A business Mind: Sum Wong
Sum Wong, co-founder and chief executive of Eventxtra, founded his first start-up while at university, and hasn’t looked back since. As an information technology student, he has an exceptional market sense. Wong saw that event organisers were having a hard time monitoring their delegates, and so he came up with an IT solution. His start-up Eventxtra has revolutionised the way events are organised.
What does Eventxtra do?
I attended many events and saw that organisers had to employ several people and spend a huge amount of time just to create name tags for guests and check their attendance. I thought something could be done to make the process easier, so I developed apps that can print name tags instantly when guests arrive at the event and help them sign in with just a click on the phone. This takes some of the burden off event organisers.
I also developed “smart-networking”. Delegates can check the profiles of event participants and set up appointments for onsite meetings.
There is also an app that helps organise contact information. People usually come back from events with loads of name cards. The app can put the contact into different categories.
With the new technology, organisers and visitors to events will have a whole new experience.
The talent pool is growing – another positive sign for the development of start-ups
Who are your team members?
My two co-founders and I knew each other when we were in secondary school. We are all computer students. I focus on external communication to build the business, and they are in charge of company operations.
We also have a partner in Singapore who was my roommate at the University of Science and Technology (HKUST). He is a student of global business and looks after the business there. We have also hired two programmers plus another colleague who is in charge of business development.
During the summer, we employ quite a number of interns. Many are HKUST students interested in start-ups.
How would you compare the Hong Kong start-up culture with that of Singapore?
The Singapore government is very supportive of the start-up sector. If there is a tender for a government project, local start-ups have priority in bidding for them.
The Hong Kong government certainly won’t do anything like that. But we also have an advantage, as there are many willing investors. Business tycoons like Li Ka-shing are interested in start-ups, and there are also many individual investors. There are well-off professionals who choose to invest in start-ups instead of stocks.
Compared to three years ago, there are more people working on start-ups and the public has learned that start-ups are a serious business. The talent pool is growing – another positive sign for the development of start-ups.
What are the major challenges of running a start-up as a fresh graduate?
We lack knowledge and management experience. It is easy when we only have three people on the team, but as the team grows it is not easy to have everyone on the same page. Luckily, we have mentors and investors who are kind enough to share their management experience with us.
I am also a keen reader of books and blogs on management. It takes an hour to get from my home to the office in Cyberport, and so the travelling time is also my reading time. I always have a book in my backpack.
How do you enhance your entrepreneurship?
I don’t think there is any course you can study to learn entrepreneurship. I am a big believer in peer learning, start-ups getting together and sharing their experience. But to do that, we need to have a start-up community where people can meet regularly to exchange ideas. The insanely expensive rents in Hong Kong have made this a remote possibility, but if we want our start-ups to blossom the government needs to take such an initiative, besides providing funding and office space. In Silicon Valley there are cafes where start-up people can meet to exchange ideas and I really look forward to having something similar here.
Start-ups have limited resources. It is crucial that we gain the opportunity to learn from one another. Right now, most of us are shooting in the dark trying to learn management, finance and different aspects of business operations. If we have a community, we will be able to gain access to that information in a more systematic manner, making the learning curve less steep.