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If Frank Ong’s Inkspire initiative takes off any further, he may have to publicly attribute his success to the Hamilton Street Railway buses.
“It started as an idea just outside the [Health Sciences] bus stop, waiting for the really slow Hamilton buses,” said Ong, laughing.
So you could argue that, if the HSR came more frequently, InkSpire might never have happened.
It’s a simple idea with a clean presentation: an online publishing platform for young individuals to share and explore topics in the world relating to social issues, the sciences and the arts.
Ong realized that many of the outlets he and his friends on current and global issues were turning to for information were not targeted for their demographic.
“Sometimes they’re not too relevant to young people today,” he said. “If I talk about … politics, you have a lot of old people in politics, you don’t have a strong youth voice in there.”
“A lot of the issues that they’ll be discussing are for an older generation.”
Ong himself is a Master’s student in Medical Sciences at McMaster. His passion for this venture is continuing to grow along with the success it’s seen so far.
Only launched in January, the initiative has seen a lot of support and success on platforms like Kickstarter already. In the span of a month, InkSpire managed to raise over $10,000 on Kickstarter, and the project recently received an endorsement on Kickstarter’s home page as a “project we love.” Ong explained that the majority of the budget will be going to help market the platform in Ontario, but they’ve received funding from all over the world, including places like the Netherlands and India.
A lot of the work on the infrastructure of the website has also come free of charge, an amount that Ong estimates would’ve otherwise cost far beyond the $10,000 they raised.
“Our CTO is covering the website platform pro bono,” he said. “She worked about 400 hours from September to January, which was our launch.”
And who would be so generous with their time?
“Actually, my sister,” Ong explained, laughing again. “So that’s $25,000, in kind support, which is pretty good.”
Frank Ong is one of three co-founders of InkSpire, along with his sister, Joanna Ong, and Ellier Leng. While it’s difficult to evaluate just how much work has gone into their platform so far, the team at InkSpire have spent a tireless amount of time trying to bring this project to life.
“It’s a great experience. I now have experience in marketing, experience in finance, budget planning, legal aspects, anything in starting a start-up,” he said.
He’s ultimately hoping it’s a platform that youth — defined as individuals ranging from 14-29 — will identify with and even come to contribute to it over time.
As he put it, “as long as you have a context behind it,” the platform is open to all kinds of submissions that could range from traditional articles to videos to more artistic contributions like photos.”
Still in its nascent stages, InkSpire’s first topic of the month is mental health, and they’ve had a variety of contributors from both the featured organization and members of the InkSpire team. Although the initiative is still young, Ong has high hopes for where the project will end up.