When was Coding Guys created and by whom?
In 2013, we won the InnolCT Business Plan Competition, organised by the Macau New Technologies Incubator Centre (Manetic). After the competition, we received some funding from the MSAR Government and a working place in Manetic and so we set up our company in 2014, founded by four entrepreneurs.
What was the main idea behind creating the company?
Our main focus is the development of mobile applications. During that time we brought along one project to take part in the competition but at the same time we were also developing some projects. For now, we help some companies and associations set up mobile applications.
Are there many other local companies in the same field?
There aren’t many. Honestly, potential customers for SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) in the city are very limited. If you are to establish a company to develop mobile applications normally you need to invest at least an amount of six digits; therefore, many SMEs are not able to pay this big amount.
What area were you in before founding Coding Guys?
Previously, I had been working in Canada for quite some time. During that time when my partner and I won the competition we thought this would work and so I came back from Canada. I used to work for an IT company but I myself have a business degree, and my partners all have technical backgrounds.
What were the first years of the company like?
We are pretty lucky because we received help from friends, and we got a place in Manetic. Also, the Macau Anglican College and General Union of Residents’ Associations of Macau (União Geral das Associações dos Moradores de Macau) provided us with job opportunities plus other small projects involving the setup of websites and, as such, stabilised our cash flow. In addition, in terms of developing mobile applications, we provided support services for bigger companies as well as foreign companies.
How many employees do you have at the moment?
For now, two owners work full-time, two owners work part-time, and we have one full-time employee and one part-time employee.
What support have you received from the government?
Every year the government holds this InnolCT Business Plan Competition; the prize money we received was some MOP100,000 (US$12,467). Also, the office is provided by Manetic in Macau Square. For the first year we took the place at free rent. Aside from us, Manetic also accommodates other companies and so we were given opportunities to collaborate with these neighbouring companies. Although some collaborative projects failed, we exchanged experiences with these companies.
How do you see the market in Macau at the moment?
Those who engage in the field likely mostly have taken projects from the government or casinos for providing maintenance services, and so have the resources to develop their own projects and to provide services to other SMEs. As such, the market for the pure development of mobile applications is difficult. Also, Zhuhai is close to us and the competition with the market in Zhuhai is quite severe in terms of price.
Is the Macau Government adequately promoting this field?
No, not for the promotion of developing mobile application or even software. It seems to me that the government is more into promoting innovative technology such as those that relate to environmentally friendly or Chinese medicine [technologies]. Let’s say online payment. It’s only begun to be more strongly promoted by the city in the past year – Macau really lags behind when compared to the rest of the world.
Has the company found suitable investors?
We actually talked about this with Manetic. Manetic itself has been approaching investors and Manetic assists mature companies to link with the investors. And so now we’re working hard to ensure we’re heading toward our goals. For now, we’ll focus on our own operation. Secondly, we’ll also [only] consider getting funding from the government that is suitable for us. We wish to get more funds in order to allow us to work on our development. When we pass our first stage and allow the public to realise our performance then it’ll be easier for us to approach potential investors. My own experience is that investors in Macau and Hong Kong are rather conventional about investments in online platforms.
What are the main problems affecting start-ups in Macau?
To start a company in Macau is easy, but to run a business is not. As discussed a lot in the past, the heavy weight on the gaming industry is really a big hurdle. Your business can only grow when you have connections with these big corporations and companies. Otherwise, businesses which mainly serve SMEs are very difficult. Most local entrepreneurs prefer to serve casinos and the government. And so we’re all looking and fighting against each other for the same resources and it makes business difficult.
How would you compare the start-up ecosystems of Macau and Hong Kong?
It is definitely easier for start-ups to establish their business in Hong Kong, especially those starting from zero. As I mentioned, it’s easier for new companies in Macau when they have already established close connections with casinos and the government. In terms of our field, the market in Hong Kong is bigger and companies are willing to put more money into promoting their business. Also, there are many marketing agencies in Hong Kong and they are more active in using social media.
What are the main business objectives for Coding Guys in 2017?
We have two internal and external objectives. For external objectives, we would like to develop an automatic selection of interesting news from the information we gather to attract the public. In the coming two months, we wish to provide free lucky draws and gifts every day from post activities. The next step is discounts. We would like to provide information to the public about any discounts and coupons out there and to post regularly on social media. For internal, we would like to analyse the gathered data that relates to the aforementioned things and to approach companies such as casinos. By providing the data we gather from social media [we can] allow these companies to draft their own business plans, to understand the market and their competitors.
What are the most important traits an entrepreneur should possess?
In my own experience, it is cheesy, but I think one has to stay objective and possess courage to try new things. Staying objective is important because I believe spectators see the game better than the players. Take us as an example. Often when we finish a project we think it’s satisfactory but it’s important to put ourselves in our clients’ shoes. Nevertheless, one also cannot be too conventional. Because sometimes we might be worried about this and that. In short, one should stick to the plan – but also have the courage to work the best on it.