CalBusiness

 

Spring/Summer 2008

Feature Stories

Your Haas Network

Ann Hsu, MBA 98
CEO of China Operations
RivalWatch, Shanghai


Just two years out of business school, Ann Hsu, MBA 98, co-founded an Internet start-up called RivalWatch that gathers data about online retailers. She helped guide it safely through the tech bust. Then, just as Internet retail was maturing, she decided to shake things up again.


In 2006, she moved from the Bay Area back to her native China, while toting six-month-old twins, to open a new office for RivalWatch. It marked her third return to China, following a year of teaching in 1991 in Beijing's Tsinghua University and a three-year stint in Shanghai at Tandem Computers.


"It's much harder to start a company in China," Hsu says, pointing to greater difficulties in company registration and finding office space. "But I had a lot of good friends who were invaluable in helping me to lay the groundwork and recruit people."


RivalWatch uses software to scout online stores for pricing data and then sells the information to retailers. As RivalWatch's CEO of China operations, Hsu presides over a 12-member team.


Hsu didn't originally plan to go into business. Having immigrated to the United States at age 11 from Beijing, she studied electrical engineering in college, earning a bachelor's degree from Penn State and a master's degree from Berkeley. But after five years at Tandem, she decided to go to Haas to complement her technical training with "an overall business education." She then worked briefly at Siebel Systems before co-founding RivalWatch.


Research on online retail wasn't an easy sell in the beginning, recalls Hsu. Brick-and-mortar stores initially feared anything Internet-related would steal their business. Internet-only retailers were quicker to grasp the potential of online information-gathering, but many went belly-up.


Yet RivalWatch weathered the lean times and can claim to have served such giants as Apple Computers, Wal-Mart, and Amazon.com.


Just as RivalWatch was ahead of its time in the online retail industry, Hsu aims to get a head start in Asia. The Shanghai staff analyzes data for customers primarily based in the West. But Hsu expects to start pursuing business in Japan and Korea later this year. Customers in China, she says, are still at least three years away.


"The whole business environment in China is not very mature," Hsu says. But looking ahead, she adds, "There are more opportunities, too."


 


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Ann Hsu, MBA 98

Ann Hsu, MBA 98
CEO of China Operations
RivalWatch, Shanghai