Ada Yip, Executive Director of Urban Spring

Reducing plastic bottle waste is Ada Yip’s aim with Urban Spring, a water dispenser business offering affordable clean water throughout Hong Kong.
What’s your story?
I left the banking industry three years ago and have been focussed on supporting social mission-driven startups since.  I designed and led an incubation program for social startups in 2014.  It was a rewarding experience as I worked with 10 startups very closely and gained an understanding of the challenges faced by founders. In 2015, I met an investor who invited me to be the CEO of a social startup called Urban Spring, whose mission is to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic bottles. Urban Spring aims to plant indoor and outdoor water dispensers across Hong Kong which offer clean and affordable drinking water in convenient locations.  We have developed a sound business model. We are in the process of engaging key stakeholders and developing relationships with early adopters. It is a challenging venture but it has been lots of fun.

What excites you most about your industry?
Many people are excited about the service offering of Urban Spring and are looking forward to seeing our water dispensers across Hong Kong.  There is a general concern about the negative impact of plastic and the small percentage of plastic waste being recycled. There is a lot of room for creativity to enable a new water drinking experience. Given the level of technology available, whether it is software e.g. personal data relating to smart city hardware or vending machines that provide safe and effective bottle cleaning.  This is an exciting challenge to influence people’s lifestyles and make a positive change on our environment at the same time.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was brought up in Hong Kong. I went to school in the UK when I was 16. I have worked in Toronto and Tokyo before but most of my career has been in Hong Kong.  Hong Kong is my home and I am committed to supporting the entrepreneurial community here. I wish to spend the rest of my life here.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong.  Things are generally very efficient and flexible here.  Of course I have complaints too, for example, people do not care enough about the details of customer service.  Hong Kong is home for me and I have a good business and personal support network.

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What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Take risks in your career.

Who inspires you?
Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, banker, economist and civil society leader who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for founding the Grameen Bank and pioneering the concepts of microcredit and microfinance.  I was lucky enough to meet him with a group of educators around 7 years ago. He was humble and communicated complex concepts in a simple way.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I have more to learn about the art of developing a branding strategy. The power of communicating a company’s purpose is tremendous, particular in the coming decades when the mindset and priorities of the generation below 25 is dramatically different from those above.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have played harder whilst I wasn’t studying or working. I would have read more fiction because I think it stimulates creativity.

How do you unwind?
An evening with food, wine, music and close friends whom I feel comfortable talking with or not talking at all.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
A remote Japanese village

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Art of the Start 2.0 by Guy Kawasaki. Even for established businesses or big corporations, reading this helps to keep businessmen and businesswomen on their toes and embrace their entrepreneurship spirit and practice it on a day to day basis.

Shameless plug for your business:
I want everyone to tell their friends and neighbors about Urban Spring and its sleek water dispenser, Well# which will be out in the market in Q2, 2016.  We are actively looking for customers who are interested to pioneer the water refill station in Hong Kong.

How can people connect with you?
Linked-in or email me at

Twitter handle?

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
CallumConnectsCallum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia.  He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries.  He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence.  A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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