016 with my co-founder, Jonah Lau. We soon had the opportunity to join the newly launched Zeroth.AI program right here in Hong Kong. Since we knew machine learning would play a crucial part in our startup, we felt this accelerator can help us on our products and provide us mentorship in the AI space. The founder of Zeroth.AI is Tak Lo, previously the director at Techstars in London and later a venture partner at Mind Fund (where I’m currently an EIR). Tak has a proven track record of helping startups grow and he was also able to bring his entire network with him, which made Zeroth.AI all the more appealing. In some ways, it was already on par with what I experienced at 500 Startups when it came to pulling people together that can really help. The program has a diverse set of mentors from North America, Europe and Asia. It all began with two tightly packed weeks dubbed “mentor madness” where the companies cycled through all of the mentors in a structured way. Other speakers were brought in weekly to share ideas and experiences. Tak and his team also whipped everyone into shape on product and milestones regularly. Throughout the experience, Designjar went 9
Insiders’ Insight through a pivot, filled two key roles and acquired dozens of early customers. I feel our team would have made these developments regardless, but Zeroth.AI certainly delivered on its promise in accelerating our progress. In summary, both accelerators have all of the bases covered. Strictly drawing from my own experience, 500 Startups is a top-notch program for distribution and fundraising, while Zeroth.AI was more technical with product and had a more international mentor pool. Founders would typically jump for the top tier program like 500 Startups when given a chance. However, I would not overlook a homegrown one like Zeroth.AI. Those born right here in Hong Kong may actually be in better position to help you, with expertise in your particular technology space or deeper knowledge of your target markets. For Designjar right now, those two areas are machine learning and the B2B markets of Asia. All in all, both were rewarding experiences for me because they really fit what my companies needed at the time. I am equally proud to wear both #500Strong and #ZerothAI on my sleeve, as they both played a tremendous part in shaping the way I think and execute as a startup entrepreneur. ■
About the Author
Raymond Yip is currently the co-founder and CEO of Designjar, an AI-powered online advertising solution for Asia, accelerated by Zeroth.AI. He is also the Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) of Mind Fund, an early-stage VC based in Hong Kong. Previously, he was the co-founder and CEO of Shopline, an e-commerce platform in Asia and a 500 Startups alumnus. 10 JUMPSTART May/June 2017
You Must Really Believe That You Will Make it Interview with Thomas Pun, Alumnus of Y Combinator Interview by Justin Tan Tell us about yourself. I’m a software engineer by training. I worked at Apple where I met my co-founder before Y Combinator. We built out the video encoding and processing backend for iTunes’ first video store. Could you tell us about your startup that was in Y Combinator? In 2006, mobile video was just starting and it was a terrible experience. My expertise has been in video compression so I wanted to fix the video quality. Our inspiration came from another startup where you could create blog posts by email. We wanted to build a video processing service for the consumers through email. They could email us their mobile video at specific email addresses and we would post process (add a title or stabilize the video) and post the result to various platforms like Facebook, YouTube or even their own website. That’s how Pipely was born! Why did you decide on Y Combinator? Back then, Y Combinator and accelerators, in general, were still pretty new. Even then, I remember reading up on Paul Graham’s (The Founder of Y Combinator) essays and studying some of the companies that graduated from his Y Combinator program and thought that it was a great program! My co-founder and I decided to apply to YC since we were both first time founders and could use all the help we could get. I had applied to
YC with another group before but didn’t get in. Pipely was the second attempt so we were both psyched when we got accepted. What was your experience like at Y Combinator? We honestly didn’t know what to expect. Y Combinator was relatively less structured at the time, so it would be up to the founders to seek help in weekly office hours. During our first weekly office hours with Paul Graham, he said that we should consider other ideas! At first, we thought this was crazy. After all, we had gotten accepted into the program based on such an idea. He then asked us to find paying customers to prove if this was what people wanted. We pitched our idea to a few YC startups but ultimately nobody wanted to buy and that was a major turning point for us. We ended up working on multiple prototypes afterwards and eventually launched something totally different. What was your biggest learning out of Y Combinator? Build something people want. My co-founder and I already had an idea going into Y Combinator, but we ended up building something completely different that what we thought we would build. Every week we would collect feedback from mentors and users of our program, then do multiple iterations on a weekly basis to improve our own product, which is a very demanding experience.
Insiders’ Insight Do you think that accelerators are suitable for everyone and why should people consider applying? An accelerator isn’t a silver bullet that can provide you with all the answers. There are bad, good and great accelerators, so it’s about finding the right fit. If you’re considering an accelerator, make sure you know who you’ll work with. The biggest value of YC is the people: the partners and alumni network. These are the smartest and most useful connections one could ask for. If you don’t think the founding team or alumni network of the accelerator can help increase the chance of success, it may not be worth it.
For a startup to succeed, you really must believe that you’ll make it, accelerator or not. At what stage should people consider applying for an accelerator? Do you think it’s different for Y Combinator? Don’t do a startup because you want to get into an accelerator. Getting into an accelerator is an extra bonus. You should run your startup as if you wouldn’t get into one. For Y Combinator, one of the biggest red flags was when people said, “If I get into Y Combinator, I’ll drop everything and go.” That’s the wrong mindset. For a startup to succeed, you really must believe that you’ll make it, accelerator or not. How can somebody best leverage their time at an accelerator? If you find the right accelerator, then make use of the mentors and networks available to you! Don’t be afraid to ask for help and introductions. Looking back to Y Combinator, the weekly office hours were really helpful and we should have done more of them. ■
Go through Y Combinator’s application questions. The questions themselves were really inspiring because I had never really thought about these types of issues for my startup, and it made me look at doing my startup in a whole new light. Be able to answer the questions: “Why it?”, “Why now?” and “Why you?” If you can answer these three fundamental questions, you’ll be able to impress most investors.
Know who you’re pitching to. If you can understand what they want and cater your answers around their desires, then you’ll have a higher chance of success. Be precise. Investors are really time constrained and don’t have that much attention for you. The accelerator teams are usually looking for clarity of thought and how you explain your idea shows how well you understand your business.
Thomas Pun is a Y Combinator alumnus and a product startup guy who has been on both sides of the table. He currently advises several San Francisco and Hong Kong based startups. More info at https://angel.co/thomas-pun-io.
Choosing an Accelerator in China – Then Running It Sharing from Ryan Shuken, Program Director of MOX
hoosing an accelerator is an important decision you will make in your company journey. Here are some of the lessons I learned during my journey going from participating in an accelerator to running one as the Program Director. You need to think about your expected return as an opportunity cost as well as the long-term benefit to your success. Not only are you making an extremely risky bet with your time and your energy but you're doing it with people who all make similar promises. They promise to help you build your company and solve your problems in exchange for equity. How you approach this decision can make or break your company. Breaking your company, or your own assumptions, is actually one of the qualities of a good accelerator program. An accelerator will want to push your team so you find what fails fast and pivot when you have the resources needed for success. This may mean you will find you entire business thesis is wrong, but it’s better to fail fast than it is to slowly die and fade away. As you approach an accelerator, it may feel incredibly intimidating because you're honestly opening
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yourself up to mentors and advisors to help build your dream. For our startup we were looking for a partner whom we can trust, rapid growth, experience in the market and someone who is also aligned with our goals. This process is incredibly important and vital to the next stage of your business, as you cannot risk making a wrong decision here. For our startup, I knew that the opportunity required us to be in China. The issue was that we didn't have any network. In 2013 we started our search to join an accelerator program. Accelerators were still a new concept and are fundamentally different than an incubator. The difference lies in the program design; it's like a boot camp for startups or a condensed MBA. Many offer 3 to 6 month programs. We started by identifying our biggest known unknowns, and searched for a program fit based on three criteria. 1. People 2. Network 3. Resources People A VC (venture capitalist) will vet your idea, your team, your numbers and your potential, but most of all, your people. Why shouldn’t
you do the same? Look at the people who run the program, who they are, what their experiences are, how incentivized they are to give you everything they can to help you. Are you a data point or are you a partner? We found that larger programs had so many teams in each batch we didn’t believe it was likely to connect completely with the program team, so we opted for a smaller batch program. We also found a program where everyone who worked at the program got some shared weight. This was incredibly important to us because we knew that it wasn’t just the Director that was getting all the work but the entire staff was incentivized towards our success. Network A program with a proven track record and a credible network was a requirement for us. We knew that we knew nearly nothing about the perils that we could possibly face in the China market. We needed advisors who had conquered and excelled in this environment. An accelerator’s mentor network is a window into its experience, its story and what opportunities it can bring you. How specific in skill, or how vast in life experience of the network
speaks to the possible value you can gain. Warm introductions to the perfect mentor can drastically change the future of your company for the better. Out of the 260+ mentors in the Chinaccelerator community, we identified perfect matches for our startup before we applied. Those mentors can even turn into key investors and life advisors when things get tough. Like in any network, you get out what you put in, but you can think of it as a numbers game. The largest, most qualified network for your startup is best; for us we went with Chinaccelerator. Resources This is one of the most important factors in not only deciding if you should join an accelerator, but if they should accept you. Does the program have the ability to give you what you need? In short,
is it the fit right? After I transitioned from participating in an accelerator to now running one, I learned this lesson first hand. For the accelerator MOX, which I now run, we focus on fit. Can our ecosystem, our network and our experience help give you an unfair advantage? If we can’t, I highly recommend you find the program that does. At the end of the program, how investable you are as a company is one of the most important goals. The investor network and investment track record at the end of the program is a key focus for any startup. Analyzing your own ‘known unknowns’ and focusing on which program gives you the best unfair advantage is the key to choosing the right program for your startup. I hope this perspective can help startups succeed in any program. ■
About the Author Ryan Shuken is the Program Director of MOX in China, part of SOSV, growth-hacker in residence at Chinaccelerator, startup podcaster, and has built startups on three continents. He is specialized in building metric-driven growth strategies in Asia. He helps companies optimize campaign strategies using growth hacking practices focused on users in Asia/SEA and developing markets. He was a part of the Chinaccelerator in Batch 5. 13
You Have This Network for the Rest of Your Life Interview with Elton Chan, Alumnus of Y-Combinator
Interview by Anita Chan
Elton is a co-founder of Branch8, which was founded in April 2015 and joined Y Combinator in the U.S. in the Summer 2015 batch.
Tell us about yourself and what led you to start Branch8. I was born in Hong Kong and I spent half my life in Hong Kong and half my life in Canada. I went to University of Toronto and after I graduated, I went into consulting. I worked for Accenture and did some IT Consulting. After a few other gigs, I joined Rocket Internet, working on Lazada. We built the Amazon of Southeast Asia, so that was quite exciting! I was in the Hong Kong offices, so we were doing Crossborder e-commerce. At the same time, my friends (Matt and Tim – also co-founders of Branch8) were suppliers and sellers on online marketplaces. They were doing well, but they had this pain point of listing and managing multiple marketplaces at once. We decided to combine our strengths, and the idea of Branch8 came about. We then applied for YC, and we got in. Our 4th co-founder, Jackie, had a very strong background in technology as he graduated from University of Waterloo and previously worked at Microsoft and Facebook.
Could you tell us about your startup that was in Y Combinator? Branch8 helps sellers list and manage products on e-commerce marketplaces. You can imagine Amazon and eBay. There are many of these types of platforms in the world so we help sellers and suppliers to get onto these, instead of going on each one, one at a time. You can simply list and manage your products on Branch8. Why did you decide on Y Combinator? To be honest, I personally didn’t know what YC was, but Jackie is a software engineer. He did computer engineering so YC was a dream. So we applied, got an interview, got in, and we thought, “Wow, this is amazing.” For me, personally, I didn’t know more of what YC was until afterwards - until we were in it, doing it, and then I understood “Whoa, this is very helpful to our startup.” What was your experience like at Y Combinator? You met people that truly wanted to
Instead of you paying for an MBA, this is like them paying for you and you getting this network and money to build your company.
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change the world. People could talk about changing the world, but you actually see people acting it out and wanting to make the world a better place. It was cool to see these people that really wanted to help. I mean the partners at YC had built successful companies, but they still came in and helped us. It was meeting these [mentors] that made the difference and then they sort of told you, “You’re not really too far off, so it’s not impossible. It’s not a dream. It’s achievable. The things you read on TechCrunch, it’s achievable.” Do you feel like the most valuable part of YC was all of these people, all of these mentors, or was it something else? I definitely think it’s the network. You get into YC, you have this network for the rest of your life. I would put it this way. Instead of you paying for an MBA, this is like them paying for you and you getting this network and money to build your company. In Hong Kong, we have Roy, co-founder of Teamnote – a YC company as well, who continues to mentor and help us. How can people best leverage their experience at an accelerator? Learning – trying to learn how to think and execute like them. I’m always reminded by them to talk to users. But it’s actually really hard to talk to your users, because you have to consider what kind of questions you ask – would you ask questions that are biased? Do they pair you up with the mentors? During my time, they split you up into 4 groups and each group had 3 group partners, and then every other week we would meet up once to have a progress update with the whole group. Every week you would set up office hours with the partners and you bring your problems. They don’t really want to hear what’s good because good things are assumed to happen. Did you feel they helped you to execute things (for example, figuring out good questions to ask your users or did you have to figure it out on your own)?
Insiders’ Insight I think it’s a little bit of both. Every company is different and every context is different. They could give you a methodology, a different types of questions to ask users, things they’ve done in the past they’ve seen that worked or not worked and then you try it, track your results and see if you replicate it. How do you think that accelerators in the U.S. differ from accelerators in HK? What are your thoughts on accelerators in Asia? I’ve never been to one in HK but I can say YC is really good. Roy from Teamnote, as previously mentioned, is a great guy who lets us use his office and truly cares about how we are doing. That’s hard to find. In Hong Kong, most people kind of keep it to themselves. They think, “If I let you succeed, then I will fail,” but a lot of times in Silicon Valley, their mindset is, “If I help you to succeed, then I will succeed as well.” If everybody does this, then everybody wins. That’s why I don’t think we’re afraid to share what we do with people, because executing is hard. And it doesn’t hurt to see other people succeed because it helps the entire startup ecosystem. Do you think accelerators are suitable for everyone? I think YC is amazing. I’d be biased but I think most people come out of YC saying it’s worth applying. Are there certain personalities/ traits more suitable? No, I think there’s a wide range of factors in how YC accepts people. There are some major things. It’s all the information you can find online. It’s not a black box. All those questions they list out online, those are
really it. There are questions such as, “What does your company do?” or “Is this a personal painpoint?” They are very simple questions, but if you can’t explain it concisely then there may be issues during your interview. At what stage should people consider applying for YC? I think at any stage you should apply. Do you feel that there are certain times it’s too early or too late? No, I don’t think so. Just apply. Our audience is mostly people in the startup community. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs? Don’t think too much and execute on what you’re thinking. And then talk to users. I remember in Jessica’s book (one of the co-founders of YC), she was trying to find out what is the the main factor that successful entrepreneurs have and I think the conclusion is being relentless and having perseverance.
Where is Elton now What’s been your experience like after YC? Now we’re doing Cadobox also. We had started doing Cadobox as a side project and then we started getting traction. Half the team works on Branch8 and half the team works on Cadobox. Under Branch8 there are two parts, the Branch8 we started with that focuses on enterprise type of deals for launching on multiple platforms and then Cadobox focuses on food delivery.
Two of the co-founders, Tim and Jackie, thought “I want to make healthy food. I want to make it affordable,” so we were making it and we were posting it on Instagram and then suddenly friends started asking. Soon enough, it was strangers asking. So what we did was we built Cadobox. Cadobox delivers healthy food that has new dishes daily through a Facebook chatbot (eatcadobox.com). We believe eating healthy doesn’t need to be boring. How does it work? People can go to eatcadobox.com, select the Facebook chatbot option, then press “Send Message”. They will be able to view the menu and order lunch between 11:15am to 2pm. We send out our menus daily. People can also order via Whatsapp and email. Why did you decide to do a ChatBot versus other alternatives? A chatbot takes a few clicks and no downloading, so why build an app when you can just do this? Are there certain areas you deliver/ don’t deliver to? We deliver to all of Hong Kong. For Central, Sheung Wan, Admiralty, there is no minimum. For the rest of HK Island there is a minimum of 2 lunches, and for Kowloon side there is a minimum of 3 lunches. What’s next for Cadobox? We’re still in the early stages, so we’d like for any readers to come try us out and support a fellow startup in Hong Kong. And as usual, give us the opportunity to talk to you and get some feedback. We’re also working with corporates, so if you have events or bulk orders, then come try us out as well. Do you feel that your experience at YC has helped you in building Cadobox? I think we’re more focused on listening to our customer’s feedback. ■
Jumpstart’s Directory of Entrepreneurs
Jackei Wong Co-founder of HerbMiners, we demystify Traditional Chinese Medicine using AI & Data Mining herbminers.com
Benoît Clémont-Bollée Director of Storefront, the global marketplace for short-term retail space rental thestorefront.com
Ivan Ng Founder & CEO of FindDoc, a comprehensive healthcare information platform with real-time appointment booking function. finddoc.com
Ashkan Aghassi Founder of AMZ Agency, an e-commerce consulting agency that helps brands and manufacturers launch, grow, and scale on Amazon.com. amzagency.com
Nissan Perla CEO of Diamond Registry, the matchmaker for wholesale diamonds to the public. diamondregistry.com
Karen Kwan Founder of Delightfully Green, an organic and eco-friendly eStore focus in promoting healthy and zero waste. delightfullygreen.net
Lawrence Law Founder of Jress.com, a B2C platform brings precious Jewelry to you from Hong Kong Jewelry manufacturers’ direct. jress.com
Ben Wong Head of Startup Launchpad, Asia’s Largest Hardware Startup Tradeshow launchpadhk.com
Nick Bartlett Co-Founder of CBIP, a bespoken consultancy that provides affordable e-commerce marketing and logistics support. cbiplogistics.com
Hillary Yip Founder of MinorMynas, a mobile app aiming to connect children around the world to learn languages from each other. minormynas.com
OVER 250 PROFILES ONLINE David Daoud Founder & CEO of E-learn2grow, a startup helping you to learn from anywhere and at any time elearn2grow.com
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Angelica Choy Co-founder of SPAWAWA, Premium boutique baby spa in HK spawawa.com
Join our growing directory of entrepreneurs, freelancers, and investors. Create your free profile online.
The First Stop For Food Start Ups
From Accelerator to Acquisition
Interview with Florian Cornu, Alumnus of JFDI.asia
Tell us about yourself. I was born in France and later relocated to Singapore, following the hint given by 23andMe that my ancestors are Asian. It’s been a fantastic journey, from starting a company to joining the first startup accelerator of Southeast Asia (JFDI), building partnerships, raising funds, and selling the company. Could you tell us about your startup that was in JFDI? During Startup Weekend in 2011, I pitched this idea that finding getaways should not fall into the paradigm of the search fields widely used by travel websites, but by beautiful maps that show you where you can go. A map is very convenient for this kind of information, such as showing where a city is. From there, Flocations was born. I was lucky that the idea interested several people and we worked on it and stuck to it. Afterwards, we became a team of 4 co-founders (with 5 nationalities, as it should be, for a travel company). 18 JUMPSTART May/June 2017
Why did you decide on JFDI? Partly, and rationally, it was the first and only accelerator in Southeast Asia at the time. Also, we had the wish to work with inspiring teams (Meng and Hugh had been strongly involved from their start in Hackerspace, helping the community at large) and the network of mentors. As first time founders, we also wanted the framework offered by JFDI to guide us to an early stage product that was started during Startup Weekend to a real company. What was your experience like at JFDI? They helped us refine our product, reach partners and raise funds. JFDI achieved all we could expect from it! How can people best leverage their experience at an accelerator? Go all in. It’s a few months where one should make the most of the opportunity provided, leveraging the mentors, the publicity, and the other participants. You should aim to get the most out of it during
Interview by Anita Chan
that time, and by building strong relationships for the future. The accelerator period is just the start of the journey. Then, once the accelerator period is over, keep working on the business as if the accelerator was still going on, and avoid the “slump” the follows the completion of an accelerator, as mentioned by Sam Altman of Y Combinator. What are your thoughts about accelerators in Singapore? How has the scene changed since you were a part of it? Obviously the number increased from one to about 50 now. The good thing is that it provides more choices and allows accelerators to have specific focuses so that one can choose their accelerator based on the industry they are working in, the network they need, the terms twhey provide, etc. Now, it’s not so much about whether you should go to an accelerator or not, it’s about picking the one which matches your needs and profile.
Insiders’ Insight Do you think that accelerators are suitable for everyone? Are there certain personalities/traits more suitable? Accelerators usually have the ambition of leading the team to a significant fundraising round, so entrepreneurs should want to run a VC-backed company, not a lifestyle business. With the diversity of accelerators now available, different personalities will be able to find the one right for them. At what stage should people consider applying for an accelerator? There are YC alumni going back to YC, revenue generating companies joining accelerators, so one might join an accelerator if they believe the value provided will be useful. What have you been up to since JFDI? After JFDI, Flocations raised funds with Singtel Innov8 and TNF Ventures and got acquired by Venture Republic. Since then, I have then been working with several other companies, helping entrepreneurs get visibility into their business and telling their stories to their teams and investors through my consulting
firm We are CxO. I’m lucky to work with some of the best startups in the region and to help them grow fast. I’m also turning people into Google Sheets Magicians through Epic Sheets, a training program for users to spend less time while getting more value of their spreadsheets. Do you feel your experiences in JFDI have helped you in what you have been doing afterwards? The frogs (the mascot of JFDI) are still going with me on a daily basis, whether it is the stuffed toys hanging in my office or the entrepreneurs and mentors we met during the bootcamp and with whom we meet regularly. It is an invaluable network! Our audience is mostly people in the startup community. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs? Whatever you might see or read in other companies and media, stay true to your own values and vision, and make sure what you do makes sense. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the front page of a newspaper if you’re bankrupt tomorrow. ■
Florian helps entrepreneurs to run their business, through financial management, data and metrics intelligence. Florian launched his venture, Flocations, a map based travel inspiration startup in Singapore. Flocations was admitted in the first batch of JFDI. asia, Asia’s first startup accelerator, and raised funding from SingTel Innov8 and TNF ventures. Flocations was later acquired by Japanese company Venture Republic. Florian then founded We are CxO which works with CEOs, COOs and CFOs, expanding their ability to monitor their business and guide the strategic decisions needed to grow to the next level.
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5 Things Startups Need To Know About Securing Investment From Venture Capital Firms
s a startup founder, it’s important to understand the process of raising capital from institutional investors. In the early stages of your startup, it’s recommended to secure investment from family and friends. However, once you get to the stage where you’re seeking institutional investment, it becomes a much more complex process. To shed some light on this topic, one of Betatron Startup Accelerator’s founding partners, Roland Yau – Managing Director of CoCoon Ignite Ventures – shares his advice on the typical due diligence process. Here are the five biggest takeaways:
1. Due Diligence Is Focused On Four Main Areas a) Target Market (Competitors, Size, Total Addressable Market, Industry Dynamics, Growth Rate, etc.) b) Team (Founder — Market Fit, Employees, Roles & Responsibilities, etc.) c) Legal (Shareholder’s Agreement, Articles of Association, Corporate Governance, etc.) d) Finance (Revenue Channels, Burn Rate, Margins, Churn, LTV, CAC, etc.) For early stage startups (Seed), the main due diligence (DD) focus is on the target market and your team.
For later stage startups (Series A), the DD has more of a focus on your financials.
2. The Investment Process
The following is an example of a common investment process between a VC firm and a startup. a) First Meeting. Investors meet the startup for the first time, with the goal of learning as much as possible about the business and its team. b) Initial Investor Due Diligence. If the investor is interested in learning more, then they go away and perform their own due diligence. They test the assumptions made by the startup by validating topics such as the market size, researching competitors, and asking for references. c) Indication of Interest (IOI). If the investor is potentially interested in investing, an Indication of Interest (IOI) will be sent to the startup. This is a non-binding indication and should come in written form. IOI’s usually provide an approximate target company valuation and outlines general conditions for completing a deal. d) Two — Four Week Follow Up Meetings. If the startup decides to proceed, meetings with the investor will be arranged to dig deep into items like the financials, product roadmap, customer pipeline, and company structure. This process can take anywhere between 2–4 weeks.
e) Term Sheet. If the investor likes what they see, a term sheet will be sent outlining an investment. The term sheet usually covers items such as valuation, equity option pools, liquidation preferences, participation rights, control, and investor rights. Don’t forget, though, term sheets are also non-binding documents. f) Formally Binding Agreement. Once the term sheet is signed, the lawyers then step into perform more due diligence and create a formally binding agreement between both parties. Once this is signed, the investment capital can finally be deployed.
3. The Lifecycles Of VC Funds
Venture Capital firms invest using funds. These funds are pools of money which the VC firm invests on behalf of their own investors. The funds have a defined lifecycle of usually 10 years. Years 0–3 — VC firm deploys investment capital into multiple startups. Years 4–7 — VC firm grows the startups and manages their investments. Years 8–10 — VC firm “harvests” their investments and plan their exits, via methods such as acquisition or IPO. It’s important to understand the typical lifecycle of an investment fund. VCs don’t want to invest in startups which only have the potential to exit after their fund is scheduled to close. Ideally, they look for an exit in the next 4–5 years. Therefore, when you speak with an investor, it’s important to talk about your 4–5 year vision. In terms of your execution plan, you should use a timeframe of the next 12 months. If you talk about a timeframe much longer, it’s unlikely to be relevant.
4. Understand Your Legal Documents
Institutional investors look into the legal structure of your startup before investing because they may want to understand the corporate governance of a company. It is therefore crucial to know your company’s structure
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Insiders’ Insight before you talk to an investor. If you don’t, it becomes a big red flag. Your Articles of Association (AoA) and your Shareholders’ Agreement are key corporate governance documents of your company and you must fully understand them both. In particular, you must understand the relationship between your AoA and Shareholders’ Agreement and make sure both documents do not conflict with each other. It is common to state in the Shareholders’ Agreement that if there are conflicts between the AoA and the Shareholders’ Agreement, the Shareholders’ Agreement should prevail. In general, it is best to make sure you know what both documents say and keep yourself up to date on any changes made to either document. During the legal DD process, you’ll be expected to know the answers to the following questions: a. Do you have a founders’ agreement in place? b. What does your Shareholder’s Agreement look like?
c. Do you have different share classes? d. Are any dividends offered? e. Do you know the difference between your directors and the shareholders? f. Do you own all of your technology? It’s also important to point out that your founding team must have control of the company at this early investment stage. Otherwise, you’ll become too diluted during later funding rounds, which can make your company uninvestable. To give an example, by your Series A, your team should ideally have at least 66+% equity.
do, it significantly reduces the likelihood of securing a deal. By not knowing your target market in depth, however strong your tech or sales team is, you’ll lose the ability to convince investors that you’re the right team to execute your startup’s vision. Your business model may change in the future and your product will constantly evolve. But your target market (will likely) always stay the same! ■
. Know More About Your 5 Market Than Your Investor
When evaluating your startup, an investor will assess how well you know your target market. Do you (or anyone in your team) have previous experience in the sector? Have you conducted in-depth market research? If your investor knows more about your target market than you
About the Author
Sam Ameen is a Hong Kong-based entrepreneur with a background in digital marketing and user acquisition. He is currently the Head of Digital Marketing of Betatron Startup Accelerator and IC Studio Ltd.
Fundraising – What Are The Available Options?
have started 3 startups and raised funding for two of them. Here is what I learned: Your investors can take over your startup and ruin your future. Most entrepreneurs have faced the issue of fundraising. On a broader scheme, it can be investments, loans or savings. Yet, the trending startup ecosystem creates many traps and myths that misguide first-time entrepreneurs. In this article, I am going to share my views on alternative forms of fundraising in Hong Kong.
Alternatives to Investments
To support innovation and technology, the Hong Kong Government allocates funding through various channels. The two technology parks, Cyberport and Science Park provide the infrastructure. In addition, there are some other government funding schemes. Even so, it is quite tricky to apply for these funds. Some of them have prerequisites and others may require you to be at a certain stage of your company. I would like to take the startup I am working on as an example to illustrate. I work at StaySorted Inc. to develop the Sorted app. It’s a task scheduling app aimed to help users plan their day and make better decisions about their time. It combines powerful gestures and a slim interface to make it quick to schedule tasks. So 22 JUMPSTART May/June 2017
far, Sorted has appeared on TechCrunch, SCMP, and LifeHacker. It has also been featured by Apple multiple times. Up to this point, StaySorted is a self-funded company. Our plan is to raise capital for its growth.
The Hong Kong Design Centre is also an option for design-related startups. The Hong Kong Government is behind all 3 of these programs. Both Cyberport and Science Park provide spaces. Although they are improving, they lack experience in supporting the community. Successful applicants usually get free office, some financial assistance and that’s it. In terms of financial support, Cyberport provides up to HKD$530K at this stage (including other follow-on funding that can be obtained by being an Incubatee). Thus, we are looking to apply to the next batch. Be aware that the two tracks from Cyberport and Science Park are mutually exclusive. If you start with one, you should expect to stay with it in your company journey.
Startup Competitions An interesting alternative and a fast way to create a proof of concept is to participate in hackathons. There are AngelHack and Startup Weekend programs running throughout the year. Winners have the chance to enter their corresponding accelerator programs. For instance, the AngelHack winner can attend its HACKcelerator program. At the end of 3 months, they would fly to San Francisco to present in the Global Demo Day.
Accelerators Incubators and accelerators are getting close nowadays. In fact, accelerators are more growthfocused by its name. In Hong Kong, accelerators are usually run by private sectors. In fact, most of them are run by corporates, such as AIA, Infiniti and Swire. These accelerators are different from most accelerators in the world. They provide NO capital support, but claim to introduce you to networks of people. There are others which provide investment and take equity in exchange. Some of them include Betatron, Brinc and Zeroth.AI. This type of accelerator is typically more preferable. They are run by serial entrepreneurs and investors, who can provide advices to the startups. Picking the right accelerator can help to build a strong foundation for the company. To us, the problem is that none of these have a productivity focus or track, which our product focuses on. Thus, we are not sure about joining any of them.
Incubation Programs There are two main technology incubators available in Hong Kong with Cyberport and Science Park.
Looking Outside As a minor note, we can jump out of Hong Kong, and look into other options. According to an interview
Micro Fund We first considered the Cyberport Creative Micro Fund (CCMF). Cyberport encourages innovation and creativity by granting HKD$100K to startup ideas. The fund is suitable for Idea Stage companies who can spend 6 months of time on proof of concept. In our case, since we launched our product one year earlier, we are not eligible to apply for this.
with Y Combinator Co-Founder Jessica Livingston, there are more than 2000 accelerators around the world. Some of these are more famous, such as Y Combinator and 500 Startups. Others are closer to us, like Chinaccelerator. On a side note, if a startup were a Cyberport incubatee, they can also gain financial support for entering one of these certified accelerators. This is important if you are building a product for the global landscape. Government Funding Schemes For funding schemes in Hong Kong, the government tries to support more of the community and set up a long list of schemes. These schemes are conducted by several government bodies, such as the TID (Trade and Industrial Department), ITC (Innovation and Technology Commission) and HKPC (Hong Kong Productivity Council). Here are a few which are suitable for startups to apply. For others, please refer to the links at the end of this article in the Resources section. Patent Application Grant This will be the most useful one if your startup has intellectual property and wishes to apply for a patent. It provides up to HKD$250K in registering the patent around the world. We received our patent for the multi-select gesture in our mobile app. The process took nearly two years, but it is worth it. SME Export Marketing Fund This fund aims to encourage SMEs to expand their markets outside of Hong Kong. The funding covers joining conferences overseas, or running advertisements on electronic platforms. This includes keyword search on search engines or ads on social media. As an app developer, our main channel to reach customers is through the Internet. Thus, this
scheme appeals to us. Companies can apply any time during the year, and can receive up to $HKD50K a time or up to HKD$200K in total. Enterprise Support Scheme (ESS) The objective of this scheme is to support research and development (R&D). The scheme is on a one-toone matching basis and up to a $10 million limit. Applicants, however, need to pay up to half of the funding in order to get this support. This scheme is suitable for companies aiming to own their intellectual property rights generated in the project. However, this is not that suitable for startups for two reasons: 1. It requires project-based application 2. It requires the company to have enough capital to share the cost In general term, startups are focused on building a sustainable business model. Generating a project idea for such a scheme is contradictory. Thus, we do not consider this as our immediate option. Technology Voucher Program (TVP) If the ESS is too big, the TVP is an alternative. The idea is to help SMEs with technology project development like building IT systems. In fact, I would say this is a way for startups to sustain. Imagine that a startup takes months, if not years, to create income from their own products. Meanwhile, if they want to sustain, they can work on outsourced projects for short-term income. If their clients get the support from TVP, it lowers the barrier of initiating projects. TVP will reimburse 2/3 of the project cost with an upper limit of HKD$300K. For our case, we are a self-funded company with more than 18 months of runway. We would rather focus on product development, so this is not an option for us either.
Summary As a quick summary, most funding schemes here have some conditions in common. They are project-based, you need to write proposals, and go through a screening and interview processes. Once approved, the company usually bears part of the cost and is paid through reimbursement. They also need to submit progress reports. Startups should consider whether it is the best use of time for the resources provided. Remember, startups focus on growth. The main goal is to find sustainable and scalable business models. Most funding schemes indeed only support short-term projects. Despite this, the main benefit of taking these government funds is that they are “free” money. I hope this article provides a good overview on alternative options for fundraising. ■ Resources: http://www.gov.hk/en/business/supportenterprises/funding/ http://www.startmeup.hk/en/resources/incubation-and-acceleration-programmes/
About the Author Harry Ng is the COO of StaySorted.com. Sorted is a task scheduling app with powerful gestures and beautiful UI.
A Look into Klook
Hong Kong’s own US$30 Million Series B Travel Tech Startup
ravel tech is a very competitive industry. Yet, Hong Kong-based startup Klook outshines others and became Asia’s leading platform for booking travel activities. Founded in September 2014, Klook has grown from a team of 30 to 200 with 8 offices across Asia. Last year, they recorded up to 5 million bookings on site.
A major drive for Klook’s success is its ability to draw VCs and funding. Within a year since inception, Klook raised US$1.5 million seed capital from angel investor Wu Xiaoguang, a former executive of Tencent. Last October, Klook further secured US$5 million Series A funding led by Matrix Partners. In March this year, Klook closed a $30 million Series B funding round led by Sequoia China. With the latest round of funding, Klook is set to go beyond Asia and disrupt the global travel industry. In this issue, we have the pleasure to sit down with Eric Gnock Fah, the co-founder and COO of Klook. We talked about the current travel tech landscape, insider information to getting funding, the challenges of scaling a business, and the future of Klook.
Klook’s Roadmap to Funding Klook raised a Series B round of US$30M
Klook raised a US$1.5M seed round
Oct 2015 May 2015
Klook was founded
1. First of all, congratulations on your latest round of funding! Travel tech is an extremely competitive market. What makes you stand out from other competitors? What are the things you feel you did right? We have done much research and analysis to identify that the in-destination services segment, spanning from attractions, local tours, to transfers and WiFi, is ripe for disruption along with favorable market trends. Flights and accommodation are getting cheaper, hence propelling fast growth in travel coupled with increasing interests in experiential travel. From day one, we decided to painstakingly re-invent in-destination services supply chain with technology in order to improve our suppliers’ efficiency. At the same time, we also committed to facilitating the most seamless booking flow. Simply building a website to list products would relied heavily on manual process that would put user experience at a detriment. 2. What do you think of the current travel tech landscape? Where is it heading? As mentioned, travel tech is highly competitive whereby scale is a major barrier to entry. If you look at the global landscape, Priceline and Expedia own the entire space, with the exception of fast-rising Airbnb. Meanwhile in China, Ctrip – a partly Priceline-owned booking platform – is close to monopolizing the online travel sector. Now, even in the hottest segment of in-destination services, the landscape is also forming with the likes of Klook growing with unparalleled scale in the region. The next breakthrough in travel tech is likely to be more in the field of tools and function, such as itinerary planning and Chatbots, rather than simply online booking.
Mar 2017 Klook raised a Series A round of US$5M
3. Klook is obviously very successful in drawing investors. Do you have any tips you can share with other local entrepreneurs on how to secure funding? It really depends on the stage of the venture. At the early stage (i.e. seed or series A), it’s really about the team: How committed are the founders? We invested our own money and didn’t take any salary until Series A, and even now, still at a very minimum level – we are all in. Also, the team have to really understand the ins and outs of the sector they chose and how they plan to scale it into a billion dollar business. At mid stage (i.e. Series B), it’s still about the team, but now, it is more about the broader management team that the founders built, as well as the growth track record. 4. What are the elements of a killer pitch? Show that the founders are committed. Ideas can always change and business often pivots. What doesn’t change is the founders’ commitment to build something big. 5. You raised US$5 million Series A funding last year. How did you use the funding to bring Klook to where it is now? What are the main challenges in scaling the business? We invested mainly in hiring – from tech team to marketing. The main challenge remains in hiring the right talent to scale a pan-Asia business, as previously there was practically no company that has successfully scaled across Asia from China, North Asia, to Southeast Asia. 6. Now that a new round of funding is out of the way, tell us how this round of funding will get your company to the next level and what’s next for Klook? We will continue to invest in human capital as well as in expanding our destinations coverage globally. At the same time, users will see a wider array of in-destination services. We started off with tours & activities, and recently expanded to cover airport transfers, inter-city rail to sim cards and WiFi routers. You will soon find more dining options available. 7. Where do you see Klook in 5 years? Our goal is to go IPO before 2020. 8. If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs in Hong Kong what would that be?
Klook’s founders, from left: Ethan Lin, CEO; Eric Gnock Fah, COO; Bernie Xiong, CTO
Think global from day one and make sure your business model can scale across different countries.
Interview by Kaden Ng 25
Inflection… ...in the Hong Kong startup ecosystem
have a thesis about the immediate future of Hong Kong’s startup ecosystem — we are at an inflection point. The next 18–24 months are going to be crucial. Some startups will break away from the clutter, most will fold; some entrepreneurs will succeed, most will fail. The many supporting organisations – coworking spaces, accelerators, consultancies, and events – will consolidate. I say this not to alarm anyone, but to push everyone to “add oil” and keep working at it. This is a time for introspection, education and collaboration. My belief is that we must not lose our optimism and zeal for entrepreneurship — we are only stronger for it. There were 4 coworking spaces when I moved to Hong Kong a little
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over 3 years ago. That number is close to 80 now. This explosion in supply comes at the cost of occupancy rates that are now below 60% according to my crude estimates. Back then, there were about 2 startup events per week, and now there are about 2 per day. They attract about 40–50 participants each, but the quality of content at these events is nowhere near what Hong Kong was and is capable of. The number of (non-government) accelerators/incubators/supporting programs has gone up from 0 to 8+. Yet these programs are, in most cases, abused by startups which jump from one to another in search of rent-free spaces, cloud credits and network connections. These numbers prove Hong Kong’s insatiable appetite for entrepreneurship. And that is the
hope I’m hitching my wagon to. There is tremendous scope for growth here, and we can (must?) all contribute to it. Every robust startup ecosystem is supported by 3 pillars — support, money and people. Support The government and private sector plays a crucial, albeit often maligned, role by providing unwavering support. I am a big fan of the ‘white elephant’ Cyberport. Many startups I have worked with can hire outstanding consultants and participate in the very best US-based accelerators, thanks to the generous reimbursements from Cyberport. Such opportunities are almost too good to be true in most of Southeast Asia, mind you. This support will only grow
as the government committing over HK$2 billion towards innovation and technology. Interest from private sector behemoths is only increasing. This is a boon to the ecosystem at large as corporates are desirable customers and potential exit opportunities. The rush of corporate accelerators will in due time lead to more nuanced methods of interaction such as blended innovation studios or venture investing arms. Money There’s an Indian saying: “dhoondne se toh bhagwan bhi milte hain”, which means that “if you look hard enough you can even find God.” This has been an oft-repeated phrase for me to entrepreneurs who lament the availability of capital. There is never dearth of capital in Hong Kong. While we must defer to Singapore as the hub of pure VC activity in Southeast Asia, the number of VC firms in Hong Kong has grown in the past 2–3 years. And this is only trending upwards. Those of us in the thick of business hear of at least one new venture fund/angel investor on a weekly basis.
The likes of moneylenders-in-the-guise-of-venture-capital and commission-for-an-email-introduction, which there are quite a few here, should be feeling the heat right about now. An interesting aspect of this new crop of VC firms in Hong Kong is that they are picking a niche to target, such as connected hardware, blockchain or even broader artificial intelligence. Add to that, their global outlook and investing activity — and you’ve got a great dish cooking here!
People Which leads me to my last and most important resource — the human kind. Warm bodies in the ecosystem contribute as entrepreneurs, mentors and employees. The beating heart, you and I, must support each other, thereby enabling flow of blood through the organism – the Hong Kong startups. The first batch of entrepreneurs set out on their arduous journey approximately 6–7 years ago. Some will fly and become breakout successes, but most will or have already fall(en). It’s actually the greatest blessing for Hong Kong. The (failed) entrepreneurs will go on to become amazing mentors and share their invaluable experience with the next generation. Many of them will start new businesses that build on their learnings, insights and in turn be much more sustainable and valuable. It gladdens my heart to see the influx of talented and experienced entrepreneurs from around the globe. The perspectives they add to our worldview will stand Hong Kong in good stead for years to come.
The promise of China may have lured them (expat entrepreneurs) here, but the passion of Hong Kong connects them to this land and the people here. Contrary to popular beliefs, Hong Kong’s startup ecosystem is thriving and on the verge of a major breakthrough. How will you leverage the opportunities, learn from the experiences and contribute to the journey? My aim of sharing these thoughts is to spur YOU to take charge and follow your dreams. If there’s one state, one quality and
one mindset I believe in, they are action, ambition and optimism. The Bollywood aficionado in me wants to leave you with this quote from one of my all-time favourite movies, that I hope you will take to heart just as I have:
“Main udna chahta hoon Naina, daudna chahta hoon, girna bhi chahta hoon, bas rukna nahin chahta…” [I want to fly Naina (character name), I want to run, I want to fall even, but I just don’t want to stop…]
About the Author An ex-entrepreneur, Atin Batra helps Q Venture Partners invest in brilliant connected hardware startups across the globe. Previously, he led the B2B startup accelerator for Swire Properties, built a digital marketing consultancy, launched a local events platform and worked as a Brand Manager for the world's second largest business newspaper. He spends his weekends trail running in Hong Kong’s beautiful country parks.
The Biggest Bully is You By Lori Granito
ntrepreneurs can be assholes. There I said it. We are judgmental, unforgiving and set unrealistic expectations. Sometimes, we can be downright mean. The main victim? Ourselves. The Bully As entrepreneurs, we have an uncanny ability to beat ourselves up over some CRAZY shit. Sometimes it’s valid, but a lot of the time it’s made up or blown out of proportion in our heads. A lot of the stuff we say to ourselves, we would NEVER say to someone else (at least not out loud and to their face). ‘You suck.’ ‘You’re stupid’ ‘Why can’t you get this right?’ And the absolute worst – comparing ourselves to someone else – ‘Why can’t you get funding for this startup like so and so or be as good/ smart as they are?’ I have even heard entrepreneurs denigrate themselves this way in front of other people. Why We Do This So why is it that we can’t cut ourselves some slack when we mess up or fail, or even for that matter in our day-to-day lives? Entrepreneurship is oftentimes a lonely endeavor. It’s natural for us to hold ourselves to a higher standard than everyone else - I mean hell, it’s ALL on us – we are the quintessential roadblocks. The Problem with Bullying Ourselves Coming down hard on ourselves with harsh self-criticism too many times means that we often can’t look at a problem, or even a failure, objectively. I’m not saying that we should go all Pollyanna and use it as an excuse to give yourself a free pass, but I think we could
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all learn to inject a bit of self-kindness in the mix when it comes to accepting our flaws and failings. And that comparison crap? You’ve gotta kick that to the curb pronto. Beating yourself up by comparing your accomplishments or how far along you are to someone else is like inviting a Dementor to live in your ‘mental house’ full-time. The Opportunity Having to deal with obstacles is part and parcel of the package when you take on the role of entrepreneur. The anxiety, as a result, can feel overwhelming, even suffocating. It’s important to recognize though, that the challenges you face are there to help you become the best version of yourself. When you mess up or fail, (and you will fail), don’t be afraid to start over and don’t beat yourself up (too much) – see it as an opportunity to build something better. When you doubt yourself the most, when the mean girl or guy shows up in your head, that’s when you have to take stock of where you are in that moment and be grateful (the best remedy for negative self-talk). Instead of spiraling downwards, step back and ask yourself three questions: • Is the way I am speaking to myself in my best interest? Is the ‘tough love’ there to motivate me or put myself down? • Is what I am saying true or some made-up story in my head? • Is the way I am speaking to myself going to help me get what I want? Be honest with yourself and be as kind as you would be if you were
speaking to a friend. Part of coming into understanding all that you are capable of is learning to accept that yes, you too are human, with all kinds of flaws, and that sometimes things won’t work out. Come out of hiding, learn to forgive yourself, reach out to family, friends and mentors. Your thoughts are powerful. What you say in the privacy of your own mind matters. We live in an age where everyone is trying to outdo each other on social media in terms of ‘likes’ for ourselves and our businesses, constantly comparing ourselves to others and attempting to make them envious of our profiles. Recognize that sometimes the grass looks greener on the other side because it’s fake. Success So instead of worrying about what the person next to you is doing or saying, work on conquering the biggest critic you’ll ever face, the person who will play on all your insecurities to keep you from succeeding and try to convince you that you are not enough. That person is you. The next time you hear a voice, whether it’s from someone else, and especially if it’s from yourself, saying that you’re not good enough, not worthy, that you can’t achieve something, or don’t deserve another chance, recognize it for the bully that it is. Be brave and face that voice. Tell it you are pure potential, shit happens, and you are worthy. Above all, remember that it’s not what comes out of your mouth that determines whether you’ll be a success, but what you whisper to yourself when no one else is there. ■
The startup scene has grown a lot in the past few years in Hong Kong. As the city grows as a startup and tech hub, the resources have grown...
Published on Apr 27, 2017
The startup scene has grown a lot in the past few years in Hong Kong. As the city grows as a startup and tech hub, the resources have grown...