Brian Lai is an accountant and a part-time MBA student at the University of Hong Kong (HKU). He’s using his MBA to launch his business idea, Cloudonme, an online platform which matches freelance accountants with small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and provides cloud-based accounting tools.
He’s already in a good position. He’s been accepted into HKU’s iDendron, a startup incubator and co-working space for budding student entrepreneurs, and has landed seed funding through the Hong Kong government's Cyberport Incubation Program.
How is Brian’s MBA experience at HKU helping him start up his new business? BusinessBecause caught up with Brian to find out more.
How did the idea for Cloudonme come about?
In Hong Kong, there are 340,000 SMEs. Every firm is seeking to maximize their efficiency so they can be profitable in a competitive environment. Coming from an accounting background, we saw a natural synergy between cutting-edge cloud accounting technology, freelance accountants, and SMEs.
By creating a matching platform that connects SMEs to trained freelance accountants, we aim to create value for the SMEs by integrating better accounting technology and for the freelancers by providing training and valuable professional experience.
Where are you at now with your business?
Cloudonme is in the developmental stage approaching beta-testing. The first iteration of our website is up and running, featuring the ‘become a Cloudonme accountant or partner’ page, more information about cloud accounting solutions, and the convert bank statement through OCR technology (optical character recognition) app.
What do you hope to achieve?
Building a strong network of Cloudonme partners and accountants is the biggest goal for the coming years. Once accountants provide affordable, high-quality bookkeeping and accounting services, we can use positive reviews to grow our partner and accountant base.
By establishing strong infrastructure in the next few years, we hope that additional features, such as premium partnerships and a recommended cloud-adviser page will be put into place within five years.
Researching several successful startups through the MBA program will be valuable knowledge to compare and guide us toward future goals as a company.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at HKU?
I knew having an MBA would open the door to more business opportunities outside of my expertise in accounting. HKU is a world-renowned institution and receiving this degree at HKU adds a greater prestige to the experience.
I studied a postgraduate diploma in education at HKU in 2008 and I benefited a lot from the courses and professors here. That’s why, after 10 years, I am back at HKU again. In another 10 years, maybe I’ll do a PhD at HKU!
How is the HKU MBA helping you build your business?
Securing approval from HKU iDendron and the Cyberport Incubation Program was integral to the development of our startup. The environment at HKU iDendron and Cyberport is rich with other startups, each at different points in the business process. Being able to learn from these startups and receive feedback is key to building the best platform possible.
These facilities also show that Cloudonme is an idea that knowledgeable professionals believe in. The incubation funding HKD500,000 ($60,000) we received from Cyberport Incubation program is a huge financial assistance for our project further research and development.
In the MBA class itself, there are many SME business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals from all over the world. It’s a wonderful experience have all these like-minded classmates studying and sharing ideas together. It’s making me a more well-rounded professional and I have greater confidence to take risks, like launching Cloudonme!
The University of Hong Kong (HKU) - MBA Programmes HKU Business School
Very good academic, caes course amazing, ccs are all amazing, professors are excellent, the architecture and infrastructure is splendid, people here are awesome, made some really nice friends, and teachers support us
I highly recommend The University of Hong Kong to students all around the world because of their diversified culture, teaching standards, and the people which make the learning experience better every day.
A place where you best understand local and international cultures
With plenty of experiences available, HKU provides a plenty of experience for me to explore our own and other countries culture. She has excellent teaching and research staffs in the Department of Ecology and Biodiversity. Time allocate to students are considered sufficient and staffs are ready to reach anytime. Besides academic, she has various subsidised programmes that allow students to explore. This credit should be given to GenEd (general education) Office to provide different interesting programmes. These ranged from guest speaker giving talks on China-Hong Kong relationship; Contemporary art in Asia; or holding mini forum on geopolitics. Most, if not all, of which are free of charge!
Life at HKU
Pursued the SHS degree at HKU, academic and clinical staff members were very devoted and passionate. The academic program is under constant reviews, staff members are open minded and willing to modify the program with regards to students' opinions. Career prospect is good. Uni life is fruitful, many different activities for students to choose. Great facilities supporting learning.
Student Life in HKU
As an Accounting and Finance year3 undergrad student in HKU, the university provides lots of opportunities for me to learn and explore my interests. You could join a wide variety of activities, like being an committee member of societies and joining hall activities. As for me, I chose to join the winter exchange programme, be a committee member, and did volunteering servic and had latrine construction and volunteer teaching in Ghana, Africa. I also organized lots of activities for societies and had lots of meetings with company representatives. As for school work, it is okay normally but definitely u got a lot busier during November and April. You got a lot more free time compared to CUHK and HKUST. And of course, this is considered as the most ‘international’ uni in HK in a way that I could make friends coming from different countries. Just wanna add, HKU has a good location for foodie as its near Central, Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui. For those who love night lifes dont miss this. I didnt speak of anything i dislike coz there isnt anything i dislike much, but if I do have to say, it is the hall life of many local students, such as having cheers at night and never sleeps that may disturb others.
I think it’s a great university that gives you a lot of opportunities in terms of academics as well as extracurricular activities. The education system is fairly westernized and the professors are good for the most part.
International, stratified and political
Adequate resources and very convenient campus with sufficient channels to expand your social and professional circle. Also politically active, and perhaps too biasedly so. Its law school is firmly established, with the longest history in Hong Kong. Practical and professional training, with a constant atmosphere of anxiety and competition that encourages a relatively focused and narrow vision of career outlook. Good range of extra curricular activities available.
Life in HKU
HKU provides students with lots of opportunities in multidisciplinary researches and experiences. This encourages students to widen their horizons and prepare for the future. The programme I attended organised both local and oversea field trips that allowed me to have the first hand experiences of relative aspects. It was very useful for my later career.
I am a graduate of the BSocSc programme several years ago. I appreciate that the programme provided a flexible choice of majors and minors. Even I was admitted into social sciences programme, I could explore various streams of studies in and out of the social sciences faculty, including global studies, human resources, politics, science and music. I did a double major in psychology and sociology. Among all learning experiences in lectures, tutorials, field trips…, I would say the internship experience was one of the most memorable part of my university life. The faculty offers a credit-bearing internship programme in which students can go to various NGOs to work on social issues, ranging from poverty, education to adjustment of ethnic minorities. Students can be placed locally or overseas, depending on placement quota, their personal preference and past experience. I went to a social service agency that serves adults who are intellectually challenged and have autism spectrum disorder. It was an eye-opening experience in observing how different professionals work together to provide training for those people and reflecting on how psychological knowledge could come into play. I was also able to gain some hands-on experience in leading an activity. There are more and more internship opportunities for university students. It is just another way to gain practical experience apart from applying for interns in government agencies or business companies, especially in organisations that would not openly recruit interns but only work with tertiary institutions. It should be noted that for some majors/courses, there are really a lot of people studying. When I was an undergraduate back then, we often expected a lecture with 100+ students and a tutorial with nearly 20 students. If you favour close student-teacher interaction in small classes, you may look into the enrolment of particular courses.