How many people can say they have founded a globally successful start-up that was acquired for close to $1.6 million, all before they have graduated from university? Lim Guo Hong, a self-professed tech geek with an entrepreneurial spirit, can proudly lay claim to such a feat as he added yet another feather to his cap on 6 July when he graduated from NUS Computing with a Bachelor of Computing in Information Systems with Honours (Distinction).
Guo Hong’s fascination with IT has been evident since he was a young boy in primary school developing simple computer games and saving them on floppy disks for his classmates to play. As he moved on to secondary school, he developed his skills by looking up online resources, seeking advice and good old trial and error, and soon began creating websites which he sold for a fee. Naturally, he decided to pursue a Diploma in Information Technology after enrolling into Temasek Polytechnic.
As the lead of the Microsoft Student Partners programme in polytechnic, Guo Hong organised technology-related activities for students and interned with Microsoft Singapore, where he was involved in developing new tools to improve classroom teaching. The hands-on experiences gave Guo Hong a deeper appreciation for the linkages between IT and business.
Furthering his passion and on the advice of his colleagues at Microsoft, many of whom were NUS alumni, Guo Hong matriculated into the Information Systems degree programme at NUS Computing in 2013. Not long after, he founded online car-rental platform RC9 with a friend he met during national service. The start-up targeted the local market, where users could compare and book affordable rental cars securely.
Guo Hong applied the knowledge and skills learnt in class to his business straightaway, particularly a module he took in Year 3 on “Principles of Technology Entrepreneurship” taught by Professor Francis Yeoh, who would soon become his mentor.
RC9 faced multiple setbacks that forced the partners to continuously evolve their business. This included the introduction of ride-hailing apps which at first generated tremendous business, but soon proved to be a bane when the companies built up their own fleet of cars and no longer required rentals. However, the duo persevered and, with the help of a $50,000 SPRING Singapore ACE Startup Grant, RC9 can today be used in more than 7,300 locations across 150 countries. It was fully acquired in December 2016, though Guo Hong continues to serve as a consultant to the company.
“The platform was created when I first entered NUS, and I refined it with the practical knowledge I gained in class. Upon my graduation, the company was acquired. This is truly a perfect ending to my undergraduate life,” said Guo Hong.
Not one to rest on his laurels, the ambitious go-getter co-founded a new start-up, Corsiva Lab Pte Ltd, in January 2017, providing IT and marketing expertise to bring businesses further through digitisation.
Coming from a humble family background, Guo Hong is grateful to have received bursaries to help defray his expenses while studying in NUS. A firm believer in giving back, he is active in community activities and has been serving as Vice Chairman of the Youth Executive Committee at Punggol Community Club since 2013. Earlier this year, he led a Singapore delegation under the People's Association Youth Movement to Hong Kong for a week-long youth exchange programme.
Looking back in fondness, Guo Hong compares his undergraduate days to a flower that had yet to bloom. “In NUS, you have a strong support network of friends to help motivate you. When you graduate and finally bloom, these friends disperse — some working in private companies, some venturing overseas, some starting their own companies, some remaining in NUS. The support network is still there, just on a much larger scale.”