The Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) – Singapore’s Settin’ up Franchises…

14 08 2013

… and I went to check it out (with Yan Zhihua and company from Z.H. STUDIO) and came away very, very impressed.



SIP isn’t what I expected. Think about that word… Industrial Park. Now imagine one in Suzhou, one of China’s major industrial cities. What are you picturing?

If you’re like me, you’re probably picturing warehouses… refineries… manufacturing plants… big, belching smokestacks. Not exactly a fun place to spend the afternoon. You probably weren’t thinking of this:


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Why China Will Eat Your IT Company For Lunch: The Kingdom of Mao Bell, Two Decades Later

21 11 2012

“It works in the West, the Chinese must want my service!”


“I can outperform a Chinese competitor. I am smarter than they are and have more money.”


“My product is globally accepted, the government won’t have a problem.”

Famous last words, says Hult guest professor and e-business entrepreneur Toine Rooijmans. The Chinese ecommerce space is famously littered with the corpses of foreign companies that thought they had it figured out, only to find themselves a smear on the pavement of China’s crowded information superhighway. And we’re not talking about small-time entrepreneurs here- eBay, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Groupon and, most notoriously, Google, have all found themselves shut out of- or crushed by- the Chinese market.

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Shanghai Entrepreneurs: Shaun Rein

6 11 2012

“The key to building a great company is finding great people.”

Shaun Rein, Managing Director of the China Market Research Group (CMR), has built a controversial reputation and a competitive consulting firm in China. CMR, despite being only seven years old and led by a man in his early thirties with no prior consulting experience, manages to beat top international consulting firms like Bain and McKinsey for due diligence and market research projects in China. The company has become recognized for it’s street-level expertise and thorough (if sometimes contrarian) approach to a frequently opaque and baffling market.

I first interviewed Rein last winter, when he was promoting his book, The End of Cheap China (you can view the interview here). This time I visited him in his office overlooking Lujiazui Park in Pudong, where we sat down for a conversation about his experiences as an entrepreneur in Shanghai, developing a consulting practice, and the ins and outs of doing business in China. Read the rest of this entry »

China Doesn’t Want You

2 11 2012

To my fellow Hult students, and anyone else in a business program who aspires to come to China:

It’s not easy here.

Bloomberg Businessweek’s article “Looking to Get Ahead? China Doesn’t Want You” summarizes just how difficult it can be for aspiring entrepreneurs and young professionals in China, from non-Chinese backgrounds. Between legal hurdles, linguistic challenges, the saturation of most Chinese markets, the slowing economy, and a general anti-foreign prejudice, China can be a hard place to “make it”, and many MBAs and MBA students who came here expecting to become investment bankers, expat managers, or run a start-up straight out of the gate are often disappointed.

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Hult: Disruptive, Entrepreneurial Innovator

23 10 2012

Came across this article in Forbes regarding Hult from Giovanni Rodriguez, who recently guest-lectured at the San Francisco campus:

Hult Breeds Disruption in the MBA Market

Seems that Mr. Rodriguez understood what Hult is about:

“Walk onto one of the campuses and you will be struck by the physical elements.  Open, clean, and driven by the most advanced ideas in work/leisure space that first inspired companies like Starbucks and, later, workplaces like Facebook.   Long desks, where people sit side-by-side (instead of opposite one other).  Classrooms in a mostly crescent formation, adding a light touch of theatricality (just enough) to learning and teaching.  Administrative offices behind clear glass and accessible to anyone. The faculty member who invited me to speak introduced me to the Dean within minutes after our class.”

Some think that these qualities are a bug, rather than a feature… yet I beg to differ. Business schools need to adapt to reflect the modern workplace; transparency (quite literally in Hult’s glass-walled case), flattened hierarchies, fast-moving ad-hoc teams rather than traditional establishment organizations- these are characteristics that are all reflected in Hult’s 21st-century approach to B-school.

“But third is the less obvious yet-more-important message that the world of business happens outside the four walls of any school. MBA programs have struggled with their reputation for breeding entrepreneurs; they are better known for — and perhaps more capable of — breeding managers.  And with Hult’s dedication to social entrepreneurship, the school may be positioning itself to serve a new market for business students.”

Business schools have traditionally been “management” schools, and management theorists like Peter Drucker (all due respect to the brilliant man; Post-Capitalist Society is a book that never ceases to amaze me in it’s precognition) often pointed out that there’s little difference, really, between public administration and business administration. But there’s a lot more to business than administration, and even the nature of administration has been changing greatly in recent years. Today, your boss might not be down the hall- he might be sitting in a café or apartment in another country. Your co-workers might be at a desk next to you- or on the other side of the planet. You’re not going to work in the same function for the next decade; you might not even work the same function from day-to-day. This is the new reality

Some critics of business schools don’t think them suitable to entrepreneurship at all; b-school critic Josh Kaufman being a key example. Kaufman points out, rightly, that business school is often a costly investment, and not even necessary for would-be entrepreneurs. To some extent, I completely agree with him. It is expensive. Many business schools do teach models and curricula that aren’t helpful to entrepreneurs; and, lastly, there are plenty of businesses that you can easily start by yourself, out of your home, with no credentials at all- for which a business education wouldn’t be an asset at all.

On the other hand, however, losing your shirt with a business that could have otherwise succeeded had you had a balanced education in entrepreneurship is pretty costly, too. Having ready access to a network of fellow entrepreneurs who are currently devoting all their efforts to their future career, being able to take a year to just develop your skills in a conducive setting where everyone shares your goals… these are the sort of things that can make the difference between success and failure, and change your career for the rest of your life.

There’s definitely a case to be made for entrepreneurship education. Over the course of the coming year, I’ll be talking to entrepreneurs at Hult and beyond, and hope to tell you more here.