We Are HK Founders: Paul Tomes of Passkit


Paul Tomes, Co-Founder and CEO of PassKit, grew up in sunny Bournemouth, England. After graduating as an Engineer has been working in 5 countries. He has been living in Hong Kong for 11 years now. Before diving into the startup industry, Paul worked for Ford Motor Company, HBSC and Credit Suisse.

Paul likes to skateboard and he does it regularly to work, and more surprisingly he also used to skateboard to work when he worked in Investment Banking. At the time he ran a blog called corporateskateboarder.com.

The startup, PassKit is a software company that is specialised in effective, easy-to-use mobile marketing solutions. The startup platform allows users to reduce costs and waste, track real-time data and magnify customer engagement.

In your own words what does your startup do?

In a sentence, PassKit is to mobile wallet what mailchimp is to email.

To expand, PassKit allows businesses, of any size, to engage with their customers through their most intimate possession – their mobile phone.

We enable this by harnessing the power of the latest mobile wallet applications, (like Apple Wallet, Android Pay, WeChat Wallet, and AliPay) beacon technologies, physical web concepts and apps. Our solutions empowers brands to deliver online and offline insight-driven interactions with their customers, fostering real-time conversations, building long-term relationships and making micro moments matter for their customers – when and where it matters the most.

We are recognized as world-class experts in mobile wallet, proximity marketing, beacon technology, physical web and big data.

Why did you create your startup?

My business partner and I have been building services using Amazon Web Services since it first launched in 2006. We have always been growing and scaling businesses using process optimisation and latest technologies. There is always great technology out there but it is very frustrating for us to see so many businesses not able to take advantage of these technologies. This was particularly relevant when we witnessed how many people were struggling to get to grips with mobile wallet applications and beacon technology.

We started PassKit with the sole mission to help businesses of any size to leverage these amazing customer engagement capabilities without having to dedicate significant resources to build and maintain these ever-changing technologies.

What was your first victory when doing your startup?

The first victory that sticks in my mind is when we went live with our V1 Mobile Wallet Manager (http://create.passkit.com). We started to develop this software, and our SEO footprint, on the day Apple Passbook was announced to developers in 2012. And we publicly launched on the day that iOS6 was released to the public, a few months later. Nick and I stayed up all night watching google analytics.

Within a few hours of launching we had over 200 concurrent users. 200 users might not sound many today, but that was the moment of validation. That was the moment Nick and I knew we were onto something. For me, there’s nothing better than seeing and hearing people who love using our products and services.

What are the pros of doing a startup in Hong Kong?

At a business level, Hong Kong is a high density urban city that allows us to pilot new customer engagement solutions. There are many diverse and yet mature industries – retail, hospitality, finance, etc., as well as access to decision makers and influencers.

At a personal level, it’s a place where Nick and I have lived for over a decade. The life of the start-up is frantic and change happens quickly; to find balance, it’s important to try to keep a few things in life stable. To uproot my family and make new friends while building PassKit would have added more complexity and distraction.

What are the cons of doing a startup in Hong Kong?

4 years ago, it was probably being taken seriously as a Global Technology company. Back then, most people asked when we were moving to Silicon Valley and assumed that we were only serving the Hong Kong market.

Well, we are still here and have clients in 37 countries so that isn’t really causing a con anymore but at the beginning it did take a lot of education for clients and investors.

Hong Kong has definitely got better at supporting start-ups – big call out to the InvestHK team and Casey Lau! Being an entrepreneur in Hong Kong is no longer seen as a second-class citizen job. That said, we do still bumped into some day-to-day challenges though – like the relative high cost of living and the difficulty to get visas for international talent.

What are some of your daily digital habits?

I think I have some bad habits – which actually I am trying to change a little.

Currently I have my smartphone next to my bed and most days I wake up at 4ish and go straight to ‘Slack’. We have set Slack up so I have a ‘channel’ for every business process (e.g. sales, product, support, finance). Using Slack isn’t the bad habit – it’s a fantastic app – it’s waking up at 4am and reaching straight for my smartphone!

Slack provides me much of what I need to feel the pulse of the business for the day and quickly know where I need to focus my energy. Outside of Slack, I have set up google alerts which I typically get through after my first morning coffee.

Where do you see Hong Kong in 2021?

Optimistically I’d like to see Hong Kong as the Asian center for FinTech and IoT start-ups, but I know we have tough competition across the region and is going to require continued focus and some big wins along the way. i.e. Hong Kong based companies that are acquired by a world renowned company or a big IPO.

Rapid-Fire Round:

Everyone [I meet helps me]. I am very fortunate to have many mentors and too many to name individually. And I feel especially lucky to have found mentors for different parts of my life. One person I would like to call out is Nick Murray. I’ve known him for 11 years, and he is my fellow co-founder of PassKit. Without him around, I may not have left my comfortable corporate life.

PassKit.com (of course)

Trick question?
If I am not allowed to say my own – ‘google.com’

Prince – I now have an eclectic taste in music, but during my formative years I pretty much listened to Prince non-stop, and his music (particular his 1980’s sound) has a pretty heavy bearing on what I listen to and like today.

The Primal Blueprint (Mark Sissons)

Fight Club

What is one thing someone told you/you read that you remember that you would like to pass on to aspiring entrepreneurs?

The path to success is embracing your unique skill set. The more you invest in your talents the more they become strengths. Don’t get hung up on being something that you think others want you to be.

(Portraiture by Ruby Law Photography)

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