Published 18 September 2017 Category: Compass Tips, Business, Insights, Entrepreneur, Startups

Female Entrepreneurship: Interview with Co-Founder of First Code Academy, Michelle Sun

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, from the failures and rejections to the long working hours, but for those who can persevere through the challenges, the benefits are worth it. Women, especially, should not be deterred from the risks of starting their own company. Growing research suggests that females tend to be more successful as entrepreneurs compared to men. A study found that 61% of women entrepreneurs expected their companies’ profit to increase compared to the average of 58% among all entrepreneurs.

With women being 45% of Hong Kong’s entrepreneurs, compared to the global average of 37%, it is clear that Hong Kong provides a favourable environment for women who want to start their own business. Also, the increasing number of international platforms for women entrepreneurs such as Female Entrepreneurs Worldwide and local meet up groups, proving that Hong Kong is a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurial women.

Michelle Sun, for one, has made a name for herself in the startup industry. She is the co-founder & CEO of First Code Academy, a coding school in Hong Kong for kids between ages 4-18. Born and raised in Hong Kong and an alumni of the University of Chicago, she has been named in Forbes’ Top 30 under 30 in Asia, among other accolades. We had the opportunity to ask Michelle some questions around her startup, the challenges she faced and the advice she has for other female entrepreneurs.     

Compass Offices: How did you start First Code Academy?

Michelle Sun: I started First Code Academy while I was working in Silicon Valley as an engineer, back in 2013. I stumbled upon the opportunity to teach coding to a group of middle school students as a volunteer, and was amazed by the way they picked up the coding concepts. I strongly believed that it was the literacy of the future, and decided to bring this back to my hometown in Hong Kong.

Compass Offices: If you could go back in time to when you were just starting First Code Academy, what would you tell yourself?  

Michelle Sun: I would tell myself to fail fast, and fail often and treat everything as a learning opportunity. Also, to start now, start small but think big. Lastly, find the best people to work with.

Compass Offices: What are 3 things every entrepreneur must have (skills, characteristics, etc)? 

Michelle Sun: The 3 most important trait I think every entrepreneur should have are grit, optimism and self-awareness. Grit to persist through the difficulty and work hard, optimism so you can see the bright side of challenges, and self-awareness to understand your inherent strengths and weaknesses and find people to help with your blind spots.

Compass Offices: What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

Michelle Sun: One challenge when I first started First Code Academy was building a team. I needed to work extra hard to prove to my team that as the leader, I was committed. Over time, results speak for itself. My advice for those struggling to build a team would to be patient and find the right talents.  

Compass Offices: Where do you see the future of Hong Kong’s entrepreneurship scene going?

Michelle Sun: Hong Kong’s entrepreneurship scene is growing quickly, and I see a future with more entrepreneurs in the city and more experienced entrepreneurs giving back to the new startups.

Working Environment

Compass Offices: What does your working environment look like and what working style best suits you?

Michelle Sun: I work in an open office space where I’m with the rest of the team. Our office is also our main campus in Hong Kong, so there are a lot of kids running around which makes the environment very vibrant and full of life. I’m most productive in the mornings and try to schedule meetings in the afternoon as much as possible.

Compass Offices: With your busy schedule, how do you stay organized? Do you use any tools?

Michelle Sun: I slot in everything on my calendar; if it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t happen. I like to use include Evernote, Slack, Trello, these tools help me stay on track.

Compass Offices: What tips would you give other entrepreneurs on how they can re-energize and be productive?

Michelle Sun: Manage your energy as well as your time. Understand what energizes you and where you get your energy from. It’s important to carve out time to relax and recharge.


Compass Offices: Lastly, what are your top 3 tips for aspiring women entrepreneurs in Hong Kong?

Michelle Sun:

  1. If you are underestimated, make it your advantage to be so.

  2. Find the best people in your network and invest in them.

  3. Don’t be afraid to think big.

The future of Hong Kong’s entrepreneurship scene is poised for breeding successful women entrepreneurs, like Michelle Sun.