Tesla Dome

From Kitchen to DayDayCook

From Kitchen to DayDayCook

(Meeting Ms Norma Chu in TimeAuction HK event, on May 28th, 2016 at DayDayCook studio at Sheung Wan)

Like most Hong Kong ladies, Norma enjoys quality time in kitchen with friends and loved ones. She takes photos of well-crafted dishes and share it online. She loves traditional Hong Kong cuisines like Cheung Fun (sticky rice rolls), Siu Mai (steamed dumplings), spicy garlic eggplant and scallop with vermicelli. However, Norma takes her passion to profession, now running DayDayCook.com, one of the most popular Chinese recipes website that has 1.7 million subscribers. An 80-staff empire spanning between Hong Kong and Shanghai, it produces over 100 cooking video clips a month, some of those featuring Norma herself.

Like few other, “when I was 15 years old, I had my first part time job working in a restaurant, taking guests to tables…I didn’t want to spend my family’s money back then,” Norma’s driven character covered under her apron made her a star performer in her private banking job after graduation, as it took her only four years to be promoted from junior equity analyst role to desk head, but she was not satisfied on a 9-5 white-collar role. “I have always enjoyed my time in the kitchen, and back then I started thinking of a venture around sharing my passion in the kitchen… when I feel stressed at work I will take time to go to kitchen [in office] to cook .. and in particular pre-wedding couples enjoy quality time together cooking.”


With a strong business sense and analytical mind, she began testing the market writing a blog on Facebook, back in 2011, when client acquisition on social media was just about to take off. In six months she gathered over 100,000 followers, which gave her confidence to take it to the next step – launching a website and a mobile application in Hong Kong, raising the angel round funding of USD 600k from friends and families. In just two years, Hong Kong business has grown much traction, yet Norma’s ambition was high. At the beginning of 2015, while she wasn’t supported by all mentors on such ambition, she boldly entered China mainland market, opened an office in Shanghai, and recruited around 60 staffs by the end of 2015, split into content team developing new recipes, production team for filming quality videos and website, and marketing team for client acquisition via social media. Revenue became meaningful from video-linked sales of food ingredients and utensils, which anchored investor confidence as she raised series-A funding as of end of 2015. She hired an ex-Alibaba CTO, and initiated new business of selling own-branded cooking sauces and instant meals.

While it only took four years for Norma to get DayDayCook to current success, it wasn’t all that easy. “I work 19 hours a day, and spend 5 weekdays in Shanghai, weekends in Hong Kong” “do you take vacation?” “no, there is no vacation when you are an entrepreneur running the business. Vacation simply means working away from home.” Hard work aside, Norma has to fight prejudice. “It is an uphill battle seeking funding from Chinese investor. Firstly, I am a woman. Secondly, Chinese typically think Hong Kong start up entrepreneurs are too small, too slow, and not aggressive enough growing the business.” Norma took a zip of the chilled fruit punch, as if the fund raising just took place yesterday. There is sparkle in her eyes, whose sign of wisdom and determination is more common among athletes than home-made chefs. “Three characters investors look for are personality, experience, and strategic thinking.”

The target audience of DayDayCook is pre-wedding couples, which refers to different age group in Hong Kong (early 30s) and in Shanghai (late 20s). While there are plenty cooking recipe resources online and offline, “it is imperative for us to build a niche over time, and become a number one player in certain market segment. From day one I approached the business from the consumer’s standpoint, as we made ongoing effort solving the pain points of the customers. This is something I learnt during my early days in the restaurant jobs.”

How did Norma build her team? “In general I like to hire young people who are passionate and hardworking. They are likely to be cost-efficient staffs.” “how do you identify recruits?” “Firstly, acknowledge that there are people around you who are better than you doing certain things. Secondly, get these people to work for you. I was competing with another major Chinese tech giant when I as recruiting my CTO. That wasn’t easy.”

To most of us, it is an art to stay nimble and determined at the same time, which is why it takes talent to be a successful artist. “As a young entrepreneur, don’t be shy to ask for help. There was different kind of mentors at different stage of my venture.” “Were any tough decisions made?” “Sometimes I had to turn down suggestions by certain mentors, like running a cooking school, or filing a movie.” “What would you do to encourage more of Hong Kong unicorns like yourself?” “I admit that Hong Kong young people had hesitations at times. I guess just do it! Some US start-ups start in a garage.” “So Hong Kong has a lower tolerance of failure?” “Yes it does. High rent and limited access to venture funding aren’t making it easy for us. The government can hopefully do more to address these two pain points.” And yes, we are keen to share the success stories like Norma, to encourage more Hong Kong unicorns!

Final words of wisdom? “Do your best and forget the rest!” That resonated how Norma built her team, finding partners of different strengths to complement her weakness, and focus on what she is really good at. “I do not go on stage for videos that often now in China. People do not know me.” I am sure one day, you will be.

Sincere thanks to TimeAuction Hong Kong team organizing the event, and Norma taking the time for sharing.


Immersive Experiences that Defy Reality

Immersive Experiences that Defy Reality

Rise Conference 2016, 31/5 13.20-13.45, Machine Stage
Min-Liang Tan (Razor), Edward Tang (Avergant), Regina Tan (Bloomberg)

There is a revolution happening in immersive content and entertainment. From virtual to augmented reality users can jump into new worlds either entirely or while keeping a foot in the real world. Razer is backing an open-source approach in an attempt to become the Android of VR, while Avegant’s Glyph has been referred to as a home theatre that attaches to one’s face.

Immersive Experiences that defy Reality

My favourite tagline lately is, “Perception is reality”.

Virtual Reality is not just about wearing a giant goggle to play video games. Virtual reality is about living in your world of choice. If Mickey Mouse is about making the dream come true, then Disney World theme parks are about the immersive experience in such dream. Avatar is taking this concept to the next level: plugging a cord into your body, so that you can control an Avatar drone and live in the Avatar world. The Avatar World is so real that your identity in such world overshadows that in the reality. Which world is reality, anyways, when one has a stronger identity in one over another?

How about the movie Inception, in which you could just sleep tight and travel to another reality as you wish? You had a choice to stay in your dream, or wake up. You if you choose to stay in the dream forever, you are in coma in essence.

Technology advances are making the virtual reality more real. Is it good or bad? One example quoted in the discussion was, if the VR device is creating a cliff so real that, when in virtual world you walk towards that cliff, your fear accumulates. Would the fear create a lasting psychological effect after you take off the VR device?

On a positive note, Inside Out is one of my favourite movie. Isn’t love about creating lasting joyful experiences for your loved ones? How about taking your loved ones for a virtual journey together? When virtual reality of one is connected to another, and different people can interact, how about a virtual tour together to navigate the ocean with Nemo?

Can Connected Cars Drive Change?

Can Connected Cars Drive Change?

Rise Conference 2016, Machine Stage
Rafay Khan, INRIX; Joseph Waring, Mobile World Live

What if you could take data gathered from 275 million vehicles to generate the best real-time information in the world of drivers? INRIX is working with the biggest car manufacturers around to do just this. CRO Rafay Khan gets under the hood of the traffic problems he thinks machine learning can fix.

Can Connected Cars Drive Change

With over 10-years of experience in connected automobiles industry, Rafay started off on delivering traffic and congestion information. In particular, Rafay looked into location based services such as parking; as well as road safety, using data collected from running cars to develop real time analytics.

How does it work? Imagine all the cars running around are equipped with sensors, and they have become your eyes and ears round the city. First application would be predicting road condition in response to weather. With temperature and humidity sensors installed on windshield wipers and car bodies, we could build a live temperature map and humidity map with up to half-mile accuracy.

Secondly, braking information. If cars ahead are using ABS braking, we can tell there is a situation ahead. Together with other sensors on the chassis, we can create algorithms to analyse data pattern to identify poor road conditions such as gravel, flood, icy roads, snow etc. This has wide ranging applications in the markets like the US and Germany.

“When people go wide, we go deep,” Rafay illustrated his strategy, “we are working with all the major auto makers like BMW, Toyota / Lexus, Porsche, Audi, Ford. How about privacy issues? “we may anonymize the data.”

How does Rafay roll out the business? “we first target truck companies as their tracking systems are well built. There are plenty of data already. Eventually we shall move to consumer market.”

On autonomous driving, Rafay is making a long stride, too. “We believe autonomous driving can ensure safety, and reduce congestion. INRIX provides real time data analytics. We get data from 250k – 270k devices every minute. 0.8 gigabyte of data is collected every day. We used aggregation learning technique to analyse the data real time and predict conditions of the road a couple miles ahead.”

Traffic monitoring bodes well with smart cities initiative worldwide. Most mature cities do not have room to increase road space. Therefore, traffic monitoring and routing becomes essential. INRIX has signed contracts with Denmark and Dubai, installing GPS probe sensors on the road to improve traffic monitoring capabilities. Related to that, data analytics that help to find parking is also a hot spot. “In most cities during the rush hours, up to 30% of the road traffic is looking for parking. The government wanted to get the tools as much as the drivers.”

Do we see room for connected automobiles industry to consolidate? “Not yet. There is new company for new services. There will be limited consolidation.”

What are other areas of growth? “Infotainment in the car.”


Ethically Integrating Machines into Society

Ethically Integrating Machines into Society

Ethically integrating machines into society
Rise Conference 2016, Machine Stage
Nell Watson, Singularity University

Humans can easily lead machines astray. Singularity’s Neil Watson says this is just one consideration as our society increasingly integrates autonomous machines. She’ll unveil a new project revolving around an ethical framework that’s easily understandable by both humans and machines and aims to let humans guide machines to make better decisions.

Ethically Integrating Machines into Society

Cognitive capability is not confined in the brain. There is also the “gut instinct”, or the interior nervous system. For humans, it refers to the eyes, spine and the guts. Recall last time how your gut feels when you saw something discomforting. Fishes can recognize the floor of the sea, and before the tides go out, the fishes can go. So yes fishes do have more than five seconds of memory, in this way. Crows can be trained to, and so can chimps or even ants experience their Eureka moments. Much of this cognitive capability can be taught by reinforcement learning.

Such cognitive capability is not just the gift for mammals, but for others too. Worms can map-out the surroundings. Plants got no brains but are adaptive to light and moisture. If we can accept that consciousness is not an on-off switch, but a dial, are we so sure that we are smart enough to know how animals are? How could we make assumptions on how animal behaviour resemble that of human?

Peter Singer’s Personism philosophy has its grounds. Animals can be human like. In legal world we have the notion of corporate persons too, which doesn’t even have flesh and blood.

So if a degree of personhood is expressed, can machines become persons one day? For instance, Open Worm, the world’s first digital lifeform, has over 320 “neurons”, and it has the necessary cognitive capabilities to navigate.

Isn’t that how human baby learn about the world?

We have to realize that digital offspring is coming to the world. How are we going to treat them? Untrained machines would tell the emperor that he is not wearing any clothes. This is inhuman as it does not care about human feelings. How are we going to treat them? Are we going to keep them in custody, or instead, treat machines like our dogs and condition them with care?

Are we playing the role of God? One day, people are changing from creators to curators. Nell believes we shall be teaching machines ethics, as she co-founded OpenEth, an ‘ethical explication engine’ that aims to crowdsource ethical heuristics for autonomous systems. She would like to specify scenarios to teach machines ethics.

One day, we may not just be teaching machine ethics, but also love. “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved, just to love and be loved”, Eden Abez.

Wearable Tech as Fashion Articles

Wearable Tech as Fashion Articles

Rise Conference 2016, 31/5, Machine Stage
Sonny Vu (Fossil Group), Barbara Minuzzi (Investhaus and IH Ventures)

Technology and fashion are overlapping like never before, with wearables being the most obvious example of this. Sonny Vu, who’s gone from the head of Misfit to Fossil, manages partnerships with a dozen-plus major fashion brands and describes how the link between the two worlds is necessary and beneficial.

Wearable tech as fashion articles

Sonny founded in 2011 Misfit a technology start up on wearables. Unlike Jawbone and Fitbit who try to launch their own techy-looking product, Misfit took a different-route – partnering with traditional fashion brands, Speedo and Swarovski to name a few. Misfit raised about $63 million in venture capital in three rounds of funding. Investors included Xiaomi, GGV Capital, JD.com, Horizons Ventures, as well as Founders Fund, Khosla Ventures and Norwest Venture Partners. In 2015 Fossil Group bought Misfit for $260 million. “Imagine how 200+ engineers and cloud technicians are working side by side with Swiss watchmaking craftsmen. How cool is that marriage!” Sonny joined Fossil after the merger, taking the wearable product niches to over twenty Fossil operates brands like Michael Kors, Armani, Kate Spade, Diesel, DKNY etc. In 2016 Fossil is launching 100 wearables across eight brands.

Fossil has sold over 50 million “connected” watches and accessories, in which 35 million are watches. How come Fossil succeeded in wearables while some other brands are struggling? “Two reasons. First, Fossil’s brands and Misfit team have a shared interest to make wearables relevant, fashionable. Second, we have a goal of getting the best in both worlds, to have wearables changing the personal lives.”

Wearables is no longer just a plastic strap of flashing lights on your wrist. It can be fashion. “People want things much more wearable but doesn’t look like wearable technology.” Sonny’s team is leading the effort to combine great fashion brands and technology know-how, solving the pain points such as charging the device. Traditional fashion items do not require charging. Can we make wearables free from charging? “Very difficult. How about charging the device two times a week? Not great unless it has a lot of benefit. How about six months of battery life? Fossil is already there.”

“Fashion is customization, it is about self-expression, which is very difficult from consumer electronics perspective.” Sonny elaborated. “A successful tech start-up may launch a few products a year at best. In the fashion world, it produces a few dozen new products a year.” The key of success for wearable fashion is “staying culturally relevant.”

We are no stranger to “sports and performance” wearables, which have activity trackers that are used during workouts. At best we may wear it three hours a day. However, “some people just want things that fits their lifestyle. How about wearing it 21 hours a day instead of 3?” Sonny believes wearable fashion has to be broad reaching. There are mainly three categories of wrist wearables: fitness bands and trackers, display smartwatches, and hybrid smartwatches that looks like traditional watch but connected. “For men, there is always room for luxury watches like Rolex. People who pay $100k+ for watch don’t just buy it for telling the time. These watches can be connected and stay relevant. However, that just reach less than 1% of the mass market. We target watches of price range $50-$100. The mass market. This is where stories are to be told.”

How about wearables for women? “It has a very high bar. Wearables on the body is for self-expression. Over last few years we are getting better at this.”

And kids wearables? “Some products have appeal, but this segment is difficult in general. How do you keep these devices to stay on the bodies?”


The Game of Matchmaking

The Game of Matchmaking

Why haven’t we ever told of a very, very successful matchmaking business?

Have you been to matchmaking event before?
“well my friend wanted to go, but she wants me to go along, so I did”
Yeh la yeh la yeh la..

So how did it go?
“It was okay.. I mean.. there were some freaky dudes..”
“so did you find someone interesting?”
“well.. I guess it was a waste of time..”

“so where did you two first meet?”
“well you know, in friend’s gathering, we just bump into each other, so ..”
“you mean in that matchmaking event?”
“eh.. yeh, totally unexpected, I was even expecting anyone interesting there..”
“so you didn’t find him interesting back in the event?”
“no, I mean, yeah, he was okay..”
“so would you like to go to that event again and share your story?”
“nooo.. we just started, and it is still umm.. you know…”
“sounds like you haven’t been participating any event organized by them since then?
“well not anymore.. why would I..?”

Does it sound all too familiar?

If we look at customer behavior, two metrics:

  • Satisfaction: is the event goer enjoying the event?
  • Hit rate: was the event successful actually matching people for long lasting relationships?

So what kind of people you will bump into a matchmaking event? Either a first timer, or a repeated guest. The repeated guest probably enjoyed the last event, otherwise he or she wouldn’t be returning. However, the last event was probably a miss, otherwise he or she wouldn’t be returning. So, the repeated guest is either a lemon, or.. a playmate.

Ah ha, no wonder everyone would call themselves a first-timer in the event.

Successful Matchmaking business owners couldn’t become more successful because satisfied and successful customers would not return! Nor would they become an advocate. As the business grows, it’s either churning new-joiners, or turning one into a lemon.

So the way out? Plan A, pay for quality guests, rather than getting paid. How long can this last, however?

Plan B, don’t call yourself a Matchmaker, even if you are one. There are many event organizers dressing themselves up as cooking classes, wine tasting glasses, dance classes, reading group, or volunteer group.. you name it, anything but Matchmaker.

Plan C, turn a Matchmaking event into a show, and capture revenue not from the event goer, but from the audience. Yes it is fun to watch a matchmaking event. Let’s say you are a restaurant owner, who took a booking of a couple tables by a matchmaking event organizer. You put them in the middle of the dining hall, and you start auctioning out the tables around them…

Jokes aside, plan A is marketing. Plan B is branding, widely used in cosmetics sales. Plan C is technically called externality effect, widely used in property development.