Interview with Murcul and Smart POS from the CUPP Program
Jumpstart Magazine interviewed two teams from the Cyberport University Partnership Programme (CUPP), an elite pilot programme to help groom FinTech startups in Hong Kong. The CUPP aims to inspire the next generation of young technology and entrepreneurial talent. It has provided many opportunities for participants to acquire business skills and knowledge about global entrepreneurship. In addition to matching the students to experienced mentors, this September, the programme sent the teams to Silicon Valley for a week to visit notable start-ups and join an entrepreneurship boot camp at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (Stanford GSB).
Tell us about your projects
Murcul is a data searching tool – an Excel extension providing analysts, investors and small businesses the ability to identify counter-intuitive trends.
Murcul is an experimental data search engine to find reasons behind trends. It is available as an add-on for excel. With one click, Murcul will search across public internet data to find trends that effect any time data in the private excel sheet.
The idea came from another startup that I am part of called Parle. We took some of Parle's technology and reapplied it to the excel add-on. It did take us a long time to finally figure out a product which has a direct need in the market.
Smart POS (PolyU)
We are developing a self-serviced cloud-based mobile application to allow customers to do payments on their own anywhere in supermarkets. Meanwhile, with the real-time updated cloud database, the application also allows staff to manage sales data and inventory record more efficiently. Rather than simply providing supermarkets and customers with a mobile application, we provide them with an all-rounded package to solve challenges.
For supermarkets, we wish to help them in saving cost on human resources, especially cashiers who usually have a high turnover rate, as well as saving training cost and time. Real-time sales data analysis and inventory record updates would also be provided for staff, supporting them in better managing the whole supply chain and inventory system. For the end users, we aim to provide them detailed information of products with just a quick scan and shorten their queuing time at cashiers that results in an enhanced shopping experience.
What's your personal background?
I am a HKUST graduate in computer science. I have worked part time in the industry since secondary school. I started from building an e-commerce engine 8 years ago, and since then worked for Microsoft, contract worker for Google & Nokia along with other startups.
There are 4 members in our team, including Cathy, Eric, James and Yisha.
- Cathy is just graduated from PolyU in 2015, majored in logistics engineering and management. She is quiet familiarize with the logistics management system and POS industry.
- Eric is a final year student, major in Industrial and Systems Engineering. Both Cathy and Eric are responsible for marketing, business strategy planning and product design.
- James is a final year student, major in Enterprise Engineering with Management. He previously worked as a security programmer in CLP. He is the chief technical instructor of our team.
- Yisha is major in Electronics and Information Engineering. She is doing her internship in Microsoft Beijing right now. Yisha has a strong technical background in mobile app development and programming.
What do you think about the Cyberport University Partnership Programme (CUPP)?
It is an amazing program, and I have not heard of any similar program previously. It was a massive project as they flew a lot of students from Hong Kong to Silicon Valley, and taught them in Stanford. Overall I am very grateful to Cyberport to fund this project and very excited to be part of it!
The programme provided a great opportunity for us to broaden our business view and learn more about business theories and mindsets of the market out there. Throughout the programme, we also got a chance to meet elite speakers who shared their experience as entrepreneurs.
Tell us about the Bootcamp experience in Silicon Valley? What was one key take-away (learning) from the experience?
I learnt a lot throughout the boot camp, such as visits to local start-ups and VCs. The one key take away was the Stanford’s mind-set to drive people more innovative. They did that through making us comfortable in failing a task.
We visited Plug & Play, an accelerator supported JobsDB and a wide range of famous start-ups. Not only visited their working place, 4 entrepreneurs shared with us their experience in entering the accelerator programme and gaining funds. These were very great insights for students who did not have much in-depth knowledge in start-ups.
Another great thing we learnt at Stanford was the mindset. We were told that there were two types of people: (1) the ones who are afraid of failure and (2) the ones who are afraid of missing opportunities. We should always learn and keep the type 2 in mind.
What's been the biggest challenge so far?
The biggest challenge had been to keep up with the pace of the project. Stanford training was very good, but very fast paced as well. It was different from my past engineering teaching classes. But after all, it was fun and rewarding.
The biggest challenge for us at this stage is the lack of connection with target customers. It is hard to approach large supermarkets and sell them our solution successfully. Therefore, as the first step, we now plan to reach out to some smaller retailers.
What's next for your projects?
Release a working mvp version by December and see how the market reacts.
We will continue to work on our product prototype and start looking for funding. Our team wishes to launch the product and receive feedbacks from first batch of customers soon.