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How You Can Use An MBA To Become An Entrepreneur

Noel Shih, Ryan Mann, and Simon Kung met and built their business together during their MBA. They say they couldn’t have done it without it


Mon Jun 17 2019

Some entrepreneurs have gone it alone. Jeff Bezos founded Amazon in his garage before turning it into a multibillion dollar global brand.

But having a strong team is key to the success of any business. Many entrepreneurs will tell you: there’s no one as important to them as their co-founders.

Noel Shih, Ryan Mann, and Simon Kung met during the flagship Business Lab elective on the MBA program at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), a three-month course which takes students through every step of the startup process, from idea conception to launch.

There, the three student co-founders developed the idea for 3beebox, a startup which they say is flying the flag for the next generation of consumer sampling, and provides market research data for companies looking to succeed in Hong Kong.

Rather than randomly handing out product samples on the street, companies which pay to be listed on 3beebox get their samples in the hands of targeted consumers, who are incentivized to take part in consumer trials with cash rewards.

Building a business from scratch


It was Noel, living in Canada and working as a sales analyst for PepsiCo, who originally had the idea to start his own business.

The marketing team at PepsiCo used a similar service to 3beebox. But when Noel returned home to Hong Kong for his MBA, he saw a gap in the market.

At the Business Lab, he met Ryan, an American with a background in shipping, and Simon, the team’s “finance guy”, who worked for HSBC before starting business school. Together, and with the support of seasoned Business Lab adjunct associate professor Pedro Eloy, they started developing the idea.

“You start the Lab with a skeleton of an idea. Then, every week you go through a different stage of development,” Ryan explains.

“You go through the legal aspects; how to deal with competition; advertising; funding. Then, at the end, you present your idea to a panel of successful entrepreneurs, investors, and people with sector-specific experience.

“It’s a step-by-step, how-to guide to launching a company.”

Through the Business Lab, Ryan says the team were connected with fellow entrepreneurs, mentors, and office space. The 3beebox website was built by one of their MBA classmates.

The team was selected as one of 18 finalists to compete in HKU’s Dreamcatchers competition for student entrepreneurs.

And, with support from the school, they managed to secure HK$600,000 ($77,000) from Cyberport, a government initiative to support new startups. The success rate for applying for Cyberport funding is around 15%.



©HKU Facebook

The Business Lab experience was not without challenges. 3beebox allows consumers to upload their receipts and turn them into cash—developing the technology behind the upload and verification process was tricky.

“But the most challenging thing is you need people to buy into your product,” Ryan explains. “It’s not easy being new and high risk. You need mentorship and to be able to meet people with different expertise. Then, if you’re offering something that provides value, that’s always going to help.”

Now, 3beebox has over 1,000 members. The team is focused on Hong Kong, but looking to expand across Asia—Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, potentially India.

Noel, Ryan, and Simon all have full-time jobs. They work on 3beebox early in the morning, late at night, on the weekends, and during their holidays. Noel takes charge of strategy, marketing, and general management. Ryan does sales and legal; Simon does finance and operations.

“We don’t get much sleep! But we have the same vision: to help brands break into new markets,” Ryan smiles.

The relationships the three MBA students formed at HKU has been key to their growth, Simon explains. “Without HKU MBA’s Business Lab, I could not meet my brilliant team-mates. And without people, you can’t succeed.”

Noel agrees. Before joining HKU, he says, 3beebox was just an idea; he didn’t know where to start. “Through the MBA program, I learned about marketing, finance, and accounting; I met talented individuals who helped me through the journey of starting a business.

“The idea I came in with was nothing close to what we’re doing right now.”

Student Reviews

The University of Hong Kong (HKU) - MBA Programmes HKU Business School




On Campus


Very good academic, caes course amazing, ccs are all amazing, professors are excellent, the architecture and infrastructure is splendid, people here are awesome, made some really nice friends, and teachers support us




On Campus

Diversified culture

I highly recommend The University of Hong Kong to students all around the world because of their diversified culture, teaching standards, and the people which make the learning experience better every day.




A place where you best understand local and international cultures

With plenty of experiences available, HKU provides a plenty of experience for me to explore our own and other countries culture. She has excellent teaching and research staffs in the Department of Ecology and Biodiversity. Time allocate to students are considered sufficient and staffs are ready to reach anytime. Besides academic, she has various subsidised programmes that allow students to explore. This credit should be given to GenEd (general education) Office to provide different interesting programmes. These ranged from guest speaker giving talks on China-Hong Kong relationship; Contemporary art in Asia; or holding mini forum on geopolitics. Most, if not all, of which are free of charge!




Life at HKU

Pursued the SHS degree at HKU, academic and clinical staff members were very devoted and passionate. The academic program is under constant reviews, staff members are open minded and willing to modify the program with regards to students' opinions. Career prospect is good. Uni life is fruitful, many different activities for students to choose. Great facilities supporting learning.




Student Life in HKU

As an Accounting and Finance year3 undergrad student in HKU, the university provides lots of opportunities for me to learn and explore my interests. You could join a wide variety of activities, like being an committee member of societies and joining hall activities. As for me, I chose to join the winter exchange programme, be a committee member, and did volunteering servic and had latrine construction and volunteer teaching in Ghana, Africa. I also organized lots of activities for societies and had lots of meetings with company representatives. As for school work, it is okay normally but definitely u got a lot busier during November and April. You got a lot more free time compared to CUHK and HKUST. And of course, this is considered as the most ‘international’ uni in HK in a way that I could make friends coming from different countries. Just wanna add, HKU has a good location for foodie as its near Central, Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui. For those who love night lifes dont miss this. I didnt speak of anything i dislike coz there isnt anything i dislike much, but if I do have to say, it is the hall life of many local students, such as having cheers at night and never sleeps that may disturb others.






I think it’s a great university that gives you a lot of opportunities in terms of academics as well as extracurricular activities. The education system is fairly westernized and the professors are good for the most part.




International, stratified and political

Adequate resources and very convenient campus with sufficient channels to expand your social and professional circle. Also politically active, and perhaps too biasedly so. Its law school is firmly established, with the longest history in Hong Kong. Practical and professional training, with a constant atmosphere of anxiety and competition that encourages a relatively focused and narrow vision of career outlook. Good range of extra curricular activities available.




Life in HKU

HKU provides students with lots of opportunities in multidisciplinary researches and experiences. This encourages students to widen their horizons and prepare for the future. The programme I attended organised both local and oversea field trips that allowed me to have the first hand experiences of relative aspects. It was very useful for my later career.





I am a graduate of the BSocSc programme several years ago. I appreciate that the programme provided a flexible choice of majors and minors. Even I was admitted into social sciences programme, I could explore various streams of studies in and out of the social sciences faculty, including global studies, human resources, politics, science and music. I did a double major in psychology and sociology. Among all learning experiences in lectures, tutorials, field trips…, I would say the internship experience was one of the most memorable part of my university life. The faculty offers a credit-bearing internship programme in which students can go to various NGOs to work on social issues, ranging from poverty, education to adjustment of ethnic minorities. Students can be placed locally or overseas, depending on placement quota, their personal preference and past experience. I went to a social service agency that serves adults who are intellectually challenged and have autism spectrum disorder. It was an eye-opening experience in observing how different professionals work together to provide training for those people and reflecting on how psychological knowledge could come into play. I was also able to gain some hands-on experience in leading an activity. There are more and more internship opportunities for university students. It is just another way to gain practical experience apart from applying for interns in government agencies or business companies, especially in organisations that would not openly recruit interns but only work with tertiary institutions. It should be noted that for some majors/courses, there are really a lot of people studying. When I was an undergraduate back then, we often expected a lecture with 100+ students and a tutorial with nearly 20 students. If you favour close student-teacher interaction in small classes, you may look into the enrolment of particular courses.