Alvin Cheung (IBCE 2016) is emboldened by the power of robotics and the social good it can create. His start-up’s affordable robotic glove has helped thousands of stroke patients worldwide to receive timely rehabilitation. Now, the young social entrepreneur and winner of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia 2021 and Tatler Asia’s Gen.T Leader of Tomorrow is doubling down on his efforts. He wants to catalyse greater positive changes through entrepreneurship, innovation and satisfying society’s unmet healthcare needs.
Bringing Hope to Those in Need
After interning at John Swire & Sons and NBA and working as an associate at Sow (Asia) Foundation Limited, Alvin decided to co-found the social enterprise Zunosaki in 2017. The company’s first product was a wireless robotic glove called HandyRehab – it is one of the world’s lightest rehabilitation solutions for patients suffering from stroke, traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury. The innovative product is specifically designed not only to enhance therapists’ productivity, but also enable patients’ self-training in the golden recovery period (the first 3-6 months) through active and passive assistive training.
HandyRehab, one of the world’s lightest wireless robotic gloves, allows patients to undertake task-oriented training with real life objects
Alvin vividly reminisces the first time he experienced the impact of Zunosaki’s innovation. It was when the start-up publicly debuted the prototype of the robotic glove at an exhibition. “A lady in her 60s visited our booth with her husband, who was pushing her on a wheelchair as she had recently had a stroke. I helped her put on our glove and, with the help of our technology, she started moving her fingers again. A broad smile flashed across her face, and she turned around to tell her husband that she wanted to buy the glove. I will never forget that smile and the hope and encouragement that our technology brought to her. It was the sparkiest moment in my career.” Alvin added: “The episode has also strengthened my resolve to bring more affordable robotics to communities and households and to enhance healthcare and the quality of life through innovation and technology.”
Forging New Paths on a Strong Footing
At CUHK, we define our goals and forge our own paths. I knew my education has equipped me with solid business knowledge to effectively run my start-up.
– Alvin Cheung
Surprisingly, Alvin knew “close to nothing” about the healthcare industry or robotics before he joined Zunosaki. A personal experience motivated him to pursue this business venture: “My uncle suffered a stroke over a decade ago, but I couldn’t do anything for him at that time. After I graduated from CUHK, I met my co-founder Newmen Ho, who was working in the field of rehabilitation and robotics. I saw the potential and the impact that we can bring to society. And I knew I could master the trade if I put my mind to it. We decided to combine our strengths and founded our start-up.”
As the CEO and Co-founder of Zunosaki, Alvin oversees the commercialisation of technology, market and business development, and fundraising. Although he had no prior entrepreneurship experience, he knew he was up to snuff. “At CUHK, we define our goals and forge our own paths. I knew my education has equipped me with solid business knowledge to effectively run my start-up, formulate strategies, market our products and communicate with customers. The myriad extracurricular activities also offered me plenty of chances to explore, experience and meet people from all walks of life and expand my global and social perspectives.”
Learning from Doing While Gaining from Trying
CUHK was a great platform for me to grow and find myself, and to meet different people who shaped who I am right now.
– Alvin Cheung
Alvin particularly cherished the experience of bringing the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations to Hong Kong in the summer of 2016, the second time it happened at CUHK in the conference’s history. This annual five-day international conference gathered thought leaders from around the world to exchange ideas with young leaders on pressing global issues and empower them to change the world.
Alvin, who was in charge of sponsor and speaker liaison, worked with a group of Harvard students to bring in over 90 renowned speakers and more than 500 delegates from 60 countries. During the process, his communication skills, backed by his major in marketing and minor in journalism, were put to good use. “The experience broadened my horizons and pushed me to grow quickly because it was a massive undertaking. I had to deal with business leaders and management directors from an array of major firms. I had to be on top of my game.”
Alvin was grateful to have received CUHK’s full backing. At one of the earliest meetings, when Alvin and his team were still in the process of bidding for the conference to be held in Hong Kong, more than 10 senior staff of CUHK attended and asked the team how they could help, how they could facilitate the process and make the conference a success. “It was an eye-opening experience,” he recalled.
Alvin had also been an executive committee member of Chung Chi College’s Business Administration Society. Through various college and school activities, Alvin cultivated lifelong relationships with a broad swath of people. These include fellow students at CUHK and classmates in the International Business and Chinese Enterprise (IBCE) programme, who Alvin studied with in Hong Kong and in the US during their year of exchange at Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina.
“I know I can always ring up my friends who are working in investment banks, accounting firms, or even advertising agencies to ask for advice and help. CUHK was a great platform for me to grow and find myself, and to meet different people who shaped who I am right now.”
Innovating for Social Impact
HandyRehab’s clients are growing by the day. Nearly a hundred hospitals, non-profit organisations, NGOs, elderly homes and clinics are using its robotic gloves in Hong Kong, mainland China, Singapore, Malaysia, Germany, the UK and beyond. To ensure the best product-market fit, Alvin is continually working with their customers and service targets to understand their needs and to refine HealthTech solutions for them.
“I also draw inspiration from one of Steve Jobs’ quotes to guide me in life and in business. The late Apple CEO said, ‘Innovation is saying no to a thousand things’. Whenever I come across a new product, besides seeing its features and benefits, I take a step back and look at it from another angle. I ask myself: ‘How does it not work?’, ‘Who cannot use this product?’, ‘How can my team and I add value or improve this model?’ When I start focusing on these areas, I always come up with more ideas to tackle a problem.”
These practices have resulted in wonderful yet affordable Zunosaki creations. In addition to the robotic glove, Zunosaki introduced Temi Medic in 2020 to meet the surging demand for improvement within the caregiving tech space. The Temi robot is a technological creation from Israel that can be used in nursing homes to keep residents company, entertained and connected with their families and the outside world. The robot can also serve as a hospital assistant, guiding and accompanying patients during their hospital visits. If a patient’s family members are unable to join the visit, the robot can even record the consultation for later replay. All perfect solutions for the times of COVID-19.
Temi Medic was introduced in 2020 to meet the surging demand for improvement within the caregiving tech space
Advice for Aspiring Technopreneurs
Life is a drag if you don’t take risks.
– Alvin Cheung
Alvin said exposing himself to as many activities as possible, never saying no to opportunities and always learning from the people around him have trained his entrepreneurial attitude, which has been part and parcel of his success. This is also what he advises CUHK students to do if they aspire to be leaders of tomorrow. “When you’re a student, always be hungry to learn. Secondly, don’t be risk averse. Life is a drag if you don’t take risks. Be prepared to make mistakes and, most importantly, learn from them. My experience at CUHK helped pave the way for my career.”
He plans to adopt this continuously learning, continuously growing model for Zunosaki: “We hope to improve the quality of life of the disabled and the elderly with our products. We also want to bring more hope, more attention to this community of people in need. I wouldn’t say we want to bring about a revolutionary change – even though it’s a dream we’re after – we just want to achieve this step by step, going door to door and helping one patient at a time.”
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