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Just a minute: Hong Kong’s techpreneurs had 60 seconds to pitch their innovative ideas to investors

Innovative Hong Kong techpreneurs, who made the final of last year’s Elevator World Tour pitching competition, are seeing their ideas come to market this summer

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 July, 2017, 9:32am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 July, 2017, 9:32am

Sixty seconds might not seem like much in the context of 24 hours. But there’s a school of thought which asserts that a minute can be life-changing.

You can do something positive for your health – sip a glass of water, for instance, or hold a yoga pose.

You can feel grateful – and write a thank you note to someone to make them feel good, too.

You can make a good first impression, as author Patrick King advises in his book Connect Instantly: 60 Seconds to Likability, Meaningful Connections, and Hitting it Off with Anyone.

In Hong Kong, you can ride to the top of the tallest building, ICC – and maybe get your entrepreneurial idea off the ground, too, as was the case for the Hong Kong techpreneurs who made the final of last year’s Elevator World Tour, an innovative start-up pitching competition.

Each of the 100 selected teams entered the lift with potential investors, and had just 60 seconds to initially win them over. The field was then whittled down to 10 finalists, who gave a further presentation at ground level.

Smarter wearables under development featured among the devices pitched, and notable were the Hong Kong inventions which respond to a real-life need.

From Origami Labs, the outright winner, came the Orii, a wireless audible device in a ring that turns your hand into a smartphone. Kevin Wong, CEO, says the idea for ORii began as a solution for his visually-impaired father, who had difficulty using screen-based smart devices. It also evolved as a handy business tool for those times when more subtlety is required than overtly picking up the phone to listen to a voice call or dictate a message. By discreetly touching your ear, the device pairs with your smartphone to communicate with your voice assistant, such as Siri.

“Orii is a ring that combines bone conduction technology and your smartphone’s voice assistant, letting you talk and hear through your finger,” Wong explains. Connecting via Bluetooth, the device can also be used to open apps and dictate messages.

The product’s development was upscaled after Origami Labs secured US$600,000 in funding following the elevator pitch.

Finalist Heartisans has a new smart watch designed to help manage heart health and potentially save lives. Functioning both as a blood pressure monitor and activity tracker, it was developed by company co-founders Tim Lui and Sang Yeon Hwang as a smart tool to assist their own family members suffering from heart disease.

Sang explains that self-monitoring a patient’s blood pressure at home – usually done in the morning and at night, via an arm cuff – provides average readings rather than blood pressure variability, which the Heartisans Watch helps to solve. “Blood pressure variability can also provide further information such as correlating how different activities and a user’s lifestyle affect their blood pressure,” Sang explains.

The Heartisans Watch captures not only blood pressure measurements whenever it is worn, but ECG readings, heart rate, steps and calories burnt as well.

Data is collated via Bluetooth to a companion mobile app which can later be shared with the patient’s cardiologist. The knowledge gained can also help a patient make lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, to actively participate in a better health outcome.

Another finalist, Platysens, develops sport wearables including Marlin, a sensor-based analysis tool to enable open water swimmers to improve strokes. It was developed to help Platysens founder Cheong Yui Wong, a keen triathlete, to improve his performance in the open water, but can also be used in the pool.

The problem with most swim wearables, explains Brian Lam, Chief Operating Officer, is that their GPS loses signal under water. Another issue is that having to look at a wrist-worn wearable to track progress distracts the athlete from their task. Marlin, a lightweight headset, solves both. Data captured by the swim meter attached to the swimmer’s goggles is fed back as real-time audio directly to the wearer’s ear.

Swim stroke, activity tracking, navigation and session training can all be managed by Marlin and its companion app. “By making use of the latest in bone conduction audio technology, swimmers can access the information they want without interruption,” Lam says.

Platysens has been part of the Incu-Tech programme at the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park (HKSTP) since 2014. The Marlin, its debut product, was named a 2017 CES Innovation Award Honoree.

All these innovations are coming on the market this summer.

This year’s Elevator World Tour, renamed Elevator Pitch Competition (EPiC), returns to Hong Kong in November. Organised by HKSTP, it offers 100 selected startups both local and from abroad the chance to pitch their ideas in a 60-second elevator ride at the International Commerce Centre, and compete for an investment prize of up to US$120,000.