Those who know Renzhi in person would agree with me, he is a very humble and practical person, he does things one step at a time. Many times in our conversation he gave a lot of credits to his team, while he was truly low profile and did not brag about any achievements at all. He is also a very kind person who would rather sweep a millipede away than to kill it, a nice guy who would offer me umbrella before I reached his office (it was raining). Many brownie points for him!
Renzhi Huang, 33
Founder, Genie Agent
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Journey to Entrepreneurship
Renzhi was a graduate from School of Computing, National University of Singapore. He didn’t think of running his own business in future at all when he was still young, but by the time he graduated, he wanted to pursue an idea that he had – social media intelligence. It was a product to enhance the social media features; provide analytics to Facebook users, and also a chatbot function to help with user queries. Chatbot might be an obvious thing now, however back in 2011, it was a rather bold and advanced idea.
Upon graduation Renzhi found a job as IT consultant, at the same time he also worked with a few friends to setup a technology company. That’s how Genie Agent got started, the automated agent that could get you anything you ask for. Being young and with a spirit of nothing to lose, they went in strong and soon raised fund for their startup.
The Born of FotoGraft
It all looked bright initially, but after a year of trying, Genie Agent didn’t move forward as quickly as they hoped. The market was not ready for social media intelligence, luckily Renzhi and his partners had been exploring different things. Among those, a new image-recognition technology.
Renzhi has always been an active person, he loves canoeing, sailing, kayaking, marathons and etc. In Singapore, there is large-scale running event almost every weekend. He thought to use their image-recognition technology for sports events like this; detect bib numbers in photos and automatically sync them with race results.
Being ambitious, they approached main race event organizers in Singapore to sell their image-recognition technology to improve race photos distribution system. They were turned down every time, the product was not attractive enough. They learned it and decided to enhance the whole end-to-end race event process, from race pack collection to photos organizing.
A large scale marathon event like Sundown / Standard Chartered usually attracts more than 10,000 people to participate. Most organizers will distribute race packs over a few days like a pop-up event, they would hire a lot of freelancers or part-timers, pre-print all the race bibs, and gather runners to collect them at a fixed location, fixed timing. Very manual and time-consuming, and a lot of wastage (race packs uncollected).
FotoGraft comes in as a vending machine for race pack collection, runners can go to any of the 4 vending machines at shopping malls to print their race bib on-demand, and vending machine will dispense a race pack with jersey and bib. It’s all automated, saves time and manpower, most importantly reduce wastage. What a brilliant solution! Renzhi and his team finally managed to secure key business partner by offering FotoGraft as a solution.
The Future of Genie Agent
Over years Genie Agent managed to raise >250k SGD, and achieved consistent revenue as well. Renzhi decided to quit his full time job to focus on his business. All things look smooth and easy for outsiders, but the team knows this has come a long way. “Slow and steady win the race,” applying his marathon philosophy in business seems just apt.
- Just whack, no one will be at the position better than yourself
- Do what you want to do, take time to think and plan it
- Never give up
- Burn rate (the rate of cost expenditure) determines the fate
- Even if the startup fails, we learn a lot and the knowledge will stay with us
GenieAgent is a technology company that focuses on image recognition technologies
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