Gary Ng, CEO & Co-Founder of viAct, tells us about remote visually monitoring.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded viAct.
Gary Ng: I am a graduate in building engineering and have worked in the construction ecosystem for years. Before starting viAct, I had been the Managing Director of 3D leading EFI Optitex fashion technology and Senior Management of the NASDAQ business listed in Stratasys technology. However, after years of working experience in the construction industry, the loopholes prevailing in the industry in terms of extremely low technological adaptation coupled with the ever-increasing safety and productivity gaps kept on continuously bothering me. And it was to bridge this divide I emerged as an AIpreneur and started viAct in Hong Kong.
Although it took me some time to build and establish viAct, being a tech-geek, I knew that ConTech was the next big thing. Having extreme trust in the novelty of the cause, I started R&D in AI in 2016 with my prime focus on building tailor-made AI modules for scenario-based, real-time, on-site as well as remote monitoring of construction safety and productivity in just minutes. And since then, through viAct, I have been on a journey to revolutionize the construction industry with cognition about technology adoption.
Do you have small habits that made a meaningful impact on your life and business?
Gary Ng: Definitely, yes! I have always believed that “small habits make a big difference” and therefore have always tried to incorporate some small (but crucial) habits into my day-to-day workings. If I were to list those down, the very first one would be I love working with my team and always try to treat them with the utmost respect as I truly acknowledge what each of them brings into viAct. I strongly believe that viAct is what it is today only due to the concerted and combined efforts of each of its members, and therefore at viAct, we all are equals – no one is more or less important than the other. Secondly, my never-ending love for innovation and the urge to keep striving to use technology for the greater wellbeing of mankind has been another factor that I must say has definitely had a meaningful impact on my life and business.
How do you target new markets to sell your product/services?
Gary Ng: viAct’s Partnership Programme plays a crucial role in taking our product and solutions to new markets. It is an initiative wherein we partner with various agencies & resellers (the Channel Partners) and tech solution providers (the Tech Partners) who can promote viAct’s products and solutions and, in turn, unlock new streams of revenue and grow their businesses, thus ultimately building an ecosystem of construction technology solutions. Here, the partners promote viAct’s Construction Management Software and its various AI solutions and, in turn, unlock new streams of revenue and grow their businesses. This offers co-marketing opportunities that create a win-win situation for the partners and viAct. In this regard, we are currently focusing on partners from several regions across the globe, including China, the UK, the US, Japan, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Mexico, and Canada.
What is your hiring policy/process, and how do you retain your employees?
Gary Ng: Back then, in 2016, viAct was started by two individuals, and I feel really overwhelmed to say that today it has 30+ enthusiastic employees from all across the world and is still growing. Much of this owes to our proactive remote working culture, adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic. We hire the best staff from every nook and corner of the world and welcome talents with open arms regardless of their race, caste, class, gender, religion, age, disability, or nationality.
At viAct, we offer flexible working hours to our employees, allowing them to work while at the same time staying with their families and giving them enough time and attention. We try to ensure that the employees can maintain a proper balance between their work & home and not compromise one for the other.
How are you funding your growth?
Gary Ng: Back in the year 2021, we had received an angel investment of USD 2M from six world-class investors from China, the US, Australia, South East Asia & Hong Kong, namely: Alibaba Group, Artesian Capital Management, China Accelerator, SOSV, VECTR, and ParticleX. The funds received were basically oriented towards developing and improving our AI.
Currently, we are looking for strategic investors for Round A investment of USD 15M in order to strengthen our R&D further to improve our solutions and flourish so that they can cater to the growing need of the industry to adopt greater sustainability in their jobsite and thus help achieve the greater social responsibilities, such as achieving net-zero emissions, decarbonization, ESG and the like. This would allow us to expand from Asia to bigger markets like Europe, the US, UAE, and the UK.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Gary Ng: Talking about competitors, I do not consider competition because we are building an ESG-based marketplace in construction technology that is unique. But yes, there are big players in construction technology like OpenSpace, Newmatrix, and HoloBuilder, to name a few.
Now talking about the plan to stay in the game, I believe that the competitive advantage of our solution will help us stay in the game. Being one of the leading ConTech startups in Asia, viAct enjoys various competitive advantages:
- Pushing its technology further, viAct provides construction surveillance through “scenario-based vision intelligence” instead of just “computer vision.”
- viAct has developed a very simple, intuitive, ready-to-use, no code AI deployment model.
- Unlike other peers involved in post-processing monitoring, viAct is focused on real-time processing to prevent fatal accidents and drastic delays in project timelines on the spot.
- viAct has strong research backing. To date, it has published several research papers in journals of international repute, thus, making it the only ConTech startup to have the highest number of research paper publications.
- And the last but the most prominent difference is that while other big market players are dealing extensively in areas of photo documentation, progress documentation, safety solutions, or solutions for documentation and/or reporting issues; viAct is focusing on promoting holistic sustainability (Work Sustainability, Psychological Sustainability, Environmental Sustainability, Workforce Sustainability, and Economic Sustainability). Thus, viAct’s modules are not just focused on monitoring productivity or safety but rather on monitoring every construction site scenario.
What are your targeted focus areas for the coming years that you think would make your company stand out from the others in the ConTech Ecosystem?
Gary Ng: Undoubtedly, safety and productivity have always been at the core of our focus, but apart from these, ESG shall definitely be our prime focus area in the years to come. The reason behind this is that the ConTech ecosystem has a very uni-dimensional approach to date. As I have already stated in the previous answer, most big market players are dealing extensively in photo documentation, progress documentation, safety solutions, and so on, but none is focusing on holistic sustainability. In such a scenario, viAct strives to achieve ESG by focusing on five aspects of sustainability, namely:
- Work sustainability relates to ‘safety in the workplace.
- Psychological sustainability talks about ‘psychological safety among construction workers’ for making them feel safe and secure.
- Environmental sustainability talks about ‘making construction ecosystem an eco-friendly one.’
- Workforce sustainability talks about ‘increasing workforce productivity by indulging them in high ROI tasks.
- Economic sustainability talks about ‘making better economic planning in construction.’
Tell us a customer success story of yours.
Gary Ng: Although there are many success stories, one that I would like to share here would be with SOCAM. On the 18th of January 2022, SOCAM Development Limited signed the MOU with viAct that formalized the collaboration in adapting construction technologies to improve site safety while promoting ‘Construction 2.0’ among the Hong Kong construction industry. ‘Construction 2.0’ is an initiative by the HKSAR Government that sets the directions for construction transformation in achieving innovation, professionalization, and revitalization. With the signing of the MOU, SOCOM and viAct formally agreed to collaborate and adopt AI in construction site monitoring and actively apply construction digitalization to improve productivity and construction safety and develop green construction projects. The key collaboration areas include implementing ESG strategies and tactics by integrating and adopting technologies to build a human-and-social oriented strategic investment framework – bringing ESG considerations into the corporate decision-making model.
Your final thoughts?
Gary Ng: As W. Clement Stone has rightly said, “To become an expert achiever in any human activity, it takes practice… practice… practice.” So, I believe that viAct’s constant practice to reach the next big step in building an ESG-based construction technology marketplace would take us to the pinnacle of success.