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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Auditing your Time

30 10 2012

I’ve got a problem.

In one month, I’m scheduled to take the Chartered Financial Analyst Level 1 exam. In case you’re not familiar with them, the CFA exams are reputed to be the most difficult exams in the finance field, requiring a mastery of a vast amount of material across several disciplines, including:

-Accounting & Financial Statement Analysis


-Securities (Equity and Fixed Income)

-Portfolio Management



-Technical Analysis

-Quantitative Analysis

-Alternative Investments


… and a dozen things I’m sure I’m forgetting.

The pass rate is around 40%.

I’m only halfway through the curriculum.

It’s time for an audit… a time audit.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Seven Rotations – October 17th, 2012

18 10 2012

(A day late, unfortunately, but I was tired last night and needed a rest.)

Busy week, as usual. Just finished up the “Toolbox” module at Hult, which consists of preliminary workshops and classes to get everyone on the same page. The Hult MIB and MBA programs being as diverse as they are, they don’t only attract people with a variety of different nationalities, they attract people with vastly different educational backgrounds. There are many business majors, economists and accountants in my class- but there are also scientists, engineers, doctors, Chinese literature students, English teachers- and even one lonely political science major-cum-researcher-cum-administrator-cum-desk manager-cum-teacher-cum-journalist-cum-entrepreneur. So, obviously, not every class could be interesting and enlightening for every student. Those with finance and accounting backgrounds found the “accounting boot camp” extremely basic; but the class also contained students who had never seen a balance sheet. I’d never taken an accounting class before, but my father taught me to read a financial statement and do basic bookkeeping when I was very young, so there wasn’t much that was new for me. Though I understand and support the principle- the other classes won’t make sense unless you have the foundation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Seven Rotations – October 10th, 2012

10 10 2012

(Seven Rotations is my “week in review”/narrative link dump. I’m going to try to post it every Wednesday- we’ll see how that goes.)

National Day break? What National Day break? While others tried to get out of Shanghai; I decided to stay in- after all, it seems like a bad idea to travel when a billion other people have the same idea. (EXPAT PROTIP: If you want to travel during a holiday, leave the country.)

Read the rest of this entry »

From NoPo to Dapuqiao, Part I: It Usually Begins with James Fallows

1 10 2012

“So, why did you move to China?”

“What made you come to China?”

“Why did you decide to come to Shanghai?”

I’ve heard numerous other variations on this same question, but they’ve all received roughly the same answer: I wanted to know just what was going on over here. I didn’t study China in college. I didn’t know a word of Chinese. I could barely even eat with chopsticks.

But after that fateful June day when I picked up an issue of The Atlantic at a Barnes & Noble in a mall in Portland, Oregon, I knew I had to come here. I knew I was going to move to China.

Read the rest of this entry »