Amuse Bouche

Lai Yuen amusement park scion wants a bite of the restaurant business

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Before smartphones transformed treasured moments into pixels to be glazed over, local businessman Deacon Chiu Te-ken dedicated himself to entertaining a generation of people, and along the way, created numerous collective memories that will last.

“My father was a man of strong character, always inventing new ideas to run his cinemas and television station,” said Duncan Chiu Tat-kun, 42, the Far East Consortium founder’s youngest of eight children. “He has been a big influence on me. I am quite like him in a way.”

Of all his entertainment ventures, an amusement park in Lai Chi Kok, known colloquially as Lai Yuen, was a source of pride to the elder Chiu. The park was demolished in 1997, but lives on as an emblem of nostalgia, evoking many cherished memories.

In 2015, the Chiu family revived Lai Yuen as a summer carnival in the Central promenade. The carnival ran for 70 days and attracted 1.2 million visitors. Sadly, the elder Chiu did not see the HK$70 million project to fruition. He died in March at the age of 90.

“We intended to bring Lai Yuen back as an one-off project, but were overwhelmed daily with requests to keep it running,” the junior Chiu said.

“That convinced me to set up a company and find new ways to re-launch the brand. We cannot rely only on selling nostalgia.”

The past year saw a new Lai Yuen emerging: a mobile theme park that has pitched camp at Asia World-Expo, and at a trade exhibition in Guangzhou.

Two weeks ago, Chiu added a cha chaan teng in Tsim Sha Tsui under Lai Yuen’s name.

The tea restaurant serves the carnival food sold at the old Lai Yuen. Classic drinks, such as cream soda with fresh milk and coconut red bean ice, are also on the menu. Paintings of the tiger cub mascot and a carousel chandelier echo the amusement park connection.

“Lai Yuen was not a full restaurant but food was part of the fun. There were many stores selling frozen pineapple slices. As kids, we would buy deep-fried chicken drumsticks after riding bumper cars,” he said.

“We’ve tried to keep up with the times by offering different cuisine, more healthy vegetable dishes and nicer presentation at the restaurant. We are not going to host a carnival this year. We have to focus on running the new cha chaan teng, which will be a permanent project.”

Although Chiu assisted his late father at work after university, assuming the chairman’s role of Lai Yuen was unintended. His full-time job is that of a tech investor. He manages a private investment firm, Radiant Venture Capital, which he co-founded in 2014.

“When I got back from the United States in 1996, the investment holding company that I looked after for the family had a bit of everything – entertainment, shops, factories in China, stocks, and a golf resort. These assets were worth some money, but they were losing money as well,” he recalled.

“In 1999, I started looking into different possible investments. I thought, as a business, the tech sector had a future. Hong Kong and China could be a start-up launchpad. Luckily enough, some of the companies I invested in survived the bust of the dot-com bubble the year later.”

His first profitable tech investment was Chinasoft International. The internet business services provider was floated in 2003, and now has a market capitalization of US$10.14 billion (HK$79.09 billion). Chiu, an early investor, sold all his shares when the company entered the main board.

Venture capital fund and amusement park are two vastly different businesses. However, they require the same taste for innovation and originality, Chiu said.

He does not intend to be only an old guard of his father’s theme park but sees himself as a business founder like his father.

“A business is easy to start, but a brand is difficult to maintain and grow. Lai Yuen is more than a theme park. It’s a homegrown label, and we intend to make it last. To do that, you cannot do away with the spirit of inventing,” Chiu said.

“That’s why, in every project, we tried to make something new based on the old elements, right down to the last decoration details. And these new ideas have to be original. Create or perish – that is the rule we have to live by in the modern world.”

The article first appeared in the Standard on June 23, 2017.

Golden Heritage

Father-daughter team of jewelers shares about forging a gem of a partnership

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The rings made by Patrick Yuen Hin-tai and Vanessa Yuen Lai-lam are as unique as their relationship. Plenty of love has gone into producing the bands – a reflection of the bond that the father and daughter share.

In times when most jewelry is fashioned by machines, the Yuens belong to a tiny group of local goldsmiths who are still designing and crafting their pieces by hand. Most of the tools used for chipping and engraving are rudimentary. Only a few are electric.

“Not many people in Hong Kong are still making jewelry full-time like my dad does. Many goldsmiths have either passed away or switched to becoming security guards or taxi drivers to make a better living,” Vanessa said.

The senior Yuen, now in his late 60s, entered the goldsmithing profession through a cousin’s introduction five decades ago. He is a bench jeweler, specializing in patterning jadeite, diamond and pearl pieces.

“In the old days, we needed to pay the boss a guarantee to work as apprentice. As apprentice, we received a pittance of HK$10 a month. That was one- tenth of what I made when I was still working in a textile factory in 1966 or 1967,” he recalled.

Entry barriers were high, but the trade promised good prospects before its decline in late 1980s. Tse Sui-luen, founder of the eponymous label, made his fortune as a bench jeweler. The jewelry chain is now a listed company, with a market capitalization of HK$620 million.

Two other success stories are David Sin Wai-kin, chairman of Myer Jewelry Manufacturer, and Cheng Yu-tung, the late patriarch of Chow Tai Fook. Both expanded their reach to properties and hotels.

“Goldsmiths were considered prime husband material,” the senior Yuen joked. “During the most prosperous years in 1987 and 1988, I was making HK$30,000 to HK$40,000 a fortnight. A two-room flat in Tuen Mun then cost about HK$400,000.”

He now runs his own workshop. His daughter, a fashion and carpet designer, joined the family business and started an in-house label, Vanessa Bell, two years ago.

“I quit my job in 2014 to go on a working holiday. When I was in London, I became an apprentice at a shop selling hand-crafted jewelry. That made me realize an interest in my dad’s work,” Vanessa said.

“I named the label after a park built in remembrance of the painter Vanessa Bell. I walked past that park every day in London. My customers and I have very similar tastes. We like simple, affordable, vintage-inspired 18-karat pieces that can be worn daily.”

Vanessa designs all the pieces, and her father realizes her creative visions. The Vanessa Bell series comprises mostly rings set with gemstones, with a few bracelets and earrings. All are made to order. A simple ring, priced from HK$1,400, can be made in one day.

Her father also makes crowns, pendants, bridal bangles, and engagement rings – which can come to HK$600,000 a piece. More intricate designs can take six months to finish.

“My dad and I have vastly different tastes in jewelry. But he never second guesses my vision.” Vanessa said. “We do argue about the design. He might think that the stones I choose are too small, or the ring is not chunky enough. But I will press on with my ideas.”

The two complement each other. He contributes artistry and experience while she brings in fashion sense and online marketing skills.

“I get anxious when business is bad,” she said. “My dad taught me two things. First, it takes a full year for results to show and second, some will like my design, some won’t.”

Vanessa is full of praise for her father. “My dad is a shy person. He never tells others what he has done. I know he is secretly hiding away some bridal bracelets,” she said. “He made me a ring when I was 18. Since then, my sister and I get a birthday gift from him every year. His gifts will be our dowry.”

He said: “I am a goldsmith. Naturally, I want the best jewelry for my daughters.”

“If my boyfriend proposes, I will want my dad to make my engagement ring,” she said.

The article first appeared in the Standard on June 16, 2017.

Brilliant Tactician

Folli Follie’s numbers man has descended from Greek warrior and swapped spears for spreadsheets

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Ioannis (John) Begietis may be known as the numbers man for FF Group, a family-run fashion company that owns the Folli Follie and Links of London labels. He’s the company’s global chief financial officer, and chief operating officer at its Asia-Pacific headquarters.

But little do people know that the Greek is, literally, a present-day Spartan warrior.

He’s descended from a historical military family that can trace its roots back to the reign under Leonidas, the Spartan king portrayed by Gerard Butler in the 2006 film, 300.

Begietis and his brother are the first generation in the family who have exchanged spears and shields for spreadsheets. “Some say my forefathers were the descendants of King Leonidas. My grandfather was an army general. My father was an admiral in the navy,” he said.

“I joined the national service right after my studies in the United States. I was in the air force as a finance officer for two years. I got to try some new anti-aircraft weapons and really cool guns,” the 50-year-old recalled.

Undergoing a different rite of passage – marked by expat assignments in the business world – Begietis relocated to Hong Kong in 2011.

He now oversees about 320 retail stores in East and Southeast Asia, and his main responsibilities include the overseas expansion of Folli Follie.

Folli Follie has been expanding rapidly in Asia, with the Asian market now contributing significant revenues to the Athens-based FF Group. Its annual sales have risen from 300 million euros (HK$2.54 billion) to 1.3 billion euros in the 11 years since Begietis climbed aboard.

In Hong Kong, the label has accelerated the pace of setting up stores in prime shopping districts. Last October, it opened a new outlet store at E-Max WearHouse in Kowloon Bay, followed by another at Florentia Village in Kwai Chung in March. This summer, it plans to add two or three regular stores in the SAR.

Including locations at Horizon Plaza in Ap Lei Chau and Plaza Hollywood in Diamond Hill, Folli Follie now has four outlet stores in Hong Kong.

In the past, brands opened such stores to liquidate unsold inventory but modern practices are changing. Outlet shops form a part of the present-day omni-channel retail strategy of top fashion labels. They stock not only past-season items, but also special collections.

An example is Japan, where Begietis has restructured the Folli Follie brand after the acquisition of a joint venture partner in 2008. A new marketing image and merchandise offers helped the label recruit young female office workers as loyal customers.

“In Japan, we have a sizable number – 16 outlet stores. They are located far away from the main cities. They have not overtaken the local market sales, but are a very profitable segment,” Begietis said. “The most successful outlet venture usually happens in a mature market. You have to have a clientele who knows what the full price items are, and can differentiate them from the special lines or discounted items.”

In the local outlet stores, past-season items account for only 15 percent of the entire catalog. They are sold at a minimum 30 percent discount. The rest are specialty products: for example, men’s watches exclusive to the outlets.

Begietis intends to use the stores to tap a new clientele, and slowly lead them into adopting the habit of purchasing full-price items.

“Everybody talks about the retail business going down, but nobody talks about the local people as a shopping power,” he said. “They are all looking at the tens of millions of travelers coming, which is fantastic. But it’s a chance business. So local customers are always our target.”

Begietis relies on his staff to keep a finger on the pulse of the market. He is one of the few expatriate managers who work at the group’s Asia-Pacific headquarters in Hong Kong.

“I am a tactician. Retail is like chess. You should always make the right steps to go to the top. Of course, when you play a game, you should prepare to lose. But nobody plans to lose. Everybody plans to win.

“I think you have a better chance of winning if you involve the local people. This is true, not just in Hong Kong but everywhere.”

The article first appeared in the Standard on May 12, 2017.

A-List Couple

Meet the couple every Hong Kong fashionistas want to be friends with

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Shopping is a national sport of Hong Kong. So is lining up. If you merge the two together, you will get a recipe for success — at least according Diego Dultzin Lacoste and Delphine Lefay.

The French couple, who moved to the SAR three years ago, founded a flash sale business, On The List, a little more than a year ago, and have carved out a niche in a city which provides a staggering array of shopping options.

A recent event that Dultzin Lacoste and Lefay organized for British fashion label Ted Baker attracted 1,100 people in just two hours. Bargain hunters started to queue up as early as 6.30 am, waiting for an hour and a half to enter.

“The first time we did Ted Baker was during typhoon signal No 8. We really thought it would be a disaster,” Lefay recalled. “But we received phone calls throughout the day asking when we would open. The queue stretched two blocks.”

“We didn’t expect people would come out and shop but we discovered that Hong Kong people are really shopaholics,” added Dultzin Lacoste.

On The List operates on a business model different from traditional flash sale organizers. It does not have online retail but employs a bricks-and-mortar concept similar to outlet operators.

And rather than opening a store in the outskirts, they eyed prime shopping locations.

Two months ago, they set up a two- story shop on Duddell Street in Central, after a trial run of pop-up events. They plan to have other locations in central Kowloon and the mainland next year.

Another key concept is that On The List serves only registered customers. It currently has a membership base of 50,000 and has worked with many fashion and lifestyle labels – including Armani, Calvin Klein, Ferragamo, and Ports 1961.

Members have access to discounted past-season clothing, fashion accessories, electronics, and wines every week. The markdown averages about 75 percent.

“Each flash sale lasts three to four days. The time period protects the brand’s image. And from the brands’ point of view, they are able to sell all the inventory that they have in the warehouse,” Dultzin Lacoste explained.

The store can move a large volume of goods in days. They once helped Brazilian label Havaianas sell 13,000 pairs of flip flops in four days. “Some companies have stopped organizing flash sales themselves because we can sell a lot more,” Lefay said. “We are not competing with their outlets because we have items that can’t be found there.”

The business model that bridges luxury and mass market retail is not new. Dultzin Lacoste and Lefay got their idea from the success cases in France and the United States. But implementing the idea in a foreign market can be tricky.

It took Dultzin Lacoste and Lefay time to find the right strategy. The pair don’t always agree with one another.

In fact, when Dultzin Lacoste first met Lefay, they had a philosophical debate about rational and impulse purchase. Coming from a background in luxury retail, he valued sensibility over sense while she was in the mass marketing industry and preferred rationality.

“Delphine said her industry had much more figures to work with,” Dultzin Lacoste recalled the night they met. “I told her my industry made people dream. It was not only about the products, but the whole package and storytelling. So we had a big argument.”

Said Lefay: “I was not attracted by luxury brands because I could not afford them. I was 23 when we met, freshly out of university. Now, I can see why people are attracted to luxury products – with a good price. Diego has convinced me.”

Even so, the response from Hongkongers was a surprise. Brands have consigned expensive items, such as jewelry and watches. The most costly was a Frederique Constant watch priced at HK$450,000 before discount.

“The biggest order came from a woman who spent HK$92,000,” Dultzin Lacoste said. “She bought five items: a jacket and some jewelry. If she had bought them at the store, she would have paid a lot more for any one of those items.”

The married couple still fight over their own area of expertise. Said Dultzin Lacoste: “We argue about everything, which is good. But it’s more like we are brainstorming.”

Lefay agreed. “When we want to implement a new process, it always starts with an argument. When I want to insist on my idea, I sometimes don’t listen to Diego. But we are complementary.”

The article first appeared in the Standard on May 5, 2017.

 

Hawking Holograms

Beam me up! Professor Stephen Hawking turned into a 3D hologram at a lecture in Hong Kong

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Meeting Stephen Hawking in person is already an exciting experience. But this time around, the hype was not about what the world-famous theoretical physicist said but the medium that he chose to deliver his lecture.

Hawking appeared as a hologram in front of hundreds in the audience at the Hong Kong Science Park last month. With images being beamed live from Hawking’s office in Cambridge, the technology involved goes beyond the speech synthesizer that the British scientist uses.

The holographic projection, which was slightly larger than the professor is in life-size, was created by ARHT Media. The Canadian startup has partnered with NetDragon Websoft, a Hong Kong-based online games company, to market the imaging technology in Asia.

Photo-realistic human holograms are not new. Although they are still a novelty in commercial applications, they have been used by the entertainment industry which deems the six-figure production cost affordable.

Digital Domain, the Hong Kong-based owner of the Playa Vista visual effects studio, has resurrected a number of deceased singers, such as Tupac Shakur and Teresa Teng, through its hologram project. The virtual image of Teng performed on stage with Taiwanese pop singer Jay Chou in 2013.

ARHT Media is prioritizing application in education over entertainment, though. It wants to bring its HumaGram technology to students and teachers, building a “low cost, high distribution” learning platform that will pull together “some of the best educators in the world”.

“We believe the Asian market, in particularly China, represents a fertile ground for us to realize this technology,” said Paul Duffy, president and chief executive of ARHT Media. “In Hong Kong, we are actively pursuing a number of universities and corporations.”

The demonstration event in Hong Kong showed a glimpse of what to come. During the 90-minute lecture, Hawking spoke and answered inquiries about his career, current research, and where he stands on the issue of Brexit and Donald Trump.

Despite the speaker’s immobility and monotonous computer voice, the crowd was listening attentively. The novelty factor of a hologram prolonged the audience’s attention span, with them marveling at the life-like eyes and lips movement captured and recreated on stage.

Hawking’s lecture was taped. It will be broadcast as a pay-per-view program.

“We have an open system concept, which works on all devices – television, smartphone, iPad and augmented reality headset,” said Simon Leung Lim-kin, vice chairman and executive director of NetDragon Websoft. “All the experiences that we capture will be able to be enjoyed on any devices, anytime anywhere.”

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Creating a human hologram is simpler than one would imagine. Hawking was seated in front of a green screen that measured four meters wide and eight meters tall. Multiple shots were captured in advance. However, a single-camera setup would suffice during a live broadcast.

Transmitting the hologram require technical specialty. The Toronto-based company has developed an exclusive video codec to package the audio and images that can be sent with low latency over a cloud-based media server and broadband internet connection.

“We are able to create a primary, secondary and tertiary format so we have redundancy built in the system. When we have a clean line, which is typically what happens when we set up, we are able to take a human hologram from Los Angeles to Hong Kong in 400 to 700 milliseconds,” Duffy said.

In regions such as the mainland, where landline internet connection is unstable and expensive, sending a partial hologram – only the face, instead of the full body, as an example – is one solution.

Another option for transmission is via a mobile phone network.

“We typically need anywhere from two to 10 megabytes per second for transmission. That’s the low end of 3G. So most of the transmissions that we are doing now can probably be provisioned through a cell-phone network,” he added.

Reproducing a human hologram does not require the use of a special projector. But special mesh-like screens are needed. Two screens were used at Hawking’s lecture: a nine-meter-wide, four-meter-high one fixed at mid-stage, and another in the rear of the stage.

The virtual Hawking was projected in-between the screens. It was, in fact, a two-dimensional image. But stage lighting and fancy graphics can fool the human brain, making the screens invisible and the image convincingly three-dimensional, explained an engineer of ARHT Media.

The company is creating a smaller type of special screen for schools and home users. The new screen measures twp-meter-high and one to two meters wide. Only one of them, rather than two, is required to render a hologram image.

While human hologram is not as widely popular as other existing types of video streaming technologies, important early adopters exist.

Duffy predicted that a critical mass of clientele will form when the price for purchasing projection equipment falls under US$1,000 (HK$7,800).

“The cost to build a display station is coming down dramatically. And mass proliferation of virtual reality and augmented reality headsets all make for the ability to create a fully formed human experience but in a life-size model,” he said.

“In the US, it costs from a few hundreds dollars all the way down to US$50 or US$60 a month to lease one of these projectors. It’s getting quickly into the realm of what’s possible for mass distribution.”

The article first appeared in the Standard on April 24, 2017.

Golden Dreams

Aron Harilela is a hotelier who’s all about going the extra mile

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A family gathering is a sufficient reason for celebration. But last week the Harilela clan came in unison for a hotel of symbolic significance. The Holiday Inn Golden Mile is revered in the Harilela family’s history as the soul of their hotel business.

In the crowd was Aron Harilela, chairman and chief executive of Harilela Hotels. The company owns or manages 17 properties across the globe, including the newly renovated four-star hotel on Nathan Road.

Aron Harilela is the only son of the late Hari Harilela, the patriarch of Hong Kong’s most prominent Indian family. He shares an almost umbilical link to the hotel that was opened in 1975. It was the first that Hari Harilela built.

“It feels like I am cutting the ribbon for a second time,” said the 46-year-old. “On the day the hotel opened, my grandmother passed away. So my father sent me, four years old at the time, over to cut the ribbon.”

Six years ago, Harilela acted on impulse at a momentous moment that led him to walk the golden mile. “I dropped down to my knees and proposed to my wife Laura in the lift of this hotel. There were two random guests in the same lift,” he recalled, with a smile.

Today, the name Harilela is synonymous with one of Hong Kong’s rags-to-riches tales. Hari, the son of an immigrant from Hyderabad, Sindh, founded his hotel empire after running a tailoring shop on the ground floor of the Imperial Hotel. The hotel owner later defaulted on his loan. To save his business, Hari bought the building in Tsim Sha Tsui.

That was how the family went into hotels.

In 1967, Hari and a group of shareholders bought the plot of land where the Holiday Inn Golden Mile is today. He and his wife met the Holiday Inn founder Kemmons Wilson in the United States. They signed a deal to bring the three-star motel brand to Asia.

Hari had imagined transforming his property into a premium product, equipped with a pillarless ballroom, 24-hour room service and fine-dining restaurants.

On hindsight, it was a bold idea as Nathan Road was not a tourist area in those days.

His plan got off to a rocky start because of the riots that year. “The other shareholders were very nervous about Hong Kong’s future. They decided to sell their shares. Unfortunately, my father didn’t have that much money,” recalled Harilela. “So he went to see Michael Sandberg, then chairman of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, and asked for a HK$5 million loan. He had nothing to give as collateral. But the chairman approved the loan, taking my father’s word for it.”

The Holiday Inn Golden Mile has proven to be a successful bet. The hotel has generated enough proceeds for Hari to keep building up his hotel empire. And Aron Harilela joined the family business in 1994 after completing a doctoral degree in political philosophy.

Renovations and upgrades are a constant in the hotel industry. Harilela has recently finished renovating the 42-year-old hotel on 50 Nathan Road, removing the staircase to open up the lobby and creating a pod-like reception area to improve guest experience.

The renovation followed a slew of upgrades in two years before that, including redecorating all 621 guest rooms and expanding the executive lounge to 5,000 square feet. The hotel will restore its 7,600-square-feet ballroom in the next phase of renovations.

Harilela is building on his father’s legacy. Apart from a new hotel in New York, Joie De Vivre, which will open next month, he is starting the family’s first independent four-star hotel label called The Hari.

A prototype now exists in London after Harilela took over operations of The Belgraves and converted it in August. Construction on a second site in Wan Chai is underway with an expected launch date in 2020.

“The family has been here since the 1930s. Hong Kong has been really kind to us. And we have great faith in Hong Kong,” said Harilela.

The 210-room hotel on Lockhart Road will feature similar decor as in London but with some local touches. “For example, in London, we have an Italian restaurant that is just about to open. London has spectacular Italian food. In Hong Kong, we will certainly have dim sum.”

The article first appeared in the Standard on March 3, 2017.

Geek God

An attempt to decode a tech start-up genius

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Looking dapper in crisp blue shirt and expertly cut khaki trousers, Alvin Hung Yiu-kei looks too well groomed to be your average neighborhood geek. But as the proverb goes: you cannot teach a crab to walk straight so don’t be fooled.

“I became addicted to video games in primary school – so much so that I would take apart the computer codes to modify the characters I was playing to make them become invulnerable, and have unlimited attack points and money,” said the Hong Kong native.

Cashing in on his inner geek, Hung founded GoAnimate, a California- headquartered animated video creation company in 2007. The firm has produced 22 million animations via a cloud-based platform over the last decade.

Hung’s company also has offices in Hong Kong and Taiwan. And in his Sheung Wan office, a team of 40 local employees are serving 8.5 million registered users around the world, including the US government and universities in the Golden State.

Born into a family of industrialists, Hung chose a different path from his uncle Peter Hung Hak-hip and elder brother Marvin Hung Ming-kei, who still manage the family’s cooking oil and restaurant empire.

Hung’s late grandfather was founder of the Hong Kong-listed Hop Hing Group Holdings, which currently operates the Japanese “beef and rice bowl” fast-food chain Yoshinoya, and American ice-cream and restaurant chain Dairy Queen in northern China.

His family also owns the privately- held Harvest Trinity Development, which produces Lion & Globe and Camel cooking oils.

“I am not interested in my family business, and I don’t want to say too much about it,” he said. “It’s not fair to my company and my team if I am always mentioning what my family does. My company is successful today because my team built it from the ground up piece by piece.”

Although Hung is now boss of a thriving tech company, he has not given up his game addiction. When he hires new employees, he expects them to boast about their prowess in World of Warcraft. He also finds time during lunch to play online card games with his staff.

“You can learn a lot from playing video games,” he said. “For example, StarCraft taught me resource allocation, and through Overwatch, I understood the importance of sympathy.”

Hung got the idea of starting his own tech company, thanks to his father’s complaints about his addiction. Hung’s father left an issue of Fortune magazine in his room one Sunday when he was in primary four. In it was a story about Bill Gates.

Since then, the Microsoft founder has become an idol for Hung. Hung majored in computer science at Columbia University in New York. After graduation, he founded two tech companies, Net Strategy and Ascent Technology, which he later sold.

“At university, my classmates were struggling with their programming homework,” he recalled. “Not me. I was having so much fun that even if I lost sleep to finish a project, I enjoyed it. It was as enjoyable as playing video games overnight.”

GoAnimate is Hung’s third start-up. It started as a personal project after he quarreled with his wife. Hung had wanted to make a short animated film to cheer her up, but did not succeed after trying for hours.

“I was very irritated,” he recalled. “All those drawing and animation software were so hard to use. Even someone like me who have read computer science couldn’t manage them.”

That experience prompted him to start a do-it-yourself platform on which users can make their own animated films using pre-produced clip arts. Users can publish their videos after dubbing them with their own audio recordings.

Initially, Hung raised funds in Silicon Valley to finance his third company. In 2011, YouTube invited GoAnimate to join a suite of chosen apps available to individual content creators. GoAnimate broke even a year later.

“Short films have become a sought- after marketing tool. Traditionally, it takes tens of thousands of dollars and at least three months to produce a short film. What we offer can save time and money,” he said.

“Our growth in North America and Europe has been strong over the last 10 years. We kept hiring but still couldn’t catch up with the demand there. That’s why we are less visible in Hong Kong. We didn’t have enough manpower and time to take care of Asia.”

The article first appeared in the Standard on February 24, 2017.