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Gary Leung, who has been a committed employee for many years, has never thought that running a start-up would be his cup of tea. But upon getting connected with The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), he changed the course of his life. Saying goodbye to his boss, he formed his own start-up, Blue Pin, which has gained a strong foothold in the market in just a few years and won numerous awards.

After graduating with a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science in Canada, Gary returned to Hong Kong and worked for a number of major companies, including Hutchison, Hong Kong Telecom and SmarTone, where he was responsible for software and product development. As information technology is a fast-developing discipline, he must keep learning in order to catch up. So he went for his MBA and MSc in Multimedia & Entertainment Technology at PolyU and MSc in eCommerce at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He further enrolled for the Engineering Doctorate programme offered by the Department of Electronic and Information Engineering at PolyU and his research study was about indoor positioning system.

Blue Pin starts running with backup from the alma mater
Gary regarded the Engineering Doctorate programme at PolyU as a turning point in his life. His research project advisor, Ir Dr Daniel PK Lun, an expert in information systems, gave him valuable advice and suggested that his research project was "good enough" for production and market launch.

Dr Lun's encouragement was not the only factors that motivated him to start his own business. The practical support from his alma mater, PolyU, to nurture start-ups acted as a more important momentum for his venture.

In 2019, Gary received HK$120,000 from PolyU's Micro Fund and in 2020, he got another HK$500,000 grant from PolyU's Tech Launchpad Fund (TLF). In addition to monetary support, PolyU also provides him with a lot of entrepreneurial training in areas such as financial management, marketing, patent application, etc. And it was also because of PolyU’s referral, Blue Pin could join the IncuTech programme organised by The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation and get a three-year grant from it.

Through joining PolyU's Lean Launchpad Programme (LLP), Gary was assigned with Professor Frank Yam as his mentor. Professor Yam does not only broaden Gary's horizons, but also connects him with many influentials. Through Professor Yam, Gary got to know the management of Asia World Expo which subsequently became Blue Pin’s first customer. Gary thus has enough confidence to devote himself completely to the development of his start-up. He also invited Professor Yam to join his company.

Tailoring products for the market
Blue Pin has developed a low-cost indoor positioning system (Dolphin IPS) that is highly effective with an accuracy of up to 3 metres and easy to install. With a proprietary fusion algorithm (including an optimised BLE beacons setting, site planning, multilateral positioning, noise reduction, changing events, special event handling and stabilization, etc.), Dolphin IPS provides a comprehensive positioning solution that is like an indoor version of GPS. It offers accurate and reliable navigation information for enhancing user experience and marketing purposes.

Dolphin IPS has won numerous awards over the years. They include the Best of 2018 Award at the PolyU Entrepreneurship Parade 2019, Gold Medal - The 71st International Trade Fair for Ideas, Inventions & New Products (iENA 2019) held in Germany, Certificate of Merit - Hong Kong ICT Awards 2020 Smart Living Award, and Gold Medal in 2021 Special Edition of the Geneva International Exhibition of Inventions. Patented in the US, China and Hong Kong, Dolphin IPS has been deployed in exhibition venues, shopping malls, commercial buildings, hotels, universities and factories by more than 10 clients in Hong Kong and Mainland China, and feedback from client is encouraging.

Another innovative product from Blue Pin is GSR guest services robot for hotels, which can complete the entire self check-in and check-out process within minutes with a simple touch of a screen. It can also distributes room keys and settle payments in real time, thus saving manpower and offering convenience to hotel guests. The robot is now working in Royal Plaza Hotel and Royal Garden Hotel, and PolyU's Hotel ICON will be having this robot soon. Discussions with hotel clients in Australia, UK, Singapore, Thailand and Japan are underway and the future looks promising.

Commitment and team spirit work miracle
In just three years, Blue Pin has achieved good business results and won many awards. While this is admirable, Gary said this had not been easy at all. To run a start-up, he needs money and technical knowhow to manage a business. What is frustrating is that the market in Hong Kong seems to have a low readiness to embrace innovative products. He quoted an example. Earlier, HKSTP invited start-ups to present creative ideas / products for the hotel industry. Among more than 100 proposals collected, only Blue Pin’s smart hotel solution has been adopted by a hotel. The outlook seemed bleak indeed.

But how could Blue Pin stand out despite the market’s low readiness to innovate? Gary attributed the company’s success to his partner and teammates who demonstrate that ability to cope well with the pressure of working 7x24 and a good team spirit. A devoted Christian, Gary said, “Thank God. Our teammates are mutually supportive and we share the same vision.”

Gary is truly grateful to his alma mater not only for its support for his start-up, but also for the creative and courageous talents it has nurtured. Blue Pin now has 13 teammates, most of whom are from PolyU. They usually joined the company as interns and then stayed after graduation to contribute to its growth.

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