JUMPSTARTER Startup Pitching Competition Goes Global 

Alibaba’s Wang Jian talks cloud and offers tips; young entrepreneurs impress; t­ackling goldfish attention span; Quek on Carousell; Naka on Wantedly

Nine seconds. Less than the attention span­ of a goldfish. The time window to make a favourable impression.

That was the guidance provided by Lori Granito, TEDx speaking coach and entrepreneur, to startups planning their pitch for funding at JUMPSTARTER 2019 on day 3 of the StartmeupHK Festival 2019. It was a message noted by speakers, panellists and interviewees on the main stage, all of whom contributed to a fast-moving and highly informative session. 

JUMPSTARTER, hosted by Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund and with an attendance exceeding 4,000, is a platform for all entrepreneurs and young people to jump start their ideas and dreams in Hong Kong.

Cindy Chow, Executive Director of Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund, gave a welcome. She said this year’s event includes a global award, which received more the 600 applications from all over the world, including the U.S., Singapore, South Korea and Middle East. This is in addition to Hong Kong, mainland China and Taiwan. These plans were reviewed by 30 corporates and distilled to a shortlist of 24 teams which compete for the prize.

Stephen Phillips, Director-General of Investment Promotion at Invest Hong Kong, organiser of the StartmeupHK Festival, welcomed JUMPSTARTER and Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund, and noted the international flavour of the event. More than a third of Hong Kong’s startups have international co-founders, helping to give them an edge when expanding on a global scale, he said. The city’s startup sector is going from strength to strength he added.

Wang Jian tells Alibaba Cloud story

With the formalities over, the event kicked off with a speech by Dr. Wang Jian, Chairman of Alibaba Group Technology Committee and Founder of Alibaba Cloud, Alibaba Group. He talked about his background – originally a psychologist and then switching profession – and story of Alibaba Cloud, which he established ten years ago in Hangzhou with Jack Ma, Co-founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group.

Back then, cloud wasn’t even a buzzword, he said, adding that’s still the case today for many people. He said the best description is simply general computing. 

Dr. Wang highlighted three personal experiences as guidance for the startups during their entrepreneurship journey. “First, your vision is important. You have your own view of what the future world should be like, and believe that you can make it happen. Our vision at that time (at the outset) was that computing should be delivered through internet, and that’s how we started Alibaba Cloud. Second, young people can do great things. It was a team of young people who created our cloud computing platform in just five years.”

And third, Dr. Wang said that understanding customers is essential, Alibaba Cloud has empowered people to enter business with the support of computing power. 

When asked what will be the most powerful technology in 2030, his answer was computing. Just as the horsepower has era lasted for several centuries, with a gradual ramp-up and adding of power. He said it will be likewise in the era of computing.

Young entrepreneurs and pitching tips for startups

From a more experienced and very accomplished hand to newcomers on the scene, next up was a panel with some alarmingly impressive post-millennials to talk about their experiences establishing their respective startups.

Emma Yang, who founded Timeless at the age of eleven, and Jordan Fung, who founded Pedosa Group at the age of ten, discussed with Hillary Yip, Founder of MinorMynas, the challenges of setting up a company in Hong Kong when not yet 18 years old and being taken seriously. All these challenges they overcame, along with the more practical legal, banking and other ones, mostly through perseverance.   

Besides commenting on the attention span of goldfish, Lori Granito made the point that it’s important to remember that nobody cares.

“Nobody cares about your business. Not one jot. People care about themselves and the problems you can help them solve,” she said. “Sell the problem you solve, not the product.” This is important, particularly for entrepreneurs “who are nervous and babble on.”

Carousell and Wantedly stories told

Quek Siu Rui, Co-founder and CEO of Carousell, shared experiences and insights on stage withBilly Naveed, Founder of Young Founders School. Carousell was launched in 2012, when less funding was available. It meant Mr. Quek and his co-founders worked for months without salaries. 

“There were so many growing pains,” he said, but added that the most challenging one were ones associated with a fast-growing business, such as internal communications and alignment, along with unhappy staff amid rapid expansion. 

Mr. Quek singled out the customer support team as unsung heroes. “They deal with the challenges and angry customers,” he said. “But they are the source of truth.” He added that their feedback leads to problem solving and innovation. He said entrepreneurs need to be anchored by purpose and passion, and the company mission.

The final question: what’s your favourite non-Carousell app? “Slack,” said Mr. Quek.

 Akiko Naka, Founder & CEO of Wantedly, took the stage next to tell her story. Wantedly which provides an innovative way to find exciting new career opportunities. The platform plays down the need for job descriptions and the other formalities that come into the early stages of the job-search process. Its focus is on experiencing the workplace, informal conversations and finding the right fit in a way that’s not contrived. Its “Want to Visit” facilities a casual chat and visit to the company, to get a feel of what it’s like.

Ms. Naka became youngest ever CEO of a company listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. She said a key motivation for her was the sheer satisfaction derived from seeing the business grow and having a genuine impact. Her first job upon graduation was in investment banking, which didn’t provide those particular rewards.

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