For the second installment of The Lion Post’s HKU tech start-up series, instead of profiling a company, we’ll be looking a slightly different but entirely relevant event.
Start-up Weekend Hong Kong (SWHK) began in November 2011, and has since been introduced to various universities across the city. The event brings together amateurs and experts in design, software development and business to create a start-up in the short time frame of 54 hours. This year, HKU held it’s second Start-Up Weekend starting Friday, October 16. The entrepreneurship event welcomed an impressive 106 participants, of which a large majority was male.
The event began with icebreaker games and practice pitches which allowed participants to familiarize themselves with their family for the next few days and get into the groove of planning and presenting their ideas coherently in a short span of time.
Dr. Data Ng, head organizer of the event said that one of the merits of Start-up Weekend was that it forced participants to spend concentrated amounts of time and effort on the project, because people normally tend not to dedicate so much when there’s no deadline.
Following that we heard around 20 innovative initial pitches. Participants voted on their favorite pitches, narrowing them down to a top 13. They searched for and joined forces with teammates based on their unique talents and skillsets. After a short team-bonding session, some participants chose to go home while others decided to stay behind and delve right into their planning.
Participants were up bright and early at 9am the next day to set the ball rolling for day two. After returning from their customer validations out in the city, the teams reconvened to discuss game plans. The Lion Post brings to you an exclusive insight into the pitches of the participating groups at the event.
CollegePars: The team had a few different ideas before settling on CollegePars, a platform for university students with different interests and talents to easily recruit partners from different faculties for projects, as well as search for internships.
Smart IoT Solutions: While parents often worry that smartphone games and outdoor activities are mutually exclusive, this team proved otherwise. By integrating exercise into various stages of video games, Smart IoT Solutions proposed that children would be more motivated to engage in physical activity in order to proceed to the next level.
I’m In: They created a platform for consolidating details for customized event suggestions with the help of some Facebook stalking and location tracking. The team analysed users’ Facebook page views, clicks, follows, friends’ activity and more to filter and suggest events users might be interested in.
FoodBook: Small and medium-sized restaurants and cafes are underappreciated and lack the resources to bridge information asymmetries between themselves and their target foodies. FoodBook proposed a surveying and data collection service for these businesses in return for providing customers with coupons or points in a loyalty program on the app.
MicroProbe: MicroProbe believed that gene screening for predisposition to cancer would not only encourage targeted treatment and prevention for individuals in early stages of cancer, but also boost effectiveness of insurance firms’ premium schemes.
Happy Corner: It’s no secret that there is limited space in Hong Kong, but ironically there are often still vast amounts of underutilized space. Happy Corner hoped to tap into unused rooftops and terraces to provide a platform connecting landlords with event organizers such as emerging artists, musicians and even yoga instructors.
FitLand: As an app that combined fitness with fun, Fitland designed a seed-earning game aimed at girls that allows them to upgrade facilities on a virtual island. It incorporated a dynamic screen lock featuring a ‘tree of health’ to allow users to monitor their progress and compare with friends.
FastPark: Parking spots in Hong Kong, like real estate, are an undisputed rarity. WePark imagined a system that allows drivers to reserve parking, for more efficient use of precious gas and time while searching for available spots.
Tour-4-U: Tour-4-U offers a virtual travel app aimed specifically at physically handicapped or elderly customers who aren’t fortunate enough to travel with ease. The interactive app allowed users to choose tours, for instance Go-Pros or 360 cameras, and instruct tour guides to complete various actions.
ShopIG: ShopIG hoped to tap into Instagram’s e-commerce potential by creating a database and search engine of stores to help online shoppers easily find and purchase clothes, gadgets and whatever else their heart desires.
Botomatic: Team Botomatic made it simple to optimize usage of digital capacity on any electronic device with a single touch. They hoped to target business people to allow them to complete multiple tasks at once by building their own “chain of action”, to streamline important daily tasks like sending emails, booking hotels and setting up meetings.
3D Power: With the help of some 3D technology, 3D Power hopes to revolutionize the jewelry industry by providing training and tech know-how for jewelry manufacturers (as told to TecHKU).
Prof Mandarin: With China rising in the global domain, Chinese is beyond doubt an invaluable resource for success in any field or profession. Prof Mandarin offers online courses in spoken and written Mandarin (as told to TecHKU).
As the day drew to a close, teams started to get anxious about the fast-approaching deadline, especially those whose ideas had received feedback from mentors regarding flaws in different stages of their apps or websites. Coders and programmers were also furiously tapping away at their keyboards and many participants stayed the night.
Stress and fatigue saturated the air on the third and final day, as our designers, developers, and businessmen and women toiled on. The atmosphere was tense with significantly less talk and more work.
Most organizers and mentors agreed that Start-up Weekend was more about learning than winning. Dante Tang, the winner of the Global Start-up Weekend 2011 said she believed strongly that the ultimate goal should be to “teach participants about entrepreneurship and how to be an entrepreneur”.
Matthieu Bodin, head facilitator and organizer of SWHKU, shared similar thoughts. For him, the fundamental value of Start-up Weekend was in teaching students and participants “how to identify and solve problems” from an entrepreneurial perspective. He also saw the need for encouraging more entrepreneurial courses in universities, “not through traditional classroom teaching method, but by bringing in successful entrepreneurs and mentors to share their own experiences and stories”.
At 4:15 pm, Matthieu announced the start of the final pitches. By then, all four judges had arrived – Leroy Yau, Raymond Chen, Ray Cheung and Raymond Chu. The order of presentations was drawn from a hat as participants finalized their speeches and added the finishing touches to their apps and websites. The presenters were given five minutes followed by Q&A from the judges. Teams were marked based the quality of their customer validation, execution and design, and business model.
There was a steady rise in noise levels when the crowd reassembled for the results. The judges announced their special mention, which coincided with the audience’s pick, followed by the Validation, Business Model and overall first prize start-up teams. The winners, in that order, were: I’m In, CollegePars, Botomatic and ShopIG.
With that, Matthieu called SWHKU15 to a close and the room erupted into a roar of applause and celebratory cries of delight and relief. The event was a success and an educational milestone in terms of understanding how start-ups run. The participants laid the cornerstones of some great ideas the world could definitely do with, and walked away with valuable learning experiences alike. Looking forward to an even bigger, better one next year!
Up close and personal with the judges
Raymond Chen is currently a CFO at a listed resources company in Hong Kong. As an accountant by training and investment banker by experience, Raymond said he gave points to teams with strong business models. Having said that, Raymond added that his top priority was on effort rather than whether or not the teams’ proposed plans would work. Ultimately, he believed, there was no such thing as a wrong step, only work that could be further improved on.
Ray Cheung came from a computer science background and has spent substantial amounts of time in London and Stanford, both of which have strong start-up cultures. He emphasized the participants’ research on customer validation, because “ultimately, you get no business if you have no market”. He also added that stronger teams proved that they had considered all stakeholders in the business, including customers, service providers, etc.
Raymond Chu is an assistant director at the Institute of Entrepreneurship, and hopes that his work will help bridge industry and university. Raymond’s strong finance background with almost 15 years in investment banking and hedge fund management explained his finance-focused questions during Q&A of the final pitches. He viewed SW as a good opportunity for budding entrepreneurs to keep asking questions, and said he admired participants’ passion and positive work ethic.
Leroy Yau said there had been quite a clear consensus among the judges on who the winners were. However, he added that given the strict time constraints, stronger teams were ones who focused on how to present what the judges and audience wanted to hear, rather than getting stuck into the nitty-gritty details of business or coding.
The Lion Post has collaborated with TecHKU on this story with content and photos. http://www.engineering.hku.hk/tecHKU/2015/10/19/swhku2-day3/