How an EMBA at Cambridge Judge Launched an Entrepreneurial Spirit
When Andrew Yi Tan first started his career, he worked for Procter & Gamble and followed the traditional executive path. Beginning in the 90s and for the next two decades, Tan slowly worked his way up the consumer products employment ranks, progressing through a variety of roles from senior marketing executive to business development at a range of multinational companies such as Coca-Cola, Phillip Morris, Reckitt Benckiser, and Motorola. And nothing would have changed for Tan until, in 2013, he decided to go back to school and earn his Executive MBA at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School. After that, Tan’s life took a drastically different path.
“The EMBA is a really big story for me—it totally changed my life,” Tan wrote in a blog. “I had been in a quite stable situation as a senior management professional for 20 years, but the EMBA in Cambridge gave me the courage to think about startups—as I had never thought about being an entrepreneur.”
While studying at Judge, Tan came into contact with many fellow students who had followed a different path than him and had an “entrepreneurial spirit.” Something about that resonated with Tan. In March 2014, while he was still earning his MBA, he left the corporate world to launch his own startup in Beijing, which focused on products for senior citizens. But that was just the start.
A year later, Tan sold his company and joined another startup, a car-sharing service called Gofun, in March 2016. At the time, Gofun had about 800 cars and 100 staff. Now, the company has 1,000 employees and 16,000 cars, and Tan is president. And it’s all thanks to Tan’s EMBA experience at Cambridge Judge. In fact, that’s how Tan first found out about the opportunity.
It was after Tan had finished his degree but was back at school for an annual elective program that he got to talking with another former EMBA student about mobility trends and investment opportunities. One of those students asked Tan if he’d be interested in joining a fledgling car-sharing service in China, and the rest is history.
Now, Tan is invited by companies all over China to speak about enterprise brand management, consumer behavior, and professional sales skills. He’s even been featured on a few Chinese business reality television shows including “Career Come & Go” and “Only You.”
As for his business, it’s going strong—though there are some challenges.
“We’re using mostly electric cars, and with electric cars the infrastructure is very important,” he said in a blog. “We need to work closely with the car manufacturers (including Volkswagen Group and Chevy, which has a joint venture in China with Jaguar Land Rover) and the charging infrastructure manufacturers to set up the charging points and to solve the connecting issues. Also, the users are very different in different cities, so we need to figure out how many cars to place into the market in each city—thinking about the type of car, the location, the consumer behavior, and the infrastructure.”