CUHK Professor Helps Students Get Into China’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Scene

Uber connected Professor Chau uses case studies of firms that flopped in his venture capital and private equity classes

Chinese University of Hong Kong's  Professor Wilton Chau not only teaches students about private equity and venture capital, he also helps them gaining practical work experience in those industries.

Prof Chau has been in the VC field for 26 years and has managed portfolios in several Asian countries. He’s successfully completed investment projects ranging from a US$200,000 bioinformatics investment to a US$28 billion infrastructure project.

He also manages a seed fund called QLeap Asia which manages a venture capital fund mainly for Asian seed and early-stage projects.

Additionally, Professor Chau is the lead consultant to the Incu-Tech Programme of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park, and the founding Vice Chairman of the Hong Kong Business Angel Network.

Professor Chau has been lecturing for nearly two years because he wants to transfer some of the knowledge and experience he’s gained, including his personal network, to students.

We caught up with the busy professor who shuttles between his home in Singapore and work in Hong Kong to learn about some of the projects students have worked on during the year. 

What do students like most about the course?
They like the practical stuff. MBA courses can be quite theory-based but our students are quite experienced, with some of them having up to 10 years of experience, and so they want to know how the knowledge is applied.

I try to teach students using cases from real projects I’ve worked on. VC as an area has more failures than success and I tend to use cases of failures because I believe they will learn more from them. They compare their initial expectations to the actual outcome and learn from the logic of what happened.

Can you give us some examples of real life investment projects that students have worked on?
We have a lot of opportunities for students to get involved. By the end of September, we will have a group of technopreneurs coming from Hawaii to visit potential investors.

I have an arrangement with a group of ten to 15 investors to get students involved, bringing them around the companies individually to meet and discuss. We also have events to match investmentment funds with start-ups that students can get involved in.

I’m the lead adviser to Science Park and Vice Chairman of the Hong Kong Angel Network so I get students involved when matching investors with entrepreneurs. Student participation in these events allows them to learn how investors ask questions, and deal with other concerns.

There are also opportunities to assign students to help on tech ventures, with preparing presentations and planning negotiation strategies. After learning on the course students can then join VC and PE firms, sometimes through internships, and learn from there onwards.

What are some of the companies that students have done internships with?
Students have gained both internship and employment opportunities through the course. My VC and PE course is in the summer term of the MBA programme and in Hong Kong, companies recruit summer interns in May and June. But even though the course starts in July and August, some students still get internships.

Some of the companies students have done internships with are Orion Partners, Sequoia Capital - a famous US VC firm, Sumitomo, and Citi Bank. There are also other Chinese companies and a company specialized in green tech investment. Next year we’re starting the course in April and May so that more students will have a chance to get an internship.

Roughly how many students go on to work in the VC world after taking this course?
Last year four to six students entered the VC world through the connections they made with companies on the course. The Sumitomo guy is now an investment manager, the lady at Sequoia is still there, the guy who was with the Chinese VC firm was recruited as a part-time investment manager but he recently resigned. His boss called me the other day to tell me.

We have one student who started a PE firm, but of course she’s from a rich family so she has the resources.

Does this mean that if I come to CUHK, you can get me a great role in a VC or PE firm?
No, it's you who will do the work. I can help to open doors but of course you are the one who will have to perform well at the interviews.

Can you help a student who has a good business idea get started?
Tentatively yes. If the idea is tech related, I can at least get them into the Science Park.

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