StartupsHK October Start Club event

So these guys are having their October “Start Club” event tomorrow, Monday the 29th in LKF. It’s called “Starting Local, Going Global”, but beyond that I don’t know what the event is about. They’ll have some startups pitch their ideas, which is always interesting (I’ve attempted to pitch at these guy’s event, but they keep kicking me off the roster. Seriously, I’ve been scheduled on there several times, then mysteriously disappear before the event). Alex will be coming with me to the event as well. I’ll update this post later with reviews of the different pitches and the event itself.

Alex and I were almost late getting to this thing. I guess we don’t spend enough time hanging out in Central to know where Grappa’s Cellar is. Because we sure as hell didn’t.

Once at the event, Alex and I took a seat near the stage. Grappa’s Cellar is a restaurant with the tables and bar centered around a decent sized event stage, it is in the basement of an office building. I had seen Imogen Heap perform there a year or two ago.


Start Club
The term Start Club, to me, suggests a club of entrepreneurs that share experiences, networks, and skills; collaborating and creating together. I think I was expecting something like Tech Ranch Austin’s campfires, a lively and very personal event in a brightly lit conference room. Instead, Start Club was more of a performance, befitting the setting, where the attendees, or perhaps I should call them the audience, only observed. The event was split into two halves: 1) a sort of speech or question/answer session by an entrepreneur who operates Outblaze, a company that makes game apps, and 2) a pitch session.

The first half was boring. The guy is very interesting, as is his story, but this certainly was not conveyed while he was on stage. I noticed that the guy running the PA kept turning up the microphone volume in an attempt to stop the audience from talking and to start paying attention to the speaker. The questions were prearranged between the speaker and the host (who was also on stage), they were primarily about how his company is currently structured. The subject was supposed to be “Starting Local, Going Global” but I didn’t catch anything about starting local and going global. From my understanding the speaker had developed and then sold a technology to IBM, so he had enough capital to fund the gaming business on his own. He mentioned a couple of interesting things:

  1. The company is split into small teams which each develop a game app, most teams are 5 to 7 people
  2. It takes around 6 months to develop a game.
  3. Most games have a “stickiness” of one month. That means they are played by lots of people for one month then become less popular.

At one point he said “it doesn’t really cost much to develop a game, it just takes a team five or six months and you should produce something” (paraphrasing that). But if you add it up, say each of those 6 people (on average) cost the company US$2,500 a month, plus HK office rent/utilities of $4,000 a month (minimum), for 5  or 6 months, that’s just about $100,000. I’m not so sure $100k is chump change, especially if you have to recover that investment plus a profit in only 30 days….. unless of course you happen to of recently sold a technology to IBM. Most (maybe all) of the people at Start Club are computer IT/app guys, so I’m sure they found this interesting as well. Or, I could be completely wrong about this, as I know nothing about game or apps.

At the end they took questions but no one had any. I wonder if I could convince these guys to to let me organize the next Start Club. Whadaya think?

The second half consisted of two pitches. I thought there were supposed to be three pitches at a Start Club event. The first pitch, for Boxad, was this: put advertising on the sides of Chinese take-out boxes. The guy had apparently gotten some companies to sign up, but I couldn’t tell from his presentation if this is actually the case. So I’m not sure if he has printed and distributed any boxes yet. Now my understanding of a startup is a company which “develops a new service or technology, meeting a need which has not yet been met”. Some people identify “fast growth” as the distinguishing startup factor, but I think this is the same thing. If you identify and meet a new need, you’re gonna grow, a lot. Conversely, a “new business” is simply that, a company which did not recently exist, and which is now offering a product or service to an established market. Which will not exponentially grow. A Chinese restaurant is a new business, a restaurant which uses a proprietary technology to instantly identify and serve a meal consisting of the individual patron’s real time nutritional needs is a startup (Hey, that’s a good idea!).  Advertising on the side of food containers is a new business, not a startup. But, anyway, it’s a business, and I hope he succeeds at it. First step would be to call the box manufactures, which he hadn’t done yet.

Yea, these things

The second pitch, by Locaclick, was for a phone app that identifies restaurants and bars around you (the guy was an Apple nut, he thought everyone had an iphone and was very surprised to discover one of the judges estimated Hong Kong to consist of 80% Android phones). The idea is similar to Yelp or, in Hong Kong, Open Rice. His differentiation strategy was to offer instant discount to people. The restaurants would be able to select what discounts they want to offer and on what days/times. This seems like a pretty good idea, especially if the restaurants can manage this real time. You could turn on a “50% off” sale until you reach a certain number of customers, then turn it off. To get the discount there is something about a four digit code, but I couldn’t tell from the presentation exactly how that worked. Apparently it is instant and easy, the presenter said it was superior to some other similar apps (none of which I was familiar with and can recall at the moment). He was very smiley and friendly, he gave Alex and I a free promotional pen.

Most of the first half Alex and I drew on the table cloth attempting to figure out how to seal a crucible with 800 degree Celsius gas inside. Hopefully, in the future, Start Club will develop into more of a “club” event where the point of the event is to communicate with each other and not to hear one person talk. Originally StartupsHK said Start Club was to operate in a style similar to the movie Fight Club in that they had two rules: 1) You must share Start Club and 2) If it’s your first time to attend, you must pitch. Apparently they quickly abandoned the second rule, but maybe things will change in the future.

Yea, my Korean is probably totally incorrect. It’s a doodle, dammit.


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