Echelon 2014: This Hong Kong startup wants to refashion an old world industry


Craft supplies marketplace Craftyful won Echelon 2014 Singapore Satellite! How did it manage to woo the judges? Here is e27’s exclusive interview with Founder Ken Lee


This year’s Echelon Singapore Satellite was big. So big, in fact, that we’ve had to separate the pitching startups, which numbered nearly 50, to two rooms at the INSEAD Asia Campus.

This means that apart from Publishizer, there is one other startup that won the ‘Most Promising Startup’ award at Echelon 2014 Singapore Satellite. This startup is none other than Craftyful, a Hong Kong-based marketplace for crafts supplies. Founded in late 2013, Craftyful provides raw materials for craft-makers and DIY enthusiasts, such as lace trim and specialty fabric.

How did this startup win the hearts of Echelon judges? Craftyful Founder Ken Lee reveals in an exclusive interview. Excerpts:

Can you share a little about Craftyful’s history and journey to Echelon?
I started in this space with an angel investor with whom I founded the startup Lots of Buttons. I built up the site in nine months and in the process saw the greater potential of the crafts industry. Craftyful was created as the next level, moving from a commodity to a branded product.

Our journey to Echelon was way sooner than expected. I already knew I wanted to be at Echelon, but since we had just started, the plan was to try for Echelon 2015. But my VC was watching out for me. I got an email from him one night with the subject line “You should present in Echelon this year!” (Sic) and I applied right away. I’m surprised Craftyful won. I guess my VC knew better.

How does it feel to win the Satellite?
It was such a great boost for the Craftyful team to win the Satellite. We thought going in it would be hard for an e-commerce startup to compete with the high-tech startups, so we were surprised about the win. I think the judges evaluated each team on traction and business model, and that’s where we had the advantage over some of the more amazing tech-based startups.

Even though we are only an e-commerce startup, we have a good plan, we know our customers, and we’re monetising at every stage. So it was a validation of our nose to the grindstone plan and hard work. It is really affirming to have won and we are grateful for the encouragement.

What are you guys planning for the main Echelon event in June?
I would love to present our company as an example of a Hong Kong startup that is refashioning an incredibly old, but valuable industry using an online platform and global marketing. There are so many old world industries in SEA that could be disrupted/rebranded like we’re trying to do with crafting materials.

Craftyful is like the lovechild of Alibaba and Pinterest, and we want to show the world what happens when a hungry and well-planned SEA e-commerce startup gets into a multi-billion dollar market dominated by brick and mortar stores.

Also Read: Echelon 2014: Startup Marketplace gets bigger

Do you have any thoughts you’d like to share with other aspiring startups?
Don’t quit, don’t hedge and do something that you are passionate about. I love what Ben Horowitz has said, “Mediocre CEOs point to their brilliant strategic moves or their intuitive business sense or a variety of other self-congratulatory explanations. The great CEOs tend to be remarkably consistent in their answers. They all say,”I didn’t quit.”

Don’t hedge. Hedging means you believe there’s a 50 per cent chance it won’t work. And it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. You need to be ready to die to see your startup through. I would bleed on our logo to keep it red.

I am passionate about Craftyful. Craftyful is about giving quality materials to our customers to make things with love for those who they love. I am passionate about Craftyful being in Hong Kong as it is a gifted, hardworking place and many would like to see it return to its roots in productive enterprise and tangible goods vs. speculation.

I think if you can find something to do that you are passionate about, all the other things you want, a great team, happy customers, the financial hockey stick, will line up as a natural by-product.

Echelon 2014 is a two-day Startup, Technology and Business event where Asia’s most innovative startups, early-stage investors and tech industry leaders as well as tech media, gather to celebrate and build Asia’s growing tech industry, as well as make valuable relationships. 

Enjoy 10% off your Echelon 2014 tickets, just because you read this article! Or use the code “e27Friend.

Terence Ng

With a few failed and unrealized startups under his belt, Terence is no stranger to the startup landscape. He hopes to start something big. Someday. Meanwhile, he is content with bringing the latest startup and technology news to both professionals and lay readers alike.

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  • Patrick Lui

    Wonderful story for a HK startup!
    Hats off to Ken & his team!

  • Ken

    Thank you Patrick! Hats off to our all-star team: Yee, Amanda, Joanne, Nicholas, Dat, Marlon, Sharon, Edmund, Kevin, Simon, Mom (bookkeeping) our advisors Rebecca, Phil, Roger, Eric, Lamont, Philip, and our VCs Eric & Paul.

    Let’s do this together! If you have a suggestion, complaint or would like to join our team, please let me know at We can only do this with your help, guidance, and participation.

    Let’s go Craftyful. Let’s make Hong Kong and SEA a better place and let’s deliver love and value to the world, together. Let’s go!