I’ve spent the past few days at the University of Chicago Center in Beijing at the first ever Chicago Booth Global Launchpad Program. You can click here to get more information on the program (it will run in London again in September) but essentially it is a four day “boot camp” style program for Booth alumni who are entrepreneurs, to give them tools and some experience to help start or grow businesses.
The inaugural group in Beijing has 23 participants, most of whom are Booth alumni. Many of them are from and working in China, but there are also participants from Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, France and Chicago in the group and one current Asia Executive MBA student.
The program was made up of a combination of courses taught by Booth faculty Waverly Deutsch (the self-professed Simon Cowell of entrepreneurship judging panels!), Rob Gertner and Scott Meadow, and also included really interesting alumni panels on topics related to Venture Capital and building businesses in China and Asia more broadly. Two keynote addresses were also made by Booth alumni - Pieter Kemps talked about Cloud Computing and Venture Capital and Tom Doctoroff talked about Marketing to the Chinese Consumer.
The grande finale of the four-day event was a pitch competition where 11 groups presented their business plans in front of a panel of alumni entrepreneurs, mentors and faculty. Companies pitched were in the travel, education, fashion, digital advertising business, among others. The winner of the competition - Dr. Peter Pan (truly his name) pitched his idea of a business creating and selling a new biological cosmetic product to help you look younger.
What strikes me as incredible about this program is that it is a great example of the Best of Booth. The majority of participants in the group are alumni, and most of the mentors, panellists, judges and speakers are also Booth alumni who are successful entrepreneurs. It is a great illustration of the power of the Booth alumni network in action.
The group is also a truly a global representation of Booth: alumni from Full Time, Part Time, and Executive Programs, who studied on the Chicago, London and Singapore campuses participated. They are also at different points in their careers and in the development of their businesses. There was an enormous amount of discussion, learning, feedback and networking between the alumni involved. The extraordinary number of ideas exchanged over the four day period was exceeded only by number of business cards that were exchanged!