Meeting Colleen Wong at REflect event
On August 1st, 2019, I attended REflect – Diversity in Tech event, which was launched as a result of a collaboration between the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and RS Components, supported by Inside Success. The purpose of the event was to inspire young people aged 16 to 25 from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds by showcasing some of the latest developments in different areas of engineering and technology, including 3D printing, music technology, robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), and Augmented Reality (AR). In my opinion, with very few BAME representatives, events such as REflect are vital for those who need that initial support and mentorship to join the industry.
Although I was just volunteering at the event and my job was mainly running around the room with a microphone during the Q&A session, I benefited tremendously from participation in discussions with attendees as well as guest speakers during breaks. It is also interesting that although I barely make it into the 16-25 age range, everything that the speakers were saying on the stage applied to me 100%. One of the stories that I remembered very vividly was about how someone with no technical background managed to come up with a product and build a successful company around it.
I am referring to Colleen Wong, the founder of Techsixtyfour Ltd and creator of a wearable mobile phone for kids who shared her experience of starting a tech company in the UK. As a mum of 2 toddlers, the idea of the product came to her when she saw a woman running around looking for her child at a farm. She realized the problem and thought of a solution, which is a device that allows kids to do nothing else but to make calls and predicted a potential demand for it among families with kids aged 5-12. She named the product ‘My Gator Watch’.
After the event, I reached out to Colleen with a lot more questions. When I asked her to share her impression of the REflect event, she responded saying “I was very surprised by the fact that so many young people attended the event and were asking so many questions and were really engaged”.
Further, we dive into more specific questions related to her product and business overall.
How did you approach technical questions you encountered when designing MyGator watch?
“The first place I would go to is Google. Then, I would approach professionals if I did not understand what I was reading on Google. Sometimes terminology became too foreign and it is at that point when I would ask for help to explain what things meant in a way I could understand. I would mainly ask my networks. If I knew friends working in that field, I would ask them. If they did not know, I would reach out to people on LinkedIn. One guy I reached out to 4 years ago to learn more about cybersecurity is now my CTO!”
How have you adapted your idea from its original version?
“I made it useable, created an end-to-end solution by offering a pre-installed SIM and added excellent pre and post-sales service. I just took a standalone product that did not work very well and changed it into a brand that had a great product and service.
At the very beginning, my biggest challenge was to understand how the hardware worked and how to piece together the end-to-end solution which was the product, the software, and the mobile networks. The next stage was to determine if customers were willing to buy the product. Another challenge was to raise my first round of funding which would allow me to hire a team and to do marketing.”
What do your kids think of My Gator watch?
“My kids are only 4 and 5 now and so my 5-year old has only just started using it. He loves it and mainly uses it to call me from within the house! He wears it for fun around the house, but he mainly wears it now when we are at parks or fairs or anywhere that is crowded, or I might lose sight of him. He knows he doesn’t have to panic if we lose one another as he can call me.”
Can you tell us about your first customer?
“My very first customer bought the watch when I was exhibiting for the very first time at The Gadget Show Live. I was finished with the exhibit one day and was having dinner with a friend and saw the order come through on my website. I was screaming, but nervous at the same time, as it was now time to prove to him that this was a great product! We have sold over 3000 watches now and hope to sell over 10k next year!”
What kind of advice would you give to someone, who has a stable job, but has an idea for product/service and wants to start his/her own company?
“I would tell them to ask 30 people in their target market what they think of the idea. If it is a resounding ‘WOW – I would definitely buy it’ then I would start finding a way to create a prototype. I would not use much money but find creative ways to ‘build’ the product so that people could see what you are trying to achieve. Once you have that, ask the same 30 people again and tell them what you would charge. Sometimes an idea is very different from the actual physical product. Would they still buy it? And these 30 people should not be your family or friends!”
Did you face any form of gender bias when you were looking for funding?
“I have never had anyone say to me directly that because I am a woman or a mum they wouldn’t invest, however, I had also never received funding from any angel investor or family business I have spoken to. I have never approached a Venture Capitalist. The reasons for not investing have been a mixed bag, so I am not sure what the actual reason is. Although not said straight to my face, it could possibly be that they don’t think I can run a business with kids in tow. But, that does not matter. I do not take these rejections to heart as this happens to everyone. I have successfully raised one round of funding via crowdfunding. I raised £200k in 7 days in 2017. There is always a way that works, and you just sometimes must be creative in finding a way to get that investment. Only one person has to believe in you so find that person!”
What are your future goals? Do you plan to expand your company? What kind of improvements do you plan to include in the upcoming releases of the product?
“My goal is to work with a corporate, who believes in what I am doing, to help me expand in terms of sales and my next-generation product. I feel that the last 4 years were spent proving my product is a good one and I have done that. It is now time to scale up and I need help to do that. The next-generation product will be for seniors, which will have other features such as fall detection and just a generally much more refined product. I have learned so much over the last 4 years and have had a lot of feedback. I love feedback and will use it on my next product.”
I would like to thank Colleen Wong for giving up some of her time to be interviewed. To find more about her product, you can go on My Gator website.