We had the pleasure of sitting down with the man behind the wheel at one of Hong Kong’s leading startups: Kenneth She, General Manager of Uber Hong Kong. In this interview, we learn how Ken got Uber started in Hong Kong, the progress they’ve seen, and the hurdles they still face.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Hong Kong. The idea of exploring the world and trying something new has always been at the top of my mind so I worked hard and eventually got to study at Oxford University on a full scholarship. I have a Masters Degree in civil engineering but started my career as an investment banker.
I also have a keen interest in music. I’m a composer, pianist and guitarist for a band. I’ve performed in malls and composed songs for independent movies. Additionally, I used to go busking at the TST Ferry Pier and many other outdoor venues.
Lastly, Thai boxing is my way of releasing stress.
How did you come to know Uber, and why did you choose to work for Uber rather than staying in investment banking?
Another colleague of mine from Uber got me into this company in the first place because both of us wanted to find something meaningful and exciting to do when we were working an i-bankers. The jump was not difficult because I could envision the positive changes Uber would have to the city and that the potential was great! People in the city need quality transportation with polite drivers, nice cars, and safe rides. There are people looking for flexibility in work.
Starting out in Uber was challenging when I was the only local employee. I was joined with two other colleagues to build up the Hong Kong operations from a coffee shop two and half years ago. In order to recruit driver partners, I had to talk to as many as 100 drivers in a day to get them onboard. The Uber team has now grown into a company with 100+ employees in Hong Kong.
What are some difficulties you face now in your expansion of Uber in Hong Kong?
When we first started, the team was really small. We faced manpower issues so I needed to carry three phones to handle queries from driver partners. And ridersharing is a total new concept that we brought to Hong Kong. We work hard to educate the market on what is ridesharing and the benefits it brings to the community. Lastly, finding talented people to join us is a difficulty.
Since this issue’s theme is about learning from failures, can you tell me about a time when you almost gave up, and why you didn’t?
Growing a brand from scratch to a household name is never an easy thing to do, especially when Uber was mostly known as a foreign company that provides luxury car services when we first started in Hong Kong. There were days when I spent hours giving out flyers on the street and teaching people how to download the Uber app! Some of my friends who recognised me on the street even thought that I was out of a job! There are people who first rejected what we are doing but are now starting to see the positive side of it. I didn’t give up because I know the concept can be applied to Hong Kong to improve the city in general.
Tell us more about UberEATS? What makes this different from other food delivery companies?
UberEATS is Uber’s new food delivery app that makes getting great food from your favorite local restaurants as easy as requesting a ride. The UberEATS app connects customers with 950+ local restaurants and food, so users can order from their local favorites whenever they want. We aim to provide efficient deliveries (less than 35 min) and work with restaurants to come up with ways to speed up the preparation process and improve food packing so that foods can be delivered to customers nice and fast.
Our audience is mostly people in the startup community. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Be brave and try new things!
OK, time for fun. If you had to pick one superpower what would it be and why?
I want to read minds (in a good way of course, like Professor X?) and hope people can see things from different angles and perspectives. Uber for instance is a disruptive company that often caused a lot of misconception to the public. Sometimes bias causes unnecessary arguments, and hence complicates things which should have been simple.
Would that superpower help you survive a Zombie Apocalypse?
Hopefully. What about on-demand Uber Zombie for Halloween? 🙂