“The weak minded knows only ‘to do’. The wise musters the resolve not only ‘to do’, but ‘to be’.”
Chaoshan-born Hong Kong business magnate Li Ka-shing once said that the willingness to outdo oneself, to quest after a new world with confidence and imagination, enables a person to transcend his or her potential to reach the extraordinary.
Jason Zheng, the founder of HelloToby, is also from Chaoshan. He comes from a family whose many members run businesses of their own. Entrepreneurship has been coursing through Jason’s mind ever since he was little. A finance major, Jason was recruited by an investment bank soon after graduation. But, before he started the job, Jason decided to take a gap year to broaden his perspectives for the work to come.
He joined a start-up that runs a valet storage service and became one of its founding members. He was in charge of such aspects as manpower, warehouse management, and sales.
But Jason knew nothing about online sales or marketing, and he resorted to Google for information. He found that these seemingly menial tasks actually required an expertise unto themselves.
“As I did my research, I found that many aspects of business require the help of different professionals. It is difficult for SMEs to do everything on their own.”
In addition to seeing user demand, Jason realised that service providers often find it hard to identify the right channels to reach potential clients.
Putting two and two together, Jason was inspired to launch an integrated online marketplace for services: One that would match companies and service users with professionals and let service providers easily reach their targets.
After working at this start-up for a year – during which Jason and his team helped to turn the company into Asia’s largest valet storage company – Jason joined the investment bank as scheduled. He considered the job an excellent opportunity to expand his network and to hone his business and communication skills for his future entrepreneurial endeavours.
“Working at the investment bank allowed me to meet many people with diverse experiences and skill sets. Apart from financial knowledge, I learned what it takes to run a business professionally.”
Jason’s resolve to start up intensified after working for the investment bank for a year, and he decided to put his entrepreneurship plan into action. He teamed up with two friends and launched the HelloToby online services marketplace. The platform enables users to indicate the kinds of services they need, receive quotations from professionals, and select the service providers that are right for them.
As he manages the new team, Jason draws on his experience from his last start-up. He tries to engage everyone on a shared vision for HelloToby.
To foster rapport among this team, which consists mostly of young people, Jason regularly organises volleyball, basketball, and dodgeball competitions, sometimes even hiking trips and overseas travels.
“Our team believes in HelloToby’s vision, and everyone is willing to try, to fail, and to lead the company forward together.”
This resolve to charge ahead and break new ground earned HelloToby more than 200,000 users in just two years. The platform now processes a user or a service provider request almost every 1.5 seconds.
HelloToby joined the Cyberport Incubation Programme soon after it was founded. Recently, it received investment from the Cyberport Macro Fund to catapult its development.
“I met many like-minded entrepreneurs in the Cyberport community. Because we all face different difficulties, we can learn from one another’s experiences.”
HelloToby’s features have begun to diversify. In addition to service matching, the platform now offers real-time service booking and a search of service providers based on location. HelloToby’s business has also expanded to Taiwan and Singapore, and it is moving towards its goal of becoming the platform that everyone needs.
Through it all, Jason’s resolve and his like-minded team’s tenacity have guided HelloToby’s development and its transcendence into greater success.