23 October 2016
Handlebook works like a bridge between parents and cram schools by updating the parents of their kids' study progress. Photo: Handlebook
Handlebook works like a bridge between parents and cram schools by updating the parents of their kids' study progress. Photo: Handlebook

Three tips for building a successful app business

Although tons of new apps come to the market each year, not many of them survive.

Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corp. (HKSTP) and some of the companies it nurtures share three important rules for building a successful app business.

First, in creating the app, it stands a much bigger chance of winning if the app helps people solve a real problem in their daily lives. It can be a problem most of us encounter or it can be a specific one for a certain group of people.

“Find out what the market needs,” Peter Mok, HKSTP head of incubation programs, told Hong Kong Commercial Daily.

It’s not so much about the technology, but rather how technology can be creatively applied to address a problem, he said.

Education app Handlebook, for example, seeks to make the life of parents and teachers easier.

It’s common for Hong Kong parents to send kids to cram schools.

But most parents would worry whether their kids are actually attending the lessons or sneaking out to play with their friends. They may also want to know how their kids are doing in school.

When the kids arrive in school, by scanning the student card, Handlebook sends a message to their parents’ mobile phones. Other information like test dates, test results and study progress can be also recorded by teachers and followed by parents on the platform.

Kids earn e-stamps for good performance, which they can accumulate and exchange for snacks and small gifts. Thus, they are encouraged to study harder.

In some cases, the Hong Kong market may not be big enough to offer the scale some app operations may need. Mok suggests that app developers expand into similar markets overseas.

Agent Bong initially targets to help local families find domestic helpers. The app is expanding into Singapore, given that the island state share the same situation–lots of busy parents and not all families can afford or want a full-time maid.

The startup recently received S$1 million (US$726,680) funding from an angel investor.

Handlebook is also looking to introduce their services to Macau and Taiwan.

Another common challenge for app startups is copycats.

Lots of local tech firms are interested in opening up the China market. But most of them are concerned about the lack of legal protection for intellectual property.

For Handlebook, offense is the best defense. It constantly upgrades its app and adds new functions.

The company tries to beat copycats by staying one step ahead all the time.

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EJ Insight writer

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