10 years on, an MBA with enduring value
CUHK graduate Anne Yeung, one of Hong Kong’s eminent women tech founders, reflects on the long-term payoff of an MBA across a career in entrepreneurship
A decade may have passed since she received her MBA certificate from The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), but the takeaways Anne Yeung gained from her course are still proving invaluable as she runs her latest venture in the booming blockchain space.
One of a handful of elite women tech entrepreneurs in Hong Kong, Yeung is longtime founder of digital creative agency Cranes Media – and, as of 2021, chief executive of OneChain, a startup firm providing end-to-end enterprise blockchain solutions.
“Before the MBA, I didn’t know about strategic planning – I was someone who trusted my gut and went with the flow,” she says. “But strategic planning is not to forecast what happens in the future. It is to estimate what you are doing now, so as to create your future.”
That future is looking a lot like lucrative outcomes from an on-trend Web 3.0 business, which the economics graduate describes as a “natural evolution” from the Web 2.0 space Cranes Media was operating in.
It’s an opportunity she identified after the MBA course developed her mental muscles to “think critically and strategically, identify market opportunities, develop a comprehensive business plan, and execute it with precision.”
“It made my business mindset more systematic,” she says. “Running a startup is all about how to scale up in a very short time, so every decision has to be made carefully. The CUHK MBA’s structured framework to business planning and market analysis – and the acumen gained from knowing how to allocate resources effectively and develop financial models – are not things you can learn from Google.”
As a student, Yeung knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur, even before enrolling in China’s Central University of Finance & Economics in 2004. “I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” she says. “It inspired me to a future of financial freedom by owning my own business.”
So in 2008, the fresh graduate co-founded Cranes media with a partner who specialised in creative work. In charge of the startup’s business aspect, Yeung quickly set her sights on an MBA.
“I was limited by my lack of experience in the corporate world,” she says. “My degree was just theoretical knowledge, nothing practical. And when you run a business, you have to do everything: strategic planning, marketing, accounting. I was so hungry for more comprehensive business knowledge, and I wanted an entrepreneurial mindset to think more innovatively, take calculated risks and see challenges as opportunities for growth.”
After some research, she zeroed in on the course offered at CUHK Business School. Apart from its exemplary position on MBA ranking lists, the young founder was impressed by the school’s reputation for nurturing entrepreneurial mindsets and providing practical experience.
Ranked by The Financial Times among the world’s top 50 MBA programmes, CUHK is the first school in Asia to offer an MBA, with over ６,000 graduates to date across 40 countries/regions.
Candidates can select from six optional concentrations: entrepreneurship and innovation; business analytics; information and technology management; finance; marketing; and China business.
The programme boasts entrepreneurship training, access to a vast network of alumni entrepreneurs, and startup support from the Alumni Torch Fund. In addition, there is incubation, entrepreneurial and business assistance via the university’s PI Centre, and opportunities for startup founders to tap the school’s Shenzhen Research Institute and InnoPort to launch in the Shenzhen area or “export” impact to Hong Kong and beyond.
With such draws on offer, Yeung applied the moment she clocked three years of work experience – the minimum requirement – and was accepted, becoming the youngest member of the cohort at age 25.
“I had the unique advantage of being surrounded by experienced professionals who became mentors, and classmates from diverse industries,” she says. “The connections proved to be invaluable, not only for business and advice, but also true friendship.”
Strategising the future with the network built during her MBA
After graduating in 2013, Yeung walked away from CUHK with more than new knowledge – a coursemate had introduced her to the man who would later become head of technology at Cranes Media for almost a decade.
And when Covid-19 hit in 2021, he asked Yeung if she would join him on a second venture to market and commercialise some blockchain infrastructure he had co-developed. “He needed me to identify the market opportunity,” she says.
The resulting startup, OneChain, became one of Hong Kong’s first-mover blockchain firms. Yeung is chief executive, while her business partner is chief technology officer.
“I grabbed the opportunity to shift focus from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0,” she says, pointing to how ‘traditional’ digital creative businesses that focus primarily on web and mobile technologies are struggling to scale as capital leaves the city.
Beyond learnings and networks, the MBA title has also proven its value in recent years, Yeung observes, as she pitches to investors and government bodies on behalf of OneChain.
“My team all have master’s degrees in engineering, fintech. So my MBA title shows people I’m a qualified leader. It demonstrates my comprehensive business knowledge, and increases confidence in the viability of my startup.”
Happily, this parlays well into her dream – which is to keep OneChain running and never retire. “When you become a startup founder, a lot of people ask: what is your exit plan? But to work on my business and create something new every day is the source of my happiness,” she declares.
Looking back on the fresh graduate who used to lead with gut feeling, Yeung is proud of her growth as a tech leader. “ “To create the future has become an important motto for me,” she says. “The entrepreneurial mindset is a very valuable mindset I gained from my CUHK MBA degree.”