Dr Johnny Ng Kit-chong, Founder of Goldford Venture and Founding President of Hong Kong Youth Synergy Foundation, humbly described himself as an average young person from a grass-root single-parent family when he entered the Hong Kong Polytechnic (predecessor of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University) back in 1993. Today, the award-winning entrepreneur is incubating tens of start-ups and nurturing thousands of young people to give back to society in the way the University has blessed him.
“Entering PolyU was the turning point,” said Dr Ng. “Probably because Manufacturing Engineering was the right discipline for me, I was happily surprised to come first in class in the first year. With scholarships as incentives, I worked hard and graduated with first-class honours in 1996.”
In 2003, the biometric face-recognition technology developed by Dr Ng’s company was named the “Best of Comdex Finalist”, the first time the honour was awarded to a company from the Greater China area.
He further pursued postgraduate studies at PolyU while working in a company at the same time, benefitting from the University’s signature Teaching Company Scheme. “I gained exposure to management, operations and setting up businesses. Studying and working 18 hours a day helped me develop resilience.”
With an entrepreneurial dream, Dr Ng and three other students at the University launched the start-up 303 Company Limited, named after the room EF303 on campus where the four undertook their research projects, to provide software services in 1999. In 2001 when the world was shattered by the 9/11 incident, he founded Titanium Technology to specialise in biometric face-recognition technology as heightened security measures. He achieved all these while pursuing a doctoral degree at the University.
Successful people turn failures into blessings. Dr Ng’s company was duly prepared for a government tender on face recognition in 2003, only to be defeated by a foreign firm in the home game. He was so disappointed that he almost quit the industry altogether. After some thoughts however, he decided to launch a new approach, this time targeting the bigger market on the Mainland.
Dr Ng went to Beijing and persuaded a Tsinghua professor to accept him as a postdoctoral student. Two years later, with new knowledge and expanded network, he became the pioneer behind the bio-recognition technology deployed in the Shenzhen-Hong Kong border. His company later contributed to the 2008 Beijing Olympics by facilitating entry of VIP guests during the opening and closing ceremonies.
Nurturing younger generation
Dr Ng has now assumed a transformed role as a venture capitalist that incubates biotech and fintech start-ups in Hong Kong, Mainland China and Korea. “Just as PolyU had nurtured me, I am now nurturing young talent in society. I would be the happiest if they do better and better,” said Dr Ng. “Passing the torch is both important and healthy to society.”
With engineering and entrepreneurial expertise, capital, business and government connections, his investment firm bridges various parties in the ecosystem and provides space, angel funding and consultation to assist start-ups on the road to prosperity. To date, the company has nurtured more than 100 start-up teams.
With the heart to serve the younger generation, Dr Ng sold Titanium Technology and founded the Hong Kong Youth Synergy Foundation in 2010. He was also the Chairman of the Hong Kong United Youth Association in 2016-2017. Facilitating exchange tours, internship, entrepreneurship and employment, he had taken over a thousand local youths to Mainland and overseas cities for personal and professional development.
Ties with PolyU
Dr Ng remains closely knitted with his alma mater. Since becoming Outstanding PolyU Alumni awardee in 2015, he has been a mentor to nearly 20 student mentees with entrepreneurial pursuits via PolyU’s mentorship programme. His company, which has been offering internships for PolyU’s final-year students, will participate in the Innovation and Technology Commission’s STEM Internship Scheme to foster university students’ interest in pursuing careers in innovation and technology upon graduation. Besides earmarking HK$1 million for PolyU’s Tech Launchpad Fund Scheme to support technology start-ups, Dr Ng is also an advisory committee member of the College of Professional and Continuing Education, and an adjunct professor at the University’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE).
“PolyU had given me my first employment. Studying, doing research, watching movies, playing games and founding a start-up together with my teammates during doctoral studies were fond memories. When I later developed face-recognition devices, I again collaborated with PolyU lecturers,” Dr Ng remarked. “I had a great time at ISE, and the University had given me all these.”
Dr Ng in turn wants to give PolyU students some advice. “Young people should keep open minds and should not be calculating. Do not be limited by your disciplines or external factors. Skills and creativity count, but your mentality to open up is the most important.”
The entrepreneur continued, “Despite current global challenges, I believe times of big changes offer vast opportunities. Look towards the future and grasp the opportunities that come with the developments in the Greater Bay Area. ”