MBA Entrepreneurs: China's MBAs Are Launching Disruptive Technology Startups
Beijing’s Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business provides a platform for MBAs looking to take the leap into entrepreneurship
©CKGSB – Cindy Mi’s edtech startup is valued at $1.5 billion
China is a huge market for tech-savvy entrepreneurs. But breaking into business in China is tough. Knowing the language, the culture, and having a close network of contacts is key.
Before business school, Felicia Guo found running her own art gallery a challenge. She was on her own, managing employees and travelling frequently between China and her native Indonesia.
She decided to pursue the 14-month, full-time MBA program at Beijing’s Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB). There, she met her two current business partners, launched a new contemporary Chinese art gallery in Beijing, and co-founded an online platform for art collectors and investors.
“CKGSB was crucial for me in expanding to Beijing,” she says. “Running an art gallery, you need to know about more than art itself. Now, when I go to meetings with people from other industries, I know what they’re talking about—the MBA broadened my knowledge and gave me a different perspective.”
CKGSB has a history of supporting successful tech entrepreneurs—the school lists Alibaba founder Jack Ma among its elite alumni.
In August this year, CKGSB’s most successful MBA entrepreneur today, Cindy Mi, raised $200 million at a $1.5 billion valuation for her disruptive educational technology—edtech—company VIPKID, which matches Chinese students with North American tutors.
VIPKID has attracted investment from Tencent Holdings, Kobe Bryant’s Bryant & Stibel, and Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Capital. Cindy has signed up more than 20,000 teachers and 200,000 students to her platform to date.
After completing her MBA, she developed her startup in CKGSB’s Chuang Community, an incubator founded by CKGSB associate dean Liu Jing and a group of CKGSB alumni in 2015.
It was the power of CKGSB’s 10,000-strong alumni network—the school’s CEO and chairman-level alumni collectively lead one fifth of China’s most valuable brands—which drew UK entrepreneur Rory Bate-Williams to an MBA in China.
A serial entrepreneur, Rory’s startup exploits include e-commerce platforms, messaging apps, and mobile payment solutions. His latest London-based tech venture is a money-saving, energy-focused platform which auto-switches its users to the best fixed electricity and gas tariffs in the market.
Although Rory returned to the UK after his MBA, his close links to China remain.
“CKGSB opens doors for you,” he says. “Whenever I need help in China, I reach out to the school and I’m connected to relevant alumni almost immediately.”
Serbian entrepreneur Boris Nikolic came up with the idea for his clean technology—cleantech—startup during his MBA at CKGSB. Through an international MBA exchange at Michigan Ross in the US, he got the opportunity to develop the business out of Harvard’s Innovation Lab.
His startup—RENW—provides software connecting energy providers and consumers, to help providers stay ahead of consumer needs, and help consumers keep costs low.
“I chose China for my MBA because, 20 years from now, when I look back, I know I will be in a better position to understand world affairs,” Boris explains.
“The CKGSB MBA helped me discover the dream that I wanted to pursue,” he continues. “If it was not for the program’s entrepreneurial edge, I would not have founded my startup as it is.”
Read more stories about students, alumni and programmes at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB).
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