Giving Back to Community Through Innovative Technology Company Interview with UM Alumnus Leong Ka Chon

Text│UM Reporter Hambur Cai
Photo│Eric Tam, with some provided by the interviewee

Bottle Technology Limited is an innovative technology company founded by Bevis Leong Ka Chon, a Class of 2015 graduate of the University of Macau (UM). Except for several computers, and a sofa that also doubles as a bed, every nook and cranny of the 460-square-feet office is stuffed with different pieces of research equipment and devices.
Leong and his classmates co-founded Bottle Technology Limited at the end of 2011, when they were still first-year students in the Department of Computer and Information Science at UM. They initially rented a small attic to serve as their office. In 2013 Leong registered the company under his own name.

An Idea Inspired by a Lecture

In July 2015, Leong won a gold medal at the Pan-Pearl River Delta Region Universities IT Project Competition for his invention, TongueMove, which allows people with physical disabilities to control electronic devices with their tongues. The idea for TongueMove came to Leong while he was attending a lecture by Nick Vujicic, an Australian man who was born without arms and legs but who has inspired countless people around the world with his story. ‘That lecture was so inspiring and made me want to create a technical device to help people like Nick Vujicic,’ Leong says.

He started working on the idea in his sophomore year and, after overcoming many technical challenges, successfully developed TongueMove before graduation. ‘Coming up with the idea was easy, but turning the idea into a product was hard,’ he says. ‘I felt like a rookie dad learning to take care of a newborn baby. And when I had the idea about TongueMove, my technical know-how was still lacking, so I had to learn along the way, ask experts, and kept trying.’

Using hardware control and image recognition technologies he learned at UM, Leong successfully transformed TongueMove from a prototype to an advanced model with practical applications. He can barely contain his excitement when he explains how TongueMove works. ‘TongueMove can make life easier for people with physical disabilities as they can use their tongues to control things like computers, wheelchairs, and home appliances,’ he says.

Leong Ka Chon’s company is located in the Macau Design Centre. Pictured is his office which was rented at a lower price than the market rate thanks to government support.

Running a Business Is Harder than Starting One

Leong described the process of starting the company as a ‘dreamlike’ experience. As a college freshman armed with nothing but a passion for scientific research, Leong summoned his courage and visited the appropriate authorities to apply for the registration of an unlimited company. It turned out that registering a new company was surprisingly easy; it only took a few minutes and the signing of some documents. But once his excitement over the dreamlike experience cooled down, Leong came back to reality and found himself faced with less-than-exciting tasks such as finding an office and attending to the everyday operation of the business. ‘We rented a tiny attic in an old building in Iao Hon district, and little by little we gained experience by working on projects for clients and participating in competitions,’ he says. ‘We didn’t have a decent office, but it was very rewarding to work together for a common goal.’

(From left) Leong Hou Un, Ao Ieong Ka Hei, Pun Chi Lap, Tam Ka Kit, Lou Ka Wai, and Leong Ka Chon.

It wasn’t until slightly before his graduation that Leong realised he should devote more time to running the company. So he resigned from his job as an assistant lecturer for a science training course at a local secondary school and devoted himself wholeheartedly to the company. He also applied to change the company’s legal status to a limited company to reduce the risk of personal financial loss. The list of shareholders was also composed during this period: Leong and three classmates from UM. Two other partners have grown together with the company: a student from UM’s Department of Computer and Information Science, and another student from Macao Polytechnic Institute. There are times when Leong and his partners have different opinions, but overall they work together harmoniously. ‘Because of our shared history and experiences, it took less time for us to adjust to each other’s styles,’ he says.

Leong Ka Chon prefers to design products that can bring practical benefits to the community. Pictured is the TongueMove he developed before graduation from UM.

Next Goal: Gaining a Place in the Science and Technology Industry

Leong feels grateful that he not only met many good mentors and friends at UM, but has had the good fortune to start a business with his old college friends and like-minded partners. He hopes that Bottle Technology Limited will gain a place in the local science and technology industry within the next few years by differentiating itself from companies that design application programmes or websites, and focusing on high-tech projects. Leong understands the practice of scientific research through a Chinese idiom which denotes: ‘One should treat the end with the same care as one treats the beginning.’ The more research projects he has conducted, the more he realises his weaknesses. He regrets that he did not have the opportunity to spend more time on the new campus in order to take full advantage of the research resources UM has to offer, so he is contemplating a return to the campus for further studies. ‘After I achieve my business goal, maybe I’ll consider going back to UM to study a postgraduate programme,’ he says.

ISSUE 14 | 2016

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