Vice-Chancellor’s Cup of CUHK Nurture Future Entrepreneurs
To be a successful entrepreneur is the shared dream of many young people. But how to turn good ideas into profitable business is always the most critical challenge for them. Last Saturday (February 3rd), 20 students of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) took their first steps down the road to entrepreneurship by participating in the Vice-Chancellor’s Cup of Student Entrepreneurship organized by the CUHK’s Center for Entrepreneurship.
The champion, Apex Biosystem Ltd is a team of two undergraduate business students, Daisy Chan Wing Sze and Ivan Yau Ka Wai, and a PhD student in electrical engineering, Scott Yuan Wu . They won HK$5,000 and the opportunity to compete with 34 teams from top universities around the world at the Moot Corp Competition to be held at The University of Texas at Austin in the United States from May 2nd to 5th 2007. The team proposed to start a company to produce and distribute laboratory testing equipment using surface plasmon resonance technology. The innovative breakthrough, developed by Professor Aaron Ho Pui Ho of CUHK’s Department of Electronic Engineering, improves on current systems, lowering the sensors’ cost by around 80 percent and tripling their sensitivity. The team plans to help doctors and researchers achieve more accurate results in testing a wide range of viruses including Bird Flu. The intellectual property of the breakthrough is protected by two patents, applied for by CUHK’s Technology and Licensing Office, and currently pending at the US Patent and Trademarks Office. The team plans to launch the product in Hong Kong through direct sales. Strategic partners will be identified for further expansion to overseas markets. They expect a turnover of US $8 million in the 5th year and are now looking for an investment of US $1 million for marketing and prototype production.
The first runner-up was a team of five part-time postgraduate students studying in CUHK’s MBA Programme in Finance at Tsinghua University in Shenzhen. Christabel Zheng Xiaoying, Tenny Lau, Joseph Lung, Colin Zou and Johnson Chang Zheng won HK$3,000 and the chance to represent CUHK to compete with other leading universities in Asia at the Asia Moot Corp Competition to be held in Bangkok from March 20th to 22nd. Their company, BSL Biosynthetic Lubricant Technology plans to develop, market and license a line of new and high quality biosynthetic auto lubricants – the “Green Future Series” — made from editable plant oils such as sunflower oil and corn oil. This type of auto lubricant is environmentally friendly and economical and is a viable long-term alternative to petrochemical-based products. The technology developed by Lenny Zheng Xiaoxing, has passed quality tests by the State Petroleum Product Quality Supervision and Inspection Center in China that certify it to meet the requirements for commercial use. The team expects to generate an annual revenue of RMB 481 million by 2012 and is now seeking for US $10 million to cover additional start-up capital for product commercialization and market development.
Prof. Chua Bee-Leng, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at CUHK said the competition provides a very good opportunity for students to propose new business plans that create value to satisfy market needs, “We have been organizing this competition with an aim to encourage students, faculty, alumni and members of the community to form multi-disciplinary teams to present their business plans to venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, investors and professionals. Participants can learn by interacting with them and fellow students to increase their understanding of the entrepreneurial environment and work out more realistic business plans.”
Judges of the competition included Mr. Wilton Chau, Managing Partner, QLeap Asia Ltd.; Mr. David Chung, Senior Manager, Hong Kong Cyberport Management Co. Ltd.; Mr. Peter C. Hung, Vice President of Corporate Planning and Development, New World Telecommunications Ltd.; Ms. Jessica Jook, Director, Crosby Asset Management (HK) Ltd. and Mr. Andrew Smyth, Head of Corporate Affairs, The Opportune Organisation.
In recent years, several former winners of the competition have actually realized their business ideas on graduation. One of the successful examples is Colisa, one of the winners of the 2005 VC’s Cup of Student Entrepreneurship. The company has successfully transformed their innovative ideas into a real business, a company that markets health care products developed from CUHK technologies. During the past year, it has successfully secured seed funding from a local industrialist, R&D funding from the Government Small Entrepreneurship Research Assistance Programme, and most recently, a venture fund from overseas investor with its head offices in London. The fund focuses mainly on university spin-offs and Colisa is their first investment target in Hong Kong.
When asked about the roads that led them to today’s success, Arion Maniatis, a CUHK MBA graduate and co-founder and General Manager of Colisa said, “Starting this company would have been extremely hard without the University’s support. CUHK’s Center for Entrepreneurship has coached us all along from the formulation of the business plan to implementation, while the Centre for Innovation and Technology (CINTEC) has provided us with office space, facilities and an invaluable business network.”
Prof. Wong Kam-Fai, Director of CINTEC, said besides Colisa, the centre has nurtured quite a number of CUHK spin-offs throughout these years. “What we are promoting is techno-preneurship; a new generation of entrepreneurs who can leverage on the latest technologies and corresponding opportunities to generate high value-added services and products that are very important to the long term growth of our economy.”