29 February 2020
Antony Wong (left) and Matthew Tam believe that their app Around will help bring neighborhoods together and foster community spirit. Photo: HKEJ
Antony Wong (left) and Matthew Tam believe that their app Around will help bring neighborhoods together and foster community spirit. Photo: HKEJ

Local startup Around seeks to link up small shops

Here’s a mobile application that’s proudly born and developed in Hong Kong.

Around is a neighborhood networking app that helps users to connect with neighbors and resources in the local community.

It’s one of the 10 latest partners of the Swire Group under its Blueprint accelerator program, which seeks to nurture startup businesses.

Around, which is now two years old, is the brainchild of two local Hongkongers — Antony Wong King-lung and Matthew Tam Chun-kit.

The idea for the app came to Tam when he moved into a new place a few years ago.

He wanted to find a tennis partner in the neighborhood so he asked the management office to put a message on the notice board.

After Tam filled in some forms, the management office said he had to wait half a month for the message to get posted.

That’s too long, Tam thought. There must be a more efficient way for neighbors to communicate with each other.

People in the same housing estate or district would want to share information and seek help from each other, like recruiting a tutor and organizing a community activity.

Wong and Tam believe that their app would help bring neighborhoods together and foster community spirit.

The duo are planning to launch another app, Around Points, which targets merchants.

Right now, many small retailers are forced to abandon their shops because of soaring rents. They move to areas where there are less shoppers or to shops on higher floors of buildings not frequented by their customers.

Around Points will seek to encourage users to look for these shops and gain reward points, which they could later redeem for gifts.

“Currently, our aim has nothing to do with sales,” Wong explains. “What we want to achieve is to draw more foot traffic.”

Around Points is now focusing on shops and restaurants in Mong Kok.

According to Wong, shopping malls would organize activities from time to time in order to attract customers.

This is exactly what the startup wants to achieve: gathering small shops and restaurants and linking them together like huge shopping malls.

It’s a win-win situation, he says.

Startup is a process, according to Wong. The company has gone through many trials and errors since it started, and accelerators like Blueprint and startup mentors have helped a lot.

“The most important thing is connection,” he says. “The accelerator can link us up with investors and experts that we don’t know before.

“These people are experienced. They can point out problems that we may not have noticed. They also give us valuable advices.”

Their original startup was called, but their startup mentor said the name gave the impression that the website was about finding properties.

Wong and Tam took the advice and changed the group’s name to Around this January.

Unlike many other Hong Kong startups which were set up by foreigners, Around was established by locals. Wong hopes to see more local startups popping up in the future.

In its two years of operation, Around has gained a number of lessons from the business. Here are some of them: Startups should open themselves up; they should solicit feedbacks from people about their products; they should think about those comments and discuss them with teammates, and then carry out revisions and amendments that are necessary.

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EJ Insight writer