Brit Andrew Primrose is studying for an MBA at HKUST. He hopes to use his MBA to build the skills necessary to start his own business and meet potential business partners.
It seems his experience of an MBA has done exactly that: Andrew is founding partner of the Hong Kong internet start-up Refer.me, a social recommendations site. We caught up with the president of the Entrepreneur’s Club last month to find out about guest speakers such as fashion and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, and opportunities for entrepreneurs in Asia's booming markets.
What is your club’s main aim this year?
To encourage entrepreneurship within our class and the wider university, especially through helping our members to explore and develop their ideas within the supportive environment of an MBA.
Who was the most exciting speaker you had this year?
Jimmy Lai (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Lai), an inspirational and impressive businessman who remains frank and direct in sharing his beliefs and views.
Why did you decide to do an MBA?
To learn and improve the skills necessary to start my own business and to find potential business partners.
Who is the most successful alum you have had from your club?
The Club has only been running for a few years, but I'd have to say Terry Tsang or Jered Stoeher. Both are now running their own businesses in HK and Singapore respectively.
What do you think is the key to entrepreneurial success?
The patience, support and encouragement of the people around you and the perseverance in yourself to drive the business.
What area of business do you think is best to start up as an entrepreneur at the moment?
Retirement or health care for the elderly - especially in countries like China with a massive trend shifting the population demographic into the sector where that will be required.
Is it true that in an open capitalist market, funds will always be available for good projects?
No, it's not always true. It depends a lot on luck, personal circumstances, opportunities and other factors, especially for the initial funding.
Angel investors fund people not projects, it's only when you get to the VC level that there is a structured logical process to compare projects, so for the first round of funding it's definitely not the case that the best projects will always get funded.
Why do entrepreneurs start their own businesses, when they know that 90% of new businesses fail within three years?
I think the largest motivation is the chance to implement your ideas, test them on the market and decide how to do things. There are enormously successful examples of people who have made it, and that provides some shining examples of how it can all go right, but I think the biggest motivator is the chance to be in control and do things how you think they should be done.
Yes, most new businesses will fail, but in the process you can learn, develop, grow and have fun. Don't underestimate what a difference it can make to your quality of life if you can actually create and control a positive work environment and team - the best start-ups get a lot of mileage out of providing a positive working environment.
What limitations does a large public sector in the economy place on entrepreneurial activity?
People can still be entrepreneurial within a large company or the public sector, the term 'intrapreneur' is often used for these situations - it's basically taking the initiative to try and improve something, and that should be encouraged.
That being said, an economy with a large public sector often requires high taxation and significant job security - if that makes it expensive to start a new business, and / or difficult to hire staff and expand / contract as your business changes, then the context can hamper new businesses.
The other way to see the situation is that large public sectors actually create more opportunities for entrepreneurs. Whereas a large company might be encumbered by its organization, we are small and agile companies that can reach specific objectives quickly. Entrepreneurs can fulfill lots of gaps in the public sector that a large company cannot.