Vincent Mak Tsz Ching

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The workshops also taught us the importance and practicalities of good presentation skills which helped us to deliver effective product pitches, impress the judges and, later on, win awards in both local and international competitions.

The groundbreaking “Walkpner” is a smart, solar-powered, plug-in device which is attached to walking sticks and canes. It was primarily designed for the use of elderly people with dementia, and in the event of an accident it sends text messages to caregivers, as well as alerts to passers-by who can offer timely assistance. Not surprisingly, the entrepreneurial “Walkpner 2.0” team behind the invention has already won numerous awards and accolades for their work including MetroChallenge (an entrepreneurship incubation programme organised by HKMU) 2018, the Melbourne Design Award 2019, and the Hong Kong Social Enterprise Challenge 2019-20.

“The design inspiration came from my grandfather, who is very independent even though he suffers from dementia.” says Mak, who did a business degree at HKMU after previously working as an apprentice with a mechanical and electronic engineering firm for more than a decade.

He acknowledges that his team’s initial reason for signing up for MetroChallenge was the incentive of seed funding awarded to the best projects. Along the way, though, they gained far more than expected.

The team already had a Walkpner prototype, but the guidance offered by experienced professionals from MetroChallenge workshops helped them formulate a comprehensive business plan and fine-tune their product based on likely market needs. “The workshops also taught us the importance and practicalities of good presentation skills which helped us to deliver effective product pitches, impress the judges and, later on, win awards in both local and international competitions.” Mak recalls.

MetroChallenge workshops, he notes, also emphasised problem-solving skills and adaptability. For instance, the Walkpner team was repeatedly rejected by chipmakers because of their small order quantities, but they found a way to prevail. “Eventually, we decided to co-develop and make the chips in-house with partners in Australia.” Mak says.

Mak encourages MetroChallenge participants to pay close attention to the seasoned professionals sharing their expertise and experience at the workshops and take their advice in fine-tuning their products. “They should also have confidence in their products and persevere despite the challenges because it’s challenging to be entrepreneurs.” he says.