24 October 2016
Recruiting talent is as difficult as securing funding for startups. Photo: HKEJ
Recruiting talent is as difficult as securing funding for startups. Photo: HKEJ

How startups can compete with big corporations for talent

Many people reckon that securing funding is the biggest challenge for startups.

But recruiting talent is equally important when it comes to the long-term development of a company.

I have been thinking of using information and communications technology (ICT) in education, hoping to develop a quality but low-cost mobile app since 2011.

Such an interactive app finally came to the market in January. Called Snapask, it allows students and tutors to ask and answer questions anytime, anywhere.

Looking back at the first two years of business, our staff number was small and suitable candidates were in short supply.

For job seekers, local startups are less appealing than multinational enterprises in terms of scale and resources. Hence, finding talent is as difficult as securing funding for business.

Entrepreneurship is a culture as well as a spirit that should be nurtured from childhood.

Based on my own experience and observations, local university graduates in general have an inadequate knowledge of startups. That’s why for many of them, landing a job in a large corporation is the first (sometimes only) choice.

On top of promoting Snapask and e-learning in secondary schools, I would also share my experiences as an entrepreneur with students.

Reaching out to young people

Startups should participate in recruitment events and communicate with youngsters directly. They should get to know their thoughts and job expectations.

For instance, we joined the Cyberport Career Fair 2015, engaging students and fresh graduates on the challenges of starting a business and the kind of mentality needed. That’s something that they can never learn in traditional classrooms.

Many ambitious young men and women are eager to meet up with the company management. Meanwhile, new recruits often provide companies with fresh ideas and viewpoints. It’s a win-win situation.

We have also signed up for Cyperpoint’s e+startup Internship Programme and successfully recruited promising young professionals.

The program creates opportunities for founders of startups and promising students to exchange ideas. Students can also work with people from different positions and get to know every aspect of the company. This offers a rare and valuable learning opportunity that large enterprises usually cannot offer.

We have to give special credits to two devoted interns hired through this e+ programme. With their assistance, we were able to update Snapask and win certificates of merit at Asia Smartphone Apps Contest 2015.

Treasuring interns, developing in Greater China

From Hong Kong, Snapask has expanded to Taiwan and Shanghai, thanks to the hard work and dedication of everyone in the company, including the new members and interns.

An intern was promoted to a shareholder and was given the responsibility of introducing Snapask to the Taiwan market at the end of 2014.

Two other interns have decided to defer their university studies for a year to promote the Snapask business in Shanghai. They have recently entered Beijing. Both of them are now shareholders, too.

It has been encouraging and exciting to witness the growth of new teammates along with the business.

We are determined to extend the business throughout Greater China and become one of the best e-learning mobile app developers.

We are also hoping that more local startups will reach out to young people and help create a sustainable environment for young entrepreneurs in Hong Kong.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 23.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version中文版]

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Founder of Apprendre Education Limited

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