“Only a selected few, such as Tower of Saviours and Angry Birds, have succeeded and gone viral whilst most have sunk unnoticed,” he says. “People won’t invest arbitrarily as there are too many companies of the same kind.”
Woo hopes to reach a variety of investors, both local and overseas, to get more funding but, despite his company’s early successes, he is cautious about his prospects. He says Four Directions is good but not the best in the field and therefore he finds it hard to reach the investors.
Teddy Lo Ming-tao takes a slightly different view. Lo, whose great grandfather Ho Sin-hang was one of the founders of the Hang Seng Bank is a local angel investor – that is an investor who backs and supports start-ups – in mobile apps. Five years ago, he set up Noir FX, a venture capital fund mainly targeting app-making start-ups.
So far, Lo has invested in six apps, three of which were developed in Hong Kong, two in Japan and one in the Mainland. Lo says that as long as the app designs show potential, there are investors in Hong Kong who are willing put not just their capital into start-up companies, but also offer support and advice through their business connections.
“Investors are always willing to talk,” he says. “App makers should be more aggressive and active in seeking investors.”
The difficulty then for lesser known start-ups is how to get on the radar of investors like Lo. That is not a problem for Terry Tsang, co-creator of the popular game app, Tower of Saviours. Tsang and his brother started their company, Madhead, from scratch. They began with making customisable e-cards, followed by online polling websites and a discussion forum.
After several unsuccessful attempts to expand their business, they soon turned to the app game market and developed Tower of Saviours.
In August this year, Tower of Saviours became the first app from Hong Kong and China to break into the top 10 of best-selling apps on Google Play. There have been some suggestions that the game draws heavily from the Japanese app game Puzzle and Dragons, but this has not deterred players. The game has been downloaded by seven million users around the world and is the highest-grossing app in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia.
With those kinds of numbers, Tsang has no difficulty in reaching investors. The company is doing so well that Tsang has even turned down a couple of investors who approached them. He says he is afraid investors may interfere with their plans for business development. Through the open and fair app market platforms, Tsang says he is able to expand his business solely with the revenue from Tower of Saviours.
“Before App Store and Google Play, it was almost impossible to make a console game unless you were from a big company,” says Tsang, “With a lower entry threshold, people can pursue their dreams. Now even a university student can create an app.”