The Acceptance of the New Swapit Startup Dialogs

Ever since we gave you the License to Kill, our newest startup dialog architecture and design is online. About a month ago, I explained our reasoning behind that and why we are looking for the best user experience.

After a short while of having our revamped startup dialogs in our public releases, I took a look at its metrics today. We can clearly see that the “Welcome” dialog, which shows to every new user when he launches the app for the first time, is shown to most people. Have a look:

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These stats are for Android devices only right now.

80% of people who see the Welcome dialog, do actually click the main action button in that dialog, which just basically dismisses the dialog and brings the user to the list of items. The remaining 20% probably click the BACK button to dismiss the dialog the usual Android-way. Generally, that’s quite a good ratio in terms of users clicking the main action button, which we designed to be clicked.

It is too early to interpret the effect of the other dialogs we’ve put in there. They do all have different triggers as to when and in which cases they show up. We will see what the future brings here, but our change has definitely helped lifting up conversions in terms of clicks here.

 

Have you tried Swapit yet? Give it a try. It’s free: http://get.swapit.la/now

Swapit to Pitch on Main BREAKTHROUGH Stage at RISE

Yesterday, we pitched at the BREAKTHROUGH Semi-Finals and we also launched our Swapit iOS app, by the way. From 10 absolutely great Hong Kong startup pitches, we were 1 of 4 selected ones who qualified for the finals at the big BREAKTHROUGH stage at RISE.

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On the last day of RISE, June 2nd, 2016, we will be pitching at the BREAKTHROUGH Stage. In total, 20 startups from Hong Kong were selected to pitch at BREAKTHROUGH to showcase Hong Kong’s homegrown startups. Check the schedule for June 2nd to find out the time: https://riseconf.com/schedule

Some more pictures from yesterday’s event at The Hive Studio in Kennedy Town. Beautiful place, by the way, with great staff there.

Did you try Swapit yet? You can go to http://get.swapit.la and hit download.

Swapit at ASIA BEAT 2016 in Xiamen, China

The Swapit has been invited to join the ASIA BEAT 2016 conference in Xiamen, which takes place March 17th – 19th in Xiamen. We will have our own booth, we’ll also pitch at the Asia Beat Startup Pitch and we’ll be happy to present the latest Swapit innovation to the crowd.

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More information about Asia Beat 2016 in Xiamen can be found on their website: http://www.asiabeat.org

Have you tried Swapit yet? You can download it for free from http://get.swapit.la

Swapit got covered by Unwire.PRO

We’ve just received some new coverage by Unwire.PRO, a Hong Kong online media website with some great content covering big name companies like Lenovo and Tesla, and also what’s happening in the startup scene in Hong Kong.

Following our participation at the Startup Connect 2016 event by IBM SoftLayer, we’ve already gotten some great coverage from StartupBeat of the HK Economic Journal as well as coverage on Mingpao Weekly. Now, Unwire.PRO has joined the club and covered us as part of their feature about the Startup Connect 2016 event.

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You can read the full article (Chinese) here: 共享交流創業心得 IBM SoftLayer Catalyst 初創成員齊聚 Startup Connect 2016

About Unwire
Unwire.PRO has over 17,000 fans on Facebook and their local general news Unwire.HK has a whopping 183,000 fans on Facebook and 2,900 followers on Twitter.

Web Summit 2015 – A Personal Recap

Last week I have been in Dublin at the Web Summit. It’s the largest conference for startups in the world! What started 4 years ago with just 400 attendees, was expected to draw 30,000 attendees in this year. Actually, it ended up being 42,000 attendees who flocked into Dublin – a city with a population of 700,000.

At Web Summit 2015 Dublin

Unlike at RISE this year, we didn’t have a booth for Swapit because I didn’t actually plan to attend. I guess, if we had applied for a startup booth at the Web Summit, we would probably have been accepted as well. It’s actually quite a selection process startups have to go through, in order to get a booth there.

So this year, I was invited by Hong Kong’s main startup advocate Casey Lau. Casey co-founded StartupsHK, is our point of contact at the SoftLayer Catalyst Program and was the co-host of RISE 2015 and will also be the co-host of RISE 2016! In the end a great group of people from Hong Kong made their way to Dublin as the “Web Summit StartupsHK Entourage”. This included some Hong Kong’s startup industry leaders like Simon from NEST and Yat from Outblaze who were both also speakers, Bay from Brinc.io, Gabriel from Jaarvis, Gene from Citymapper, Nina from NBD Ventures, Mike from Gormei, Kay from Easi-Way, Julien and Mathis from Ambi Climate, Farook from Mark Masons Investments, Ovey from EventXtra, Joey from Shortlist, and many more – including our lovely friends from InvestHK.

Drone photo of HK peeps on Web Summit stage.

Drone shot of Web Summit StartupsHK Entourage – a bit dark due to low light as we had to sneak in after the sessions

It was my first time at Web Summit and like many others, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of startups, companies, investors, speakers and information that was all around you. The Web Summit took place at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) which is just massive. Because there were so many people and startups attending, the whole summit had to be split into two locations on the RDS premises which were a fluffy 10 minute walk apart – with a horse race track, staples and sports arena in between. Just to give you a rough idea about the size. The Centre Stage alone had seats for 6,000 people.

Like usual, the Web Summit started before it actually started. The night before day 1, our great friends at SoftLayer organized a dinner for all SoftLayer Catalyst Startups who were attending Web Summit. Being jet-lagged and roughly 40 hours awake (it’s not easy to get to Dublin!) I made it there on time. Coming from Hong Kong, I didn’t expect much from the dinner as those dinners are here usually a boring event where most people just go for the free food there. Anyway, I was very positively surprise by the SoftLayer Catalyst folks. Besides the fact that the food and drinks were outstanding (note: red wine hits you quickly when you’re in sleep deprivation mode), I met very interesting people. Next to me on the table was Andy from 500 Startups London, in front of me was a guy running an accelerator in Dublin, left to me a great startup from the UK. It was interesting to see how other startups use the SoftLayer infrastructure, but it was even better for me to get to talk to many industry / accelerator / investor folks from Europe.

The actual Web Summit was running for 3 days and divided into 21 sub-summits. So it was easy to follow the summit(s) which you’re interested in. There are a lot of great startups out there and many are working on very interesting businesses. For example, my old friends from the BlackBerry days, Krishna and Teemu, were there for Juno – a mobile payments company. Startup pitch competitions were also taking place over all three days. Besides all the exhibiting and pitching startups, there were constantly talks, interviews and panels at many stages across the venue. For instance, it was great to get some insights from Michael Dell on his journey traveled and ahead – especially with the $67bln takeover of EMC. Or startup unicorn founders like John Collison from Stripe, the co-founder of Slack and many others.

Let’s take Slack for example. While I have been using it with the StartupsHK folks to communicate efficiently, as a result of Slack’s co-founder’s talk, we are now using it internally to communicate about the development and design work on Swapit. It has always reminded me a bit of IRC which it was probably based upon.

Of course, we also needed to have a bit of fun at the Web Summit. There was a proper Lion Dance scheduled to take place at the RISE 2016 booth, but we couldn’t wait any longer and practiced it ourselves first. Still needs some more practice, though.

Slack for iOS Upload (1)

The RISE 2016 booth also gave us the opportunity to promote Hong Kong as a startup hub to the (pre-dominantly European) world. Of course, I was happy to help promoting Hong Kong to everyone who wanted to know more about it. There seems to be a lot of interest out there. Many startups know that Asia is a great place to be for a startup and RISE having set up shop in Hong Kong (and not in Singapore), added fuel to our thriving eco-system here.

So all in all, it was a great trip. I could make some great new connections, meet and talk to peers whom I am connected with for years. Often, we just don’t get together because everyone is busy with their own businesses. Web Summit is a great place where the travel routes of many people in the industry intersect. Only at these kinds of events, you run into people like Dave McClure (founding partner of 500 Startups) at night during the Pub Crawl Summit. From a Swapit perspective, we are currently in our seed raising mode. Some of the investors I talked to, are a bit “later stage”, which is fine. It is always good to say “Hi” first, let them know about our product and our roadmap, and when we enter their level of investment size, we already have our credentials established.

As for RISE 2016, we will absolutely apply to exhibit with Swapit in the START level of Startups next year. We are absolutely confident, we will get in there and be able to show our track record and traction gained over the course of the year.

So far, stay tuned, and keep an eye out for the next Swapit update. It’s coming your way soon!

Swapit covered by Startupily

The folks at Startupily reached out to us to get some insight information on our journey thus far. Of course, I was happy to talk a bit about our experience and our road ahead. Here is a quick excerpt:

How is your company different from the competition?

We have built the Swapit marketplace from the ground-up for hyper-local trading. When an item is offered on our platform, we automatically attach a location to it and pro-actively reach out to all interested buyers who are nearby right now. It is something that sounds easy, yet it’s a rather unique way of bringing buyers and sellers together. No one else does it this way.

Do you want to read the full interview? Just head over to the original Swapit on Startupily Article.

Have you tried Swapit yet? It’s free to download from http://get.swapit.la

Building A Business Means Every Team Member Is Replaceable

When we are talking to investors, there is a lot of talk about “the team”. That is important, because only the right team, which is skilled, motivated and passionate, can execute a vision properly. In the end, most startups fail because the team stops working together. So it’s important to have the right team on board.

However, I truly believe: Every Team Member Must Be Replaceable

Don’t get me wrong, it is important to get key personnel on board. It is essential to have the right person for the right job. And it is very important to do your best to keep that talent in your company for as long as possible.

That being said, it is absolutely essential to build a sustainable business that functions whether you have this key personnel on board or not on board. At first, this might sound contradictory to the belief that key personnel is essential to the success of a business, but if you give it a deeper thought, it is actually in line with it.

Let me give you an example: I am German. I grew up in Germany and got my degree in Computer Science there, before leaving for China 10 years ago. In Germany the common Computer Science degree holder stays with the same company for an average of 11 years. That’s a quite recent statistic, by the way. Perhaps that’s related to the labour market in Germany or to the not so attractive opportunities in other jobs or it’s just the nature of the Germans; who knows. In Hong Kong however, the labour market is very flexible. There is a lot of competition here and we small startups compete for talent with large multi-national corporations that have deeper pockets. Furthermore, especially the younger generation is in many ways more flaky. They might leave 1 month, 1 year, 2 years after you hire them. What do you do then?

It doesn’t matter if you run a startup or an established company. You never ever want to be in the situation that the departure of some of your key personnel causes an implosion of your business. Remember? Most companies fail because their team stops functioning together.

I recently wrote a blog post about my thoughts on A Product Doesn’t Equal A Business. When you are working on building your startup into a real business, many pieces need to fit together. I believe, one of the most important pieces is: You must make sure, everyone in your business is (more or less) easily replaceable. That includes all employees, key personnel and even the founders themselves. You can not allow to end up in a situation where a key person leaves and your business suddenly can not function anymore. May that person leave due to professional or personal reasons or you have to let go of him/her or *knock-on-wood* due to health reasons. Who knows, anything can happen.

My goal for swapit is, to work with the best team for the job we need and want to do. It is also my goal, that every such team member is replaceable and swapit will continue to thrive anyway.

Wanna join the largest mobile marketplace for trading pre-loved items in Hong Kong? Check out swapit: http://www.swapit.la

Visit swapit at RISE in Hong Kong (July 31st, 2015)

The swapit team will have a booth at the RISE Conference in Hong Kong tomorrow (July 31st, 2015) which is SOLD OUT now! Hope you have a ticket!

Swapit has been selected by the RISE startup team to exhibit as a RISE ALPHA startup at the largest summit in Asia. World class speakers like Matt Mullenweg from Automattic (WordPress), Dave McClure from 500startups, Werner Vogels from Amazon and many other great folks, make RISE the event to go to!

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Find the swapit team at:

  • Booth: M125 – Marketing Area
  • Date: Day 1 – July 31st, 2015
  • Location: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
    How to get there

swapit-banner

Just look out for the guys in green – sporting our great swapit T-shirts – and our great swapit logo that has become famous already!

Some links with infos about swapit: 

We’d love to give you a demo and tell you more about our exciting future! We will also be at RISE on Day 2 (August 1st, 2015) and are happy to meet up for a more detailed chat. Just send me an email.

If you haven’t used swapit yet, you can download it at http://swapit.la

Thoughts On: A Product Doesn’t Equal A Business

product-isnt-a-business

I noticed this post by Jeffrey on Facebook and the discussion that came along with it. I absolutely agree that a product does not equal a business. In fact, it is — or it should be — common sense.

I have been building products, thousands of products for mobile over the past decade. Of course, it’s not just me. There is always a great team behind that! Yet, I have been building only a few businesses and one of those has failed so far.

“It’s easy to build products.” one person said. I do agree, it’s easy to build a product – any product. But it is hard — very hard — to build an outstanding kick ass product. Because without that, you won’t be able to build a business around that.

I am a true believer that a successful, sustainable, scalable and repeatable business can only survive with an outstanding product that is built to solve a very specific problem of its particular target audience. If solution that product provides, adds enough value to its users, which they are willing to pay for, then you are on the right path to build a business around that product.

Yes, there are many folks out there, who just keep building a product and another product and another product, and they never really build a proper business around that. While that might not be economically sustainable, I do have huge respect for them. There is a passion that drives them to create those products which they feel very strongly about. Eventually, it’s got to pay off, though. Otherwise, you’ll run out of money and you won’t be able to pay the rent anymore.

Swapit is a Product First, a Business Second

At least for now. While swapit is gaining more and more traction, it is completely free to use. We don’t charge any fees for posting items, nor do we take a cut out of the transaction when an item is sold. For the foreseeable future swapit will remain like that.

Again, building swapit into an outstanding product first, is our main priority right now. While this includes, of course, features coupled with our unique value proposition, it does mainly come down to building a liquid marketplace. If you have an outstanding product, but no one is using it, how will you be able to build a business with scale around that?

If you take a quick look at two giants in the IT space today: Google and Facebook. Both have started with their product first and for quite a long time, both of them didn’t have a clue on how to monetize their product and build a sustainable business around that. For both it eventually came down to advertising and they are both now advertising giants in the media space — so they practically turned into media companies disguised as hip tech companies.

When I look at swapit, I can see many angles we could monetize it — even with keeping our promise of free trades through the platform. In my eyes, the right path of monetization makes the difference in a successful business plan. While we are currently not focusing on that (we’re in marketplace liquidity building mode), we have some very interesting and potentially extremely profitable directions we could go towards with swapit. Only one of those directions are premium service, which we will be charging on top of our free service in swapit will provide enough added value to our user to activate them and turn them into paying customers. We are absolutely confident we are on the right track to complete our product roadmap and exit our public beta with premium services and a sustainable business model in place. That’s the point where a decade of experience in building apps and businesses comes into play 😉

Tried swapit yet? Download for free: http://get.swapit.la

Thoughts on the Hong Kong Government’s Efforts to Develop the Economy (incl. Startups)

swapit-blog_hkMany people seem to have strong thoughts about the proposed budget 2015/16 that was just announced by the Hong Kong government. If you’re interested you can read the budget announcement and speeches in detail at: www.budget.gov.hk So, I thought I might comment on the “Start-ups” sub-section (paragraphs 38-48) of the “Developing Our Economy” section of the budget speech. Disclaimer: I am not particularly qualified to professionally comment on the measures proposed. Therefore, everything that follows is my (Patrick Kosiol) personal view on things. swapit-blog_uberEntrepreneurship I absolutely agree with the statement that Hong Kong is being hit by a new wave of entrepreneurship. Though, I had argued before that Hong Kong has a long-standing tradition of entrepreneurship in trading business. It is true that Hong Kong needs to get itself ready for the new companies and business models that will hit the territory. That is inevitable to happen and Hong Kong’s laissez-faire approach to business allows – and most importantly encourages – that. A very simple example for this is Uber which has launched its disrupting services in many countries in the world, including in the Hong Kong SAR. swapit-blog_investhkInvestHK I do also welcome the fact that Hong Kong’s InvestHK has received its own mentioning in the speech. I have personally met several InvestHK folks (from various of their departments depending on which industry you’re interested in) and they have been very forthcoming. While I have to say that neither I personally nor any of the companies I co-founded had some direct benefit from working with InvestHK, I do very much appreciate their work and effort they put into enabling companies to launch in Hong Kong, establishing business relations with local as well as overseas companies and hosting networking events. swapit-blog_cyberport-hkstp-logoCyberport & HKSTP The mentioning of Cyberport and the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park is also encouraging. While I am sure both have received similar exposure in recent years, they do their part in nurturing their specific target groups of entrepreneurs. In 2011 Boris and I where among 3 co-founders who started a company called TreeCrunch Limited with which we did apply for the Cyberport Creative Micro Fund (CCMF) and were accepted to it. A CCMF-funded project runs for 6 months and when accepted you get access to a HKD $100,000 grant from Cyberport. After TreeCrunch had graduated from CCMF, we applied for and got accepted to the Cyberport Incubation Programme which is a 24-month program that gets you access to grants and resources worth up to HKD $530,000. In 2012 we started working on our Sky Drone project which is still ongoing. We applied for the CCMF in their 2014 summer recruitment and got awarded the grant as well. Just recently Sky Drone graduated from the CCMF program successfully. So in short: the Cyberport programs have helped us as startups already. Previously, we did not find a matching program at the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park. That was very unfortunate at the time, but from what I can see, they have revised their programs and are now offering more broadly targeted programs outside the mobile gaming and biotech industry. That is great news for Hong Kong! Government Data Going Public Now, what really excites me is this paragraph:

46. From this year onwards, free online government information will be released in digital formats to encourage development of more applications by start-ups. Many start-ups have developed a wide range of mobile applications by exploiting such public sector information, including information on real-time traffic and weather conditions.

I love open data. Some countries in the world are embracing that concept and especially the United States of America are at the vanguard of it. Basically, any data produced by any federal US government agency is to be published in the Public Domain unless it is data that needs to be treated confidentially. I truly hope Hong Kong adopts a similar model. On top of that, I hope Hong Kong government departments will publish such data in a manner and format that allows easy programmatic use. swapit-blog_5billion$5 billion for the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF) Now in paragraph 44 the speech outlines how an additional $5 billion injection in the ITF is expected to strengthen support for relevant enterprises:

44. In addition, the proposed injection of $5 billion to the Innovation and Technology Fund will help strengthen support for relevant enterprises.

So let me tell you a quick story about that ITF. I have not met one person who can confirm to have received funding from ITF. Perhaps I just know the wrong people. Yet, with TreeCrunch (mentioned above) we did apply for the ITF’s Small Entrepreneur Research Assistance Programme (SERAP). It’s a mouth full, I know. Not just that, it’s also hand full of work to apply for that. Granted, you can now “get funding support of up to HK$6 million will be provided on a dollar-for-dollar matching basis” which is a significant amount and it’s absolutely justified that you got to work hard to get access to it. So back in 2012 we applied for SERAP with a project that was targeted at a duration of 18 months. We were looking for $2 million of matching funding (which basically comes as an interest-free loan). There was quite some bureaucracy involved in the process of applying which could definitely be optimized. Anyhow, in the end we did not get the SERAP funding we hoped for, because – according to the judging panel and after many many attempts & begging to get detailed feedback – our technology was apparently near completion and we had “low Innovation and Technology” content. To be precise, this was the official explanation:

The Panel was of the view that the project was commercially viable and the project team had capability to carry out the project. Nonetheless, apparently the bulk of the R&D work involved seemed to be near completion. The Panel considered the remaining work had low I&T content. Hence, the application was therefore not supported for funding.

Perhaps we presented our solution too well, because it was far away from being finished and TreeCrunch basically ran out of money 4 months later — before we were able to finish it. But that’s a different story, I am happy to talk about over a beer. Furthermore, our whole product and service was building on natural language processing which in its very nature is an extremely innovative and technology-heavy field. At least in my opinion. There is one phrase I remember very vividly when thinking about SERAP. During our discussions with them it was mentioned to us multiple times that: “The panel has to decide carefully who they are giving money to because it is public money. They can not take any risk and need to make sure the loan can be recovered.” swapit-blog_leapWhile I absolutely understand the reasoning behind that, it might be good get past the fact that supporting startups and entrepreneurship is about taking risks. If you want to support startups you got to take risks. Period. It is about putting your money where your mouth is. If you really want to support innovative startup companies, from time to time you got to take a leap. The full budget speech PDF can be downloaded right here: http://www.budget.gov.hk/2015/eng/pdf/e_budgetspeech2015-16.pdf