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Image credit: Leo Wong

This article concludes the two-part Q&A with Sensbeat’s Co-founder Leo Wong. Read Part 1 here

Are you looking to expand the Sensbeat team?
Yes, but I think the most challenging part is hiring engineers in Hong Kong. We want to hire one or two engineers from Hong Kong because we want to work at the same location. We also want to hire business development associates to support the non-technical side, basically growth, marketing and business development in general.

How long do you expect this funding to last?
I think it will last us 13-15 months at this stage of projection. But if things go well, the period may decrease accordingly. It will definitely last more than a year.

How have the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests played into the success of Sensbeat?
We found it interesting that a lot of our friends were using hashtags related to Occupy Central, OCLP and Umbrella Revolution. Quite a few of them had songs that came to their minds when they wanted to express their thoughts around this incident, especially ‘Do You Hear The People Sing’ (from Les Miserables).

We noticed an increase in the number of beats shared, daily active users, the number of beats they looked at, etc. So we made a designated URL that aggregated all the beats with the hashtag Occupy Central on the website. If people want to see what their friends are sharing, they can go to the URL to get a holistic view of what’s going on and what’s happening based on the photo, music and location.

Most of Sensbeat’s users right now are in Hong Kong. How do you plan to expand?
This is something we are thinking about. We want to test the market reaction or user feedback from other locations demographically similar to Hong Kong, such as Singapore and Taiwan.

To begin with, we want to try the easiest way, which means our friends in the university. So initially, we want to spread through word-of-mouth. If it’s good, it will spread on its own, but we want to find more people at this feedback stage, including from other locations so we can make changes quickly.

Are trending hashtags going to be an important part of Sensbeat’s growth strategy?
Yes, I definitely think so. We want to have certain elements in the app that will direct other users who are also interested in certain topics to Sensbeat. At the same time, if they notice the value that Sensbeat provides them, this will engage them to intuitively open the app more frequently to see what’s going on, like the case with Occupy Central.

Do you have plans to allow users to upload their own music clips?
For now, no. There are a few things we would have to consider. That really comes to the copyright issue. And the second point is about the length and data we are collecting. We are not saving the songs, but if they upload them, we would need a place for them to do that. It might be an option, but at this stage, we will just stick with the easiest plan, for both the users and us.

When do you plan to leave the public beta stage?
Right now, we are trying to find the product fit, and what we have been doing is intensely focussing on the product by getting feedback and trying to improve as soon as possible. The feedback we are getting is mostly from our friends and people in universities. These are the segments that we are most familiar with. (We’re targeting) college students to begin with.

What is your overall impression of Hong Kong’s startup culture?
When we started, I don’t think there were that many startups. But as we developed Sensbeat, we realised there were more people who wanted to do startups. It’s just that it’s a closed kind of family. Frankly speaking, if we do a comparison with other cities in Asia, especially Singapore, I think it will take time, but I believe we can catch up.

Our own feeling is that there are more things going on in the startups scene right now. A lot of friends have graduated, worked for a few years and then realised they wanted to do their own startups as well. So in our own circles, the number of people who want to do startups, or have quit their jobs to do startups, is growing. From this, we feel that something is heating up. We can see this from the number of integration centres and co-working spaces.

Also Read: Is Hong Kong’s corporate culture bad for startups?

Speaking of the overall landscape from another perspective, what startups here really need at the early stage is advisors.

One of the best times to do startups is in college where ideas are fresh and there are not that many burdens from family or other aspects. Later on, there will be more things to worry about.

Any parting thoughts?
We are not financially motivated, and so when we received Facebook messages from people saying, “Hey, Sensbeat, I saw you guys on the news, you guys also make me want to do a startup,” — that is the happiest moment. That’s priceless.

We want to be a role model for student-found startups, and making a positive impact is at the heart of Sensbeat. I think we can do something interesting and impactful in Hong Kong.