As Jimmy Chan walked into the co-working space in a Kwun Tong factory building, its occupants lifted their heads from their work to greet him. ‘My office is downstairs, but I love working here just to be together with the young entrepreneurs.’ Jimmy’s startup experience exceeds 15 years, but more recently, he has put a lot of efforts into developing a startup ecosystem to provide new entrepreneurs with co-working space, funding and expansion support. Seeing how many young people with entrepreneurial aspirations were discouraged by the high office rentals, he wanted to help them achieve their startup dreams.
On a trip to Israel in 2015, Jimmy visited co-working spaces for startups and discovered that despite the country’s small geographical size and shortage of natural resources, the startup atmosphere proliferating there was one of the most vibrant in the world. ‘Israel is part of the Middle East and surrounded by enemies. While there, I was told by a young Israeli that they must innovate to survive.’ Although Hong Kong’s situation is not as perilous, it is under the pressure of stiff competition from the rest of the world, especially the key cities of mainland China. Jimmy believes that in addition to its key sectors like finance and real estate, Hong Kong needs to stay attuned with global trends in other areas. ‘I want to foster a startup ecosystem with young people to support our city’s economic transition.’
At the time of his graduation from CUHK’s Physics Department, the atmosphere for dotcom investments reached a feverish pitch globally and he quickly found a job in the newly emerging Internet sector, then beset by a dearth of talent, with the help of an alumnus from Chung Chi College. ‘Shortly after joining the industry, the dotcom bubble burst, with a devastating impact on my company. Disillusioned, I consulted my alumni friends from Chung Chi College and they thought the Internet business still had much going for it, so I tried starting a business.’ Since then, Jimmy has witnessed the frenetic advance of technology, reflected in the tech buzzwords changing from 3D printing to Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence. And a decade ago, the core business of Vizz Group, the company he founded, moved into digital marketing and smart solutions. ‘The Hong Kong Spirit is none other than the courage to face changes.’
When the financial tsunami was over, many companies looked for ways to broaden their income sources and cut cost. ‘Advertising clients started noticing that web publicity could be more cost-effective than MTR lightbox advertisements and TV commercials. Adding to this was the increasing popularity of smart phones and social media. Internet posts could go viral rapidly by word of mouth.’ Jimmy set up more than 10 digital platforms, including WeShare with his partner Jerry Chan in 2013. This platform features leisure content primarily and readers could get to know the brands better by browsing its articles. The writers have built their reputation gradually to become KOLs (key opinion leaders).’ WeShare’s mode of content marketing came to the attention of major brands as it revolutionized the way traditional advertising revenue was generated. The platform broke even about a year into its operation, and won the ‘HSBC Youth Business Award’.
What counts as a sound content marketing strategy? Citing the Left-Right Circles Theory of Prof. Andrew Chan of CUHK’s Faculty of Business Administration, Jimmy said, ‘There are two circles. The left circle represents customer needs while the right one stands for an enterprise’s competitive edge. The overlapping area in the centre is therefore the brand’s core content, which has to fulfill customer needs on one hand and showcase the brand value on the other. In content planning, it is vital to find out what the target customers are interested in and uncover the brand’s value accordingly, in order to gain greater customer appeal. ‘With appropriate marketing content and a creative communication approach in place, it is equally important to engage the customers emotionally and open up new room for imagination for the brand. For example, TV artiste Law Lan was invited to be the spokesperson for YSL (Yves Saint Laurent), a move that garnered much positive acclaim on the Internet.’
Jimmy has been giving back to CUHK actively after graduating. From 2016 onwards, he has become Chairman of Chung Chi College Alumni Association and a mentor of its Mentor Programme. ‘Frankly speaking, my Chung Chi College alumni friends have influenced me profoundly. Without their encouragement, I might not have started my business.’ He believes the association could bring together alumni of different generations through its diverse activities. While everybody has different paths to follow, they could all be a source of inspiration with their individual life perspectives and stories of their survival strategies in our business-oriented society. ‘Chung Chi College Alumni Association has seen an influx of young alumni in recent years. Some of them have even become mentors, joining hands with others of different generations to mentor the College’s young students. This is our way of giving back to our alma mater and passing on its legacy!’
Jimmy brightened up when young people were mentioned. ‘Recently, I set up the Hong Kong Spirit Charitable Sports Association with the aim of facilitating youth developments through sports to enable them learn mutual respect, goal striving and team-spirit building on the football field. Sports is a universal language and a bridge for communication among people of different cultural backgrounds.’ Ex-Real Madrid superstar Ronaldo was in Hong Kong to attend a spate of ‘Hong Kong Spirit’ events last May, where he encouraged youths to strive for their goals, recounting the story of his own struggle. Jimmy planned to hold the Hong Kong Spirit 100 Companies Recognition Ceremony in late 2018 to solicit corporate support for the development of youth sports and empower young people to chase their dreams on the football field and beyond.
Reported by Jenny Lau, ISO
Photos by Eric Sin
This article was originally published on CUHK Homepage in Feb 2018.