Alumni Linkage — OU People

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Graduated with a degree in computer engineering in 2013, Jonathan Chiu is now the person-in-charge of 3DP Technology Ltd. When Jonathan shared his entrepreneurship journey, he listed the points clearly and analytically that one could really see his macroscopic vision. He is also a person who always stays one step ahead. Since he joined the innotech industry, he has been focusing on developing patented technologies, working to receive large orders and collaborating with overseas companies. Each of his efforts has precise objectives and clear direction.

A broad vision focusing on technology development

Jonathan’s father is a businessman and an inventor of electronic products. When Jonathan was a child, his home was filled with electronic construction toys which sparked his interest in technology from a young age. His father formed a team to develop innovation and technology products after retirement and later set up a company. When Jonathan graduated from the OUHK, he immediately joined the company to participate in product R&D and management. Back then, 3D printing was still an emerging technology, and they determined to popularize it by manufacturing household 3D printers. Jonathan observed the market from a macroscopic perspective and decided not to take small orders. He explained, ‘This is not cost effective, and the business will not be able to sustain.’ They concentrated on doing business with overseas companies, however they faced many tough issues in the early days. He continued, ‘Some customers did not know how to use our products, but we were more an R&D and production company than a teaching centre. We filled that gap with the service of a business partner.’ After the link between sales and application was made, business began to pick up.

Noting the inflexibility of the fixed printheads of earlier models on the market, the company positioned itself as a developer of components as soon as it began operating. ‘We were one of the earlier market players to introduce changeable printheads. We filed a patent for that, which was a very critical step.’ Riding on their originality and addressing the continuous application of printers, the company saw their products recognized at the 43rd Geneva International Exhibition of Inventions in Switzerland with the Gold Medal with the Congratulations of Jury, and the Innovation Award from Institute of Health and Beauty by Doctor Mukhina.

Seizing the golden five minutes

In 2018, Jonathan’s company became a business partner of an international hair product corporation headquartered in the US. The two may not appear to have much in common, but he explained, ‘The products made by both of our companies have specific requirements for temperature control. Our temperature control system can be applied to their hair styling products.’ Jonathan did go through a few critical tests before actualizing this collaboration. He first earned initial recognition from the company’s UK branch. Their technology had then to be evaluated and validated before entering the third stage, which entailed a presentation at a global conference. He described, ‘We only had five minutes! The atmosphere was tense as their management from across the globe sat right there and listened. Because I took part in the R&D and was familiar with the technical details, I was able to answer all the questions. The audience was very interested, and the presentation lasted for 45 minutes in the end.’ Eventually, the product was accepted and is now one of his company’s business foci. Jonathan’s vision and intuitive sense of risk led him to persist with continuous innovation. ‘Our partner has its own in-house design unit. We have to stay ahead of technology innovation in order not to be cast aside.’

Maintaining business edge with invention patent

Over the years, Jonathan’s business has never diverged from the path of innovation and development. His company applies for patent for all its inventions, which is a rare practice for small companies in the industry. Jonathan considers only in this way can his company continue to be recognized in the market and their edge in originality is the key to sustaining their business. Jonathan is convinced that ‘patents’ and ‘talents’ are two major pillars of a company. He has now cultivated a strong talent pool. ‘In the future the company will mainly develop towards obtaining patents, and every member of our team should know how to develop patented projects. We have about 50 to 60 patents registered every year. We are quite a prolific company,’ he added.

Sharing on starting up a business

From a computer engineering student to an entrepreneur of innotech business, Jonathan has always enjoyed the company of OU people. ‘I am quite close with Dr Kevin Hung King-fai of the School of Science and Technology. We often exchange information on technology development, and I have helped some graduating students with their dissertation topics.’ There are not many specialists in the area of 3D printing. He has once invited his classmates to join the team. ‘We know each other quite well, and are all young people with technological knowledge. By working and learning together, we are able to accomplish something.’

Having weathered many ups and downs in his business, Jonathan candidly shared that running an innotech business in Hong Kong is no easy task. He suggested that fellow students aspiring to start their own businesses could consider different options. For example, it may be easier for them to begin with software development and management, as it is less demanding in capital and complementing equipment compared with hardware development. For those who intend to engage in hardware development, Jonathan advised them to consider their plan thoroughly, or try to start their business somewhere else, such as in Singapore. Last but not least, he offered his words of advice, ‘The process of growing from a small company to a big one is very tough. Don’t underestimate the difficulties you’ll face in sustaining your business.’