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The pressures on

Hong Kong has been a prime incubator of many entrepreneurs, with their success stories inspiring young people to try turning their dreams into reality and hopefully some real money.

Arion Maniatis, general manager of Colisa, hopes to continue that trend.

The company has acquired a novel, cuffless blood-pressure-monitoring technology developed at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The beat-to-beat QuickSense device allows for measurement of blood pressure from users' fingertips. Data can be saved, transferred to other devices, and displayed on a personal computer.

Maniatis said he senses a market for the product.

A lot of modern blood pressure monitors still require cuffs, but our product takes measurement simply by using the sensor, said Maniatis, who came to Hong Kong from Germany about five years ago after recognizing like many international entrepreneurs the great market potential in China.

With the economic development in China, the population is quite open to novelty. The European market is quite saturated in terms of heart monitoring products, he said.

Colisa currently has three investors. We have a manufacturing company, an international venture capital company, and a Hong Kong businessman who also works in the medical field, explained Maniatis, who is in charge of the firm's long-term strategy, business development and financial management. He received a master's degree in linguistics and economics from Johannes Gutenberg University, in Mainz, Germany, in 2003 before coming to Hong Kong, where he obtained an MBA from Chinese University three years later.

We are a spin-off of the Chinese University. Our medical device is the work of engineering students and professors at the school, Maniatis said.

Colisa is currently seeking regulatory approval for QuickSense.

It is difficult, Maniatis said, to start a business making medical devices.

There are many manufacturers and huge factories in China, but there are very few independent medical design houses that invent new medical technology. He added that unlike other electronic products like calculators or an MP3 player, when selling a medical device, we have to comply with all of those regulations to make sure that our product is safe for the public, and because of that, we cannot generate an income right away.

But Maniatis agrees that nothing is perfect.

Although this product [QuickSense] will make everything simple, there's a bit of a setback because we need to use the traditional way to measure blood pressure at the very beginning to get a standardized data of a person before proceeding to use the sensor, he said.

Very little effort has been made in modernizing a heart pressure monitoring device, and we want to bring it up to today's technology.

Maniatis admits that Colisa -- like many other start-ups -- is encountering negative cash flow at present.

Some businesses can start earning from day one, but with us, we have a huge hurdle in the beginning with the research and development. The R&D makes everything a bit more complicated, he said.

Nevertheless, he is not discouraged, recalling that his team won the 2005 Business Plan Competition hosted by the Young Entrepreneurs Development Council.

In winning this competition, we were able to have a bit of cash, and so we decided to use that to set up a company and we licensed the technology from the university, he said. As one of our investors is a manufacturer, we are able to use the factory to produce our product.

Maniatis recognized it would have been easy for an MBA graduate like himself to settle into a more stable corporate job.

All my classmates went into consulting or banking with all those well-paying jobs. I have thought of the alternative as well, but my team mates and I have already started up the company and I wanted to commit to this, he said.

You learn a lot about yourself when you start a business.

Maniatis considers himself to be conservative when it comes to investing. My investments are just in MPF and securities, but you need to develop an aggressive appetite when you start your own business, he noted.

Maniatis, who is in his 30s, said he developed an interest in starting a company to produce medical products from the time he was working for a venture capital firm in the early 2000s.

During my time at the venture capital company, my job was to look over and review several business plans sent to the company by others who were looking for investors, he recalled.

There were some really good plans which got me interested in starting my own company.

He conceded it is easy for investors to get excited about a new product, but the excitement often subsides over time.

It is about information management, you reduce the excitement at the beginning.

Don't oversell it.

Monday, May 5, 2008
Media Name: 
The Standard 英文虎報