The entrepreneurial dream of making the world a better place

Innopage is an app developer based in Hong Kong Science Park. It has written a number of apps for major corporations and government departments, and has published well-regarded apps with unique functions. But these are not what Innopage is best known for. The best part about it is that its entire team from the top down celebrates entrepreneurial spirit.

Innopage was set up in 2010. Its co-founder Keith Li had failed in starting a business, and had taken a job with a technology company when things didn’t go well. But he knew the only way to achieve his dream of changing the world through information technology is by starting a business. So he soldiered on. Now, the company has found its feet – it has a team of 20 people and is making decent returns for a Hong Kong-born tech firm.

At first, Innopage designed e-books, but the team soon found there was no market for it. It then switched to developing apps, and more than 300 apps have been conceived so far. Among its clients are the Hospital Authority, Hong Kong Tourism Board, Hong Kong Correctional Services, WWF Hong Kong and Tam Chai Yunnan Noodles.

Developing meaningful apps
Keith says that the company has been growing steadily in business and income. Innopage has joined the ranks of mid-sized app developers in Hong Kong, which means it doesn’t need to compete on pricing alone. Their philosophy is to focus on meaningful projects, and not to develop an app just for the sake of it. When they develop an app for a client, they will understand the project’s purposes and goals first. This gives them greater motivation to produce quality products.

Aspiring to change the app development ecology
Keith points out that while mobile app development has become mainstream, Hong Kong’s app development market hasn’t changed fundamentally – corporate clients are not clear about app development objectives and are often price-driven, and developers are competing for work by lowering prices. The result is a bunch of low-level and useless apps, which are a waste of time and money. By encouraging companies to start with overall planning and design before inviting tenders for programming, Innopage hopes to help Hong Kong develop a healthier app development environment and culture that will help lift the overall quality of apps. Keith has a tip to offer: “If an app can help users get lazier, then the app is worth doing.”

Empower staff to develop interesting projects
Other than developing apps for third parties, Innopage also continues to develop its own apps. Keith said that this helps them stay true to the original intention of helping to solve social issues and make the world a better place. It has also referenced Google’s practice and let employees spend no more than 20 per cent of their work hours on innovative InnoLab projects. Keith and a fellow co-founder set an example themselves and went on to develop friends app Worthy, stock trading app Ticker and food guide Foodbulous. Ticker has managed to devolve from Innopage and become an independent business. The company also collaborates with Hong Kong game developer Gameone and US game distributor Tommo to develop games for mobile phones.

Keith admits that Innopage is currently at a crossroad of development – the company could easily expand in scale in tandem with the growth of its profitability, but that might mean they could not stick to doing only meaningful and worthy works as they would have to take care of the interests of shareholders and employees. It is a nice problem to have, as it proves that Keith has succeeded in a way. He is going to do a bit more thinking and will make a decision that will be responsible to all parties. We shall wait and see!

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