Alumni News - December 2014 - page 5

HKUST Alumni News 2014
(From left to right) Ben Chan, Leo Wong and Conrad Lo,
Co-founders of music app Sensbeat
Excellent Foundation
All are grateful for the knowledge and confidence given them
by HKUST. “The University helped me to see things from a different
angle,” says Wesley. “You get to see the big picture. It helps you to
make better decisions.”
Ben appreciated the friendly, collaborative atmosphere at
HKUST. “All my friends were enthusiastic about startups and there
were many chances to talk – how to build things and how to start
your own business,” he says. Conrad liked the mix of local and
international students, offering different points of view and different
definitions of success.
Although the two business models of Xinyi and Sensbeat may
appear very different, the four alumni agree there are similarities. “There
are factors that you always have to pay attention to when running any
business, such as how to secure funding and dealing with investors and
the importance of having a good team in place,” says Wesley.
And Ben, Conrad and Leo can see that creativity is not just a
“post-90s” phenomenon, noting that Wesley had to think out of the
box to develop the new product line and expand into solar power
farms. “We also laughed at the fact that it took Wesley’s company just
six months to build a huge power plant in Anhui, while it took us more
than six months to create one app,” says Leo.
Whatever the future holds for Xinyi Solar and Sensbeat, they
surely serve as excellent role models for future graduates, whether
they are looking tomove into traditional industries or grab opportunities
offered by new technologies.
Sharing & Developing Ideas
Sensbeat’s social-sharing app was launched in August 2014.
The original idea came from Leo: “I was on my exchange in Europe
and was traveling on a train in Switzerland listening to ‘Goodbye’ by
Air Supply surrounded by all these mountains. I felt sentimental and
wanted to share my feelings with friends in Hong Kong. We have
Twitter and Instagram for words and photos, but what about music?”
On his return to HKUST, he put his idea to his friends to
develop an app that lets users post status updates based on the
song they are listening to. Inspired by startups in the US, Leo, Ben
and Conrad set up Sensbeat while still studying. “We decided to
make it work. The initial cost was not much – we had the people and
the technology. We received financial awards from competitions
and were able to find more people to join, especially engineers,”
he says. But as more funding was required, it was not always easy
to open doors – Sensbeat had no track record and it was difficult
to get to speak to senior managers. “We spoke with judges at the
competitions, we approached friends of friends. We found that as
we met one group, it got easier to meet others.” The result was that
they have to date been able to secure US$1 million in seed funding
from local and US investors – the first student-established startup in
Hong Kong to achieve this.
“Our target now is to get
more users and keep updating the
product by refreshing our ideas,”
says Ben. Conrad adds: “Most
of our users are teenagers so our
promotional activities target this
group and we get back feedback
from university and middle school
students.” They say the key to growth is that they work together as
a team and support one another.
Leo, Ben and Conrad took a riskier
route; they set up their startup while still
at University and not least among their
earliest challenges was the need to find
a balance between study and work.
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