| Hakim Hayat |
WHEN Brandon Ng and his business partners set out from Beijing, China, to pitch their high-performance electric motorcycle product to law enforcement agencies in Indonesia, it didn’t occur to them that a chance incident would transform their business into one of the most promising enterprises globally.
Raised in Brunei, the 29-year-old CEO and co-founder of the Hong Kong-based energy start-up, Ampd Energy, recently joined the elite ranks of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia list in the Industry, Manufacturing and Energy category, making him the first local to receive the prestigious award.
Ampd Energy’s launch product, branded ‘Ampd Silo’ – which uses advanced, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries to provide uninterrupted back-up power supply – also placed first runner-up in the prestigious Engadget Best Startup Award during the recent Consumer Electrics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
The product also won a CES Innovation Award in the ‘Tech for a Better World’ category, in recognition of the innovative technology and its ability to serve the world.
In a recent interview with the Sunday Bulletin, Ng said that hard work, foresight, solid teamwork and the constant pooling of ideas and business evolution in all aspects, is vital to a successful enterprise.
It was nearly four years ago that Ng and his business partners hit the ‘lightbulb moment’ during an electrical blackout, in which they realised their Electrical Vehicle (EV) motorcycle batteries could be scaled to power buildings.
“The original goal for Ampd energy was to create high-performance electric motor-cycles…and it so happened that the initial market segment for that was the law enforcement segment…so we targeted the law enforcement agencies when we were back in China…and we set out to Sumatra, Indonesia, to meet with the law enforcement authorities there,” he said.
Ng recalls that the power went out while they were discussing their business plans over dinner at a restaurant in Sumatra.
“We joked the whole time that it would be funny if we used motorcycles to power the building, instead of using the generator which was noisy, air-pollutant and expensive to maintain…but then we began asking ourselves about the need for the electric motorcycles, and focused on the batteries instead,” he said.
As individuals with enginee-ring education backgrounds, they understood that the main job of engineers is to look for problems to solve.
“That’s when we came up with the solution for the three billion people and millions of companies around the world suffering from unreliable power…if you look up the statistics published by the World Bank Enterprise survey, power outages costs 4.8 per cent of total global revenue, and it is a huge problem that costs billions of dollars…so we saw this a huge opportunity to shift the business towards solving this issue…the inspiration came from solving global challenges,” he said.
The team then spent two years of their time and energy in developing a prototype and concept, beginning in February 2014, with the research and development stages taking place within the following year.
Sharing his plans for the product in 2017, Ng said that Ampd Energy is entirely focused on commercialising its first product. “We are bringing it out to market and will be launching our pilots from June this year, where we will be initially focusing on Indonesia, but quickly following that up with Vietnam, South Africa and Nigeria,” he said, adding that mass production for the product has been scheduled for the end of July this year.
Ng also said that the company’s team is constantly looking to developing new products, even while bringing their first product to commercialisation.
However, he admitted that it was not easy trying to introduce people to the product and convince them that this was what they needed. “Anyone who has ever started a company will tell you it is way harder than what any of us thought it would be…our way, as a company, is to work with channel and partner distributors that are very strong in terms of relationships in the local markets, and it was ultimately these channel partners who opened up doors for the product,” he said.
The incentive for their channel partners, said Ng, was the opportunity to engage, while completely transforming the way electricity is distributed and utilised in their respective countries. “It’s a very symbiotic partnership that we have with our channel partners, so we work closely with these local partners who can help us establish and open doors to customers in each of the countries that we go into,” he said.
Ampd Energy initially focused on hospital healthcare, pharmacies and clinics but then expanded into telecommunications and general commerce such as banking, government operations, general offices and business.
When asked about the difference that Ampd Silo offers in contrast to a conventional generator, Ng said that unreliable power is often solved through the means of a diesel-powered generator, which is expensive to run, while also consuming a lot of fuel which pollutes the environment 40 times more than a single, diesel-powered motorcar.
Another major problem with conventional generators, Ng pointed out, is that they do not provide instantaneous transition from grid power to the generator set power, which this poses a problem in some applications such as hospitals.
On making it to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia list, Ng said that he is humbled and honoured to receive the award.
“But it is never a one-man effort – there is a dynamic team in the background working hard behind the scenes that ultimately contributed to this. I’m just a cumulative sum of all their efforts, all the way from the team in Hong Kong to our Brunei investors, as well as the Hong Kong Science Park where we are based, and part of their incubation programme,” he said.
Ng disclosed that Ampd Energy has already filed a total of seven patents on its first product’s technology in multiple countries across the world, while also adding that the research and development doesn’t stop, because the company’s team will always continue to come up with new products in a bid to address different market segments.
He said that the company’s success took years to achieve, although there are some people who believe that it came out of nowhere as an overnight sensation.
His advice to Bruneians who wish to be successful entrepreneurs and break outside the Brunei market is always to look out for solutions to problems inside and outside of the country and build a business around it and to always come up with novel business ideas that will benefit many people – if not today, in the future.
“When you see that there are not much solutions to offer, since Brunei is a relatively comfortable place, you can step outside and have a look at the existing problems and see if they are big enough for people to pay you to come up with solutions,” he advised, while stating his belief that being in a business is the best way to solve a lot of global challenges.