AGENT Q&A with Colleen Wong, Founder, TechsixtyfourLast Updated: November 1, 2019
Colleen Wong, investment banker turned tech entrepreneur, is the founder of Techsixtyfour and the wearable kids mobile phone & tracker, Gator Watch. Although not short on ambition, Colleen urges young startups to get the fundamentals right: “Be realistic and focus on solving the problem for your customer.”
As a mother of two young children, Colleen Wong found inspiration for her highly successful startup Techsixtyfour, when, during a trip to a UK farm with her kids, she witnessed the panic of a parent and staff when a young child went missing.
Colleen Wong’s solution—a wearable mobile phone and tracker called Gator Watch—is not just a way for parents and young kids to stay in touch.
The Gator Watch has no internet, social media or games, and so presents parents with a realistic alternative to smartphones, and ensuring that their kids are contactable but without a smartphone taking over their young lives!
Prior to setting up Techsixtyfour in September of 2015, Colleen, an MBA graduate of Insead, was for almost five years the UK-based Vice President of Credit Suisse, following two years as an Associate at Barclays Capital.
The change in her lifestyle has been considerable, and she admits that the early years of her startup have definitely required more sacrifice of her family time than she would prefer. However, the product has gained major traction in the past couple of years, and the Gator Watch is now available to purchase in John Lewis, in Bentalls Kingston and in Amazon.
12 Questions for Colleen Wong
Colleen Wong spoke to AGENT about her career to date, about the transition from investment banking to life at the head of her own business, her inspirations and challenges, and shares some of the business lessons she has learned along the way.
1. Tell us about your business and your business goals.
I’m the founder of Techsixtyfour‘s Gator Watch, and I am also a mum of two small humans aged 3 and 4. The Gator watch is a wearable mobile phone and tracker made for children aged between 5-12. It can make and receive calls to and from only up to 13 trusted family and friends, and it is a tracker using GPS outdoors and WiFi indoors. It has no internet, social media or games, and works almost anywhere in the world.
With the increase every year of young children owning smartphones, our business goal is to get young kids off smartphones so they can be involved in more active and healthy activities.
2. What age were you when you realised you wanted to run your own business?
I was 16. My father was an entrepreneur and I have always wanted to have my own business.
3. Who are your business icons and inspirations?
I really admire Marcia Kilgore, Sara Blakely and Jamie Siminoff as they all saw simple every day life problems, found great ways to solve these problems and worked hard everyday to bring their product into the hands of happy customers.
4. What has been your biggest challenge in business, and how did you surmount it?
The biggest challenge was getting people to know my product exists. I started with very little money and had virtually no marketing budget. I would just wear my Gator watch everyday and go to as many networking events as I could while managing the daily activities of my two children. I was the company billboard.
As more people bought the product, I was able to put some money into targeted online marketing such as Facebook ads that created awareness of my Gator watch very quickly. I have also raised money via Crowdfunding to fund marketing efforts to generate awareness.
5. What gives you the most satisfaction in business?
When I get emails from parents to say that the Gator watch has been helpful to them. One parent wrote to say that it was so useful when they went skiing as they could always stay in touch with their son.
Another parent wrote that it gave them peace of mind when they took their daughter to Disneyland. Another parent wrote to say it is a great device as he no longer has to consider giving his child a smartphone.
6. Work-Life balance: is it possible? How do you achieve it?
No, it is not possible. I’m like a juggling clown in training. When the balls all come crashing down, I just have to pick them up and try again. In the past four years, I have worked day and night to get my business off the ground. I spent hardly any time with my partner and we have not taken any family holidays.
Now that I have a team of flexible working staff, I am able to delegate work and this has allowed me to free up time in the evenings to spend with my family. This summer, I am taking one week off for myself to recharge. I’m going on my own to do a six-day hike in Transylvania to raise money for breast cancer. I need a break before I break.
I realise that while running my business and taking care of my family, I have not taken care of myself and it is time that I do that.
7. What is the first thing you do every day?
I hit the snooze button on my alarm. I am not a morning person.
8. What screen saver picture is currently on your phone?
A picture of my two kids wearing onesies and smiling.
9. What is the most important app on your mobile phone, and why?
Whatsapp. This is how I chat with my family in Canada and keep them up to date on what is going on in my life. I love seeing photos of my nephews!
10. What is the last thing you Googled?
I googled the term “entrepreneur’s widow”. I wanted to see if there are any studies on the widow being the man. I have found very few.
11. What item do you never leave the house without, and why?
My iPhone. I work using my phone and I am the first point of call if there is anything that happens at the nursery where my kids are. I need to make sure I am always available if I need to pick up my children.
12. What advice would you give to your younger self starting out in business?
Don’t dream about being the next unicorn or being the next Uber or Wework. Be realistic and focus on solving the problem for your customer.