Its first product: ORii, the world’s first multi-functional communication smart ring. Set for release in 2017, ORii lets you make and receive calls screen-free, simply by touching your ear.
Linked with an Android or Apple iOS app, the ORii smart ring captures your voice via microphone and delivers the callers’ voice directly into your inner ear through vibrating your finger. With ORii, Marcus hopes to shake up the multi-billion-dollar wearable technology market.
Marcus relocated from the US to pursue an MBA at Asia’s number one business school. He has a background in consulting, but after 12 months at HKUST - one of the world’s leading technology institutions - it’s no surprise that he made the transition into cutting-edge tech.
He met his two MBA co-founders at HKUST. He’s built his team with robotics experts from HKUST’s School of Engineering. And he kick-started his business through HKUST’s one-million-dollar entrepreneurship competition.
How did the idea to develop ORii come about?
We saw a gap in the wearable space. A lot of wearables, like fitness trackers, try to get you to do something that’s not part of your normal behavior. Or something quite complicated on a very small device like a smartwatch.
We felt strongly in the human element: we wanted to help people talk more to each other. Our CEO comes from a luxury watch background, and the project actually started as a smartwatch. But as we did more research, and talked to more investors, we eventually landed on a smart ring.
What do you hope to achieve?
We’re driven by the belief that the attachment we have to computer screens and touch panels will gradually go away as more and more products become voice-enabled.
When you think about the interfaces we’ve had; we’ve gone from a keyboard which requires both hands and all ten fingers to use, to a mouse which requires one hand, to a touch screen which requires one finger.
The next step is to go to no hands at all, and no screens at all. We want to make components to help manufacturers turn their products into voice-enabled products.
What challenges do you face?
With any disruptive product, there’s lots of questions and there aren’t really any empirical ways to address them. Do people want to wear a ring with this function? There’s no way to measure this except by launching the product.
The challenge with this product is to be able to tell the story in a way that captures people’s imaginations. And to find investors who are aligned with the long-term mission of what we’re trying to do. A lot of hardware companies are one-hit wonders. Being able to articulate that this is the first step of a series of steps is really important.
How has HKUST supported you in starting your own business?
HKUST played a big part in kicking off the project. If you think about the first step – forming a team and putting your idea down on paper – it was actually the school’s one-million-dollar pitch competition that drove us to do that. We did pretty well, got seed funding, and got validation from several VCs and PEs to continue pushing on with the business model.
HKUST also has a really robust alumni network. Alibaba has a one-billion-dollar entrepreneurship fund in Hong Kong. And the lady in charge of that fund is an HKUST MBA alumna. We managed to get an opportunity to pitch to them, and we’re still in conversation.
What advice do you have for MBAs looking to do the same?
Find co-founders who share the same values as you. There’ll be so many difficult decisions to make with your co-founders that if you diverge on your values, principles and ethics, it will make those decisions insurmountable in the long-term.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at HKUST?
I’m new to Hong Kong, and the MBA was the fastest way to build a high quality network in Asia. I liked that the HKUST MBA was a younger program, hungry to make its mark.
In global rankings, HKUST typically does better than the other Hong Kong schools. So if I was to relocate back to the US, or outside of Hong Kong, it was important for me to have a school with global brand recognition.
What should applicants think about when deciding to do an MBA?
It’s very easy to get pulled off course once you’re in the MBA program as many opportunities come your way. You have to know what you want out of an MBA, to always go back to exactly why you chose the MBA, and keep aligning to that vision.