Chi Sun Spotlight: “Tech Talk Thursdays at Chi Sun College” with Elliot Leung

From an idea to a start-up, what is the journey like? What are the steps that you need to take to accomplish your dream?

With an aim to inspire and guide the budding entrepreneurs amongst us, Chi Sun College held its first session of “Tech Talk Thursdays at Chi Sun College” for the spring semester, on 9th February 2017. Giving voice to the theme of the evening, “Start-up 101: Building the Next Big Thing”, was none other than Elliot Leung, Founder and CEO of the “Gaifong” app, one of the top 20 start-ups in Hong Kong of 2016. A big attraction of the talk was also the launch of the brand new online exclusive item-sharing initiative at Chi Sun College in partnership with Gaifong.

Using Gaifong as an example, Elliot went on to explain that it is generally the simple incidents that can often lead to brilliant business ideas. You just need to grab the opportunity when you see it.

So, how did Gaifong come into being? As Elliot put it, one day, he was at a friend’s place, and they wanted to play cards. However, none of them had a pack, and that led him to thinking that someone in the building must have the cards but there is no easy way to approach them without risking invading their privacy. What if there was an app that connected people to one another through rentals? In time, that app came into being as Gaifong – the future of Rentals or as Elliot claims, “the antidote to overconsumption.”

Quite surprisingly Elliot’s first question to the free-spirited Chi-sunners was “Why would you want to start a business? It’s actually one of the riskier things you do in your life.” The answer was simpler: Money, fame and/or purpose. However, to make the journey easier, “you need to understand yourself [and] understand what drives you.”

What was it that drove Elliot? In his words, he considers himself a “money plus purpose” kind of entrepreneur. His aim isn’t to just build a profit-making firm that will benefit the community, but also to build a company that is so independent that it won’t need him anymore.

So, what all does one need to do to create the next big thing? First comes the idea. And what differentiates a normal idea from a brilliant one? Simply put, innovativeness, scalability and the necessity of it. Then comes the need to find teammates.  Elliot highly recommends one to find a co-founder, and not just any co-founder, but someone who will be smarter. And on the subject of co-workers, Elliot has a reminder: “Don’t forget to sign the shareholder’s agreement. You wouldn’t want your partner to run away with all the money, will you?”

Then of course comes the registration of the company and the fund raising. Paperwork may not sound enjoyable, but as Elliot put it: “If you don’t like paperwork, then maybe starting a company is wrong for you, because it involves a lot of paperwork.”

He also highlighted a number of ways to raise funds for your new company. Of course, there is the classic approach of using one’s savings. Other than that, you can always opt for trying to get loans or as Elliot did, apply for government grants.

Another issue that often worries entrepreneurs is that of copyright. “What if people copy my idea?” Though that seems worrying, Elliot sees it another way: “If someone copies your idea, it’s a testimony as to how good the idea is. It helps drive traffic and media attention to your area.”

Then of course there are the legal issues. However, what a lot of you may not know is, HKUers can actually access free legal information from CLIC-community legal information clinic. That can make the process of starting a start-up cheaper and less opaque.

When asked about what helps small start-ups gain mainstream media attention, he replied that the start-ups “should have a story behind them.” One of the reasons why Gaifong often came to be the centre of media attention was the fact that it was often regarded by many as the tool that might help rebuild the community after the fractious umbrella movement, by fostering connections between neighbours.

While Elliot’s crash course to opening a business was definitely enlightening to all those who were present, his most important advice was perhaps that of seeking help. In his words: “Seek help, [as] no one can do it alone. Be very humble and don’t be afraid to ask any questions.”

By Maitraee Mistry, 1st Year, Bachelor of Engineering