Interview with Pokeguide, an MTR Navigation Guide

Interview with Andre Hui of
Why is Pokeguide needed?

MTR is widely adopted transportation system in Hong Kong. It’s fast, affordable and can get you from A to B if you know which exit to get off, which can be confusing as there are so many exits.  If you take the wrong one, you can be stuck in an elevator queue or wind up in another area and may not be able to backtrack inside the train system (for instance in Causeway Bay and Quarry Bay stations).

Pokeguide is an app for last-minute decision makers to get to their correct destination, quicker and easier. Our app tells the travelers the best car door to board the train so that they can go straight to the escalator and avoid the crowd. At the same time, we advise them what to do around their destination so that they can find everything they need in our app. When people are waiting for the train, Pokeguide app will be the one-stop-shop for all destination-based (far better than location based) advice to make people’s life more colourful.


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How did you go around collecting this info? What have you learned through his experience?

We went to 80+ train stations one by one, from morning to evening to observe the behaviour of trains, escalators and passengers’ movement. We spent two years to complete this research. Most people think we took too long because it’s not cost effective especially for a start-up, but we believe people will lose faith if you give the wrong answer when they are in need.

We found that Hong Kong MTR stations very interesting because different stations have different escalator and passengers behave differently on different MTR lines. Our answers are not just theoretical, but practical to end-users.

Overseas, it’s even more interesting. I recall collecting Chicago’s MTR data and spent few days clueless because I could’t find a pattern where the metro train drivers park the trains every time. I spent a lot of time talking with many people, and found that sometimes the passengers know more information than the station officers.

How do you plan to maintain the information?

Currently we have a team to review different stations periodically. We have marked notes on each station at the beginning for different characteristics, so we can review these characteristics each time with much less time.

What’s your monetization strategy?

We’ll earn money from destination-based advertisements. We’ve had 500+ merchants joining us within few weeks of acquisitions, and we believe this is a real win-win-win situation for end-users, merchants and us – we earn the money but the advertisements shown are valuable advice to the last-minute decision makers. People love it and keep on clicking and using it.

What’s your personal background?

This business is my childhood dream and my final-year project at a university. My teammate has 10 years of experience with project management, business development, consulting and application development. Together, we have experience launching new products to the market and earning 30%+ market share, that’s why we are confident to start this company.

What do you think of HK’s startup ecosystem?

I can see huge improvement on the startup ecosystem in Hong Kong in the past few years. A good start-up atmosphere is building here these past five years.

In the past, people were fighting for i-bank interns and now a lot of them are creating start-ups and social enterprises. What Hong Kong lacks are ambitious angels and fund houses that would invest in creative projects. There are some but not many regional experienced angels and PE in Hong Kong.

HK ecosystem also needs new investors. I have come across some new investors that compare the result and risk exposure against the returns in real estates and stock market, or they are looking for unrealistically proven idea (that means all people are doing it now) and unfair advantage (for this case why will pick you instead of other regional investors).

I have met up many great new start-ups in Hong Kong and sad to see that they have so few resources that they can’t fulfill their dreams just because of lack of capital. A lot of them are better than the start-ups I met in UK 10 years ago.

Which Hong Kong startups do you admire?

9GAG and Editgrid (before acquired). I also love the idea of FansWiFi and Openball – they have a potential.

What’s next for Pokeguide?

In addition to Hong Kong, we have collected data from major metro cities all over the world. These will be launched after we successfully launch our Hong Kong guide. This is exciting and we hope we can change people’s habits because the newer generation is reliant on mobile technology and needs quicker answers than ever before.


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