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'A Decade of Realising Dreams' Series (Ep 2)

Episode 2: Nicole Or from NoMatterWhat Technologies Limited

OL-turned-entrepreneur, who Sees Silver Lining after Five Years, Reveals Passion is Key to Perseverance

OL創科技公司屢遇難關 捱五年第三個項目終見曙光:堅持只因熱愛

I enjoy doing something from scratch. I derive the greatest satisfaction from my business when the final product can receive a “wow” feedback.

我喜歡由零開始去做一件事,成品能令人有「Wow」 一聲的反應,這是我創業最大的滿足感。

Nicole OR 柯昕晴

Co-founder, NoMatterWhat Technologies Limited 共同創辦人

fusionlens.com

‘Entrepreneurship is so difficult,’ said Nicole with a firm voice. ‘If you didn’t start with enough passion, you will quit fast when you encounter just a few small setbacks in the way.’ No one is born to be an entrepreneur. In Nicole’s hands was a camera lens for mobile phone – the seemingly unremarkable accessory was the first product she and her team successfully launched in the market five years since the company’s inception. ‘I enjoy doing something from scratch. I derive the greatest satisfaction from my business when the final product can receive a “wow” feedback.’

「創業實在太艱難,假如你的熱情不夠,中途遇到少許挫折就會很快放棄。」Nicole 聲線堅定地說。沒有人天生懂得創業。Nicole雙手捧著一枚手機鏡頭,這看似平平無奇的配件,卻是她跟團隊自創業五年來首次成功走入市場的商品。「我喜歡由零開始去做一件事,成品能令人有『Wow』 一聲的反應,這是我創業最大的滿足感。」

Since the advent of smartphones, both the markets for mobile apps and mobile phone accessories have seen increasingly fierce competition. To deliver a wow-worthy product and raise funds in seven digits, how much efforts have Nicole and her team devoted to making it all happen?

自智能手機推出後,無論應用程式還是手機配件的市場競爭均愈發激烈,產品能令人驚嘆甚至成功融資7位數字的背後,Nicole及團隊究竟花了多大的心血及努力呢?

Just a moment ago the 34-year-old business owner murmured, ‘I don't know what to say.’ Once the camcorder was up and running, however, she gave an introduction of the company and products like a silver-tongued salesperson. Nicole said she has a restrained character and is not good at rhetoric. But as pitching is part of the entrepreneur’s routine, she could only put her head down and plough ahead. ‘A clip I saw earlier says fake it till you make it. Open arms make yourself look stronger and more confident.’

34歲的Nicole瞇著笑眼,前一秒才呢喃著「不知道說甚麼」,但正式拍攝時即能流暢地道出公司及產品的介紹。Nicole坦言性格較內斂,不擅辭令,但創業過程中往往要不斷叩門,她說只能找方法硬著頭皮撐過去。「早前看過一段影片,說『fake it till you make it』,張開雙臂能令自己看起來強大一點,自信多一點。」

Nicole does not only boost her confidence with her straightened waist and opening arms, that was also her posture in quitting her full-time job for entrepreneurship five years ago. ‘At that time, I worked in the human resources department of a company. But due to personnel problems and corporate culture, I was working quite unhappily and I decided to leave.’ Others might switch job or launch a new career, but instead she accepted an invitation from her former secondary school classmate to open a start-up together. She was resolved to steer into uncharted waters. ‘The company is called NoMatterWhat Technologies Limited, which made our attitude pretty clear - we will carry on no matter what.’

挺直腰肢,張開雙臂,不只是Nicole增強自信的方法,也是她五年前離開正職決意創業的姿態。「那時候在一間公司任職人力資源部,但因為人事問題及公司文化,令我工作得不太開心,就決意離開。」旁人或會轉投別間公司或轉行,但碰巧當時Nicole的中學同學邀請她一同創業,她就決定踏上未知的路途。「公司叫NoMatterWhat Technologies Limited,已經說明了我們的態度——無論如何都會一直做下去。」

From Nowhere to Silicon Valley

由無人問津到矽谷

Nicole's first product with her partner was an interactive projection device targeted at shopping malls and colleges, but it was not well received and she admitted it was a bad situation. ‘We had to set up meetings with investors one after the other, apply for government funds and borrow loans from banks to maintain operations. Unpaid at that time, I had to stick with a simple diet.’

Nicole跟拍檔的首個產品是投影互動裝置,以商場、院校為主要對象,但反應未如理想,她坦言當時的處境甚為艱難,「要不斷叩門找投資者、申請政府資金,還有問銀行借貸維持營運,那時候都沒有人工,三餐都盡量簡單。」

When the interactive projection device failed to bring them good fortunes, they continued to explore other potential opportunities. In 2016, the team developed a 360-degree camera app with the support of the HKSTP-PolyU Tech Incubation Fund. The experience brought by the free app was priceless – they took part in the Techcrunch Startup Battlefield, in which only 25 teams of the 1,000 worldwide applicants could present their business cases at Silicon Valley in the United States. Nicole's team was among the chosen ones. ‘We did not win the cash prize, but we had many interviews with media from different countries. Awareness of our product spiked and we secured funding from angel investors.’

當投影互動裝置未能為他們帶來可觀的收入,Nicole跟拍檔決定繼續往前發掘別的可能性。2016年,團隊開發了具360度拍攝功能的應用程式,項目獲得科技園—理大科技培育基金的支持,而這免費的程式亦為他們帶來難能可貴的經驗。當時他們參加了Techcrunch Startup Battlefield 比賽,全球1,000名申請者中,只有25隊獲機會到美國矽谷發佈,而Nicole的團隊就是其中之一,「雖然當時沒有赢到獎金,但有很多來自不同國家的傳媒訪問,一下子很多人認識這個產品,更找到天使投資者注資。」

From the first product that made no noise to presenting a product on a stage in Silicon Valley, it took two years to draw people’s attention. Nicole smiled again, ‘I was really grateful because I had been preparing all the time without knowing where it would go before the product received global recognition in a competition. I felt that all the efforts became worthwhile.’

由首個產品無人問津,到站在矽谷的台上介紹產品,當中花了兩年時間才能為人認識。Nicole再次瞇起笑眼形容:「真的很開心,因為一直籌備的時候,不知道會做到何年何月,直到可以在全球認可的比賽得到肯定,當下覺得所有付出都是值得的。」

Daring to Break Through Conventions

意見引發新產品 跳出框框尋找突破

Even though the Silicon Valley presentation brought them awareness and investors, Nicole and her partner did not settle for complacent. She recalled a Silicon Valley investor asking, ‘when you take a 360-degree photo, yourself can't be photographed, right?’ This question had been lingering in Nicole's mind and the team began to develop a 360 lens for mobile phone, an idea that has respectively been funded by the PolyU Micro Fund Scheme and the PolyU Tech Launchpad Fund. ‘We first considered solving it within the mobile app, but that turned out to be impossible. Then an idea sparked - why don’t I jump out the mobile app framework? So I started designing the lens.’ Developing a hardware is very different from writing a programme. With no expertise in optics, Nicole's team had to do it all over again - starting with a research of other brands' lenses. ‘From gathering to research to looking for the right factory in Mainland China, it had taken more than a year.’

縱然矽谷發佈會為他們帶來了知名度及投資者,Nicole跟拍檔並沒有因而沉醉於其中。她憶起,曾有矽谷的投資人問道:「拍360相片的時候,你自己不是無法被拍到相片中嗎?」 這條問題一直於Nicole腦海內縈繞不散,團隊繼而開始研發配置於手機的360鏡頭,亦憑項目相繼獲得理大微型基金計劃及理大科技領航基金計劃的資助,「初時在想應用程式能否做到,但發現不可行,靈機一觸問自己為何不跳出應用程式的框框,所以就著手設計鏡頭。」編寫程式跟研發硬件產品所需的技術大為不同,Nicole的團隊並沒有光學背景,這就如同回到起點——由研究其他品牌的鏡頭開始,「做資料搜集、研究、不斷到內地尋找合適的廠房,這都花上了一年多的時間。」

But things did not turn out the way they wanted after the first generation of lens was introduced to the market. Later, the team set out to develop a more versatile second-generation 360 lens – when used with the mobile app, a user can shoot panorama and ultra-wide-angle photos, in addition to anti-shake and movie camera movement features.

可是,第一代鏡頭推出市場後反應並不理想。及後,團隊就著手研發多功能的第二代360鏡頭——配合應用程式使用,可拍攝出全景、超廣角等效果,並具有電子防震及電影運鏡功能。

Did they worry about repeating the first generation’s mistake? ‘I had full confidence in it because a 360 camera generally costs over a thousand dollars, but our lens is relatively affordable and delivers the same result without consuming power. It was a major breakthrough.’

當時會擔心結果像第一代般嗎?「我對產品很有信心,因為市場上360相機普遍要上千元,我們的鏡頭相對便宜;而且產品不用電,但拍攝效果跟360相機相同,這算是很大的突破。」

‘Persevere in Doing What You Love.’

「堅持做喜歡的事」

In her 5th year as an entrepreneur, Nicole’s company is finally earning a monthly income of six digits from selling the second-generation 360 lenses. The figure still fell short of their target, the product nonetheless is the team's first successful product to enter the market. In hindsight, Nicole's road to entrepreneurship was strenuous. At its worst, she had struggled with payroll and rent at the end of every month. ‘There was a time that though I was fully aware that we couldn’t pay for wages, I had to pretend everything was fine in office while frantically contemplating ways to raise new funds.’

創業五年,第二代360鏡頭終為Nicole的公司帶來每月6位數字的收入,銷售額縱然未達到他們預期目標,但它是團隊首個成功走入市場的產品。回望過去,Nicole的創業路可謂荊棘滿途,她直言曾因面對月尾出糧及交租而讓她大為苦惱,「有段時間知道不夠錢出糧,但在公司要裝作沒事,其實腦海在不斷想方法尋找新的資金。」

When talking about the tough times, Nicole always spoke fervently with a smile. Has she ever thought about giving up? ‘No, because this is what I really love.’ Her smile was replaced with a firm expression. ‘I know myself better and become stronger after starting a business. Because it is what I love, I will always try to solve a problem instead of giving up.’

談及這些艱苦的時刻,Nicole總是瞇起笑眼侃侃而談,難道不曾想過放棄嗎?她收起笑容堅定地說:「沒有,因為這是我很喜歡的事。創業的經歷令我更了解自己,更堅強。因為喜歡,當遇到困難時只會想辦法解決,而不是放棄。」

 

 

 

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