Class of 2020 graduate Wang Hai Feng came to Essex from Malaysia to study BSc Computer Science. Feng gives us an insight into his time at Essex and how, with the support of the Essex Startups team, his idea evolved and helped him prepare for launching his business.

How it started...

I knew I wanted to study in the UK and was drawn to Essex after researching the teaching staff and learning that they were pioneers in the development of computer networking and gaming technologies, which immediately appealed to my personal interests.

Before starting my studies, I attended virtual video games conventions and other events online, as nothing like this was happening for gamers in my local area. It was great having access to these events to watch online, but I was finding it difficult to get to know other attendees with similar interests to me.

It was then during my first game development project, my idea came to me – if there was a platform that could facilitate like-minded people to come together in a digital space, ideas could be shared, a support system could be established, and promotion of projects could be greatly accelerated. A platform such as this would help games developers working in isolation to fulfil their potential and gamers to explore new experiences together.

In the second year of my degree, we participated in an outreach workshop with the Essex Startups team. In small teams, we were set a business challenge and worked together to find a solution. Not only did this introduce me to the support available to student entrepreneurs on campus, but the team emphasised the need to focus on people. In computer science, we were so used to being technology-facing that it was easy to forget that we were building products and services for humans!

When the pandemic hit, I seized the opportunity to participate in some of the Essex Startups events and think more seriously about the ways I could develop my idea to become a viable business. I knew what the problem was and what I wanted to achieve but wasn’t sure of how to get there. The events, such as the evolve Programme, gave me the toolbox to address key challenges and motivated me to focus on the processes that would help me to achieve my goals.

How it's going...

I am now back in Malaysia working part-time on the business. My full-time software developer job is very flexible, allowing me to adapt my hours to the needs of my business and provides me with an income to cover both my personal and start-up expenses, such as equipment and software.

At this point in time, my MVP (Minimal Viable Product) is up and running in its basic form, with around 30% of the requirements filled. The funding I received as a result of participating in the evolve Programme has allowed me to reach this stage.

Routine is vital for me to ensure that I fulfil the requirements of my employment and maintain the momentum of the service I’m building. Free time is really important, however the lines between work and play have blurred slightly because my hobby has become my business. The passion I have helps to keep me motivated, but I do build little rituals into my day to allow myself time to clear my head and recharge – for example, always going out for a walk before dinner. I also try to keep Saturdays completely clear, so I can see friends and attend events.

What’s next…

My plan is to launch my MVP in early 2023. For me the market is visible and I’m confident that the demand will be instant. Further investment will be needed further down the line, but I have taken the decision to seek this once the service is up and running and already generating revenue, to actively demonstrate the return on investment.

I believe that the potential to expand will emerge, but it has become clear that there are many considerations to be made when it comes to bringing business partners on board. It’s not simply a case of choosing the right people with the necessary passion and qualifications, it must also be the right time for them personally and complement their ultimate life goals to ensure their commitment and drive.

Words of wisdom…

If you have an idea, start as early as possible. It will always take longer than anticipated, so the younger you are when you start then the more time you have to fail! Starting any business is a leap of faith, but following your passion is key to finding purpose in your life.

Do not limit yourself by products or services that already exist. There is so much out there, there are bound to be similarities. Own your idea, start with a blank page and build on what you believe the world to need. Don’t let yourself be influenced by the media, it can stifle your thinking and dilute your idea. Be clear on what you want to do and then begin your research to help validate it.

And, lastly, find your people – they could be from any aspect of your life but stick with those who nourish your positivity because they are the ones who will keep you motivated. I was lucky to establish some great friendships with other founders that I met at Essex Startups events. We still maintain regular contact and I greatly value their support and perspective on real business problems that I face.

Find out more

If you have a potential business idea, or are interested in developing your business skills, find out more about the training, events and support Essex Startups offers to current students and recent graduates.

evolve Accelerator Programme 2023

Applications for the evolve Accelerator Programme 2023 are now open. So, if you're an Essex entrepreneur looking to turn your side-hustle into a career, or have started a business but need help getting things off the ground, we’re looking for the 15 most ambitious and innovative ventures to work with.