Clarence Ji: on the road to success

Clarence Ji

For fourth year Computer Science student Clarence Ji, the past year has been a whirlwind. He has been voted one of London’s top ten young entrepreneurs, won his second consecutive scholarship to Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) and played a key role in running King’s Tech Society’s popular Hackathon events. Besides all this, he has also found time to keep up with university work and gain a place on the King’s20 Accelerator programme at the King’s Entrepreneurship Institute.

You might think that Clarence is working at full capacity, but when we caught up with him to chat about life, London and his start up technology business, ViewLDN, we learned that for Clarence, this is just the beginning.

Tell us a bit about your work with King’s Entrepreneurship Institute. How has it helped your development?

I’d always thought about starting a business with my friends, we often said we should start a company together, but couldn’t come up with any good ideas. So I applied for the King’s20 accelerator programme with my app, ViewLDN. Initially I never thought I would get a place as I had no experience, I totally didn’t know how to start a company. But the panel were excited by my app, which I was developing as part of my university course, and I got a place.

Since then both my business and I have developed a lot. The app uses augmented reality (AR) to help tourists to find nearby shops, restaurants, and sites of historical interest. All you need to do is point your phone at buildings, for example the Shard or Bush House, and see interesting facts and the history of these buildings. It’s technical and futuristic and people find it exciting.

ViewLDN

You grew up in Harbin, China which is culturally quite different to the rest of the country, did your experiences there give you a different perspective on life?

Definitely. I don’t think I have a traditional Chinese family. Usually, the culture is for parents and even grandparents to push their kids to study endlessly. My parents however, were always taking me out to explore different cities and different things, which was really lucky for me.

In China, the education system is very exam focused, and I was never top of the class, as there were so many people competing for universities. My parents made the decision to send me to international school in Beijing to study for A Levels instead, and I really began to excel.

How have you found living in London so far?

In some ways, London is similar to Beijing. They are both big cities, and of course there is a subway in both. When I first arrived and got on the DLR, it felt exactly like home. But in London, there is so much to see and do – there is always a new place to visit with friends. I love just going out into the street to take photos, for example in Regents Park. I do a lot of cycling here as well.

You’ve won two scholarships to Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference with your app, what perspectives did you get on the tech industry in the US?

America is where all tech students want to go. Everybody wants an internship, which makes it very competitive. I met many American students, which gave me a great perspective on the American tech industry. For example, we queued from midnight to get into Apple’s keynote speech the following day – and there were thousands of people! It’s quite inspiring to see people so enthusiastic about technology.

I met people from so many different companies, I spoke to designers, engineers and even heads of departments at Apple. They gave me great tips for my work.

Tell us a bit about your involvement with King’s Tech Society and the HackLondon events.

Three years ago, King’s Tech started the hackathons – events for students to come along and spend 24 hours developing software and tech projects. The hackathons got people talking about King’s tech, and made people realise that this university is really good not just academically, but also practically, in terms of consumer technologies.

I did the Web Design jobs for HackLondon and HackKing’s, and got a really good response. For me, everything has to be just right. I am a perfectionist in all areas of my life – web design, apps, even my hair and clothes. I love to hear that people love my designs and ideas. I like making people happy in that way.

What’s next?

I’m still building up my skills, that’s why I want to pursue a PhD at King’s in computer science. I’m fascinated by the ways humans interact with computer systems and mobile devices – it will be amazing to research people’s relationships with technology. I think Augmented Reality is the future, I’m going to continue working on ViewLDN as well. I want to see people around the city using my app to navigate and learn about the world around them.

This is just the beginning, getting into the Apple conference or being a top ten entrepreneur under 30 is just the start – it reminds me that I have to go further from here.

>>Find out more about King’s Entrepreneurship Institute and the King’s20 accelerator programme here.