A strong opponent strengthens you--a motto that drives entrepreneurship - Computer World


A strong opponent strengthens you--a motto that drives entrepreneurship


Technology advances rapidly—so do the players in the technology market.


Do you still remember how a mobile phone looked like 20 years ago? Mobiles phones were the latest technology trend and consumers sought the smallest and cutest models. At one stage everyone had either a Nokia “banana-shaped” phone, or a Motorola flip phone.


In the last 20 years, the emergence of new technologies and players brought tectonic shifts in the mobility landscape. For technology entrepreneurs, competing with different emerging and stronger opponents is a constant battle. This is my personal experience.


1997 was a historical year for Hong Kong, with the city's sovereignty handed over to China. It was also the year I started a small technology company—Esri China (Hong Kong). Fortunately, my venture surfed through the waves and continued to thrive in the last 20 years.


Realizing a passion for computers


My humble beginning in the technology business was not triggered by the dot-com bubble in the late 1990s, but rather by my own interest. It was an interest spawned in the 1980s, after my first encounter with computers. I loved to play computer games, especially when I was stressed from school examinations. My favorite pastime after studying was playing chess on the computer. It helped me get through the tough period as a teenager. I also realized that I had found my true love.


In the 1970s, personal computers emerged, but it was not until the 1990s that they became widely popular. When the first commercial personal computer Altair 8800 was launched in 1975, it was priced at US$421 (around HK$3,241 and the average monthly wage for a telephone service technician was about HK$590). On top of the computer, an extra fee of US$200 (HK$1,540) was charged for assembly.


At that time, an assembled computer was too expensive for a secondary school student like me, but I didn't give up. I assembled my own a computer by buying the motherboard, hard drive, memory and other parts separately. After school, I would travel for an hour from Yuen Long to Sham Shui Po (via bus number 68) to visit the computer center for my computer.


I was small in size and the computer parts were heavy. The shopkeepers were concerned whether I could carry them, but somehow I managed to drag the computer parts home. I also had to save pocket money to buy computer books, which were expensive and only the English versions were available.


These experiences not only addressed my queries in computers, but also nurtured my interest and knowledge in the area. I almost buried myself in those books in my spare time.


Marrying geography with computers


It was by sheer luck and chance that I grew my interest in both geography and computers during primary and secondary school.


My grandma used to tease me about being so engrossed in something as if I had fallen in love. I compiled my own geography encyclopedia during primary school and assembled my own computer in secondary school. Through immersing myself in these two subjects, I found my direction in university and studied Geographic Information System (GIS).


These experiences of starting something from scratch gave me great satisfaction. I was excited by the feeling of marching towards my goal; even when the path was unclear and difficult or I was beset with obstacles. I was never deterred—the greater the challenge, the more motivated and determined I became.




Dr. Winnie Tang
Chairman of the Steering Committee of Smart City Consortium