Ben Chan, Leo Wong and Conrad Lo (pictured above) are the co-founders of Sensbeat, a newly launched Hong Kong mobile startup that wants to be Twitter for music lovers.
Having raised HK$2 million to date from a group of Hong Kong and Silicon Valley investors (one of which is new business angel Kyle Lam), Sensbeat has been beta testing their product with 500 users in the local market and is now ready for a wider audience.
After a chat with co-founder and CEO Leo Wong, we were quickly inspired by his startup story. When Sensbeat was founded less than two years ago, Leo and his co-founders Ben Chan (CTO) and Conrad Lo (CPO) were only third year students at HKUST. The ‘aha moment’ was when Leo, a Hong Kong native, finished an exchange term in Spain and was traveling in Switzerland. Experiencing sentimental feelings listening to ‘Goodbye’ by Air Supply, Leo wished he could share that feeling with his friends back at home.
“I was thinking: we have Twitter to share messages, and Instagram to share photos – but what about the emotions associated with music? Music expresses emotions better than words and pictures,” he said. “We want to change how people express themselves as innermost thoughts can be better expressed by music.”
After that moment, Leo, Ben and Conrad hit the ground running and began building their product while juggling schoolwork – eventually choosing to work on their startup over attending class. After winning three awards last year in Hong Kong, Singapore and Beijing for their app (see their website for more details on the awards), Leo and his co-founders were convinced that entrepreneurship was the right course of action.
Sensbeat is a location-based social networking app with an Instagram-esque UI that lets expressive users post status updates based on the song they’re currently listening to and the emotion it elicits. Instead of sending out ‘tweets,’ a Sensbeat user will post ‘beats’ and their followers can ‘echo’ (like the ‘retweet’ or ‘favorite’ function on Twitter) their sentiment. What’s also neat is Sensbeat users can ‘login with Facebook’ and can mix the two social feeds together. The app will be available for both iOS and Android.
Finally unveiling their product to the world, Leo says that August is an important month for his startup. “Apart from the launch, we are also reiterating our product as it’s the first version out there. A lot of the time, we will fail but we plan on failing fast and failing fashionably,” he said. Besides going the lean startup route, Leo said that they’ve also been testing various features for the app such as video, audio and anything media-related that will help enhance the user experience.
Despite juggling school and building a startup, the Sensbeat founders have now received their diplomas and are ready to grow their venture full time. Looking back, Leo said that if he had a chance – he wouldn’t do a single thing differently.
“The most important thing is to be fearless and just do it – because there are so many uncertainties along the way,” he said, urging other students to take the leap into the entrepreneurial realm. “Just get it started, and find people who share the same vision and passion as you.”