Entrepreneur to take on Stanford MBA

10 July 2012

Business School alumnus Bowen Pan is on his way to the prestigious Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he has won a place in the MBA programme alongside NASA space scientists, high street fashion entrepreneurs, navy special forces, senior movie executives and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

The Business School’s Director of the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning, Geoff Whitcher, says Bowen was also offered a $100,000 Fulbright Platinum Triangle Scholarship in Business to study in the United States, given to one New Zealander annually, but turned it down to take the Stanford fellowship.

“Stanford offered him a very generous fellowship that was nearly as good as the Fulbright, so Bowen being Bowen, in a wonderful gesture relinquished his Fulbright to enable another New Zealander to go to the States to do an MBA,” Geoff says.

Bowen credits the Spark ecosystem as well as the sacrifices that his parents made when they uprooted their comfortable lives in China to move to New Zealand in the 90s.

“Realising that the people you love gave up everything when you never asked them to, but purely because they wanted more for you, gave me a deep-seated desire to realise my potential and the potential of others around me,” Bowen says.

This desire fuelled what has been a meteoric rise for Bowen, who finished conjoint Engineering and Property degrees at The University of Auckland in 2008 with a grade point average between A and A+.

Geoff says Bowen grabbed Spark’s attention during his University years by creating the first social networking site for students in New Zealand.

“This was before the world had heard about Facebook so Bowen’s site did not start by rating hot women! Still, it was such a good idea that he took second prize in Spark that year and grew uniFriend until he had 15 part-time employees and later merged it with a South African company,” Geoff says.

Bowen was asked to lead the Spark $100K Challenge and later became a management consultant at Deloitte Consulting before being headhunted to work at Trade Me in Wellington, where he launched the Treat Me daily deals business.

He will start his MBA studies at Stanford University in September and says the experience will give him the international networks, leadership, and business education to create and lead globally successful web companies.

“I've always wanted to live and work at the heart of technology innovation, and undoubtedly, that is Silicon Valley. Stanford Graduate School of Business and Silicon Valley are Siamese twins,” he says.

“I strongly identify with Stanford’s mission of producing leaders who are positive change agents for the world. A sense of infectious idealism pervades the school and Stanford alumni inspire and support one another to reach their dreams.”

Bowen has just arrived in Shanghai to work for the next four months as an entrepreneur-in-residence at MyLuxBox, a fast-growing Sequoia China-backed web start-up that sells luxury samples online through a monthly subscription.

He is also working with his co-founder and CEO Maya Shino, who is still in Wellington, on their non-profit legal Q&A website, LawSpot. The website, whose patron is the Hon. Margaret Wilson, is being launched in the coming month.

For now though, Bowen is looking forward to his move to the US and the opportunity to rub shoulders with high-flying business people.

“People who go to Stanford generally have an innate desire to change the world and they have amazing talents, incredible drive and ruthless execution to ensure their dreams come to fruition. Failure is seen as a natural part of the process, the important thing is to think big, start small, fail quickly and scale fast.”

He says Stanford has built a breath-taking entrepreneurial ecosystem over the past 70 years with decades of institutional knowledge, industry connections and infrastructure.

“But the most important thing that struck me was that almost every one of my classmates was intimidated by what everyone else has achieved, in a good way, which means everyone is incredibly humble and eager to learn from each other.

“I want to touch and improve the lives of millions of people around the world, empowering them to create a better quality of life, stronger nations and a better world. I believe creating a world-changing technology business is the best chance for me to realise this vision, because it is levelling the playing field for its end-users in all major industries across the world. It will allow me to combine my passions for technology and entrepreneurship.”