From a Bachelor of Civil Engineering to establishing a tech company and developing a COVID-19 tracking app with fellow alumni, Lim Jim Hong shares with us his Swinburne story.
Tell us what you studied at Swinburne and your journey to become a tech entrepreneur?
I studied a Bachelor of Civil Engineering at Swinburne’s Sarawak campus in Malaysia. I had wanted to do a degree in computer programming, but my parents convinced me to take up civil engineering instead because they believed that it would offer me more opportunities. We agreed that I could do something else after completing my engineering degree.
After my bachelor’s, I travelled to the United States under the country’s work and travel program. While there, I met some entrepreneurs and programmers who shared their start-up experiences with me, and that was where my Information and Communications Technology (ICT) passion grew. I then started a company called ARx Media.
What does your company do and what were some of the challenges that you faced?
ARx Media was set up in 2018 and specialises in software development, Internet of Things (IoT), smart city solutions, augmented reality, virtual reality, web/mobile application development, website development and technology consultancy. I am the Business Development and Public Relations Director. The four partners of the company are all Swinburne Sarawak graduates too.
When we first started, we didn’t hire anyone immediately, so the workload was quite heavy. Today, most of our staff are Swinburne Sarawak graduates. We now have 13 employees, and more than half are Swinburne alumni.
Another challenge we had to tackle in the early days was winning the confidence of our clients as we were very new in the market.
Can you tell us more about the app you developed?
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, the Malaysian government put in place a strict control measure nationwide to reduce the movement of people in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.
Following this, the Council of the City of Kuching South (MBKS) where I live, approached my company and another organisation to develop a location tracking app, which led us to develop the Qmunity tracking app. Its purpose was to track the movement of people within the community, and the information obtained would be crucial for contact tracing. The app shortens the time it takes to identify individuals who might be exposed to positive COVID-19 cases, and the Sarawak government utilises the data specifically for this purpose.
Initially, the app was intended only for use at markets under MBKS jurisdiction (there are two city councils in Kuching). However, when the app was further developed, shopping malls, supermarkets, food outlets and cafes all started to utilise the app so that it became part of the standard operating procedure in combatting COVID-19. Eventually, the Qmunity app was implemented throughout Sarawak, Malaysia.
What were the challenges of developing the app?
The app was urgently needed at the time, so getting it up and running was critical. Fortunately, we were able to get the system operational in less than a month. Of course, we had to work round the clock and sacrificed our weekends!
How was your experience at Swinburne?
Memorable and amazing. The university prepared me well for my career and beyond. For that, I have my lecturers and fellow students, some of whom are my business partners today, to thank. Apart from academia, the university opened my eyes to many aspects of life. I am confident that I can go further in my career and beyond because of my Swinburne education.
What advice do you have for students interested in a career in civil engineering or ICT?
The job and business opportunities in these industries are huge. You can’t go wrong with either one. Right now, opportunities are aplenty in Malaysia, especially with the Sarawak government’s aspiration to digitise its economy and its goal for developed status by 2030.
For graduates looking to start a business, what’s your advice?
Find a mentor. The right mentor will contribute a lot to your entrepreneurial mindset and success. And, whatever your venture may be, keep trying until you find something that suits you and/or works for you. For example, since we started the company, we have switched our focus from Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality to System Customisation and now to Facial Recognition.
How has your involvement with Swinburne impacted your business?
We recently formalised a partnership with our alma mater to collaborate in engineering research activities and community projects involving the utilisation of technologies such as IoT, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. In addition to this we also provide internship opportunities, give career talks, and organise seminars and workshops with Swinburne Sarawak and public universities.
How do you give back to the community?
We take part at “Start-up Weekend”, an event where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and start-up enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products and launch start-ups. The Junior Chamber International Malaysia is an organisation we are also hugely involved with.