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11 Apr 2018

New Generations - The Young Tech Entrepreneurs

John Bensalhia

“Never be afraid of making mistakes, just keep trying things out and find the right path for the company” - Eddie Rong, Co-founder and CEO, Heycoins

Today's new generation of tech entrepreneurs are going from strength to strength, with a wealth of new innovations and ideas. The last 12 months have seen some interesting emerging tech talents and companies come on the scene. “Datacrag at HKSTP is one of my personal favourites,” says Gerardo Salandra, CEO and founder of Rocketbots.

But a persistent problem for start-ups remains the same, which is where to find, hire and retain talented individuals. “Hong Kong has been a Finance Hub for too long,” explains Gerardo. “And now that those talents have become obsolete, start-ups really are struggling to find the right people to make their ideas come to life.”

However, with examples like Gerardo and Eddie Rong, co-founder and CEO of HEYCOINS as part of the new breed of tech entrepreneurs, success stories are achievable.

Eddie is part of the first young generation that was influenced by the Smart Phone, which he says has improved the quality of life globally: “Especially during travelling, I never need to worry about getting lost in the cities I have never been to. Things like that make our daily life faster and easier.”

Discussing his role in the business, Eddie says that he worked everything with his partners to build the companies. “I think the only reason that we can be in the current role is the strong mentality and belief in our business. There is no short-cut for anything and we have worked very hard for it in countless days and nights.”

One of the most notable recent developments for modern tech entrepreneurs is that there are lots of things that are open and free to use. “With the development of our society, there are many big firms that have developed the Open API(s) for the start-ups to leverage, which is indeed a big benefiting gift for tech founders,” says Eddie. “Nowadays, you can use the Open API to get information from the authorised database from Bank of China (Hong Kong) / Citi Bank (Hong Kong) to build your products without asking anyone anything, which has never happened before. From my observations, the big companies need new ideas and blood from start-ups, especially tech entrepreneurs, which can be reflected in setting up the new department called 'Innovation Team' among big companies.

A notable 2018 development has been, as Gerardo Salandra comments, “a flourishing period for Artificial Intelligence.” But a problem is that some of today's entrepreneurs are adding AI to current solutions without there being a real need for this.

“Funnily enough, we are leaving another 'AI revolution', but this time, instead of reinventing AI, we are adding AI to everything. I call it the '+ AI Business Model'. Many entrepreneurs are just grabbing current solutions and adding AI to it, e.g. Tinder + AI, or Uber + AI. The problem is, that not all applications need AI, we are not long from hearing about a “toothbrush + AI” company.”

So how can today's tech entrepreneurs stand out from the crowd?

“This is a good question,” replies Eddie. “Personally, I think it is very important for founders to focus on running the real business and to make good tractions. I strongly believe that no investors will back-up a company/founder just talking the idea without executing anything. Never be afraid of making mistakes, just keep trying things out and find the right path for the company.”

Another point made by Eddie is that it is critical is to talk your business to as many people as possible and let the people adjust your business model and make it into a workable model. “I would suggest that the founders can try to build their MVP (Minimum Valuable Product) out by using their own money and time first, then use this model to run the business in a real case and get your first customer, which will prove whether your thoughts are right or wrong and build the confidence to run business well.”

“Once the MVP is not capable for your business, which is great, then the founders should go out and pitch the idea with TRACTIONS publicly as many times as possible and let different people understand the things. Everything starts with lots of difficulties. However, be patient on everything and take time to run business step by step.”

Eddie adds that it is important for budding tech entrepreneurs to not compare themselves with famous business people. “Remember, there is only one Mark from Facebook, One Elon from Tesla/PayPal. Don't ever try to compare yourselves with them.”

“I think it is nothing to be comparable and be focusing on your own business rather than fundraising from investors. When I was starting HEYCOINS, I was living in the living-room of my friend's apartment for 18 months and made the first MVP by using cardboard boxes.”

Gerardo Salandra, however, argues that the only way tech entrepreneurs can truly stand out is by focusing on customer experiences. “The truth is that you can never stand out on technology. Ironic, right? Technology can always be copied, replicated, and improved. There will always be someone else who can program that better. But being customer-centric in your products, processes, and support is how you can really stand out nowadays.”

Eddie Rong believes that the long-term future for tech entrepreneurs is both positive and exciting, even if there are more and more AI companies that have jumped out to replace humans. On the subject of which, Eddie concludes that robots are no match for the human mind.

“I believe that the human intelligence can never be replaced by the robots or designed programmes. Tech entrepreneurs will be in every industry in the future and they will use tech as a tool to change/fix the pain points of different industries. Just like us, we are using tech to empower the people by digitalising the cash in our society.”

Gerardo Salandra concludes that tomorrow's tech entrepreneurs can expect “Failure, success, disappointments, and joys. Same as entrepreneurs 100 years ago, and 100 years from now.”

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