Sunday, 22 September 2013

Hong Kong gearing up for Super Typhoon Usagi

2013-09-21 16.45.28

Hong Kong is starting to gear up for (super) typhoon Usagi. People have gone out shopping to stock up on food in case the so called T8 signal will be hoisted.

As a consequence Hong Kong will sort of shut down. Transport like the MTR and buses will still be operating thought many shops and offices will start closing down. Good thing is...that apparently cinema's stay open! So might be a good time to check out some of the movies at iMax theatre in my neighbourhood.

Depending on the area different measures will be taken. As can be seen from the picture on the left, the typhoon coincides with a very high tide. Well, it was Mid autumn festival which is linked to the so called Autumnal Equinox. In short, this is when the moon is close to the earth.  The expected strong winds, including with the high tides creates a major risk for flooding in certain lower areas of the territory.

Residents in the Tai Po and other areas have been preparing by setting up barriers and bringing electrical and other precious goods to higher grounds.

An interesting observation in front of my house was the total absence of boats. There are a few major construction projects going on related to the Macau - Zhuhai - Hong Kong bridge. Normally this is full of activities of boats shuttling between the work areas and Lantau. As you can see on the total left and right pictures below, no boats or other activity can be spotted. Interesting observation is the total absence of boats, which probably are moved to Typhoon shelters in the neighbourhood.

The same would count for the construction site, although they are excused as it is Sunday. They have been rigging their site to prevent stuff flying around. With that some of the cranes have been put in the right mode so they can withstand the wind.

2013-09-22 12.13.49 2013-09-22 12.13.552013-09-22 12.14.02 

One decision that will impact many travellers is flight operations at Hong Kong Airport. Flight operations will be impacted and travellers might want to check in with their airlines or travel support. It looks like Hong Kong airport is filling up nicely at this time.. so bring those snacks, ebooks and other stuff to keep busy :).

Hong Kong International Airport Usagi Announcement

Lets see where Usagi will take us over the next 48hrs.

update 15:45 local time: Looks like the airport has mainly Cathay Pacific flights ready to go and clear the airport.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Reef Check with IAHD

picture by IAHD.ORG.HK

Last Saturday it was time to support another session of diving with the International Association of Hand in Hand divers Hong Kong. An enthusiastic group of divers that goes out exploring the waters of Hong Kong a few times a year. The interesting thing about the group is that a number of people in the group have some sort of a handicap. Whether this is visual, or physical they do come out to have a good time underwater - fully inline with IAHD motto “Embrace Challenge Together”.

This trip had a conservation team, the guys signed up to participate in a reef check organised by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department of Hong Kong Government. A full fledged survey where designated areas get checked for the quantity and quality of corals, vertebrates and other underwater life. The area underwater gets "boxed" in, and teams will monitor the for them important things. Whether it is fish, corals or other underwater life. After the day, data gets submitted and will be centrally processed by the AFCD people so they can keep an eye on what is going on.

On the monitoring side, certain teams also did a Coral Watch session. Using a few provided tools, coral watch does allow a health check of corals. It uses a colour chart to compare the darkest and lightest colours of particular corals in order to determine the impact of coral bleaching. After the day the data gets submitted on the coral watch website so they can keep a global eye on what is happening to reefs.

I did change the objective of the first dive a little. Some of the people I was diving with had not been in the water for a few months, and did need a little time to be properly buoyant under water again. Especially as the area we were diving was a little challenging as there was surge, it was shallow and the visibility was crap.

The second dive of the day had as theme "Dive against Debris", a project AWARE support initiative to clear our seas from rubbish. It is also a global initiative where dive teams all over the world gear up to remove the rubbish. The guys that were diving with me and myself picked up a teapot, lots of fishing line, some cans and other fishing related objects.

It always surprises me the amount of rubbish we come across at spots that are frequented by (diving)boats.

All together a very rewarding day!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Made with Love in Hong Kong -


Recently I became a curator for the WeAreHKTech list, an overview of Hong Kong born and bred tech startups. A key challenge faced is a lack of understanding that Hong Kong has a thriving startup scene. Agree, there has not been a facebook, linkedin or instagram as of yet. Though the list currently has over 200 startups.

When checking out some of the startups I came across Perpetu a previous Hong Kong Startup Weekend participant. This team was in the 1st official edition and is still going strong.

A nice initiative they took can be seen on the picture above. In the "little details" section they included a line of text showing their birthplace -->

Made with ♡ in HK

A brilliant initiative which, if more startups would use this little gesture could show the world that there is a growing startup scene here capable of delivering nice startups to the world.

So, if you are a Hong Kong startup - do include the little line and drop me a message via @marcelekkel and we make sure it gets mentioned!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

My first 500px POPULAR photo

Windows by Marcel Ekkel on
Windows by Marcel Ekkel

Today I uploaded a few of my pictures at 500px. A website dedicated to photography. When started it became a major competitor for Anyways, the picture above is a picture I shot when walking around in Central, Hong Kong. The photo was shot using an iphone 3GS so nothing advanced there.

I did like the fact that there are no people or cars just buildings. Making it black and white put a good emphasis on the lines.

Shortly after uploading it, likes, loves and comments started rolling in. And after a while I received a nice email that it achieved the popular status. The email looked like the picture below.


It is a nice feeling :) so well done for 500px

Monday, 5 August 2013

AcceleratorHK mentoring and Demo day coming up!

For people that are keeping track of me on FourSquare, a check in at The GoodLab regularly appeared. The majority of times it was to visit participants in Cohort 2 of Hong Kongs only accelerator program, called indeed AcceleratorHK. A program setup by Steve Forte and Paul Orlando to help early stage startups moving towards the right direction.

This cohort has six teams in it, and they could not be more different. Participants do come from many corners of the globe to maximise what Hong Kong has to offer. (By the way, there are a few interesting programs available for if you are considering Hong Kong as a base.. check out Invest Hong Kong their venture program here).  Their offerings are varied as well, which we will see in a bit.

Anyway, most of my efforts went into mentoring around strategy, how to make it all happen and a little on business models and presentation. I love doing that sort of stuff as the passion and energy that comes out of it is brilliant. Many startups do have this good vibe to make stuff happen without major red tape to be dealt with. A change often takes a short time to be implemented. On the other side, that makes it easy to really get caught in the trap of being tactical without having a clear view where you are going.

A key focus area during the program is on customer development as described by Steve Blank. Followed by tools and techniques around the Lean Startup approach. Seeing people being surprised that for the begin of the program NOTHING will be coded, no development will take place other than understanding if there is a problem and a market that are interesting enough to work on.

As a mentor I love to ask questions to get the teams to look at their work from a different angle and free themselves from their fixed thinking patterns. A number of participants in the cohort have been "brainwashed" during their time in the corporate world, and it is exiting to see the change in behaviour with them. Then there are fresh-grads or people with limited working experience that are showing some good progress.

Teams that are currently in the accelerator program are:

  • Taking the pain out of trip planning - Captain Planner
  • Converting customers to advertisers - Dood Here
  • Bringing mum and pap shops to the next level - Gyaan Tel
  • Securing your Online Currencies Offline - Ice Vault
  • Rocking the 2nd Screen space - So Fly
  • Real food by real people for real people - Very Bite 

Anyway, all their hard work, learning, successes and other experiences are being rounded up soon for their demo day. This is where they will showcase where they are and where they will be going. A short presentation will be followed by time to interact with the teams to learn more about what they have to offer.

The schedule for Demo Day (next Tuesday 13 August) is as follows:

  • 18:15-19:00: Registration and networking. Free beer and pizza at the Good Lab's Kitchen.
  • 19:00-20:15: Demo Day!!! Welcome by AcceleratorHK and then 6 startups present. At the Good Lab's theatre. If you come late then there should be an overflow room with a live stream. 
  • 20:15-22:30: Networking: visit the 6 startups at their booths spread about the entire good lab and get free drinks and other goodies. You can use at least two of the startups live production apps during the networking and sign up for the other's betas. Meet other startup people, engineers, investors, and the like. 
  • 23:00-----> Afterparty! At Zinc in LKF. 30-32 D'aguilar St

See you there! Please register so the team knows how much beer and pizza to buy.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Startup Weekend Autumn 2013 edition team set up

It has been a few months since we had a successful spring edition of Startup Weekend in Hong Kong. Successful because there was a good number of attendees, a brilliant venue (, good interest and support from the Hong Kong startup community, interest and active participation by the Hong Kong Government's CIO department.

And where would we have been without the fantastic support of sponsors by helping us with cash to buy food and cover some other costs as well as prizes for some of the winning teams. Interesting to see was that some startups and even teams that were born at Startup Weekend contributed to the event.

All this put together by a bunch of selfless volunteers that have a soft spot for beginning or potential entrepreneurs. Planning an event like this takes around 3 months during which the teams look for sponsors, venue, mentors and judges and work on the operations for the weekend. And of course a fair bit of time goes into marketing to potential participants. We have been blessed with a good network of supporters and supporting organisations that do spread the love

Last week we kicked off the preparations for the upcoming editions. It is really good to see the energy and enthusiasm with which the volunteers are running around building the next event. The event is expected to take place in the last weekend of October or first weekend of November. This would allow the winning team to participate in the Global Startup Battle.

For now the team is looking for a venue that can host 100-120 people working on teams. In order for them to work they would need wifi and sufficient electricity plugs. Sponsors for food, t-shirts and prizes and important as well.. mentors and judges! 

Drop me an email if you have any suggestions for those.

As everyone has a day job (whether this work or studying), it is often a virtual team approach. In order to keep things moving we use a number of tools.

ASANA - task management
EVERNOTE - sharing of information
GOOGLE DRIVE and DOCS - keeping track of documents and
DROPBOX - to share files amongst the team

I am excited and curious what the team can pull off this far we have gone better and better.

A Farewell by Paul Orlando - he will be missed!

Paul after being a judge for Startup Weekend (Photo by Vaughn Hew)

Recently (18 July 2013) @PaulOrlando had his farewell speech to the startup community in Hong Kong. Fully in Paul style, the event started at 19:30 Paul time…(for non insiders...thats around 20minutes later)

After a short but jam-packed time, Paul is returning back to the US. Not because there is nothing left to do here in Hong Kong, though merely to support his fiancee on some of her endeavours. He was the man behind which organised a number of bootcamps and lots of other supportive work and was a key driver behind And don't forget the website, currently showing over 200 Hong Kong Startups!

His final presentation looked back though definitely looked forward! I put it below so you can take a look for yourself.

A few interesting topics popped up which I jotted down in my own interpretation:

  • techcrunch, asiatech, pandodaily.... interesting though do your customers read those as well? If not then why bother with the effort to get the publicity.. why not get on the front page of sites and magazines your customers use?
  • in line with that.. hopping around many startup events.. is that the best use of your time? Oh and when was the last time you visited an event frequented by your target customers?
  • a startup is a biz, so call it like that..its ok to stay away from the startup hype part...
  • Hong Kong is a market that has its own characteristics, does it matter we are not Silicon Valley? They do have their challenges as well.
  • And... startup is a business...why not call it like that!

Flip through some of the opportunities mentioned -

  • providing testmarkets
  • corporate accelerators
  • crowd funding 
  • group buying of resources for startups
  • GREEN stuff!
  • Get 100 Founders to Hong Kong every 6 months
  • Peer Pressure

Paul being Paul, an interesting twist had to be build in. A major challenge for many startups is getting to market. Let's call it stage fear. For days, weeks, months they have been working on their baby and now its time to go to market! Well, is it? Or should we tweak this, modify that, add feature here and there. Putting a bit of peer pressure in place, startups were asked to publicly commit to launching something by a date. Some of the startups making commitments I recall are:

  • surroundapp (engaging in Chinese social media in English) - having their first paying client before the end of july 2013-DONE!
  • social agent  (lead and sales generation in China) - getting their app out by 9 Aug!
  • pay 4 bugs (crowd sourced bug finding and fixing) - Ship before the following Monday - DONE!
Missed out a couple of other ones...which I will include if I can find them.

And guess what.. it looks like they were not aggressive enough as they reached their goals already! Look at the Facebook post below:

Good stuff and keep it flowing

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Hong Kong Wet Market Cash Register

The #money bucket is used as sort of a cash register at #wetmarkets here in #hongkong . Merchants store and drop in the cash and take out change. It often hangs a central place and has a counter weight.

One of the things I like about Hong Kong is the wide abundance of so called wet markets.

They are vibrant centres in the community. Offering a wide variety of goods, from fresh vegetables, tofu to meat and fish chopped on the spot.

The operations are very low tech and look like nothing has changed for the last decades. Other than the occasional finger print checkin and energy saving lights rather than the traditional light bulbs.

Fruit and vegetable sellers have their wares spread out and nicely lined up to entice customers to buy it. Walking past a stall triggers a response where the staff highly recommend their products by touting they are the best, juiciest, cheapest or whatever is applicable.

In this case fruit is selected either by yourself or the fruit seller and put on a scale or the price is just shouted out if it is by the piece.

A critical piece of equipment is...the bucket. The bucket is where the money goes. It hangs at an easy to reach place, and on the other side of the string is a counter weight. When you pay for your goods, the  bucket gets pulled down. The merchant drops the cash and grabs the change. When handing over the change, the bucket is let go and flies back to its position.

Low tech, but highly effective!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

New Running Exercise Shoes

#NewBalance #neutral #flat #shoes - little more inclination compared to my 5fingers though love those for #trailrunning #sports #outdoors #getfit

My Vibram Five Fingers were coming to the end of their lifecycle so time to look for some new shoes.

Am a big fan of the Vibrams, so was definitely looking for something with a zero drop or minimalist shoes. IE thin soles so you have maximum connection to the ground you run on. The vibram model I had were not that brilliant for off-road conditions nor wet conditions. Those were on the requirements list when looking for something new.

Came across those New Balance Minimus, tried them on and they fitted well. And as there was some interesting pricing going on I could buy 2 pairs of those instead of 1 pair of 5 fingers.

The first few times I have been using them for CrossFit like activities. Meaning lots of jumping, push ups, pull ups, squats and the like. Stability and grip are important I find...and the shoes passed the different test thrown at them. Not as much contact as the five fingers, though definitely a lot more than some asics I still had.

Today I decided to do another run with them to figure out how they would behave there. When lacing them up properly they do give a similar snug feeling as the V5F shoes which I really like. The small drop was fine and I really did like the grip of the shoes. The grip with the connection provides nice agility when running. Although only just over 5KM, the shoes felt good and would support longer runs nicely.

So far so good! The next test will be taking them offroad and/or run in rainy conditions!

Work out of the day ready #vibramfivefingers #crossfit #getfit #hongkong #outdoors

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

chopstick steriliser in a small noodle Shop in Shenzhen China

Traveling around Asia you often run into surprising inventions. In many restaurants and smaller eateries the tea that is served is initially used to "clean" the bowls and chopsticks. This habit makes sure that the utensils used actually are clean.

Quite an interesting ritual to see. People sit down and the next thing you see is cans of tea being spread around, chopsticks, spoons and bowls being rinsed. Restaurants often provide a bigger bowl for the "waste water".

A few days ago I was in Shenzhen, and when having dinner at a local noodle joint I discovered the above machine in the corner. The owner of the place started to pull out things that later seem to be the chopsticks. After more closely inspecting the machine it seems to be some sort of steriliser making sure that shop visitors have clean chopsticks.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Shenzhen Startup Weekend 5th Edition - observations from mentoring some of the teams

 From 10-12 May 2013 the 5th Edition of Startup Weekend took place in Shenzhen, China. The venue was 3W Coffee (which has a famous sibling in Beijing), a hotspot for internet entrepreneurial activities in the High Tech district of Shenzhen. In the neighbourhood you can find companies like Tencent, Microsoft and IBM. So when talking to +Michael Michelini if I was available for some mentoring the answer was obviously yes!

On Sunday myself and @SiuShanLau were available to help out on mentoring the participating teams. Where @SiuShanLau her focus would be on design and UX, and mine more on business model and execution.  Something I do enjoy and find interesting and very useful as well as you always learn something new. After a smooth ride from Hong Kong, we arrived less than an hour later on site. Teams were still dripping in to get started. As it was the last day, some wear and tear could be seen on faces :).

After sort of being checked in, we did a quick round to meet the teams and find out what support was needed where. Well, with 21 teams that took a fair bit of time indeed. So, trying not to get stuck at teams we managed to do a decent round and I found a few teams I could wanted to sit down with.

Below a short write up of some of the teams.

GoGoGrad: A small 2 man team (well, when I met them) that are putting a solution in place to help parents and potential students to manage the workflow of signing up for US Universities. A cumbersome process with lots of activities and deliverables. A few key pain points they dealt with are reminders on the different deadlines, pointers on what should be provided for each university as well as help towards support on pre-submission tests etc. They had a good problem description and through some validation with potential clients were able to refine it even more. This helped them to get even better. Their original idea covered an app, though after a little more discussion we suggested that a website would be helpful to support the documentation. I don't see people easily editing and uploading required documents from their mobile phones.

Coop Delivery: The team was very international with people from Europe, China and a Middle Eastern teamleader. A cool concept where neigbourhood stores are used to receive packages. For example if you order something through AMAZON.COM or TaoBao and you are working during the day...then there is an issue. Often packages need to be signed for or just someone needs to be present to receive it as it just won't fit in a letterbox. Your local grocery could make themselves available to receive and store your package. The original receiver should pick it up within 48hrs or else they would be charged an additional fee. Other than a few operational things they had worked out their business model quite nicely. And...they did a really good job on the customer and supplier validation. My question mark was and is whether the volume is big enough to support the low fees they were charging for the service.

Curious if they will continue.....

Dating (not the real team name)
Another dating site.. although they had a little different take. The site would be free as it would be providing some initial matching/introductions only. The model was around organising real life events, or meetings at real life events so people could meet in a more relaxed environment to be themselves. Events would be the binding element and could vary from sports matches, theatre visits or even playing mahjong I guess. Spend a little time here on their service offering and business model development.

PlugMeIn: A little more focussed on the tech and development community. The quality levels for open source software varies, and sometimes you might be looking for something good. Though, getting it updated might get a bit costly. This team worked on solving that. Bringing people together to put down some money to find a developer to fix or develop what is needed. They did go out and did some nice customer development work as well. They would be taking a small % as commission from the transaction fees. Not sure if and what sort of competition there is already in the market on this one. Though the way they were working on it looked good. A bit of more design input would be beneficial for the guys. They did start off as a group buying site for plugins etc for websites.

EDZ Marketing: A business to business solution. This team is fixing the issue of the lack of access to good quality information with regards to the ability to invest in Economic Development zones in China. The service offering would cover an online and offline part. Where the online part is about information, and the offline part about introducing the right partners to each other.

Although less sexy and definitely not your standard app, they had done good validation with their stakeholders and a solid business model as well.

ChooseOne: This team worked on an app that could help you in making a decision on what to buy. For example you see 2 dresses, take a pic of both and get people to vote on which one would be the better option. Funnily enough I worked with a team on a similar idea during the last Hong Kong Startup weekend edition. They arrived there after a few pivots. Supported the guys on some options for their business model here.

The rest
Obviously there were many more teams, though the ones above are the ones I did spend a little more time with.

At the end of startup weekends, there is always a 5 minute pitch and a couple of minutes for the 5 headed judge team to ask questions. The judging panel included +Paul Orlando as well, the only Laowai/Gwailo though...fluent in Mandarin & Cantonese which was needed as that was the language of communication for most teams.

After a full on 3hours of presentations, the judges left the stage to deliberate on the winner. Unlike many other StartupWeekends, the choice was made to go for a 3rd, 2nd and 1st place rather than different categories.

The final winner was Go Go Grad! Congrats and well done guys!

Above the winning team posing with +Siu Shan Lau +Jeffrey Broer and +Marcel Ekkel. The interesting bit is, that they did NOT have a working application. They DID have a validated business model though!

So in general some of the key take aways are:
  • Define the problem you are working on well enough so that the team understands it, and define the underlying assumptions.
  • Go out and test those assumptions!
  • Define and check your customer segment
  • Gather information on the way your customer would like to have their problem solved, and validate this
  • Check the value it has for them so you can come to some sort of revenue model (including market size!)
  • And validate this...
The above is written on a very high level, though the core message is define, go out and validate it and adapt where needed. Yes, this is a lot of work, it requires customer contact though will help you to do and deliver stuff that your customers want. And if they don't want or need it well you can stop on time to prevent wasting it..... Oh and have you word of technology yet here. It does play a role, but if you haven't figured out the problem you are going to solve....then tech talk is a waste of time.

And of course, figure out what sort of resources you need to make this happen. Resources like people on the team but also on the board and as advisors.

Friday, 10 May 2013


At home I do use PCCW's Netvigator internet service. Generally speaking I am happy with the service, as it is reasonably priced, stable and has decent speed.

Though there are a few silly things. For example when you type in a domain that does not exist, normally the browser would/could take over and refer to Google, Bing or any of the other search engines configured in the browser. However, PCCW forwards to they Yellow Pages search part and you will get a result like below.

As exmple,  I typed int he browser bar - which is a domain that does not exist. So it would show anything except the screen below.

It looks like the data of what you do could be monitored here, and used for all sorts of purposes. Earlier this week I fired up the browser to take a look at a site. However, instead of getting through the site I was looking for I saw the picture we see at the top of the page. Clearly an interruption of the browsing experience and annoying when you wanted to do your things.

Though was wondering if that could be used for other forms of advertising. Either at home/office environments or even at areas where people want to provide free internet access. Airports, shopping malls and even hotels. Using the right technology ads and deals offered could match the users interest and should be scaled for the device used.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Get Out of the Door to test your assumptions

An interesting evening spend by mentoring a few startups that are participating in a bootcamp organised by +Paul Orlando from Startups Unplugged.

Currently 3 very different teams are participating in the bootcamp. One team exists of 3 foreigners, the next 2 of to local Hong Kong people and the last team has just 1 local Hong Kong person in it. Their products could not be more different either.

From property related stuff, through coupons to well......uhhh....undecided yet.

Visible was the determination and enthusiasm all teams had in working on their respective projects. Though, it is not always about hard work only - there is a big element of smart work as well.

A current buzz word is to follow the so called Lean Startup approach. Key here is to deliver a so called Minimum Viable Product. Get fast in the market against as less effort as possible so you can start testing  assumptions and collecting data on what customers really want.
"The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort."
There is only one way to do that and that is to literally get out of the building and talk to your (potential) customers. This is the so called customer development as described by Steve Blank. A full online course can be found here at Udacity. Key here is to define and understand the assumptions behind your product and business. When talking to your customers you would need to get those assumptions validated, or if they are invalidated changed would be needed to product or business.

Now besides getting this product in the market, most of the times teams are interested in building a business as well. A nice tool for this is the so called business model canvas. A one pager that can be used to describe a number of elements needed to run your business. The assumptions mentioned earlier play a big part here as well. Is value proposition as big as you had in mind, can you distribute your products as you had in mind against the price you had in mind, are the benefits as big as you thought.

And a test needs thinking through. The way you design your tests should support you in (in)validating those assumptions, it should help you to learn more about the market and how your target audience might response. Therefore spend sufficient time on designing those experiments, selecting the audience and asking the right questions in the right way. And is the sample size big enough to give you the information you need.

As well as testing your product, your business requires as much attention as well. Are the risks worth the potential benefits?