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Unfazed by the global economic crisis, self-described "serial entrepreneur" Patrick Lui, MBA 96, has just embarked on a new project: He’s founding an e-commerce business in China.
Lui, a Hong Kong native who has worked in China for the past seven years, aims to develop a portal specializing in the sale of used electronics such as mobile phones and video game consoles -- a market he believes has been largely overlooked.
This will be Lui's second turn as an entrepreneur in China. His first venture into the startup world came with Dextrys, an offshore development services company that grew from three to 2,000 employees. As the executive VP of Asia operations, Lui was a key driver in the growth and expansion of the company, which was acquired by private equity firm Francisco Partners in 2007.
Although Lui lived in Hong Kong until the age of 15, he did not travel to mainland China until he was at Haas. As part of a class called Country Risk (now the International Business Development Program), Lui went to Shanghai with several classmates to assess a potential joint venture between Ford and a local company during the summer between his first and second year. He calls the experience "eye-opening exposure" to the cultural aspects of doing business in China.
After getting his MBA, Lui, who studied engineering as an undergrad at the University of Kansas, stayed in the Bay Area, working first for IBM Global Services and later for Agile Software. Then, in 2002, he took an extended backpacking trip that included five months in China. Fascinated by the pace of economic reforms, he decided to stay and soon landed a position at the company that became Dextrys.
"I wanted to come to China to capitalize on the opportunities, but also in some small way help define the change," says Lui. Being fluent in Chinese and English and having lived in both Asia and the US, Lui felt he had the right background to make that impact.
After years of commuting between China and the US for Dextrys, Lui decided to move to Shanghai full time with his new wife, Margaret, in 2008. "I grew up in Hong Kong in the '70s and can’t help but always draw comparisons between the two cities," Lui says. "When I walk the streets of Shanghai today, I feel the energy of a bustling economic city that I grew up in."
Lui plans to capitalize on that energy with his new e-commerce venture. His target audience: trendy young professionals in cities like Shanghai and Beijing. They're brand conscious and eager to upgrade their electronic gadgets; however, they are still looking for a good price.
Although the timing may seem challenging for a new business, China’s growth outlook remains positive compared to the West, Lui points out. "The downturn has hit the exports sector, but China’s domestic demand is still strong."
Patrick Lui, MBA 96