Completely coincidental to the events happening in the world today, it would seem that Vincent Fong has launched his material science company, Raze Technology, in a period when self-care, personal hygiene and domesticity are now quintessential means of survival. A pioneer in the metamaterials field, the Hong Kong CEO has created one of the first light activated sanitising sprays designed to kill 99.99% of bacteria, viruses, odours and mould for home use. Having just launched two months ago, 7,000 bottles of this reactive formula has already been sold. We speak to the man behind the self-sanitising agent on how he built his business and the way he is reshaping the household products industry.
Name: Vincent Fong
Industry: Material science
Start up since: 2018
Company size: 18
Tell us about your business. What do you do?
We are a material science company that has developed a long term disinfectant coating that can effectively decompose virus, bacteria odour, mould, and VOCs [volatile organic compounds] with light energy. We believe that material science can be the key that opens doors to solving our world’s most demanding problems. So we transformed our technology to a functional product that creates a better everyday life.
Since the virus outbreak, we have applied our technology to Hong Kong transportation. We’ve covered 4,200 buses, 18,000 taxis and 2,200 mini buses with our Raze coating and seen a huge reduction in germs –protecting the driver and passengers alike. We are very excited to use our technology to improve the lives of others. Global governments from UAE, China and Italy are also reaching out and in discussion of adopting Raze for their public transport.
Tell me about your best and worst day at work?
After being an entrepreneur for over a decade, the “best or worst” is no longer meaningful since that can change very frequently –even on an hourly basis. But overall, I enjoy my work very much even when things are not moving smoothly. You have to remember that building a company is a process and that’s the part I enjoy most.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
I enjoy reading anything from scientific journals to science fiction. I also try to stay active with boxing and taking my dog on hikes on the weekends.
Looking back now, what would you have done differently?
There are too many things to list; it ranges from recruiting, time management to investment. One thing in particular is that we only focused on our B2B service first. We then realised that we needed to build a consumer brand to develop trust and brand equity. Rather than pushing businesses to use our service, consumers would help us pull businesses to use our technology. We always wanted Raze to be associated with hygiene and wellness, we just didn’t realise a faster way until later. But all these mistakes were critical in helping us grow to where we are now, so I would not have changed these missteps.
What is a normal work day like?
I reserve the morning for solo planning to review the list I write up at night, after that a short team meeting and breaking up to smaller unit meetings. Then I divide the day to work on operations, recruitment and partnerships. This structure allows me to dive in on the nitty [-gritty] details of the business while being able to constantly reflect on the bigger picture.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start up?
Don’t think that a brilliant idea will pop up in your soul searching journey. Just get started and go with the flow, then adjust and pivot, and more importantly consider people, people, people.
What would you be dong if you weren’t doing what you do now?
Probably working in someone else’s startup.
As a child, what did you aspire to be?
As a child, I aspired to be an astronaut – but as you can tell, that did not happen!
What has been your biggest hurdle?
Patience. I have major ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder] and want things to move at 100 miles, at all times, but that doesn’t work in deep technology. These innovations take anywhere from three months to 10 years to develop. Then there’s the process of building a team and getting everyone to work together. All of these things require a great deal of patience so it’s a skill I’m working on everyday.
How did you overcome it?
Be humble to appreciate science as science instead of a business. I overcame this by studying physics and chemistry from my CTOs [chief technology officers] and realising how little I know. This helped me understand that everyone comes from different backgrounds; what may be obvious to some, may not be to others.
Why is Hong Kong an important market for you?
Hong Kong is a global hub for both international businesses and China expansion. Proving the technology in Hong Kong opens many doors on a global scale. It’s also where I was born. So it’s cool to see the Raze stickers inside of taxis, protecting those I grew up with.
If you were to invest in another start up, which would it be?
Hard to pinpoint one specific one, but I am very involved in the food technology venture through The March Fund. They invest in early-late stage companies developing transformative biotechnologies, machine intelligence, and sustainable nutrition solutions for consumers and the agriculture-food supply chain.
What are your goals for 2020? And in the near future?
The economic landscape for 2020 will be very tough due to the Coronavirus global impact. From capital source to consumer purchasing power, many things will be substantially reduced. For Raze, we are fortunate enough to be classified as one of the preventative solutions, and we have grown to be the biggest public transportation preventative player and global government units have reached out to have Raze applied in their buses, taxis and trains. I believe 2020 will be a year of growth. My goals in the near future would be to grow Raze into improving home hygiene systems globally.
How hands-on are you?
I am very hands-on in certain areas that I thrive in such as marketing and sales, but very hands off when I am not the expert such as manufacturing and R&D [research and development].
How do you define success? Do you consider yourself being successful?
Success is an evolving definition for me. Currently, I believe success is the ability to apply your network, knowledge and passion into solving global issues that can benefit the lives of others. I do not consider myself successful for every year I look back and realise how foolish I once was and would hope this trend continues.