Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Danny Yeung And Tommie Lo On Passion, Mission And Rebellion
Whether you’re in digital healthcare or education, entrepreneurs need passion, grit and fresh ideas. Two startup founders tell Gen.T how they overcome obstacles to build their businesses and make an impact
Whoever says entrepreneurship is a glamorous life has clearly never run their own company—never endured the 3am phone calls and working weekends.
But that’s not to say entrepreneurs can’t be stylish. Case in point: Danny Yeung, co-founder and CEO of digital health company Prenetics, which recently announced it will become Hong Kong’s first unicorn company to publicly list, and Tommie Lo, founder and CEO of Preface, which uses AI to match students with teachers and courses targeted to their needs.
Both have a strong sense of personal style, which they maintain despite their gruelling schedules. We invited the duo for a fashion shoot and spoke to them about self-belief, overcoming obstacles and the blueprints to success. Here’s what they had to say.
As an entrepreneur, you need a lot of belief in your mission and in yourself. Where does that come from?
Danny Yeung It came from my childhood. I grew up in a very average family, which led me to start working at the age of 12. I worked in a baseball card store and quickly understood the concept of buying and selling. I always knew the importance of working hard and, to be honest, it was the one thing I was good at—I was not a good student. I knew entrepreneurship was my only path to success, without any backup option.
Tommie Lo My belief doesn’t only come from myself, it comes from the product. It’s really about the conviction of how much I want this product to be in the market. There’s nothing out there doing what Preface is doing in the education space. So that’s the conviction that gives me my belief: this product isn’t a thing yet, and it should be, so I need to build it.
How do you stay motivated?
DY I have a natural desire to always want to do better; I always want to create impact. This fuels me to stay motivated. As many people know, Prenetics recently became Hong Kong’s first unicorn company to publicly list. So my motivation now is to turn Prenetics into Hong Kong’s first decacorn.
TL It’s a cliché, but you need to do what you love. Preface isn’t perfect yet, so I still have a journey to go on, and that end goal motivates me. It’s also about the people I have with me on that journey. When I’m hiring, I always ask myself: do I want to continue the journey with that person? That’s so important to feeling motivated.
How do you overcome obstacles when you encounter them?
DY We will always have obstacles in both business and life. The key thing is to try to learn from them so we don’t repeat the same mistakes. It’s equally important not to dwell on obstacles, and try to resolve them as soon as possible by just looking at the problem rationally.
TL I actually tell my team that there must be obstacles. Expecting everything to go smoothly is unrealistic. If you have that mindset, you’ll start to see obstacles as insurmountable. So you have to expect obstacles. It’s like a sports team: sometimes you will win and sometimes you’ll lose. But if you do things well, in the end you’ll be top of the league.
Where do you find inspiration, and how do you stay at the cutting edge of your game?
DY I’m constantly reading up on the latest innovations when it comes to genetic and diagnostic testing. I also often read scientific papers from universities around the world. In fact, it was through reading scientific papers that I learned about the technology that led to our collaboration with the University of Oxford on the Circle HealthPod, a rapid and portable at-home lab with results in 20 minutes.
TL To find a cutting edge you have to be first in the market. When you do that, people will start to imitate. What drives you forward after that is innovation: creating something that can’t be copied. Today, the world runs on data. So whoever gets the data first can also further exploit that first-mover advantage.
There is no blueprint or predefined code for running a successful business. What’s the secret to successful business planning and strategy?
DY I don’t believe there is any one secret, but I do believe there are certain keys to success. First, you need to be passionate about what you’re doing. Without passion, it’s just not worth it. Second, you need to be creative and understand your unique selling proposition over competitors. Lastly, you need to have humility—regardless of how far you get, humility creates a drive and desire to always do more.
TL There is no formula for success. I think a lot of startups fail because they are obsessed with following a certain preordained formula. Don’t follow formulas; to run a tech startup you have to be rebellious. At Preface, we are a tribe of humbly rebellious people. Stay humble, because you will lose sometimes, but stay rebellious.
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