“I didn’t know what I was going to do in Canada. I started reaching out to a few investment banks; I would have just done the same cookie-cutter thing. Around that time, I wanted to try something new.”
Alex Staniloff, born in Calgary, Western Canada, decided to get out of his hometown after studying business and finance at university. He moved to Asia, taking up an internship at a real estate company in Hong Kong. He soon fell in love with life in the East.
Settling into life in Hong Kong, he set up CHINO—a modern Asian-Mexican fusion restaurant—with an ex-executive chef from Nobu. Alex helped him on the business side.
Alex also started his own import-export company, supplying the Canadian hotel and home industry with furniture from southern China.
Now, after completing a full-time MBA at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), he’s joined groundbreaking mobile payments startup QFPay as an equity investor, driving the fintech firm’s global expansion.
QFPay serves over one million merchants in China, providing point-of-sale terminals that allow e-payments to be taken from smart devices; mobile payment services like Apple Pay and WeChat Pay in China. It’s processed over 60 billion RMB ($95 billion) in transactions to date.
Throughout his career, Alex has always had an MBA on his mind. Based in Hong Kong, he saw HKU’s 14-month, full-time MBA—ranked first in Asia for eight consecutive years by the Economist—as the perfect MBA destination; somewhere he could build his network and bolster his management skillset.
“I felt the brand name of HKU was strong internationally,” Alex explains. “I went to an MBA fair and the first time I met Sachin Tipnis—executive director of MBA programs at HKU and his team—they were incredibly warm and receptive.
“Just the way the HKU MBA team showed they cared about their students made choosing the University of Hong Kong a no-brainer for me.”
What stood out most for Alex was the HKU MBA’s Business Lab elective, which takes students through every stage of the startup process. Recent events have seen HKU Business Lab students collaborate with students from other top-ranked business schools in Hong Kong and the UK, exploring user experience (UX) design and integrating sustainability into early-stage startup projects.
During his MBA, Alex was part of the Business Lab’s winning team, working with a multinational group—from the UK, US, and India—to develop an innovative, Origami-inspired food packaging startup, designed to reduce food packaging waste Hong Kong.
“That was the best learning experience we had during the MBA,” he says. “Collaborating with a bunch of people from different backgrounds; constantly iterating and changing our idea; it really felt like a true startup scenario.”
Business Lab aside, Alex’s entrepreneurship classes with Dr. Yanfeng Zheng stood out. “He basically sat on a desk in front of us and we had amazing, open discussions for six hours straight,” he beams.
Through the MBA’s 14-month format—including a month in Beijing and Alex’s exchange semester at Fudan University in Shanghai—Alex was able to meet students from all over the world. “The real benefit came from the relationships I built and the confidence I gained to work through different business problems with different people,” he explains.
During the MBA, Alex’s goals changed. His two businesses pretty much ran themselves. At the University of Hong Kong, he started reaching out to contacts in the venture capital (VC) space in Hong Kong—that’s how he came to join QFPay
Now, based out of Hong Kong, he’s working to develop the business across Southeast Asia. “It’s an exciting space,” he says, “and I’m going to be expanding this business, for sure.”