by Zeng Yi
When Huachao Gong quietly sat down and greeted you in a modest way, you might find it hard to connect this amiable young man wearing a brown shirt to a successful young entrepreneur at first sight. He identifies himself as a black T-shirt lover and a man of action who truly lives his life. As the conversation went on, his philosophy behind his designs started to showcase his entrepreneurship.
Huachao Gong is the CEO of Luckey, a Chinese start-up focusing on smart hardware and algorithm innovation Gong launched in 2014. He is also an industrial designer, a shoo-in in designing competitions, a photography fanatic, a careful observer of life and a reckless dreamer. From his witty talks, it’s easy to get a glimpse of his self-mockery attitude towards life and work, his creativity, perseverance, boldness and his great vision of the future. He changes the stereotype of the so-called “beat generation” of the post-90s in China.
Luckey was founded in correspondence to Gong’s determination to turn his designs into tangible products and to realize his vision to turn the tide of “made in China” or even “copied by China” to “created in China.” In his pursuit, the first and most widely known attempt was the Luckey Nums Ultra-Thin Smart Keyboard, a 0.22mm-thick glass pane with a patented advanced software, which aimed to help users enter numbers with trackpad and interact with MacBook more efficiently. It brought Gong the “Best of Best” Award of the Reddot Design Award when he was a sophomore in college. The story of Nums began early with a toy camera in a lucky draw he won as a child. “That was the first prize of the lucky draw!” Till this day, Gong still seemed to be rather thrilled talking about this little toy camera. The camera cultivated the little boy’s love for photography, which led him to the photography course where he learned about the Reddot Design Award and decided to give it his best shot. “I felt so lucky about the toy camera. I mean that’s the first prize and also the seeds for my future vision. That’s why I named my company ‘Luckey’,” Gong said. But he was also quite sensible after winning this mega-prize. “The award is not an end but a start to incentivize me to bring the fruits of innovation and technology to more people,” Gong said. Since then, he has devoted himself to materializing his design, drawing 54 different drafts of the keyboard and testing for each draft’s functionality. After graduation, unyielding to the temptation of a high salary, he bore the pressure of starting a company to realize his dream. That was how Luckey came into public sight with the endorsement of the fifth round of funding .
Now, Nums has become a hit in various e-commerce platforms, bringing convenience and efficiency to users around the world. Gong has contributed to the great vision of “created in China”. But his grand vision does not stop here.
“Designers may also be the boss,” Gong said, putting himself as an entrepreneur dedicated to designing. “We need to think about the needs of the users instead of blindly pursuing technological breakthroughs. That’s where true innovation begins.” For Gong, it is the needs of the people from which a certain product is born. Hence, from the very beginning of his design career, Gong has been thinking about what inconveniences people may encounter and how he could resolve them. “It’s like picking different stones repeatedly and putting them back,” he said. However, this is only the beginning of innovation. To roll out an innovative Chinese brand and shake off the stereotype of being a copycat in the global market, Gong has also incorporated Chinese elements into his design. “We are not talking about concrete totems or images such as dragon or phoenix. We are talking about something intrinsic to the Chinese people, something that can truly represent the Chinese people,” Gong said. He seemed to have plenty to share. He cited examples of the color and structure of the Forbidden City, emphasizing that these elements satisfied the cultural and spiritual needs of people at that time. “While today, to integrate Chinese elements into the products, we need to extract the essence of traditional Chinese history and philosophy behind the patterns and apply it to solve the problems popping up in the modern society. To simply reproduce the patterns is merely another form of copy,”Gong said.
Gong also believed in corporate social responsibility. He talked about SDGs and Tesla’s electric cars and pointed out that e-vehicles, during their manufacturing and charging processes, would actually emit almost no less, if not more, carbon. “They are just playing tricks, shifting the emissions from the road to the factories,” he said. In his product designing process, he has always taken environmental factors into consideration. The cost-effective phosphor powder was once on the list of the printing materials of his glass keyboard. Due to its damage to the environment, Gong turned his eye to metal ink coating, which has proven to be the right choice. “Our glass keyboard is totally eco-friendly,” Gong said, smiling proudly. Furthermore, Gong has always shown concerns for vulnerable groups. For instance, his “maximize joy, minimize harm” Dustproof Pelican Cup provides a solution that makes drinking water easier for children suffering from cerebral palsy. “The children are really suffering and I want to do more,” he said determinedly, sharing his future plan to design masks for children with cleft lips.
Drawing from his experiences in design competitions and the inspirations he got through these, Gong believes that more competitions addressing innovation and social responsibility should be held to mobilize youths to view designing from a broader perspective and contribute to the global problems facing humankind. “That would be beneficial to the future of Chinese design industry,” he said.
About the Author
Zeng Yi is a journalist at SRP’s Writing and Interview Department.