Interview with Smartcasual, a new app for one-on-one networking
Interview with Ignacio Martin of Smartcasual, a new app for one-on-one networking. Tell us about Smartcasual. What inspired you to start it?
Bringing two professionals together at a mutually agreeable time and a mutually agreeable location is difficult. Smartcasual is making an open-for-meeting community, where you can find other professionals around you with availability of time and potential meeting location pre-posted before you make an appointment.
From discovery of other professionals to having an actual meeting gets a lot easier, as the list of all the open meetings appears in three consecutive days from current day, reducing all the hassles and hesitations of scheduling a meeting with other professionals. The goal for the service is to lower the barrier for business networking as much as possible, so that the only worry for the meeting would be “what should I wear?” and the answer is obviously Smart-casual.
What's your personal background?
Ignacio Martin: 33 years old co-founder, Ignacio Martin, has a strong engineering background. Having worked for companies like Adobe, HSBC and Morgan Stanley, and having lived in 5 different countries give him a unique experience in multi cultural professional relationships. Outside work he loves travel, sports and cinema, although he will never remember any actor’s name.
Takeshi Hui: Co-founder of Smartcasual, 34 years old, met Ignacio in former fin-tech startup in Hong Kong. Entrepreneurial heart built for user experience and design, also a serious coder and touches every part of business development to bring Smartcasual up and live.
Tell us about your strategy for launching and growing the company.
We focus on users and among the few things that we learn from them is that first impression is very important when it comes to business networking. Profile images on our app is probably the place where each professional can make a big difference other than their career information, so we want to drive a mobile showroom vehicle around town, offering free professional headshot photoshooting as one of our marketing campaigns.
[quote_right]“Our strategy is simple, for whatever we do, we keep making business networking easier for users.”[/quote_right]
Bringing local events and organizations to the app is also in our strategy. As we currently encourage one-to-one meetings on the app, we do want to extend our services to event meetups where professionals get together for networking. Our aim is to grow together with local business communities and be a part of every success story for each individual professional.
Who should be using your service? How much can one earn?
Smartcasual is for everyone who needs professional connections to succeed in their business. Our initial idea was to build an app for startups like us, where human resources are always limited. In a fast paced city like Hong Kong and being in a startup, time is luxury. We required a working solution that helps find and meet freelancers doing design, engineers who understand your architecture or a marketer who can grow your business.
Smartcasual is currently a free service, and one would not be able to offer the price for their time. However, we believe and guarantee you that having more connections will eventually lead you to finding a dream job that you are always looking for, or finding a new client who may be beneficial to you.
What do you think of the startup scene in HK? What's good, what can be improved?
Startups scene in Hong Kong is still young compared to other countries, though we are seeing a growth in the number of startups around us, and seeing more and more channels for publicity, like Jumpstart Magazine, that brings startups to surface.
We understand that Hong Kong is considered a city of finance. The rent is high and living standard is not ideal for being in a startup, people tend to choose work stability for better salaries than to take an adventure down the road of ventures.
The good thing is, the startup infrastructure is building up. We are able to find a lot of co-working spaces like Blueprint, The Hive, CoCoon and Paperclip offering affordable rental space for startups to work. There are also accelerator programmes like B2B Tech Accelerator by Swire Properties, AIA accelerator powered by Nest, that help to propel the startup to the next level.
We do wish to see more of these supporters helping startups, so that Hong Kong could be marked as a new front of innovation in Asia.
What are some HK startups you admire?
Generally, we admire the enthusiasm of all startups in Hong Kong offering creative solution to a real problem. Some of the startups that we work closely with, and do wish to mention are:
WHub - WHub encapsulates the passion of Hong Kong startup, building a database of startups and offering a job search portal. Hats off to the quality and the efforts that they have put in.
mercurr - The aim of mercurr is to help startups expand internationally, working as a concierge for startups in destination countries. They understand startup needs well, and give personalized consultation for a smooth expansion.
Popscout - Popscout is a marketplace for brands to find pop-up locations in Hong kong. Mainly targeting e-commerce brands that want to get some offline exposure. We’ve known the founder since his arrival to Hong Kong, and saw the company built from scratch to working service in an amazingly short time.