Andy Leung (right) and Ivan Law (left), founders of Passber
A firm started by university students, for university students, mushrooms into a social network and a multi-billion dollar enterprise. Sound familiar? The success of Facebook may be a distant dream, but Andy Leung and Ivan Law are taking a page from its book to launch their own service to students that has potential for much wider application.
Their startup, Passber (Passport for Membership), aims to make it much easier for clubs to manage their membership, for members to use club services, and for relevant external businesses and firms to reach these members.
It is premised on a simple idea, that people with one common interest may have other common interests, but it has been propelled by more practical concerns.
Andy and Ivan, who met while they were studying for an MSc in E-Commerce and Internet Computing (MEICOM), realised student clubs at HKU relied on volunteers to manage their memberships and had cumbersome, sometimes repetitive procedures. Andy had also worked with the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which has small internal clubs, and knew the problem of membership management was a widespread one.
Their solution is to offer an automated solution through a one-stop app for registering, keeping records, carrying sponsored advertising and enabling members to find other clubs and services.
“More advanced organisations will have systems to manage memberships, but a lot of clubs are managed on a volunteer basis and they don’t have money to buy sophisticated software. When volunteers turnover, the new ones have to try to pick up where the others left off. We think our software can benefit them,” Ivan said.
He has a logistical automated software background to complement Andy’s background with user experience (UX) design and community groups. Their MEICOM training, combined with participation in HKU’s Entrepreneurship Academy and as active volunteers, provided them with the additional skills needed to develop and launch their platform.
They also received advice and support from various professors, HKU staff and alumni, such as the Associate Vice-President (Research) of HKU, Professor Paul Cheung, and the Director (Alumni Affairs) of the Development & Alumni Affairs Office, Miss Janet Chung.
Passber is being tested on campus first, but the goal is to reach a wider audience of young people. “First we want to get people connected to our service and using it, and then we want to focus on building a community. Once we have that, Passber can become a main place of communication for users to share photos and talk to each other, and for clubs and SMEs to talk to customers,” Andy said.