startup of the month: Shopline
20 January, 2015
Shopline is a Hong Kong success story, having returned from their time in the Valley with 500 Startups to inspire and give back to locals startups. As blueprint's startup of the month, we interview CEO Raymond Yip to get to know Shopline a little better.
Shopline is a do-it-yourself e-commerce platform for merchants in Asia. Unlike some of our global competitors we are providing a localized solution for merchants in this region. We have multi-language capabilities, regional payment gateway integration, localized customer support and we understand the local buying/selling culture of Asia. Our product is extremely mobile-focused. Both the ront-end and back-end are responsive, meaning the entire platform adapts to and works well across all screen sizes. Our strongest markets right now are Taiwan and Hong Kong. We are already in talks with partners to expand to other countries in SEA within the next six months. The potential market size here is in the tens of millions.
How many people does it take to make Shopline?
We are a team of 8, all based in Hong Kong. We are looking to grow to 10 by mid 2015.
Describe the emotions involved in being selected for 500 Startups, and the environment during our time there?
Being accepted into the 500 Startups Accelerator marked a major achievement of this company. The validation that it brings is only one part of it. The program itself gave us the experience of a lifetime. The mentorship, resources, networking and camaraderie is really something that exceeded our expectations. Not to mention the brand recognition that helped us along in our fundraising efforts. We also got to learn from founders from all over the world as the 500 Startups family consists of startups from many different countries. The global approach to their accelerator and fund really gave us a different perspective on how startups are run outside of our base of Hong Kong. Having gone through the program in the wonderful city of San Francisco was just icing on the cake.
Most people know Shopline as a Hong Kong success story. Have there been trying times as well?
I wouldn't quite call Shopline a Hong Kong success story just yet, but we are definitely moving in the right direction. Most of it is through hard work and perseverance, but some of it was luck as well. As with many startups, we certainly didn't make all the right choices along the way. We had our highs and lows, on all fronts. We made a lot of mistakes and had failures throughout the journey. But we realised that as long as we made enough of the correct decisions along the way as well, we will always come out on top.
Hong Kong is home for Shopline, but what brought you back after San Francisco?
Our founding team has a very international background. Tony was born and raised in Venenzuela, moved to Vancouver and then ended up back in Hong Kong where his family was originally from. Fiona is a native Hong Konger but split her early years between here and Toronto before receiving her degree from the University of Chicago. I was born in Hong Kong and raised in New York City and worked my entire career on Wall Street prior to returning to Hong Kong so I could spend more time with my parents. The one thing that we all realise is that Hong Kong really is home and we love it more than anywhere else in the world. It just also happens to be one of the most international cities in the world, has loads of talent, a burgeoning startup ecosystem, and close proximity to some of the biggest markets in the world, many of which are emerging. The opportunities are endless in this city, now and in the coming future. We are happy to be a part of it.
Why relocate to blueprint?
Once we heard about blueprint, we knew we had to find out more. With the Swire Properties brand behind the initiative, there's little doubt that it will make a big splash in the startup scene in Hong Kong. The fact that the blueprint accelerator has a focus on B2B made it that much more appealing for Shopline, as the synergies between us and the other startups can be tremendous. So, we are excited not only for the space but also the different founders that we would be able to connect with. The style and setup of the blueprint program also reminds us of our experience in the Valley, which we think is a fantastic model and can certainly work in Hong Kong. Were always looking for ways to give back to the startup community so it didn't take us very long to jump at the opportunity at becoming an anchor tenant and EIR (Entrepreneur in Residence) for blueprint. We're looking forward to the journey.
How have you found your new residency at blueprint so far?
The space is fantastic! The creativity and thoughtfulness is evident in the various design elements, artwork, furniture and quirky accessories all throughout the two floors. The fact that Swire Properties has some very strong brands that it can leverage (Swire Beverages Coca Cola, Cathay Pacific Airways etc.) also made it that much more exciting. So far, we're crazy about the Lego walls, the airplane wing bar top and the conference room with the elephant statue! We also love the motion-detecting lighting and air-con, the 24/7 access and the convenient location in Quarry Bay. Best of all, we love the wonderful folks that run the place! Hats off to Henry, Charlie, Hilary, Debbie and Michelle. Job well done indeed.