Concept Lab Night

Concept Lab Night is designed for anyone willing to share their business ideas to an audience for direct feedback. The event is open to all entrepreneurs in Hong Kong who wish to either present or be a part of the audience.

Last concept lab was organized on 17th of June 2013. The evening began with presentations of three speakers: Adam Bornstein and Orlando Salazar from Brighton Academy and Stephen Lam from

Adam and Orlando’s business concept is a nonprofit kindergarten for 3-6 years old children located in Lamma Island. Brighton Academy is designed especially for abused, disable and single parents’ children.

The founders decided to open the Academy as according to statistics, the number of single parents with children increased 50% over the past decade. Moreover, only 17,6% of all kindergarten teachers in HK possess Qualified Kindergarten Teacher status. That is why Brighton Academy came up with an idea to establish creative, dynamic and impactful kindergarten with highly qualified accredited educators! Adam and Orlando are in the process of raising grants to support the kindergarten’s operation through the start-up period. Brighton Academy is in existence since August 2013. If you want to support this initiative, contact the founders by email:

The next speaker Stephen Lam presented the idea of Everyone can be a freelancer! It is a concept of an online platform that allows freelancers to advertise their skills and services and helps employers to locate suitable and trustworthy freelancers. The platform is going to allow users to review freelancers’ service quality and check their rating system. Moreover, is going to be a social network system based on instant messaging, which enables effective communication between freelancers and potential employers. Customized search engine and personalized information system is going to ensure effective search and job matching.

After each presentation the audience discussed with the presenters their concept, shared their feedback and concerns.

Would you like to get feedback on your latest business concept before investing your money and time?  Join our next Concept Lab Night on Wednesday 9th of October! Your idea could be at the drawing stage, or maybe you have a prototype of your product in your hand. Whatever your concept is – this event is perfect chance to get considered feedback from people who can think like your customers. If you would like to attend our next Concept Lab as a presenter or a member of the audience, please email us:


Elisa Harca, Regional Director at Red Ant is our guest blogger this week! She shares her personal experiences on the new book ‘Lean-In’ written by Sheryl Sandberg , Chief Operating Officer at Facebook.


As a young-ish female, who is ambitious, but not cut-throat; who likes to feel she can be oneself in the ‘work’ environment and not be forced to morph into an alpha-female, come sudo-male; but is also not what I would have deemed a feminist, I read Sheryl Sandberg’s book with apprehension.

But, as a curious person, I was most certainly intrigued. The amount of press about the book, made it impossible for me to avoid. But, had it not been bought as a gift for me, I am not sure I would have taken the plunge. Sheryl undoubtedly is an uber-smart woman who has absolutely ‘made-it’ (a few times over), but having read an article about her in Stylist Magazine, where she talked about it being ‘ok to cry at work’ I must admit, I was a bit sceptical as to whether Sheryl and I would be on the same page. You see, I feel that there are certain emotions that you need to keep under wraps in the office, and crying is one of them. This probably makes me sound heartless, but as a highly emotional person, believe me it’s not. I feel that unless there has been a family crisis, something that really breaks your heart, you should be able to control the crying and at least take it behind closed doors (a bathroom, go for a walk ….). I feel quite strongly about this, and having worked in high-pressured advertising agencies for the most part of my career, I know it’s possible. Crying for me at work immediately creates a negative environment for the person crying and the person witnessing. It’s not fair for the crier, to make the witness’s day unbalanced. Believe me I have cried many times about work (even in a Pilates class which was beyond embarrassing), but I have only cried in the office, in front of colleagues when my cousin committed suicide.

Anyway, I tell you this story as I wanted to give you context of how I approached Sheryl’s book. It was with apprehension about our value commonality. And, as a regular reader of personal development, self-help, business books, I was a bit jaded about reading another book, that looks good on the cover, but leaves you feeling empty at the end (I won’t name any here, but frustratingly, there are far too many).

So, for me, I was delighted that as soon as I started reading Sherly’s book, I couldn’t put it down and consumed it within two days (which for me was pretty impressive as I was in the middle of a huge move from London to Hong Kong by way of Shanghai, moving seven years of stuff, plus a boyfriend and leaving behind amazing family and friends, to embark on a new career and life journey).

The reason I was able to read Sherly’s book so quickly was that I found it straight-forward; it was like having a chat with her over tea. There is no superfluous content that makes you need to skip a chapter forward. The way it’s written, anecdotally makes it accessible, believable and useful. The key take away’s for me are:

  • Push aside that inferiority complex – annoyingly us ladies tend to have a pre-disposition to doubting our ability, whereas alpha-men tend to have the opposite (I distinguish alpha-men here from other men as I know a lot of super smart men, who possess this stifling trait, and they tend to lean-out this way). This lack of self-belief can hold us back unduly, but we can use it to our advantage, as Sheryl has done in her career. She has used her curiosity and determination to ‘go-for-it’. It’s like the age old tale, if you want the role act the role. You need to make employers, employees, colleagues and the like believe you can do it, work hard at it, and although you may come across challenges, the odds are you will make it work. Let’s stop saying ‘well I can’t do 30% of the role, so I won’t go for it’ and instead say ‘well I can do 70% of the role and go for it’.
  • Don’t feel you have to conform to expectations – more than men woman are judged. Kids, no kids, married not married, male-like, cunning etc. I like the way Sheryl has always been open to challenging perceptions. Yes, she has had kids, but she has found a way to maintain her career not by being super woman, but by reassigning the way to make it work in partnership, with her husband. The way she describes the role responsibilities is more like a job share, where you look at your collective goal as two people and work out how to make it work best, for all. For me, my job tends to take the lead over my partners, and as we get older and ‘more successful’ I think we have both found this challenging as we have been thinking about ‘me’ not ‘we’. Sheryl’s book has made us readdress this thinking, and work more as a team.
  • Standing strong as women, together – I’ve always been slightly cautious of people that deem themselves feminist as I felt it was unnecessary in this day and age to intentionally segregate ourselves as women. But, it seems that women of power, like Sheryl and like the women who took part in the Woman of the World (WOW) event in London earlier this year, are redefining feminism as something that is supportive vs. divisive (men are even behind it!). And, I now realise, this is what I have been doing since I was a child, just not knowing it. It’s simple actions that Sheryl describes that I truly believe in and do innately. For example, if I meet women who are highly able, successful, I openly praise them and admire them vs. labelling them as the proverbial devil. I find women who make things happen inspiring to be around personally and professionally, and I loathe other woman who make these women that lean-in, feel alienated. We should support one another, and, instead of envy have admiration. I have worked with a few too many females, who are smart and successful, and when they lose this camaraderie, they pretty soon make enemies not allies and I think ultimately lose their positions of power, and most importantly lose friends. So, I still wouldn’t call myself a feminist (I just don’t like labels, hence why I am not married, but had the same partner for 17 years), but I definitely am a woman of women power! But, ladies, let’s not forget we have to support the guys too, especially as a manager, a mixed sex team is not only beneficial but necessary. And, boys, I think it’s worthwhile you read this for yourselves or for the women in your lives.

Having read Sheryl’s book, I now know we share similar values, and should I have the opportunity to meet her, I have no-doubt I’d learn a lot (especially when it comes to time management – wow!). And, just to take it back to the initial barrier, her acceptance of crying in the work place, through the book, I think she shows balance especially the way she talks about people looking for help and support via mentorship. It’s clear that Sheryl is very generous with her time, and gives recognition where recognition is due, but she is also no walk over, her whole premise is, if you want something, show some initiative and don’t expect someone, like a mentor, to wave a magic wand and deliver your dreams to you. You need to have some guts and gumption and LEAN-IN! I support that concept whole heartedly, but still say, leave the crying outside.

Follow me on twitter @harcagypsy

Food Blog by Elaine

Everyone knows that I love my food, and maybe that’s why a lot of members come to me when they need restaurants suggestions.

Lets talk about take away first.
In the area, my favorite sandwich / salad place is Passion by Gerard Dubois on 74-80 Johnston Road. They do lovely lovely dessert as well!
If I don’t have enough time to walk 10 minutes to Passion, I will buy a simple but still quite lovely  sandwich from La Rose Noire which sits inside the Vanguard Supermarket at Jaffe Road. Their bagel sandwich is my favorite, and I love it toasted.
Further down on Jaffe Road you can find a lovely takeaway sushi place called Mitaki. As a carbohydrate fan, I love their minced tuna rice box but it is indeed quite a bit of rice.
I will talk about local eateries next, followed by sit-down lunches. Stay tuned!

Two weeks working as a host so far….by Kar-yan Li

When I first step into the office, it was very daunting and surreal. This was practically my first time working in an office with REAL people owning their own business or people help runs someone’s business empire.

‘You’re not a child anymore Kar, you’re a real adult now’ was the first thing that ran through my head.

I remember sitting stiffly on those comfy armchair by the lounge area, taking in the atmosphere while looking over the pantry area wondering if those cans of cola are free for me to drink, that’s when I notice a pixie-looking lady comes striding towards my direction like she owns the place.

Till I realize that was my boss by the name of Elaine. Have you ever had a boss that made you feel so comfortable yet keeps you on your toes at the same time?

Since I’ve never worked in a formal setting, Elaine has patiently given me many advices and tips on how I present myself, how to act professional and how to think like a business-minded entrepreneur would.

Especially knowing every single member’s name.

I felt the pressure and I didn’t want to get in trouble so I did my best to know everyone’s name. I even made a seating chart by Elaine’s suggestion.

It really works!

To the point I know everyone’s drink preference!

I really respect her for that.

The other hosts Heidi, Marta and Sean made me feel really welcome and taught me how the whole Host’s system works.

If I ever made a mistake or I’m not too sure about something, they’re always willing to help and teach me again from the start until I get it right.

I really like working for The Hive. Everyone is so nice and encouraging that they really give me the confidence to work better as a Host.

I would never on my own will go up to someone I’m not familiar with and have a chat.

By working for The Hive, I can confidently go up to someone, introduce myself as the new host and ask for their names and what’s their business about so I can get to know them better. I even ask if they want a drink in the end.

It’s also a great place to make new friends and network. You’ll meet so many interesting people from around the globe and listen to their stories and ideas while you’ll learn something new from them.

The one I have yet to meet is Constant Tedder. The Big Boss.

I’m anxious yet curious to meet him.

Wish me luck that I don’t mess up when I meet him for the first time.

What’s the shrewdest, smartest maneuver you’ve ever seen in business?

The business world is jam-packed with clever, shrewd movers and shakers. From entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Henry Ford to the obscure intellects behind such familiar and ubiquitous products as cold medicine and liquid soap, there are plenty of riveting stories to tell of daring-do on the high seas of corporate finance. Here are a few of the more colorful ones.


The claim to fame of Mucinex, a cold medicine sold over the counter, is that it wiped out its competition in 2002 not through traditional competitive methods but purely by exploiting a legal loophole. The company patented the medicine’s dosage and release period and was duly approved to sell it as a non-prescription medicine. It then drew attention to a crucial stipulation, namely that legally a drug cannot be sold both as a prescription product and simultaneously as a non-prescription product using the identical release period and dosage.

As Mucinex owned the patents for every type of non-prescription drug in that category (12-hour release period and 600mg dosage) and had gained approval from the Food & Drug Administration, the prescription products of its rivals became instantly illegal. Following the coup, 66 warning letters were sent out to marketers, distributors, manufacturers and retailers by the FDA and the production of the competitors’ prescription products was eventually stopped altogether. Maybe not the most ethical of business moves, but certainly effective…

Henry Ford

In 1914, Ford took a groundbreaking decision. He more than doubled his workers’ wages ($5/day from $2.34) and cut their working day down to 8 hours (from 9 hours). In the ultra-Capitalist USA this was derided as insane socialism by his competitors and by business in general. To the common man and woman in the street, however, he became a hero overnight and there was even a popular movement to get him into the White House. Even today, Ford’s $5, 8 hour working day is fondly remembered.

The press made a meal of it, and the newspapers were worked on by Ford’s PR machine to promote the move as essentially egalitarian – the workers of the nation would now be able to afford to buy his cars.

Ford’s profits duly jumped by 200% within two years of the pay rise.


Puma’s shrewd move proved just how simple and effective this sort of thing can be. In the 1970 final of the World Cup in Mexico they paid Pele to tie his shoes just before kick-off in the centre of the field. They got the camera to zoom in on his shoes and the whole planet saw their product on the most famous pair of feet in sport. For a relatively insignificant outlay and some creative thinking, Puma never looked back.

Successful businesses take risks and think outside of the box to sell their products and services, using ever more complex tools to assist them in leveraging the market. But some things remain essentially the same.


Carlo Pandian is a freelance blogger and tutorial writer on Intuit QuickBooks small business accounting software. He is interested in finance, start-ups and web marketing and loves providing business tips to the entrepreneurial community of The Hive co-working space

Business Lessons Learned From the Upcoming Battlefield 4 Game

Okay… It’s odd, I know. Realistically there has always been that cliché that business is actually a battlefield. But how on earth can a video game (one that hasn’t even come out on any platform yet) teach you anything about business? Logically, it shouldn’t. These are lessons that you should know and are mostly common sense, but sometimes it just takes a little helping hand from the people at EA Games to point them out. Also, it can be a great excuse when the wife/girlfriend says you are playing too many video games!

Pick a Diverse Team

Like the teams selected in warfare games, your team must be diverse in their talents; Snipers, explosive experts and recon are replaced by marketers, economists and developers. These are your most important assets; ensure they are treated in that way.


Working as a team gets the job done. Sure, you may think you will be able to take on the enemy on your own, but generally this will lead to death (in a business sense of course).  Together, everyone achieves more.

Have a Plan

Failing to plan is planning to fail. If there was something to take away from this blog, that would be it. Sometimes it may not go the way you want it, but you can learn from your mistakes and plan your attack better. Unfortunately, you do not have the ability to re-spawn in the real world!

Establish Checkpoints

Always a must in a game. Otherwise you would just forget to save your progress, die and have to do it all over again. The real world is a little less forgiving. Set yourself checkpoints and objectives that will work to your ultimate goal. Without checkpoints, it’s possible that you may go off course.

Know Your Enemy

Know what they do, what they wear, how they act, etc. Doing this will give you the upper hand in some cases. By studying this it will help you stay ahead of the game and will give you a greater insight into how you should treat them.

Pick Your Approach

Flank them? Surround them? Surprise them? In business it is the same deal. How are you going to successfully get yourself across to the consumer? A wrong choice can be catastrophic, so do your best to choose wisely.

Pick the Right Weapon

Depending on what you are doing and the environment, so weapons are more appropriate then others. You’re not going to bring a pistol to a tank fight, nor a bazooka to close quarter’s combat. This is the same in business. What would you like to achieve; short, mid or long term goals? Pick the right weapon that will help you achieve these.

Know Your Vehicles

What will you use to get there? All vehicles have different strengths, weaknesses, and speeds. It is the same with your marketing channels. Print advertising, television, social media, all have various differences. Just make sure you choose the right one that suits your mission.


See your target. Take a deep breath. And hit it. It is key for you (and that wonderful team you selected) to not get sidetracked by anything else. Focus on your goals and achieve them.

Don’t Rush

Rushing will compromise your team. Without properly getting to know all of the external factors surrounding you, as well as the internal ones with your team, could be disasterous.

Tips On Getting Useful Feedback

Everyone and every business needs feedback, it is part of the life cycle. How else are you meant to grow if you do not know what you are doing wrong or right? If the product you have put out looks grotesque or tastes like cardboard? You could be drastically changing something that is working for the public already, because no one has told you how great your product actually is! What about your employees? Are they satisfied? Disgruntled? Well paid? So many questions, so little answers.

The issue generally is, getting the feedback that causes headaches. From both customers and employees, you must go about it in a way so as all you receive is applicable and actually worth your time. So how does one go about doing that? Here are some tips we have come up with!

1.    Use more then one method to gather information

This is certain to ensure you will get what people are actually thinking. Surveys and face-to-face contact are too easily shunned and people may be apprehensive to give their actual thoughts in fear of judgment or being offensive. If you want customer feedback, monitor the online world using web analytic tools and social media. Employees may be more inclined to speak at town hall style meetings or an online portal. This does not mean do away with the classic suggestion/comment box, but expanding your methods means more information and more quality.

2.    Ensure Participation

Difficult we know. We have all been guilty of hanging up on telemarketers, or dodging surveyors in the street. A tad hypocritical for us to be asking you to push participation in feedback responding, but oh well! Perhaps if they apply some tricks we would be more inclined? The simplest way is to offer incentives. Give the chance for an employee to be in a raffle for a prize or offer a customer a discount on their next purchase. For employees offer them anonymity for their comments, or ensure that they understand that it is a safe forum for them to do so. This will ensure you will get honest feedback, which is what the goal is.

3.    Do your best to not make it anonymous.

This may only be relevant if you are trying to get feedback from your employees, but lately it has been advised that anonymous feedback is almost as useful as none at all according to The Harvard Business Review. Respondents were found to be too transparent, leaving no chances to follow up or leave people accountable. Sure, your workers (or customers) would be apprehensive to give their honest views, but that means you must change the culture of your workplace in order for people to feel comfortable in honestly responding. Putting a name to it can also open the chance to follow-up. Why did they say that? What do they actually mean? Putting a face to a comment can solve these issues.



What’s wrong with an ad-supported business model?

What’s wrong with an ad-supported business model?

Many large companies employ ad-supported business models as part of their wider marketing and advertising campaign. But businesses that rely solely on advertisements leave themselves in quite a difficult position, as rather than relying on their own quality content, they’re dependent upon the quality of other company’s advertisements.

Diverting Audience Attention

Using an ad-supported business model is not going to keep your customers interested in you. You’re actively encouraging them to go elsewhere and therefore your business is at a disadvantage. Yes, you may receive a cut if they purchase products from any of the ads they’ve clicked on your site, but there’s no benefit to your site in its own right. The most successful ad-supported business models become profitable because the adverts happen to be exactly right for the users in question. The adverts and therefore advertising partners need to be carefully chosen to ensure the advert is beneficial for all potential users. When adverts become annoying and a hindrance the business is unlikely to see success. What you’re aiming for is a symbiotic relationship between your brand and the ads you support on your site.

Ad Management

Advertising is without doubt a potentially profitable avenue and it can be seen as a quick step to success. But realistically it’s all about the management of advertising and keeping it appropriate for your business. The value of an advert is in part dependent on how specialised it is. Companies which advise and guide users to make purchases can easily charge high advertisement rates because the advertising company knows that their users are visiting their site with the intention of making a purchase and so there’s a higher chance of the adverts being successful. The problem comes when you’re creating a product or service that does one thing but then you’re including adverts which are showing off another. There may be a link between the two, but the focus shifts from your product or service to the advertised one. You’re effectively muddying the waters. Similarly, users are likely to either be put off as you’re not focused on your own brand or you’ll need to generate huge levels of traffic for the advertisement to have any success whatsoever.

Ad Success

To achieve success with an ad-supported business strategy you need to match your advertisements very closely to your users and their purchasing requirements. If you’re able to do this and do this successful then perhaps an ad-supported business model can work for you whereas if you’re just adding them for the sake of it they’re very unlikely to have a significant impact on your revenue. Alternatives to Fully Ad-Supported Strategies Rather than going the whole hog and relying fully on advertisements for your business why not consider a less ad-supported model such as software as a service? In this software delivery model, customers are involved in the process of renting online software rather than purchasing it. This rental process means a company is able to generate revenue through rental fees and combining targeted, relevant advertisements throughout. An ad-supported business model is a risky choice and not something that often comes off on its own without other related strategies being incorporated. You could always give it a go, but you shouldn’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t work as successfully as you may have thought.

About the writer

Carlo Pandian is a freelance bloggers and tutorial writer on Intuit QuickBooks accounting software He is interested in finance, start-ups and web marketing and loves providing business tips to the entrepreneurial community of The Hive co-working space.

4 Tips to being a Better Networker

Networking can be a difficult experience, so many variables that can determine how to go about your business. Time of day, the environment you are in, the people you are surrounded by, all of these play a factor in how to effectively market yourself. However, networking is an integral part of betting yourself, both as a person AND in business.

Before the tips come in, you must firstly shed whatever stereotype you have when the word networking is mentioned. All you can think about is suits, business cards, cheap drinks and awkward silences. Whilst you may not be far off with the last notion, I can tell you that the idea of networking can occur at any time, anywhere. At work, out on the town, at a sporting event, you may get the chance to market yourself to someone of some value who could help you later in the future. In a city such as Hong Kong, this is especially true. So how can you be a more effective networker? Simple.

1.Expand Your Comfort Zone

Stop being so convenient. Go out and meet people! Do not wait for the introductions, just jump in the deep end. The confidence you show may pay off one day! At work, you might have the chance to meet people in other departments and ask about what they do. Introduce yourself to people at industry events, workshops and luncheons. There is nothing wrong with knowing TOO many people. Obviously there is a large fear here for certain person, which leads us to our next point…

2. Develop Thick Skin

Rejection. No one really wants to deal with; some people spend their (potentially) miserable lives doing their best to avoid it! But, it is a part of life. Not everyone is going to respond positively to you because people have their own personal ideals that you may not meet. Don’t take that personally, let their rejection remind you to be more responsive to people who reach out to you. After all, you wouldn’t want to make people feel like that!

3. Remember, EVERY relationship matters

It may be tough trying to keep track of every person you meet, but if you do it correctly, it can pay off in the future. Think about it, hypothetically you meet 50 people in a week. How many of those people could move on and become a key decision maker in a company, or even run their own? How many can be potential customers, employees, employers, etc. You never know what the future holds for some people, but its best to be prepared!

4. Be Persistent

Always follow up. Like courting a potential loved one, you could be dealing with someone shy who is not willing to make the first move. If you sit around waiting, you may always be left wondering what could have been. Be proactive and it may pay dividends. What is the worst thing that could happen anyway, them saying no? You have thick skin remember!

Marketing Fallacies: Shiny Object Syndrome

Shiny object syndrome. At its worse it can prove fatal… to your business.

We see examples of it all the time, talented marketers and entrepreneurs who see brand new channels, trends and buzzwords that they assume will absolutely blow away their target market. It often occurs when people choose to market on “emerging” media, as opposed to concentrating on achieving their current goals. Don’t get us wrong, the use of emerging markets and channels can actually be a very powerful tool in order to reach existing and new customers. However, if you fail when implementing a strategy revolving around new media that you do not really understand, you can lose some valuable resources in the process, something that most entrepreneurs cannot afford to risk.

Fortunately, in order to avoid, you simply need to ask yourself five simple questions before committing too much of your resources into such fads!

1. What business problem are you trying to solve?

Every business needs one, a goal that they need to achieve in order to be able to measure their success. Innovation is about making things easier for you to achieve this goal, not to set out and consistently use fancy new tools to do so! If you don’t know what you are trying to solve, the chances are the new social media fad is not exactly going to help you.

2. Will this reach my customers?

Do your customers even use this? Realistically, most small businesses do their best to target geographically to begin with, due to a lack of reach and the resources to support this. However, most digital platforms do not have a geographical boundary. Others have a distinct sexual differentiation or specific age range. As the marketer, you must ask yourself if what you are using is actually reaching your target market. Do your demographics fit in with the users of that digital media?

3. How do people use this channel?

Every emerging media outlet uses different communication methods and serves a different purpose in peoples lives. We still group them all as social media, but can you honestly say that people communicate the same way they do on Facebook as they do Twitter? Or Foursquare? Or Pintrest? The goal is to be relevant and add value to people’s lives. Before you choose, think how people use.

4. Do you have the right resources?

Even “free” things take resources. They take talent, skill and time. Do you have someone on your staff that can dedicate the time required to market effectively with this tactic? If you are going to use it and try to be successful, you are going to have to use it properly. This will involve allocation of resources, something that you DO NOT want to mess up!

5. Can you be awesome?

Do you have a truly great idea for a way to create impact with an emerging channel? Maybe an emerging channel is the right way to go. But, only if you can be awesome. This is done by not only generating publicity, as that may not turn into profit. Only the truly awesome social media users will know how to convert internet traffic into dollars. Can you?

Just remember, small businesses have very limited resources, and you should do your best not to squander them! Avoid the traps!