Angela Cheng, David Lu, Andy Tang and Orian Williams are Part-Time MBA students working on an International Business Development project in Shanghai, China with Silicon Valley Bank.
Enabling Entrepreneurship in China
Did you know that Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) helped Mark Zuckerberg with banking when he was just a little-known hoodie-wearing startup entrepreneur? SVB has been helping entrepreneurs succeed by providing unique financial products and services in the US. Our team is here to help them succeed in China.
Angela Cheng, David Lu, Andy Tang, and Orian Williams are EWMBA students working on an International Business Development (IBD) project in Shanghai, China. The scope of the project is to study credit quality in China for Silicon Valley Bank, specializing in banking with startups.
On our last day in the iLab at Berkeley before departing for the in-country engagement, we went through a brainstorming exercise with Frank Schultz, our IBD faculty mentor. We were glad that he was still smiling after all the hard work we put him through.
The temperature in Shanghai was noticeably cooler than normal. This was a pleasant surprise and we took it as a good sign for our two weeks stay in Shanghai.
Our team of four arrived at Shanghai on three different flights. Contrary to the typical hours-long flight delays at the Shanghai Pudong Airport, our flights were all surprisingly on time. The first thing that struck us was the heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Oftentimes, two moving parties were just centimeters apart while moving in different directions at high speeds. Just when it seemed like a collision was unavoidable, miraculously both parties maneuvered out of each other’s way. It was like two partners on a dance floor moving around swiftly without stepping on each other’s toes. This city seemed to thrive in harmony, without needing any verbal communication.
We met our sponsor, Arman Zand, from Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) for dinner the night before we officially began our work in the SVB office in Shanghai, China. In the Chinese culture, business and social gatherings are often conducted around good food. This occasion was no exception to that. Over several dishes of the local gourmet, we shared bits and pieces of our personal stories.
After dinner, our team kicked off our first official in-country working session in the hotel lobby to prepare for a meeting with the CEO the next day.
On our first in-country day at work, we put our knowledge of the Chinese culture and language to work immediately. We met our first interviewee, a startup incubator, at a building that provided office space and support to about 20 startups. Unlike the typical cubicle setup, each “office” was a 2’x4’ desk space which barely provided enough room for a computer, a cup, and a few miniature personal items.
It almost caught us off-guard that our first meeting was conducted exclusively in Mandarin. It sure put some of our team members’ Mandarin to practice. A full hour of interviewing in Mandarin along with the writing of some names and terms in Chinese made our first in-country interview a very productive one. As we found out later, the interviewers spoke more freely and provided more information if the meeting was conducted in Mandarin.
Did you know that a cup of Starbucks coffee is more expensive in Shanghai than in San Francisco? Our team discovered this because 3 of the 5 meetings on day one were at Starbucks. We were beginning to wonder if Starbucks was also where startups pitched to VCs, but that was not the focus of this project.
On day two of the in-country portion of our IBD engagement, our client helped arrange meetings with several well-known venture capital firms to better understand investor behavior in China. We tooled around the city in a gently used mini-van with our team of four plus our handler provided by the firm, and our driver. The weather was a lot warmer than in the Bay Area so thankfully we left our woolen clothing at home. We had one more meeting to go before having dinner with our sponsors’ team at a local Shanghainese restaurant.
Our itinerary had been non-stop since our arrival, but the team was eager to perform well. The experience was amazing, but this first week had certainly tested our stamina. This was one of the few IBD projects
with a public company this summer and so we all considered ourselves quite fortunate to have such a practical consulting experience.
We decided to go native and got breakfast from a local vendor outside our hotel. Nothing too adventurous, just some steamed pork buns, although one of us did ask for a spicy one. We also found a dry cleaning place that would wash dress shirts for one-tenth of the price that the hotel was charging. Did we mention that we love China?
We had a few more external meetings left over from earlier in the week and then some internal meetings to help us collect our thoughts. Performing internal and external interviews for the client gave our team twice the consulting experience.
To draw insights and align our observations from our interviews and observations from the last three days, we applied what we had learned from Problem Finding and Problem Solving (PFPS) class.
Our client invited us to their World Cup themed team-building event. We were told that fun team building activities are not common in Chinese company offices and definitely were new concepts to SVB local employees. SVB tried to build a more collegiate and social culture in its office, and we saw that everyone was able to build off the energy and make the rest of the day more productive.
At night, we met up with one of the EWMBA Seminars in International Business (SIB) classmates and we hung out at Nanjing Road. Nanjing road was an interesting blend of old and new Shanghai. Most of the original architecture and building fronts were kept but large billboards had been raised over them. We also took the subway for the very first time.
Over the weekend the team took the opportunity to recover from the late nights during the workweek. On Saturday we visited the Tianzi Fang district and the Yu Garden. The highlight of the day was our dinner at Lubolang, one of the best restaurants in Shanghai. We saw a photo of Hilary Clinton who had previously dined there. Their Xiao Long Bao (soup filled dumpling) was excellent.
On Sunday the team traveled to the outskirts of Shanghai for the local alumni chapter event held at the Sofitel Shanghai Sheshan Oriental. We met Ann Hsu, the Shanghai alumni chapter coordinator, and her husband Tom, who used to work in M&A. Tom said he knew Professor Goodson – small world.
We enjoyed an all you can eat brunch buffet with mimosas. Some of the team members even took a dip in the pool afterwards. It was a nice opportunity to get some fresh air in the countryside, but we wanted to get back and work on some additional analysis for the project.
During Week 2, the Seminars in International Business (SIB) class visited the SVB office. The CEO gave a presentation about doing business in China and how SVB positioned itself as the model for innovation banking in China. We even let them hang out in our cell.
Week 2 was an intense workweek as the team prepared the final report and presentation to the CEO. On Thursday and Friday, we made our final presentations to the CEO and SVB credit team. We knew our work had paid off when the client told us that they finally have some tools to play with in China. We celebrated our success at our client sponsor’s house over drinks and barbecue. Thanks to Haas and Silicon Valley Bank, another great IBD project!