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Charting the road to success beyond Hong Kong for delivery service start-up Lalamove

CEO Shing Chow began in 2013 with a three-man team and now operates in 81 cities, while hoping to drive the local start-up trend

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 June, 2017, 8:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 June, 2017, 8:33am

It is many an entrepreneur’s dream to raise the first million dollars, then move beyond Hong Kong to conquer other markets. But to do that, a good concept is not enough, because even the best idea requires large amounts of blood and sweat as well as a never-say-die attitude, as one start-up founder put it.

“It doesn’t matter if a hundred people reject you, what matters is that [at least] one person believes in your vision,” said Shing Chow, co-founder and CEO of Lalamove, an online vehicle delivery sharing service with a mobile app previously dubbed the “Uber for logistics”.

In 2013, the firm started with a three-person team in an incubation programme at the Science Park. It has raised US$60 million from investors such as venture capital firm MindWorks, and has operations in 81 cities including Singapore, Manila, Bangkok and Taipei. It also operates in mainland China.

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Chow, 39, said he was contemplating listing the company in Hong Kong or overseas.

“Finding an investor is not like being a boyfriend who must keep to one partner. You should see as many people as possible,” he said.

“Because Hong Kong has never had a very successful start-up, venture capitalists are reluctant to invest. They want to catch a unicorn – a firm with a valuation of US$1 billion. We want to be the first unicorn.

“Transportation is a very old business. But there was a huge opportunity to revolutionise the delivery van service through the internet. The ordering and matching of vans used to be made by voice through a call centre. We digitised it,” Chow said, adding that the location of moving vans can be tracked in real time, allowing an efficient match of logistics supply and delivery demand.

Finding an investor is not like being a boyfriend who must keep to one partner. You should see as many people as possible
Shing Chow, Lalamove CEO

Other companies such as GoGoVan are also in the delivery van-sharing business. But Chow claimed that unlike ride-sharing company Uber, which is facing regulatory hurdles throughout the world, regulation of the delivery business for goods was “not so strict”.

Chow graduated with an economics degree from Stanford University and scored 10 distinctions in the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination in 1995.

He has quite a colourful past, having spent several years in Macau as a “professional gambler”, where he said he won his “first bucket of gold”.

In 2013, he teamed up with co-founder Gary Hui, who now spends most of his time opening up new markets for their business.

“Each market is so different. We used to be called Easyvan. But when we went to Bangkok to expand our business, we realised all the deliveries were done by motorbike, so we changed our name to Lalamove,” Hui said, adding that the firm now also used motorcycles in Hong Kong.

“We needed US$100 million to do what we wanted to do,” Chow said. That is a long way from the HK$300,000 in seed funding Lalamove received from the Science Park’s “incu-app programme” that kick-started its development.

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Chow has since returned to Science Park events to share his experience, especially with consultation on a new trading board starting this month. The platform will provide new funding opportunities for start-ups.

“There is no shortage of talent and investors in Hong Kong. The key is to match them efficiently,” Science Park CEO Albert Wong Hak-keung said.

“The city’s culture towards start-ups needs to change. The Science Park has been trying hard to build an ecosystem for start-ups which involves investors, because we believe technology is the future of Hong Kong’s economy.”