28 October 2016
GoGoVan co-founder Steven Lam has faced many challenges and pressures, but he relishes the process of coming up with solutions. Photo: RTHK
GoGoVan co-founder Steven Lam has faced many challenges and pressures, but he relishes the process of coming up with solutions. Photo: RTHK

Startups: The pains, the joys and the gains

For ten months, Ke Bing-song didn’t receive a single order. Hardly anyone visited his online platform that offered a selection of seafood and meat.

Inventory was piling up, choking his cashflow.

Ke didn’t crumble, or complain, or blame it on fate or bad luck, or simply give up. Instead, he just changed his marketing strategy.

He stuck to his belief that good value-for-money produce will be a hit in Taiwan. Although the island’s economy was languishing, people would still crave good food. But instead of dining out, a growing number of Taiwanese will prefer to buy good ingredients and cook at home.

Ke decided that outsourcing the website design clearly didn’t work.

“The old webpage failed to arouse interest or show our unique features,” he recalls in an article posted on, a Taiwan website that caters to startups.

Together with his sales team, Ke overhauled the webpage, changed the presentation and pricing strategy.

The strategy has paid off. 

Patronage has improved, sales have been growing steadily and there has been an increase in the number of return customers.

Ke’s story is proof that anyone starting a new business should have the fortitude to put up with setbacks in the early years to achieve success later. 

Steven Lam, co-founder of Hong Kong’s GoGoVan, also offers insights about surviving the startup pressure.

In the early stage of developing and promoting the van calling app, there was no income at all.

“We had to do part-time jobs to subsidize the operation,” Lam told RTHK.

The team kept thinking about how to solve problems one after another.

“Are we going to get it right? Will there be any concrete results? We had no idea at all.”

However, as things turned out, business has growth rapidly in the space of two years.

GoGoVan is now getting about 10,000 orders a day and cumulative transaction volume exceeds HK$100 million. Yet Lam is maintaining the same sense of urgency.

“I always tell my workers to assume the company will close down in three months. Give it your best everyday, because there may not be a tomorrow,” he says.

While some investors are bullish and are willing to invest in GoGoVan to help it expand outside Hong Kong, Lam looks at it with both excitement and caution.

“Outsiders may think we have made it, but the mainland market is very competitive. We have to think about how to defend our turf and at the same time how to look for breakthroughs. It’s a life-and-death situation,” Lam said.

“We can rise quickly; we can also fall as fast.”

Despite the challenges, Lam is happy about the road he took. Apparently, he is taking the pressure in his stride.

To him, the best thing about a startup is that you can attempt to do something that no one has ever done before.

Because no one has ever done it, no one can have all the answers. This is exactly why Lam considers the activity a lot of fun, even if it means a lot of hard work.

Coming back to Ke, he shares a somewhat similar feeling.

“Starting a business is a lonely but fruitful, fulfilling journey,” he says.

While some may think that having a detailed plan could make things a lot easier, Ke disagrees.

It’s hard to imagine what sort of problems you will run into, he says. Each case is unique, and a person just has to solve problems one after one, day after day.

Ke’s advice to those looking to start a venture of their own: “Take the leap. Be persistent. And, one step at a time.” 

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EJ Insight writer

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