Browsing through Google Playstore, in the Sports category, one would find the number one on the Top Free App list is the ‘JomRun’ app. With its literal meaning “let’s run”, the app was created and innovated by a 23-year-old entrepreneur, Chang Yi Hern to encourage and motivate Malaysians to run.
Inspired by PokemonGo
Hailing from Johor Bahru, Chang Yi Hern’s business acumen was inspired by his father, who is an accountant. Growing up, Yi Hern was always involved in sports and running.
“In secondary school, I realised that aside from being passionate in running, I was also excelling in academics. From there, I set a goal for myself to attend Oxford University,” said the ambitious young man.
After completing his Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia, Yi Hern attended a local college and completed his A-Levels with 4 A*s. “The hard work and studying had paid off, and with my A-Levels result, I applied for Oxford University and thankfully I was accepted on the Simon and June Li undergraduate scholarship in Oxford.”
With his interest being Mathematics and Physics, Yi Hern pursued his Master of Engineering degree in Engineering Science, under the Software, Information and Biomedical Engineering, focusing on solar power in 2014.
However, his passion to be an entrepreneur soared — and during his final year in Oxford University, he dropped out. “I had achieved much of what many people hope to and it seemed that job security would follow. However, I was unsure if an engineering career or a corporate position, no matter how well-paying it is, was what I truly wanted because I was still very passionate about starting my own business.”
During his internships with major Malaysian investment banks, Yi Hern had many learning opportunities and through these experiences, he began to take notice of his managers interacting and consulting with clients.
“I observed both the roles of client and consultant. Ultimately, due to my passion to become an entrepreneur in my own right, I decided that I preferred taking on the role of client,” he said.
Albeit his decisions to be an entrepreneur, Yi Hern still received his BA in Engineering Science from Oxford University.
The creation of JomRun
According to Yi Hern, JomRun started as an after-school project during his time in Oxford. “My goal was to create an app that can motivate people to take up running as a healthy habit.”
He added that when JomRun was first launched, the app managed to achieve 2000 downloads and two months after the launch, JomRun secured a RM50,000 investment from Sunway iLabs and Nexea Angels.
Aside from that, through his blood, sweat and tears working odd jobs prior, Yi Hern managed to saved up and invest RM 100,000 in JomRun.
Growing together with the app, Yi Hern admitted that at the time, he lacked business senses and experience. During the time, the capital for the app was decreasing rapidly.
“That was when I decided to partner with marathon and event organisers to sell tickets on JomRun, thus creating a stream of revenue for the company through ticket sales.”
From these ups and downs in the last 2 and a half years, Yi Hern said he had learned a lot as a young entrepreneur. “I learned that in order to convince people to invest in your company, there need to be an element of reassurance that investors need in terms of returns and value.”
He also learned a higher level of accountability and that forming partnerships and connections are time-consuming but very important for the success of a business.
Through JomRun, runners can track the distance that they have achieved while collecting redeemable points with every kilometre covered. Runners will then be able to use these points to redeem products or services from JomRun’s partners.
Apart from that, avid runners will also be able to browse through and register for marathons happening throughout Malaysia. The app hosts an average of 150 sporting events every month and Malaysians are able to sign up for the events through the app. By hosting these events, JomRun aims to create an ever-growing community passionate about running, and at the same time maintaining their healthy lifestyles.
The app was inspired by the popular 2018 mobile game PokemonGo where Yi Hern noticed Malaysians spent more time outdoors because of it. “The success of PokemonGo motivated people to become active which led me to create JomRun to inspire my countrymen to lead a healthier lifestyle,” he said.
When asked on the importance of exercise, Yi Hern answered that exercising is a significant factor in staying healthy, both physically and mentally. “Keeping fit through regular exercise helps reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases like heart diseases, diabetes, and kidney diseases among others. Mentally, regular exercise helps with stress management and our overall well-being.”
All in all, Yi Hern shared that by being physically active, the brain releases chemicals-endorphins, which makes people feel good and ready to better solve day-to-day problems.
Moving forward, Yi Hern foresees a regional expansion for JomRun to make a positive impact in the lives of Southeast Asians. Observing lives across the seas, Yi Hern said that Southeast Asia is an emerging market, where the economic growth and the quality of life are improving gradually.
At the moment, JomRun has expanded its wings to Indonesia. Yi Hern also hopes that in the future, when time is right, JomRun will make its presence in Brunei and Cambodia.