MBA Students Explore Entrepreneurship and Innovation in China

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Georgetown McDonough MBA students spent a week-long break traveling domestically and internationally to network and learn about specific industries through career treks. In October, a group of 10 students headed to Shanghai to explore China’s business environment for foreign entrepreneurs. 

They met with representatives from Alibaba Innovation Center, startup incubator XNode, Ogilvy Shanghai, the government’s new Free Trade Zone, and ELG, a foreign-owned social enterprise that helps children with special needs. Also, the students had the opportunity to network with alumni in China and to speak with prospective students about their Georgetown McDonough experience.

This first career trek to Asia was co-led by Andrew Buran (MBA’18), Jeanine Buzali (MBA’18), and Kris Yang (MBA’18), who had worked in China prior to business school and wanted to share a true China expat experience with other classmates.

The Chinese Environment for Entrepreneurs

The students met with several incubators and learned in-depth about the Chinese government’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship.

“It is an interesting time for business in China. The government is raising the standards and tightening regulations for foreign companies,” said Buzali, who also is president of Georgetown McDonough’s Emerging Markets Network (new window). “They want to shift from manufacturing to innovation and technology, so incubators and entrepreneurial communities have popped up everywhere in recent years.”

The group visited the Pilot Free Trade Zone in Shanghai, a special jurisdiction for import/export and foreign businesses in China, tasked with bringing in foreign direct investments and providing favorable subsidies, as well as tax and regulatory policies for foreign businesses.

“We visited the Free Trade Zone incubator, bonded warehouse, and port while hearing about the different policy initiatives China is using to stimulate foreign direct investment and the new direction of their economic policy,” Buran said.

Yang, who has a strong interest in technology startups and is the president of the school’s Greater China Business Association (new window), enjoyed the visit to Alibaba’s Innovation Center the most.

“We learned that the incubator is co-sponsored by Alibaba and the local government,” said Yang. “Alibaba does not provide any direct funding to or take any shares in these startups, which is different from most American incubators. Instead, Alibaba provides them with free access to its cloud platform, free workspace, and even accommodations. The government offers more benefits to attract award-winning startups and also works as a supervisor to monitor their progress.”

Students also found great value in visiting XNode.

“I am working on a startup project in Shanghai, and I’m actually considering using their services and office space for our company in the future,” said Buran.

Rich Culture in a Fascinating City

Between company visits, students had the opportunity to taste the country’s regional flavors available in Shanghai.

“As a foodie, Chinese food is always a treat,” said Buzali. “We were able to go to local, delicious restaurants covering a range of cuisines, from Yunnan food from the southwest, to local Shanghai street food, to the Xinjiang, central-Asian lamb dishes from western China.”

A city tour provided students with a view of both traditional China and modern China.

“I loved the boat tour along the Huangpu river, where you can see both sides of the Shanghai skyline–the western side, representing the past with its old buildings and the eastern side, representing the future with its new, modern high-rises, including the second tallest building in the world,” said Buzali.