5 June 2019
How-to for budding entrepreneurs
“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you are right.” Hong Kong is brim-full of entrepreneurs who belong in the first category of vehicle pioneer Henry Ford’s infamous quote, and several of these shared their thoughts at the plenary session of the 11th HKTDC Entrepreneur Day (E-Day). Event organiser, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), invited several notable speakers to share insights into establishing a business.
Themed “The Start-up Living Lab” and organised by the HKTDC, the event drew start-ups offering a wide range of products and services.
At the plenary, business leaders and start-up entrepreneurs shared tips on entrepreneurship and their experiences turning creative ideas into viable ventures. The speaker line-up included Jason Chiu, Vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Startup Council, Andy Chan, Founder and Executive Director of Qupital Limited, Jack Zhang, CEO and Co-founder of Airwallex, Jordan Fung, Founder & CEO of Pedosa Group and Sergio Pachón, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Kiwi Campus Inc.
Mr Chan of Qupital, a fintech company focusing on supply chain management, said that having seen the difficulties local SMEs encountered in obtaining loans through traditional channels, he and his partner set up Qupital – an online platform for SMEs to seek financing on their unpaid invoices to meet their pressing needs, while offering investors an alternative investment option. In its first year of operation, Qupital received capital injections of more than HK$15 million from the Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund, and in its first two years, transactions on the company’s platform amounted to HK$1 billion.
Mr Chan said a strength of the Qupital team is its rich experience in pitching − a process where start-ups explain and present their ideas to investors. He added that it is best to make investors understand three key points within two minutes: firstly what the company does; secondly how big the market is; and thirdly how fast the company is growing. “Your chances of success are greatly enhanced if you can make the investors get your insights into the market, the company’s unique revenue model, and the team’s experiences and strengths,” he said.
Cross-border financial network service company Airwallex has grown into a unicorn – a privately owned start-up with a valuation of US$1 billion or more − in just less than three years since its inception. In the past three rounds of financing, the company raised more than US$200 million through capital injections from investors such as Tencent and Mastercard. Currently, its remittance network serves 130 countries and territories worldwide with several billion US dollars remitted.
Mr Zhang of Airwallex said the key to his venture’s success was creation of a new payment platform that helps companies expand their business with the most convenient user experience. His hope is that the platform can change how an entire era of cross-border payments are made, adding that the happiest part about the venture is not making money, but knowing that his services have a positive effect on others – for example, helping “a young guy, who used to run a simple online business”, became the boss of an international company. “Now I wake up with a smile every day because entrepreneurship enables me not only to make my dreams come true, but also help others, making the world a better place.”
Make customers fall in love
Sergio Pachón of Kiwi Campus gave a very “down to earth” reason for choosing entrepreneurship. He was motivated by the high cost of deliveries, especially food deliveries, in the United States. He and several partners invented the Kiwibot robot to deliver meals. The Kiwibot is equipped with multiple cameras and GPS to deliver food to customers. Kiwibot has made 36,000 successful deliveries over the past two years, cutting the average hourly delivery cost from US$22 to US$5.
At present, Kiwibot mainly serves 12 universities in the United States. Mr Pachón said serving campuses was a turning point in the company's development; it helped to improve the quality of campus life and offer students more food options. Moreover, it is easy to manage security while the company is also able to provide job opportunities for students interested in mechanical work. Mr Pachón said robot deliveries are a growing trend and the key to making a brand stand out is to ensure its products and services are user-friendly, “so that customers will fall in love with them and make them an indispensable part of their daily lives”.
Jordan Fung, of Pedosa Group, was the centre of attention at the forum because of his wealth of entrepreneurial experience, despite being just 16 years old. At the age of nine, Mr Fung created GLMET, an online learning platform, which soon had several hundred thousand active users. His current venture, Pedosa Group, covers digital media, tech ecosystems and education, with more than a million active users worldwide.
Mr Fung said he encountered many difficulties while starting up the business, dealing with issues such as finance, lack of networks and public opinion on top of coping with his studies. However, entrepreneurship also broadened his horizons and enabled him to realise his dream, so the effort was worthwhile. He said young people and adults alike can embrace new technologies and proactively drive digital transformation in their daily lives. Aspiring young entrepreneurs should be encouraged to advance technological development together to make the world a better place, he said.
Persistence is key
Jason Chiu of the Hong Kong Startup Council said every entrepreneurial journey is both exciting and challenging, adding that not everyone can succeed. “Ordinary people are often not able to finish what they start. Real entrepreneurs, however, are able to stay the course regardless of what difficulties they encounter, constantly learning from setbacks to realise their dreams.”
As both an entrepreneur and an investor, Mr Chiu shared three entrepreneurship tips. First, he believes that entrepreneurship requires a big dream, but it must start with the details. Second, mistakes and failures are inevitable when you become an entrepreneur – but you will be fine if you make the biggest mistakes as soon as possible and learn from them. Finally, be sure to find a good mentor and seek external support when necessary.