Date
22 September 2017
Co-founders, Michelle Chan (right), Andy Lai (middle), and Anthony Chiu (left), launched Weava, an online highlighter for websites and PDFs, last year. Photo: HKEJ
Co-founders, Michelle Chan (right), Andy Lai (middle), and Anthony Chiu (left), launched Weava, an online highlighter for websites and PDFs, last year. Photo: HKEJ

Why this HK startup co-founder declined Amazon’s offer

For most IT fanatics, getting a job at tech giants like Google, Facebook or Amazon, would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Not for Michelle Chan, 23, who declined a job offer from Amazon and started her own company, Weava, with two college friends.

The three co-founders, Michelle Chan, Andy Lai, 22, and Anthony Chiu, 23, launched Weava, an online highlighter for websites and PDFs, last year. The application aims to help users simplify their online research process.

A year after the launch, Weava has 4,000 weekly active users, of whom American students account for over 30 percent, including students from big-name universities such as Harvard, Yale, and Stanford.

Users can highlight, organize and bookmark their online research on articles and PDFs, annotating with personal notes. The highlights would be organized into collections, which are synced to the cloud, to facilitate collaboration with research teammates.

Among the three new graduates from the University of Hong Kong, Michelle Chan had previously landed internships with big US firms such as True Ventures, Runscope and Amazon. Influenced by the startup culture in Seattle and San Francisco, she plucked up the courage to pursue her dream.

“For Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, to found another successful tech startup like Facebook or Google is not a whimsical thought. [They would] just do it,” said Chan.

She started creating Weava with Lai and Chiu during the internship with Amazon last year. After every work day, she would rush back home, having Skype meeting with the two partners, and worked on the coding of the application.

At the end of her internship with Amazon, Michelle Chan received a permanent job offer from the company, which she declined politely and turned to her own startup.

“We can also do it in Hong Kong,” Chan said, adding that the rental cost of startups here is actually much lower. “When I was an intern in San Francisco, I had to sleep on a couch, and I paid US$1,500 (HK$11,700) a month for that.”

The three co-founders are each from a different discipline. Chiu majored in Computer Science and Engineering. Chan and Lai took courses in Computer Science. Chan also studied in International Business and Global Management.

They come up with the Weava idea when they were writing their academic papers. “Everyone is searching for and annotating information on similar subjects, which is a huge waste of manpower and time.”

According to Chan, major users of Weava are researchers, experts and students in education, medical, and legal fields. “Our next step is to make Weava open to users worldwide. We also plan to enhance Weava’s collaboration function such that users can read highlights made by other users previously.”

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 28

Translation by Ben Ng

[Chinese version 中文版]

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BN/RT/RA

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