Ex-poker professional Chow Shing Yuk’s gamble with EasyVan

The delivery-matching platform is a product of hunger and stupidity, shares the CEO of EasyVan, in a candid conversation with e27

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I had imagined Chow Shing Yuk (better known as Shing), CEO and Co-founder, EasyVan, to be a less famous version of Ko Chun, the top-notch, world-renowned God of Gamblers played by Chow Yun-fat in the 1989 film. The Hong Kong ex-Poker professional, I had believed, would walk in flaunting a deck of cards, only to throw them in the air suavely. Much to my dismay, he did no such thing. Shing, who looked nothing like the other Chow, arrived in the most nondescript of attires — a grey GAP t-shirt and denim jeans, sandwiched between Co-founder Gary Hui and Blake Larson, his newly appointed Board Advisor.

It was Shing’s first time in Singapore after founding the Hong Kong-based delivery matching service in October 2013. He now spends most of his time in home country Hong Kong, where he oversees 20 staff members, leaving Hui to manage a smaller and newer team of five in Singapore — EasyVan’s first overseas market. For background, EasyVan connects people who want to deliver physical goods with drivers who can do the job via a smartphone app available on iOS App Store and the Google Play Store.

Curious, I asked him about how he started his stint as a professional Poker player. It all began with a management consulting job at Bain & Company, where he worked for nearly three years. “After graduation from Stanford, … the top Economics students usually go into investment banking or what we called management consulting so I went to management consulting,” he said. “But I don’t like sitting one side; I like playing my own cards.”

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No playing cards? No problem. L-R: Gary Hui, Chow Shing Yuk, Blake Larson with EasyVan name cards

In August 2002, he began playing cards online. Then, when Macau’s casinos introduced Poker, Shing went along. In a period of eight years, he won more than HK$30 million (about US$4 million) from playing professional Poker. He finally stopped in September 2010, and spent about four years “doing nothing”.

“I got tired at the end of the day. You want something that’s not only adding zeroes to your bank account, right? You want to add something to society,” shared the entrepreneur.

Also Read: Food delivery app war in Korea heats up: Yogiyo vs Baedari-Minjok

After he stopped playing professional Poker and left the industry, he finally told his parents about how he was earning money. His mother, upset with her son’s choice of profession, cried over his admission. I asked, “Your mother isn’t okay with you playing Poker, but is she okay with you being an entrepreneur?” He laughed and replied, “She is more okay with that (entrepreneur). She’s not okay with me making money, (but) she’s okay with me burning money.”

To Shing, playing Poker is just a way of hauling in the big bucks. But his work with EasyVan is more meaningful. He said, “One (playing Poker) is a redistribution of wealth. The other one (EasyVan) is creating something that people find useful.”

Hunger and stupidity started EasyVan
Despite being a scholar (he was the first student in the Hong Kong’s New Territories to score 10 A’s in the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination), Shing repeatedly talked about his own stupidity, which reminded the author of a famous quote from Apple founder Steve Jobs: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

In our interview, he recounted, “We had no experience in logistics. We had no experience in technology. (But) we have the hunger to make it happen. Sometimes, changes are made by hungry people. If you’re satisfied with what you have, you wake up every day and don’t make changes. We’re kind of stupid enough to go into that and we’ll carry on this stupidity.”

It began with a friend of Shing wanting to sack his chauffeur and find a new driver in Hong Kong. They found a number of solutions, including Uber, which connects passengers with shiny black private cars and a personal chauffeur for the ride. The passenger market, according to Shing, was too competitive. “(There were) a lot of big boys. A lot of backing.” So he decided to look into another vertical — delivery vans. “If you can’t win in this game, you create another game,” he said.

Also Read: Dilivrit to venture into B2B space with iJam funding

The thing is, the game had already begun. In July 2013, Hong Kong-based GoGoVan went online. “We figured that we weren’t in the stage to beat Uber up, but we were in the stage that we could beat GoGoVan up, so we went to beat them,” said Shing, who launched EasyVan in December 2013.

To date, EasyVan serves more than 8,000 drivers in Hong Kong, and more than 1,500 drivers in Singapore. While Shing and Hui declined to disclose the number of transactions processed at this point, Hui told e27 that the number has doubled in August 2014 compared to the previous month. For the record, EasyVan has seen more than 300,000 downloads in Hong Kong alone.

As of August 16, 2014, GoGoVan claims to have processed more than 3,000 transactions in Singapore with more than 2,000 vehicles on its platform. In Hong Kong, GoGoVan also claims to have processed more than 10,000 transactions a day with over 18,000 vehicles.

Credit: EasyVan's Facebook Page

Credit: EasyVan’s Facebook Page

At the moment, it is raising around US$6.5 million — the same amount GoGoVan raised in an investment led by Centurion Investment Management. Shing said that besides money, they are also looking to find investors with networks and the ability to guide the team as they grow to new heights.

“Plus, I went to approach them but they didn’t take me as an investor. … Sometimes, when you see an opportunity, you don’t say no, right? Even if people tell you that you can’t participate, go and do other stuff,” he said.

Interviews take half a day
“First and foremost, it is attitude. I think the rest of the stuff, you can train or you can create a position where he can contribute but attitude is hard to change so that’s the only thing we look for,” said Shing, when asked about his hiring process.Furthermore, there is no real ‘interview’ at EasyVan. “We don’t go through the interviewing process. We just say come and work for half a day,” he added.

Hui continued, “We want to see how people react or perform on the job.” This helps to rid candidates with shiny curriculum vitae but no real passion for the job, or ones who might not be able to take the stress of working in a startup.

But working in a startup is not only about handling stress or a small workspace. It is not just about long hours or performing tasks beyond a person’s designated job scope. It also comes with the ability to experiment and test out certain ideas — however ridiculous they might sound. For example, according to Shing, Hui and he once dressed up as women to promote the app. With oranges as breasts, they tried their luck on Hong Kong’s MTR. Sadly, it did not work out well as the Co-founders were not exactly model material. In fact, they jokingly added that some people were a bit spooked.

Jokes aside, while we sure won’t be seeing Shing and Hui crossdress any time soon, we will be seeing a lot of them and EasyVan in Southeast Asia as the company looks towards other countries in the region, such as Thailand.

Elaine Huang

Elaine is a fervent believer that if there ever is a zombie apocalypse, we will all be snapping away at them with our phones and posting them onto Instagram. A Mass Communication graduate of Ngee Ann Polytechnic's School of Film and Media Studies, she enjoys writing about technology and entrepreneurs. When not hashtagging her way through all sorts of trouble, Elaine is probably contemplating how to write in the third person.

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