Transport and logistics

Youngsters shown it pays to get up and go

Youngsters in need of inspiration should look no further than Steven Lam, the logistics pioneer who grew up in Kowloon public housing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 1:28am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 1:28am

Young Hongkongers who feel trapped by their circumstances need only look to entrepreneur Steven Lam Hoi-yuen for inspiration. His company, GoGoVan, will become Hong Kong’s first “unicorn”, or start-up valued at more than US$1 billion, after it merges with the mainland firm 58 Suyun. The goal is to create the world’s biggest short-distance logistics platform, a conceivable objective given how far the business has come in so short a time. It is a story we are familiar with from California’s hi-tech hub Silicon Valley, but not from our own city.

Lam, 31, is no different to those who put Silicon Valley on the tech map; he has vision, a strong work ethic and the ability to make timely decisions and act on them. But he is also from a humble background, having come from a low-income family and grown up on a Kowloon public housing estate. He had a patchy education record until paying his way to community college in the United States and eventually graduating from the respected business school at University of California, Berkeley.

How a high-school dropout with big ideas founded GoGoVan, Hong Kong’s first US$1bn start-up

To fund his schooling, he worked as a delivery boy for a Chinese restaurant, sold items on eBay and repaired computers. Unable to find a suitable job on his return to Hong Kong, his entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and GoGoVan was his third start-up.

GoGoVan is an old idea given a technological makeover. Through a smartphone application, customers and drivers are connected so goods may be delivered quickly. Lam, now chief executive, was among five co-founders who pooled HK$20,000 in 2013 and later raised US$16.5 million to create a firm that now operates in more than a dozen Chinese cities and three other Asian countries. It has tens of thousands of vehicles and drivers on call.

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A home-grown success story is inspirational, but Lam also believes youngsters should be putting their savings into something more than property. “If your dream is to buy a house, then at the end of the day, all you have is a house,” he says. It is sage advice for those who do not work hard, ignore opportunities and shun adventure in favour of expecting authorities to meet their every demand.