In just three years, the cross-border e-commerce shipping service had grown to be one of the top three companies in Hong Kong. Now, they ship worldwide with warehouses across 11 countries.

Founder Spotlight of Buyandship: Sheldon Li

Cross-border shipping had many issues that needed to be tackled such as lack of delivery safety, high import costs, and huge price differences across borders. In this Founders Spotlight, we will highlight the founder, Sheldon Li, and how Buyandship decided to solve this complex issue:

  • Founding Buyandship - identifying inefficiencies in the market and creating new solutions
  • Becoming the "global taobao" - shipping worldwide and changing import laws 
  • Finding your USP - Buyandship differentiates itself from the rest of the service providers in the market by generating content for consumers. 

The Company 

In 2018, Headline Asia invested in Buyandship, a cross-border e-commerce shipping service based in Hong Kong, operating collection and export warehouses in 11 different countries, such as South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, China, USA, UK, Canada, Italy, Australia, and Thailand. 

Buyandship was founded in 2014, with the goal of empowering customers with an easy and affordable way to buy overseas products. Sheldon and his team have steered Buyandship to become a top player in Hong Kong in just three years. Though the journey to success had its share of challenges, Sheldon attributes the company's resilience to teamwork and unwavering belief among the co-founders and teammates. 

Buyandship logo

The Genius behind the company

Advised not to become an entrepreneur by his father, who knew the difficulties of being one, Sheldon still ended up becoming one at the age of 24 and founding three successful businesses. Guess he had a knack for it. 

In life, Sheldon prioritizes his values "Focus and priority”, he tells us it's crucial as an entrepreneur to stay focused and prioritize what truly matters. 

“If something doesn't align with our priorities or contribute to our goals, we must make the effort to walk away from it. By staying focused and prioritizing wisely, we can make the most of our time and energy in pursuit of what truly matters to us.” 
We asked Sheldon what he most frequently uses his own service for: “Everything, from Japanese snacks and ramen to skincare products for my wife”. Beyond the boardroom, Sheldon enjoys time with family and friends, a good conversation with good wine or a lively karaoke session. 



  1. Sheldon, can you share a bit about your personal journey? What led you to become an entrepreneur, and what were some early experiences that shaped your spirit?

My father is an entrepreneur. I was advised not to become one. My father described it as the toughest job in the world. Because you have to take responsibility for every person in the organization, if a staff member makes a mistake, it’s the owner’s responsibility. He told me stories about the first 2 years of his business, he had to go out every month to his family and friends to borrow money, just to keep up with paying salaries. The amount of anxiety and stress was unimaginable. 

Eventually, I still ended up becoming an entrepreneur. I started my first business at 24 years old when I turned a department of my father’s business into a standalone business. This department had existed for 10 years, losing money and struggling for a breakthrough. It was tough to change how people thought because they had been doing things the same way for so long. I decided to rebuild this department into a standalone business, starting over with new people and cofounders. We looked closely at the market, what we were good at, and not so good at. We reached out and built a network of industry experts, and made a better product. We turned the company profitable after 18 months and our company got 40 times bigger after 4 years, and we sold it for a good profit. Ever since, I became obsessed with identifying inefficiencies in the market and creating new solutions.

  1. You've founded three successful companies; that's an impressive feat. What drives your entrepreneurial spirit, and how do you manage to stay motivated even when faced with challenges?

My curiosity and desire to solve problems led me to start a business. My responsibility to my partners, shareholders, and team keeps me motivated and resilient. I can envision the path to becoming the best in the market. I just need to continue learning and working closely with our partners to make it happen. 

  1. Being named "Young Entrepreneur of the Year" by Sing Tao Newspaper Group in 2019 is quite an honor. How did this recognition impact your journey as a founder, and what does it represent for you personally?

I was flattered as I believe the recognition belongs to every member of the company who helped us with the achievements. There’s no one action or one person that could make a meaningful impact.

It's an accumulation of small achievements by many people. 

  1. Can you share how you met Headline and what your experience has been working with us?

A friend introduced me to Akio Tanaka when we were seeking funds for our project. Akio had firsthand experience with the challenges faced by customers in the industry, which gave him a deep understanding. We were thankful that Akio believed in our potential for growth. Since then, we have been collaborating closely with Headline. Headline has helped us open doors to new business opportunities and supported our country’s expansion efforts. Akio has sat in meetings with us as our translator, he is more than a financial investor and willing to build the business with the founders. We are also grateful to Headline for their understanding during difficult times, as they stood by us and supported us.

  1. Your father's entrepreneurial journey in the courier industry clearly had an impact on your own path. Could you tell us about a valuable lesson you learned from him that has stuck with you throughout your career?

“A leader must take ultimate responsibility for the decisions and actions of their team or organization.” I learned that as a business owner, I am responsible for the livelihood of all our employees, including their families. To support them in having a better life, the profitability of the company is crucial. Profit comes from creating value in society rather than squeezing our employees. This became one of my drives to build a better business.

“People expect a shipping company to not mess up. But just not messing up doesn't make the company great. It is how a company handles their mistakes that stands out as a premium service provider.”

“The leader must be the best salesperson in the company.”

Buyandship Warehouse

  1. Social commerce is part of Buyandship's approach. How does your company engage with its community of users, how important is their feedback in shaping your services, and is there a plan to evolve the platform? 

The key differentiation between buyandship and other service providers is content. While others promote the benefit of their service, Buyandship promotes what to buy. Content creates desire to purchase, and we monetize the transaction through our service. We started with writing advertorial based on our transaction data, and evolved to user generated content in our community. UGC is more scalable and authentic compared to advertorial, hence creating more shopping desire. Our app bridges this desire into an easy purchase experience to boost conversion. We are currently developing an AI application to help consumers find the best deal in the world. The roadmap starts from buyandship telling you where to find the best deal, to consumers telling each other, and eventually AI screening the world for you. Finally, Buyandship makes cross border shopping experience as easy as shopping locally. 

  1. Buyandship has expanded its presence across 11 countries and regions. What were some key challenges and learnings you encountered during this expansion journey, and how has it shaped your company's approach to international markets? 

It takes us as fast as 1 month to launch a market by localizing our platform and setting up logistics partnerships. The winning formula lies on our capability to grow the user base in this new market. Throughout our journey, we have tried different approaches which include setting up local offices, running remotely, or JV. We find that the most successful formula is venture building with Headline and its local family network. It’s a similar setup as JV but it has a clear exit mechanism which ensures long term alignment and creates win-win results. 

  1. What does the future hold for you and Buyandship? Are there any exciting projects or developments on the horizon that you can give us a sneak peek into?

Our AI engine product has the potential to revolutionize the global e-commerce market and completely transform the way people shop. We aim to become the default shopping platform for consumers, the very first place they turn to whenever they want to purchase anything.

As we continue to grow and solve more consumer problems, our vision becomes clearer. 

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*This article was edited for clarity.