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East meets west in search of investment

Three DPhil researchers from MPLS (Yao Shi and Himanshu Jain from Chemistry, and Xiaoyu Lu from Statistics) were awarded scholarships to attend the HKBU-UC Berkeley Entrepreneurship Bootcamp in Hong Kong, 18-21 May 2018, in a pioneering collaboration arising from Prof Donal Bradley’s links with HKBU (Hong Kong Baptist University).

With 80 students drawn from Universities in Nanjing, Hong Kong and Berkeley, as well as our Oxford contingent, it proved engaging, informative, hectic and inspirational, not only for the students participating but for everyone involved, which included MPLS Enterprise Programme manager Anne Miller.

The fusion of academic, industrial and investment communities teaching and mentoring throughout the programme, coupled with the warmth and generosity of the hosts, created a first rate learning environment, as testified by the quality of the outputs of every single student group. The cherry on the cake was that one of the winning teams was led by Yao Shi, who is completing his D.Phil in the Dixon Group in Chemistry.

Here is Yao’s account of the experience:

Why did you apply for the Bootcamp and what were you expecting to get out of participating in it?

I applied for the bootcamp as I want to set up and grow my own business in the future and at the time, I was working on the process of starting-up. It was a perfect opportunity to learn more about this process and gain an entrepreneur mindset as well as meet many like-minded people. The opportunity to travel to Hong Kong was also a bonus incentive!

Did it deliver what you expected, or in what way did it differ?

Looking back, I can say I have taken away from the bootcamp more than I anticipated. During the days, we were exposed to an intensive lecture course comprised of theory as well as talks given from other young entrepreneurs and businesses. Simultaneously through the bootcamp, we were put into teams to work on a proposed business idea, and prepare for a mock investiment pitch. As I had expected, the intensive lectures given by Gigi Wang and Ikhlaq Sidhu were very informative, and the project work and tasks really engaged my business mindset. But more than my expectation, I was inspired to hear the stories and practical advice of many other young entrepreneurs who have been in the same situation as me, but are now growing successful businesses of their own. Additionally, meeting so many people from different cultures but with a similar mindset was encouraging, and I can take back to Oxford many lasting relationships. It has helped to build confidence that my ideas can really become a viable business. Additionally, I was blown away by just how welcoming and friendly the event organisers were! The way they made contact months before the event and accommodated us whilst we were there was truly special and made the event more enjoyable.

How would you describe the entire experience to other students?

Overall, I would say the experience is very helpful for anyone who is interested in or has the thought of doing start-up in the future. Not only do you learn a lot, but is it also great fun, you meet many new like-minded people and It will help you to build confidence that you can turn ideas into reality, and this be a real alternative career path to the standard route people take.

Would you recommend research students to apply and if so at what stage of their research would you suggest they participate?

I would recommend research students to apply for this bootcamp in their 2nd or 3rd year of study. This way, you can be encouraged by the idea that your research and ideas is not only academic, but spin-out is a real possibility.

What are you planning to do next, and how will you apply any of the learning and experiences from the Bootcamp to this?

For me, the next plan is to work hard on my own start-up company and take what I have learned into practice. Although learning business theory is very helpful, the true skills which make a successful entrepreneur are learnt by experience, and this is something which all the guest entrepreneur speakers at the bootcamp also shared.

Overall how would you rate the experience?

Overall I would rate the bootcamp a 10/10. A very valuable experience and great fun at the same time.

A short video about the bootcamp can be found on YouTube at