An inventor with impact
Inventing smart cups for the blind, discovering a minor planet and having it named after him, receiving a full scholarship from Standard Chartered to study at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology at the age of just 16 – the achievements of Stark Chan Yik-hei have made many headlines.
The inventor, now 22, went straight to university after finishing Form Five and majored in electronics and computer engineering. Last year he started a new chapter in his life. He took his passion for technological innovation and launched Bull.B Tech, a firm that specialises in developing apps for Apple products.
What did it feel like to leave school earlier than others?
I was the youngest person in the class but I didn’t feel anything special. Age to me is just a number. I did struggle a little at the beginning of my university education, though. I came from a secondary school where Chinese was the medium of instruction but at university I had to study everything in English. It took me time to adjust.
Why did you decide to go into app development?
In my final year at university, I thought deeply about my future career path. I asked myself where I wanted to be in five years and the answer was that I wanted to benefit society through my innovative ideas in a field related to science, which is where my interest lies. Applying for a job would not have achieved that so I chose to open my own business.
Nowadays the concept of invention has changed. You do not necessarily need to create a physical product. Expressing an innovative concept is an invention and creating apps is certainly no different from inventing a product.
Opening an apps business requires much less initial investment and that is perfect for youngsters with limited capital, like me. I see huge potential in app development with the booming market for iPhones and iPads, so last year I partnered with three friends to set up Bull.B Tech.
What makes you such an outstanding inventor?
I don’t consider myself a smart person, all I have been doing is putting in extra effort. At different stages of my life, I set myself goals and worked towards them with all my heart. I have been interested in science since I was young so I put in a lot of time learning about it, and that makes me good at science. The key to success is being well-prepared.
I am a perfectionist. When I was a secondary school student I participated in a robot competition. I won the Hong Kong prize, then moved on to compete at the national, and then global, level. I was never satisfied with my robot. I wanted to improve it, so as I moved up to higher levels of the competition, I created an improved version of my robot.
Do you see yourself as an inventor or a businessman?
I dare not say I am an inventor, I don’t think I am there yet. But definitely I will be focusing on coming up with innovative technologies that can benefit society.
What is your advice to people who want a career in science?
In Hong Kong, it is considered hard to generate income from anything besides real estate and finance. The common belief among Hong Kong people and the government is that technology cannot create wealth.
The support for technology development is minimal but if you have an interest and are passionate about science, you should not give up.
When working on inventions, do not restrict your mind. Think from various angles. Have a clear picture of the purpose of your invention. Will it be able to make an impact in the market? Look in the market for similar products – if there are already similar products then the impact might be limited.
What are your goals for the future?
With my company, I not only want to earn a living but to prove there is room for technology development in Hong Kong. I plan to donate part of my income to my alma mater, CCC Tam Lee Lai Fun Memorial Secondary School, to help the school boost its science education.
Right now, creating apps for clients is the biggest source of income for our company. We also develop our own apps. I hope that in a year or two we can create an app that is able to benefit not only Hong Kong but also create an impact on a global level.