From Music To Management: CEIBS MBA Sings New Tune With Digital Start-Up

Shanghai graduate launched digital marketing venture

Luis S Galan Lozano finished the two-year MBA at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in 2012. There, he founded his current company, 2 Open, a digital marketing agency that provides e-commerce business development.

He started out his professional career teaching the clarinet at a Spanish music school, and it was through music that he entered e-commerce; selling sheet music in London and Paris.

He went on to work for eBay where he won a scholarship to study for a Masters in Management of Information Systems and Technologies at IE Business School. Following that, he became head of digital development and operations at Spanish newspaper El Pais, working under leading media group PRISA.

It was then that the philosophical entrepreneur left Europe to take his chances in China.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?

For a while I wanted to be a musician. Although I was technically good and people liked what I played, I did not feel I was really doing something special. I embarked on a successful career in e-commerce and then reached a high position within PRISA. But I realized that I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. I wanted to develop and then manage new businesses.

What was the hardest thing about the application process?

Taking the GMAT. My father was a number-focused engineer, but I rebelled and focused my career on the arts. My dad told me: “You will never get the marks you want in that exam. Do not waste your time with it!” But I told him I was going to do it. He helped me and I passed the first time with far more marks than I needed!

Why did you choose to study at CEIBS in particular?

My wife is Chinese. I wanted to come to China, and CEIBS is by far its top school.

I loved the idea of taking a break from my high-pressure job in Madrid and returning to a small academic bubble.

How did you profit from your experience studying for an MBA?

For me, CEIBS was the platform from which all else began. Rather than wholly immersing myself in the academic side of the MBA, I used the opportunity to network around Shanghai, study Chinese and spend time with my family.

I did it my own way. Instead of an internship, I found a client to whom I sold my project. Then I founded my own company. I think it is great that the MBA experience can be lived in a variety of fruitful ways.

What is it like studying and working in China?

China is a mystery. The more we live here, the less we understand. For me, living in China is not really living but surviving; struggling. I love it. I hate it. It is a place where you can somehow love and enjoy the struggle. This is how crazy China is.

In Europe, people accept the status quo. Here in China, there is a feeling of speed, pressure, and an urgency to improve and catch up, to make up for lost time. This allows for social and professional opportunities that you do not get in Europe.

What advice do you have for MBAs looking to start their own company?

I can tell you that to go from freelancing to building a small service company comes with a huge level of risk. You need to enjoy living under huge pressure. I’ve suffered, my family’s suffered. I do not regret doing it. It’s crazy, but enjoyable.

What are your plans for the future?

For me, the future is tomorrow or in a week’s time. Ensuring the company survives — paying salaries and trying to satisfy clients — is the future. If we can keep doing so, the plan is to build up 2 Open into a hub of knowledge.

Being CEO of a start-up company is radically different to being a “real” CEO at a large corporation. I guess that is what I would like to probably do in another chapter of my life, if I have the chance to do so. But right now, I am totally committed to this work.

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