YPO Insights chats with Steven Lam, YPO member and winner of EY Entrepreneur of the Year™ 2022 Hong Kong/Macau, China, announced on 13 December 2022.

The Co-CEO, Executive Director and Co-founder of GOGOX was recognized for his entrepreneurial spirit, determination and innovation in steering industrial changes and enterprise transformation in the new era.

Steven Lam, Co-CEO, Executive Director and Co-founder of GOGOX

Connecting Asia

Formerly known as GOGOVan, GOGOX is a tech-driven logistics startup based out of Hong Kong. Via its app, it connects individuals and businesses directly to millions of drivers and couriers, offering logistical services that range from door-to-door deliveries to customized solutions across multiple platforms. Since launching in 2013, GOGOX has expanded its footprint from Hong Kong to Singapore, South Korea, Mainland China, India and Vietnam. Today, it is present in over 360 cities, with more than 5.2 million registered drivers under the GOGOX network.

Already known for transforming the traditional logistics industry using innovative technology, GOGOX made headlines when it became Hong Kong’s first tech unicorn startup in July 2021, then again last June when it defied the listings slump and debuted on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Against The Odds

“It felt like everyone was telling us not to do it,” says Lam of taking GOGOX public. “They told us that we were committing suicide.”

“No one knows how long Covid or this bear market are going to last. In addition, we’re facing concerns that are not within our control, like headwinds from China’s regulatory issues, the market downturn and inflating interest rates. It’s important to listen to other people’s advice but not at the expense of our consciousness, our own sound judgement. Doing what was best at the time is an important lesson I’ve learned throughout my entrepreneurial journey.”

You could say Lam’s confidence was honed in his rough-and-tumble childhood, which saw him spend his early years in Hong Kong’s infamous Kowloon Walled City, a dystopic, densely packed precinct known for its poverty and lawlessness. “Every day there were fires,” says Lam, who describes his younger self as a “typical Hong Kong street kid” who played on the same soccer field often depicted in Hong Kong gangster movies.

Plagued by poor exam results, Lam experienced a much-needed stroke of luck when an uncle offered to fly him to California. This eventually led to a community college where Lam managed to achieve a perfect 4.0 GPA before graduating in the top 5% of University of California Berkeley’s business school. To fund his school fees, Lam banded together with a few fellow Hong Kongers (and GOGOX co-founders), selling everything from hot dogs in parking lots to iPhones on eBay. All these experiences, says Lam, “taught me to be an entrepreneur who keeps thinking how best to survive”.

Thriving Through Innovation

GOGOX’s journey began in Hong Kong when Lam and his co-founders, arranging lunch box deliveries through van dispatching call-centres, found the latter system overwhelmed by orders because it was fragmented and inefficient. Organizing the van drivers into a chat group improved the situation but not by much. The search for a truly efficient tech-driven solution led to GOGOVan, which was bootstrapped among the company’s founders for a modest USD2,500.

“Innovation doesn’t necessarily mean creating the next iPhone,” says Lam. “It can be something as ‘simple’ as eliminating the need to sign or stamp a piece of paper when you receive a delivery. Getting people to adapt to the way we believe is the most efficient way to do things is also a kind of innovation,” he adds.

A good example of embracing innovation, says Lam, can be seen in GOGOX’s ongoing partnership with Ikea Singapore. “Previously, Ikea worked with a third-party courier with no system integration. Because of this, they couldn’t provide their customers with any information about their delivery, beyond the fact that it would take two weeks. Now, because we have the technology to help them check on and track every single delivery, Ikea can give customers a much more accurate timeline, from knowing where their truck is to how long it’ll take to reach its destination.” 

GOGOX is currently in the process of fully electrifying its fleet and recently collaborated with fellow startup Rice Robotics to trial completing the “last mile” of delivery orders using autonomous robots in Hong Kong. “In five to 10 years, we aim to put autonomous trucks on the road so they consume less fuel and move more efficiently too,” adds Lam. The company has also partnered with Ikea Singapore to use electric vehicles for delivery, furthering its push toward eco-friendly logistics solutions. In his little spare time, the serial entrepreneur also advises other businesses, such as one prototyping a vending machine that refills shampoo bottles, thereby reducing plastic waste and helping customers save money. 

Lam encourages business leaders not to fear, but to embrace technological change.

“Everyone is talking about ChatGPT and worrying about how it’s going to take away our jobs,” he says. “But I think innovative people will embrace AI as a tool to make their work more efficient and scalable, freeing up time that they can instead use on more high-value work like better follow-ups and boosting their sales pipeline.”

Building an Innovation-Friendly Culture

Lam says GOGOX’s success can be attributed to its five pillars of company culture: “Dare to Venture,” “No Bullsh-t,” “Top of your Game,” “Grow or Die,” and “Deliver Happiness.”

“Dare to Venture,” says Lam, is embodied in bold moves like GOGOX’s IPO. “It’s about constantly trying new things, not just always finding reasons not to do things because of the fear of failure,” he says. 

“Top of your Game” means always aiming to be the best in what you do, while “Grow or Die” refers to constantly learning and upskilling yourself, whether this means learning a new language or staying updated on world events. “With personal growth, the company grows,” says Lam. 

“No Bullsh-t” refers to following ideas with tangible actions while “Delivering Happiness” reflects GOGOX’s aim to become a trusted logistics provider that always delivers value on time, every time, a credo Lam’s LinkedIn profile illustrates. 

And, his unorthodox description of his role of CEO as “Cheap Everything Officer” references his early days at the company when he was in charge of cleaning toilets and switching off the air conditioner at night. “We will do everything and are very conscious of our spending,” he says.

And how might other startups emulate GOGOX’s enviable success?

“Running a company is like driving to a specific destination, toward achieving your vision or mission,” says Lam. “Your competitor is in another car, maybe chasing after you, in front of you or next to you, because you are always changing positions. If you just keep looking at them, you’ll crash. If you focus only on chasing their tail, you’ll end up losing your way because your competitors use different strategies, ideas and culture to get things done. Always remain laser-focused on your mission and never stop pushing toward it.”

YPO is proud to collaborate with EY, its Strategic Learning Advisor to help global leaders drive innovation, accelerate growth and create long-term value.

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