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#StartupStories: Connecting the dots backward with Kazoo Technology

INFINITI Accelerator feature: an interview with Kendall Lo, CEO & co-founder at Kazoo Technology

Kazoo Technology recently participated in INFINITI’s accelerator program. We had a chat with Kendall Lo, CEO and co-founder at Kazoo Technology, to learn more about his view on Hong Kong’s startup ecosystem, the accelerator program and his startup journey.

Kazoo Technology is a tech company that strives to develop touch screen technology. The team works on finding new ways to interact with touch screens as they believe the capability of the technology has been underutilized. Kendall points out that there is so much more we can do with touch screen technology than just using our fingers to interact with digital devices. “We also have the capability to communicate with touch screens using objects, so we have been focusing on this concept when developing our touch screen technology as we think this will open up a lot of applications,” Kendall explains.

During a meeting with Kendall’s current co-founder Chris, Kendall came up with the business idea when he saw QR codes printed on business cards. “Those business cards with QR code look cool, but personally I never use them, because it’s inconvenient to open up an app to switch on your camera, then wait for a few seconds to get the QR code scanned. Wouldn’t it be nice if I can put the business card on a touch screen, and read information on it automatically?” Is this possible? With an engineering background, Kendall knows how touch screen technology works and knows that the idea he had in mind is feasible. “I can actually mimic the sensation of a touch screen using the object, and by arranging information cleverly on an object, I can achieve digital communication, which can be used in putting objects on top of a touch screen device and interact.”

W Hub Interview with Kendall Lo, cofounder and CEO at Kazoo Technology, Hardware startup, Infiniti accelerator Hong Kong

INFINITI accelerator

To further boost the business, Kazoo Technology joined the INFINITI Accelerator 2.0. A joint initiative between INFINITI and Nest, the INFINITI Accelerator is a 12-week, full-time program designed to help startups from around the world grow and scale rapidly. Now in its second year, the theme for INFINITI Accelerator 2.0 is 'Smart Cities'. With this year’s theme, Kendall thinks it ties well with Kazoo Technology’s business. Kendall thinks that INFINITI’s large network and mentorship has helped Kazoo Technology to move things forward. “All four of our co-founders have different backgrounds, and to start a business from scratch, we need more than just a great idea, we need guidance to take an initial technology idea through different stages, from funding to prototyping, to get in touch with the right contact for partnerships. These are some of the intangible things that big corporates like INFINITI can provide for us,” Kendall explains.

This year INFINITI Lab took a new experimental approach by working together with startups participated in the program to incorporate new technology with INFINITI's product. Kazoo Technology has been working with INFINITI on a product project to test the touch screen technology for cards and receive feedback from the public. Kendall appreciates INFINITI for offering a platform for startups to test their product or services within a corporation setting, which is rare in Hong Kong. “Most companies are slow in executing things and applying innovative technology, but INFINITI sees the value in investing startup ideas, and potentially utilize some of the ideas in the corporate operation," he explains. To Kendall, this is how INFINITI stands out from big corporates in Hong Kong. “INFINITI is making a commitment to the Hong Kong startup scene in general, for that, I really appreciate INFINITI’s effort.”

Hong Kong: heaven for hardware startups?

Kendall believes that for hardware startups, Hong Kong, if not Shenzhen, is probably one of the best places to start the business due to the high accessibility to hardware components.

However, the CEO thinks Hong Kong still need some push on the talent pool. Kazoo Technology is planning to expand the team, but Kendall says that hiring in Hong Kong, depending on the skill sets you are looking for, can be difficult. Kendall thinks this will be one of the challenges for Kazoo Technology in the coming 3-4 months. He points out there is a lack of engineering talents in the city, even though the trend is changing, it takes time to grow the local talent pool. Kendall thinks Hong Kong is moving in the right direction in terms of developing the startup scene, and that Hong Kong can develop a sustainable ecosystem in the long run.

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Connect the dots backward

“You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” – Steve Jobs

Kendall feels that this resonates with his journey “I still live by the philosophy that whatever you learn, even if it doesn’t seem useful to you now, these skill will come back to you later in life and benefit you in the future. By connecting the dots and combining all the skill sets, you can achieve great things in life,” Kendall claims.

Kendall has a deep interest in engineering, especially in communication technology after graduating from the University of British Columbia. Graduating during the worst period for the job market in 2004, Kendall decided to take a break from engineering and started his studies in Financial Mathematics at Stanford University and eventually made his way to the world of finance, working in quantitative finance.

Kendall met Chris Lee as an undergraduate classmate, who is currently CTO and co-founder of 6waves, a Social and Mobile games publisher. Chris is the software guru for Kazoo Technology. Kendall met Alan during his Ph.D. studies at Stanford University with a Ph.D. in engineering, Alan powers the team with engineering support. Teresa, who runs a family business and runs several factories in China, currently acts as COO and publication expert for Kazoo Technology. After seeing Kendall’s prototype, the three of them recognized the real potential in the idea and decided to join Kazoo Technology’s founding team.

“With these connections to people and skill sets, coupled with all the engineering and financial knowledge, it enabled me to be confident with my vision, allowing me to believe that this is a viable idea with scalability. Without my engineering knowledge, I wouldn’t be able to build the prototype on the weekends; without my business knowledge, I wouldn’t be confident enough to handle and set up a company; without all my networks, I couldn’t imagine how I could turn my prototype into a production-grade product. With all these factors combined, it convinced me to jump out of my comfort zone, quit my full-time job and commit to this project.”

Feeling uneasy is the best part

Jumping from a big corporate to the startup environment, Kendall says the best part of the startup journey is feeling uneasy every day. “Working in the same environment for years, you know how things work, going to work every day, you know how things happen and how you can handle that with ease, it feels nice. But to me, the moment you feel nice for a bit too long, it becomes boring.” Kendall claims. He says the best part of the startup journey is the uneasy feeling he gets every day, since the team is constantly facing new challenges, this makes him feel that he is learning something new.

“There is no failure in the startup world, it is up to you and your imagination to make your business idea something the market desires,” Kendall says. The CEO encourages entrepreneurs to never give up.

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