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