Hong Kong MTR

MTR accused of stealing app ideas from Hong Kong start-up

Pokeguide makers say they had a meeting with bosses at the rail giant, after which MTR integrated their ideas into smartphone app

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 September, 2017, 6:59pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 September, 2017, 2:18pm

The company that runs Hong Kong’s railways has been accused of stealing ideas from a small tech start-up and using them in its smartphone app, after meeting staff from the company over a possible collaboration.

But the MTR Corporation said it had been aware of similar features to the ones it recently added to its app long before its meeting with Pokeguide.

Pokeguide said in a statement that the new navigation functions were “exactly the same” as those that it showed MTR managers in three or four meetings last year.

“It turned out that such a big company could just copy someone else’s idea and present it as its own,” the start-up wrote on its Facebook page, accusing the transport giant of using “stolen ideas”.

One feature that raised Pokeguide’s ire, called Fast Exit, speeds up passengers’ journeys by showing them which car of the train to board and which door is closest to the exit they will use.

MTR consortium extends right to operate Metro Trains Melbourne for another 10 years

Another feature newly added to the app, called In-Station Finder, lets users share their exact location while inside Admiralty station – but currently no others – over WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or WeChat, and guides them to places like toilets or specific shops. Pokeguide developers claim this was their idea too.

The start-up said that during its meetings with MTR managers to discuss possibly collaborating, the rail operator said the In-Station Finder idea was “very good” and that managers would look into using the ideas after discussing them with other departments.

[MTR Corp] would rather steal someone else’s ideas

In its statement, Pokeguide also took swipes at MTR Corp for raising fares while recording huge profits; trains breaking down; and long queues during rush hour at Admiralty. But it said it could not tolerate the company refusing to work with local start-ups.

“Why is it that when everyone in Hong Kong is supportive of innovation technology and building a smart city, MTR is not giving more opportunities to local start-ups? It would rather steal someone else’s ideas, and then spend a huge sum of money to build [the app] on its own,” the company wrote.

In response, MTR said it was first made aware of Fast Exit functions in New York in 2013, and In-Station Finder in 2015.

“We have had discussions with different companies such as Pokeguide and other start-ups, to see if there was room for cooperation in different areas,” the company said in a statement on Thursday.

“But after measuring the pros and cons of, for example, the content accuracy and development directions, we eventually decided to add the Fast Exit function by ourselves.”

MTR said it hoped to cooperate more with start-ups in future, and that it would contact Pokeguide to offer an explanation.