Advertising strongman takes lead in creating a multimillion-dollar renovation ecosystem

TOPICS: Entrepreneurship

by Benny Liu

Having worked in online advertising, I have always wondered if I should create something that belongs to myself instead of others. I kept thinking what’s worth doing, until the day I personally experienced the enormous opportunity for online renovation industry. So I took a step back from the online advertising business I co-founded and established HK Decoman Technology Limited in 2015 -- a one-stop information and service platform dedicated to renovation.

I understand the gap between the "Post-80s" or "Post-90s" homeowners and the traditional renovation industry. As the world is going online, the new generation of homeowners now expect greater transparency in renovation, which makes it almost “mandatory” for traditional players to move their business online. My goal was to create a "renovation ecosystem" that offers space for industry stakeholders and the traditionally closed-off renovation industry to interact. With O2O as the main axis, HK Decoman provides online matching of home renovation services in a convenient, highly transparent and automated manner, allowing renovation companies, brands and landlords to forge better relationships.

We started with an initial investment of just 100,000 Hong Kong dollars and through acquisitions of rival firms founded by our current partner, Simon Tang and Andy Lau, the blueprint I had in mind became more complete. We started in implementing the plan. At that time, we had just four core members so we were very hands-on. Later, Camel Paint noticed our light-hearted online videos and reached out for cooperation. That was a great encouragement for us to get an established brand as our first advertising partner, and that cooperation also led to further opportunities with other brands. Our monthly revenue reached around one million HK dollars within a year of starting the business, while recording a 20 to 30 percent growth per month. To have this accomplished in a year confirmed my belief that there would be amazing growth potential ahead.

To develop this ecosystem further, we thought hard on how best to improve services for the renovation trade and homeowners. Between 2016 and 2018, we kept introducing unprecedented activities and services for the industry. For instance, we launched "HKDecoMall", a 24-hour online mall selling renovation tools and materials, as the main bridge of communication between suppliers and homeowners. ;we also created Hong Kong's first “Renovation Challenge” event that strengthens industry relationships and image; opened “Deco Academy” which connects us to landlords and clarifies industry standards; and introduced "Renovation Charter" which fosters cooperation between homeowners and renovation companies and reduces complaints.

HK Decoman runs three main business units to fuel positive development for the industry. A landlord can experience different levels of renovation experience through HK Decoman, be it renovations for the entire house, home repairs or even small DIY projects. We provide services in different areas, including project matching, material sales, decoration education and information provision, which connects and synergize among homeowners, brands and industry, creating a chain where 1 (matching) + 1 (mall) + 1 (academy) is greater than 3, forming a grand ecosystem.

This visionary system took just 12 staff members to implement. As our project sum of matched renovation projects reached near 30 million Hong Kong dollars, the team's hardwork paid off at the end of 2018, when a local developer invested over 10 million dollars which boosted our firm's value to over 50 million. This has opened a new page for the business. To drive the business further, we moved our headquarters to a 5,000 “Renovation Bar” at Lai Chi Kok which is now a combo of office and showroom, gathering brands, renovation companies and homeowners.

In 2019, our team expanded to 20 members, and HK Decoman has maintained its position as Hong Kong's No.1 online renovation platform, owning over a thousand articles and videos on renovation that are organically popular and distribute through website and mass media.  As our ecosystem becomes more mature, we got credits through multiple local and Asian awards – we have represented Hong Kong in the Asia Pacific ICT Alliance Awards (APICTA Awards) and won a merit award in the Consumer category for Marketplaces. We have also won the 2019 Gold Stevie Awards, which is also called the business world's "Oscar". Other key recognitions include the Gold Award in the Hong Kong ICT Awards and the Red Herring Top 100 Asia list.

The credits of these achievements goes to our outstanding employees, and I expect we bring new elements to keep enriching the ecosystem, thus maintaining good company culture and values are what I insist and emphasize. In my company, we give ample space for staff to explore new ideas freely, so as to release the unlimited creativity and energy of the new generation.  Of course, that has to go with super-high efficiency which is how we cope with our fast growth and the changing industry. After the basic duties are fulfilled properly, there is great freedom to do and explore more. I believe our people will grow quickly in such an environment and this is how the company maintains win-win relationship with the team.

Thanks to the cooperation and support of our partners, HK Decoman is now a leader in Hong Kong's online renovation services. The time is ripe for us to venture out of Hong Kong and tap into the Southeast Asian market. The blueprint I have in mind is to bring HK Decoman’s ecosystem to SE Asia countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand, and after we have big enough footing in these places, we will enter the mainland Chinese market. This ambitious goal requires careful planning and execution. We have started to introduce our ecosystem overseas by acquiring local companies and actively participating in Southeast Asian exchange programmes such as Singapore's e27 Echelon Asia Summit and Thailand's CEBIT ASEAN Thailand 2019. We have also forged closer ties with other industry players in Singapore and Taiwan to promote our ecosystem model.

Looking back from 2020, HK Decoman started with an investment of 100,000 Hong Kong dollars and its valuation now exceeds 100 million dollars in 5 years, with further discussion in Series-A financing in progress and got ready to expand overseas, we have been racing with time every minute. But we have not forgotten why we started. HKDecoman will continue to work hard to provide better renovation experience for brands, industry and homeowners in different countries.

About the Author

The founder of (One-Stop Renovation Service and Digital Platform, Receives 8-Digit Hong Kong Dollar Funding In Pre-A Round of Financing) ’s website is also a serial entrepreneur who is experience in growing start up and oversea expansion.

Before starting up HKDECOMAN in late 2015, he was one of the most famous digital marketer in APAC region and the head of several online platforms; he was the Chief Operating Officer of ChineseAN and Chief Digital Consultant -HKSE:0888 for RoadShow Holdings Limited.