GBC 2017 at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, A Global Conference for MBA Student Leaders


“One of the speakers, Jeff Hoffman (founder of Priceline.com), said it best. ‘This conference is why people go to business school.'” – MIT


One of my MBA highlights was representing Taiwan at Graduate Business Conference (GBC), the only annual global conference for MBA student leadership. GBC 2017 was hosted by Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), a short 2-hour flight from Taipei. The first GBC was in 1983 at Columbia University. GBC 2018 will be hosted by Copenhagen Business School.

GBCers are elected student leaders, mostly from schools in the Graduate Business Forum. These are the top 50 top business schools in the world, now 70.

Each year’s GBC covers a theme around responsible leadership. What are some of the biggest issues in the world? How will they affect business? What are the roles we will have to play in solving them? How is the world we’re going to lead look like? Here’s what goes on at a typical GBC:

  • MBA student leaders sharing their challenges and successes, what’s working and what isn’t, bouncing ideas off one another.
  • Best practices for student government. How to work with administration, alumni relations, extracurricular activities, student discipline, academic affairs, budgeting, continuity, planning, career services, engagement, setting up new initiatives, etc.
  • Keynote and panel session speakers following that year’s theme. GBC 2017 was ‘Business 4 Good: The Ultimate Challenge.’
  • Networking with most of the top student leaders in the world

Business 4 Good: The Ultimate Challenge

For long, businesses have focused on profit and shareholder value as ultimate parameters of success. Instead, balancing a focus on profit with delivering positive impact to the world is believed to be the path to true prosperity. A complex challenge to innovate the status quo in business and economics today – maybe even the ultimate challenge!

Social business is that topic which comes up when we talk positive impact, and it’s often in the same sentence as startups. GBC 2017 speakers focused on how the new wave of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives is also changing corporate governance, board support, and what to pay attention to right now.

CSR Panel at GBC 2017, Hosted by CUHK

Not having a grasp on CSR is a bottleneck here. One speaker talked how in a recent divestiture, the other party required a CSR audit before the sale could be completed. Others talked how CSR is built into new business processes, so we are 1) meeting carbon emission standards. 2) It is integrated. And, 3) not done on an one-off basis. It’s designed into the way we look at and do business.

This means we’re going beyond community service, and into the vision set forth by The Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the United Nations’ Strategic Development Goals. It’s not altruism anymore, CSR is a cost of doing business. Depending on your views, this cost is also value for society.

Overall, it’s quite broad – fitting for a MBA crowd. Speakers included:

  • COSCO Shipping’s executive director
  • Tencent’s strategy director (WeChat)
  • Huawei’s corporate social responsibility head
  • Infosys Consulting partner
  • Head of IBM Cloud in Hong Kong

Also, that’s our OM Share Charging mentor and GBC keynote speaker at 2:04 in this video by CUHK. Meet Dr. Niven Huang, general manager of KPMG sustainability consulting, and one of my professors at National Chengchi University.

MBA Networking Insight from GBC 2017: People in Certain Positions Possess Certain Traits

You know, if there’s such a thing as an archetype of a MBA student leader, it’s here. As much as we talk about diversity, at the end of the day, people in certain positions tend to possess certain traits.

Here’s something Jim Deveau, founder of the Graduate Business Forum, pointed out in his closing remarks. GBCers relate to each other right away, before we start talking about what’s going on in our programs. It just takes a few minutes to meet someone who understands you, because we’re here for the same reasons.

Our programs also tend to follow certain paths, and maybe that’s partly because of accreditation guidelines. We also face many of the same pains. At a certain point, someone comes up with a fix. And because we know who each other are, we swallow the medicine.

My message to other MBA student leaders is, GBC is our people. I left with a stack of new connections — people I’d love to build something with. It’s these people who make GBC an incredible opportunity to test and talk out creative, constructive solutions.

The kind of student leader who attends Graduate Business Conference is someone who offers themselves to others in all realms, to improve the MBA experience. GBC is engaging, it’s thoughtful, it’s a capsule of the best a MBA has to offer. Come meet me, this March, in Copenhagen.

More Photos from GBC 2017 at CUHK

Keynote: "CSR and ESG Governance Matter for Asian Business Competitiveness" - Dr. Niven Huang

Keynote speech by Dr. Niven Huang from KPMG: “CSR and ESG Governance Matter for Asian Business Competitiveness”

Best Practices Workshop for MBA Student Government

One of several best practices workshops for MBA student government

Founder Jim Deveaux with Purdue University, Copenhagen Business School, and National Taiwan University. Carnegie Mellon and York University in the back.

OM Share Charging Presents at TaiFu Association International Forum

Our team, with the founder and several leadership team members of TaiFu Association

Our team with the founder and leadership team members of TaiFu Association

A brief update on the OM Share Charging team since taking top prize at the Competition of Entrepreneurship for Sustainability earlier this year. The annual competition is a national call for startup ideas that achieve United Nations Strategic Development Goals (UNSDG), hosted by National Chengchi University — one of Asia’s top business schools. After winning, our team visited Europe with the general manager of KPMG Taiwan’s sustainability consulting unit. I have stories and a treasure chest of photos I haven’t organized. In the meantime, 3/4 of us presented at TaiFu Association’s International Forum.

Philip Chang with microphone and clicker at TaiFu International Forum in Taiwan

Mic + clicker, weapons of my trade

TaiFu Association is the alumni association for the executive MBA (EMBA) programs of National Taiwan University (NTU) and Fudan University in Shanghai. The two EMBA programs have a partnership that sends students to each university. When you put together Taiwan and Fudan, you get TaiFu.

But why does the alumni association have to be a separate organization?

I’ll explain. To be an alumni association in Taiwan, its members must be in Taiwan. This means you’re out of luck if you’re a NTU or Fudan University EMBAer living in China.

The EMBA also has its own alumni association. But the reasons why a university keeps track of alumni are different from why its graduates get together. For example, fundraising vs. networking. Helping the school vs. helping each other. We should be doing both, and here, it’s served by different organizations.

Networking is one reason why presenting at the members-only International Forum is valuable. It’s a stage for startups and enterprises with a connection to TaiFu Association — a group of people helping each other, and Taiwan, develop international connections. TaiFu Association has actually become a wake-up call for Taiwan to build its global profile, through its relationships with diplomatic and economic development offices of other world powers.

For this, I thank Mr. Peter Lee, founder of iFoodbank, director of international affairs for TaiFu Association, and an alumni of my graduate program at National Taiwan University for bringing us in. We’re very grateful for the opportunity. Shyam, the man who fathered the idea, couldn’t be with us the day of the presentation. But we have voices and know how to use them.

The OM team described the problem we’re trying to solve, and why the platform business model we propose is compelling. Some key points:

OM Share Charging Logo

OM Share Charging. “Networked Power for the Next Billion.”

  • We use the platform to provide a practical and more environmentally-friendly solution to last-mile connectivity, through a novel distributed power system.
  • Unlike other technology-based transportation solutions (Tesla, Gogoro, etc.), ours benefits people at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
  • We’re not a solution for the wealthy, and we’re not for all people. We believe we have the right solution for the right people.
  • Who are the right people? Those at the very ends of a public transportation system — the “last-mile.” It’s not a sexy idea, but creating something practical is more important for our audience.
  • We now have a certain smart city in mind for a pilot project. It enables the city to potentially claim the world’s first public transportation system to be powered by renewable energy.

This is vague, but accurate and probably all we’re ready to say right now. On a personal level, I am looking to create a system dynamics model for capacity planning. I know, I have weird hobbies. The objective is to anticipate and account for the effects of demand. Also, externalities, which are unexpected results on people who are not users. This leads to better business decisions and in our case, civic planning — because we are talking urban transportation infrastructure.

In system dynamics, no one at my university has active expertise or interest in exploring this area. In fairness, one can’t expect a university to have an expert in every single area. Right now, it comes out of my spare time. Or, I may need to come up with a fellowship at another university. Our journey continues…

More Photos from TaiFu Association International Forum

3/4 of the OM Share Charging startup team from National Taiwan University -- From left to right, From left to right, PhD candidate Tanmoy Kundu, MBA candidates Philip Chang and Brian Blankinship

Left to right from National Taiwan University, PhD candidate Tanmoy Kundu, MBA candidates Philip Chang and Brian Blankinship

MBA candidate Brian Blankinship from National Taiwan University, and the winning moment

MBA candidate Brian Blankinship and the winning moment

Group photo with other presenters at Taifu Association International Forum -- Tanmoy Kundu, Philip Chang, Brian Blankinship from the College of Management at National Taiwan University

Group photo with other presenters at Taifu Association International Forum

Master of Ceremonies at SEMICON Taiwan 2017, for Taiwan’s #1 Industry — Semiconductors

If there’s one area Taiwan is #1, it’s semiconductors. I was fortunate to be master of ceremonies for National Taiwan University, a host of SEMICON Taiwan — one of the industry’s largest conferences. Semiconductor = SEMICON, get it?

Master of Ceremonies at SEMICON Taiwan 2017 for National Taiwan University's High-Tech Facility International Forum, put on by the Department of Engineering's High-Tech Facility Research Center

Taiwan used to be a world leader in toys. Now the toys are made in China, but the CPUs inside may be from Taiwan. For devices and electronics that are even smaller, higher tech, and proprietary, it’s more likely it’s made in Taiwan. You’ve heard of AirPods? AirPods are made in Taiwan by Inventec. Today, advanced manufacturing is one of Taiwan’s strengths, and semiconductors lead the way.

Smart Manufacturing and National Taiwan University

There’s a bigger opportunity for semiconductors with industrial applications than consumer goods. New CPUs can make smart anything possible. This is what the president of SEMI Taiwan says about it.

“The four major trends of applications in the market… Internet of Things (IoT), Smart Manufacturing, Smart Transportation, and Smart Medtech.” – Terry Tsao, president of SEMI Taiwan

Smart everything, basically. These are all major categories of their own, but it all starts with smart manufacturing. Knowing what is being made and how, anywhere and when in your supply chain. And, optimizing it.

“Effective Ways to Make Facility Smart.” The High-Tech Facility International Forum by National Taiwan University’s College of Engineering and its High-Tech Facility Research Center focused on the path to developing smart manufacturing facilities. This also made it one of the more popular forums at SEMICON Taiwan.

Because everything in the manufacturing future incorporates principles of information technology businesses. Especially engineering, mechanical or electrical or civil. Building these facilities ties all of that together. Smart factories simply know more about what goes into smart products.

Get to Industry 4.0: The Hot Topic of SEMICON Taiwan 2017

Many countries have initiatives in this area. In the U.S., it’s smart manufacturing. Europe calls it Industry 4.0, which is what Taiwan generally goes with (it’s catchier). China put it in their China 2025 plan. This was also the major discussion at SEMICON Taiwan. How can Taiwan become a leader in Industry 4.0?

Well, each nation faces major roadblocks. One example. China relies on imports to meet 90% of its integrated circuit needs. This is because for now, China is doing mass manufacturing for the world. Meanwhile, Taiwan is hanging onto its lead in advanced applications. Each nation is traveling a different path.

  • Taiwan is optimizing its supply chain
  • Germany is focusing on green manufacturing
  • The U.S. is re-industrializing (With help from Taiwan’s Foxconn)

Everyone is taking manageable steps because certain obstacles to ongoing transformation can only be taken apart over time. Big Data is one of the more general roadblocks, and one I find personally compelling.

Big Data vs. Business Intelligence. Know the Difference.


Big Data is not an enormous flat file.


Big Data can help optimize smart manufacturing, but people confuse Big Data with Business Intelligence. Here’s what it’s not. Big data is not an enormous flat file. “Big data is a term for data sets that are so large or complex that traditional data processing application software is inadequate to deal with them.

There are three ways to work with data. Only the third is truly Big Data.

1. What has happened? This is Business Intelligence. Descriptive Analytics looks at past data to review what happened. “Sales were down because we produced less units than last quarter.”

2. What might happen? Predictive analytics. Here, we are finding patterns between different data sets that might lead you to make a different management decision. Great for forecasting demand. Still based on the past. “Retailers cut their orders, partly because of increased shipping costs, so we produced less units, and sales went down.”

3. What will happen? Prescriptive Analytics is modeling the effect of future management decisions on future outcomes. This is where Big Data comes in. To help you figure out what you could be doing before you know what you should be doing.

One barrier is there aren’t enough people in Taiwan capable of using prescriptive analytics. Ironically, Taiwan has the manufacturing but not the data scientists. The U.S. is in the exact opposite position. One estimate I’ve heard places Taiwan’s shortage at 5,000+ data scientists. If you’re about to graduate from MIT, there’s a job for you in Taiwan.

As a practical solution, some leaders like National Tsing Hua University professor Chen-Fu Chien are advocating Industry 3.5. Maybe Taiwan can’t enable, but it can enhance. Perhaps that’s good enough for right now.

Warning: This Isn’t Covered in a MBA Program

Advanced manufacturing and semiconductors aren’t discussed in my MBA program. I got it from the College of Engineering, where the experts are. An advantage of getting a MBA in Taiwan is being around all this high tech. But it isn’t going to be conveniently given to you. Even if you’re paying for it! So, I don’t want to give the impression this is what you can expect if you come here.

Management schools, by design, don’t do cutting-edge. They do Practical. Until then, it’s not coming into a MBA program. Or it is, but in “know-this-buzzword” form. Despite the marketing, a MBA probably isn’t raising your ceiling. It eliminates the liability of what you don’t know or aren’t connecting with.

This is also why managers get Big Data confused. Statistics for MBAs covers the most practical aspects of statistics — what has happened and anticipating what might happen. Many decision-makers tend to plug the term Big Data into their understanding of statistics. This is not correct. An easy way to remember this is Big Data is beyond the powers of Microsoft Excel.

This graphic from Wikipedia explains the difference between Industry 1.0 and 4.0.  You can intuitively understand the different ways data was used for management decisions, and what some current and future needs are.

Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing

More Photos from SEMICON Taiwan 2017

SEMICON Taiwan 2017 Panel Discussion Speakers

SEMICON Taiwan 2017 Panel Discussion Speakers

Handicapped Teenagers Perform for the Banquet

Handicapped teenagers perform at the banquet. Thanks again to TSMC!

Waiao Beach Cleanup After Typhoon Talim

Waiao Beach cleanup volunteers

As inclement weather likes to do, Typhoon Talim left a big mark, despite missing Taiwan on its way to Japan. Even when Taiwan gets a lucky miss, the winds still bring the junk. A lot of junk. So last Sunday, I headed off to Yilan 宜蘭 with Taiwan Adventure Outings for a Waiao Beach cleanup 外澳. Shoutout to National Chengchi University for joining the fun (and going surfing after).

Usually Waiao is in great shape because the locals farm the beach. There’s also a surf, paragliding, hostel, and pizza business. But a handful of humans can’t compete with typhoon-force winds. The local ghost, Trash Baby, will follow you home if you don’t pick up after yourself. Maybe that’s true and maybe it’s not (probably not). Although do you really want to test the patience of a baby? I didn’t think so.

Here’s a few photos from our Waiao Beach cleanup. If it’s watermarked, pretty much all of them, it’s Ryan Hevern Photography. (Buy a print!) For more about beach cleanup in Taiwan, here’s a little something I wrote around National Taiwan Clean Up Day. Read about it. And come with us next month to Jinshan Beach!

Polystyrene that washes onto Waiao Beach looks just like fish food

Polystyrene that washes onto Waiao Beach looks just like fish food

Fishermens' nets like to make themselves at home on the beach

Fishermens’ nets like to make themselves at home on the beach

Dustin Craft, one half of Taiwan Adventure Outings

Dustin Craft, one half of Taiwan Adventure Outings

The Waiao Beach locals provide burlap sacks for collecting trash

Waiao locals provide burlap sacks for collecting trash

A pufferfish washed onto Waiao Beach

A pufferfish washed onto the beach. Also, finally — one of my own photos!

Ryan Hevern Photography - another half of Taiwan Adventure Outings

Ryan Hevern Photography – another half of Taiwan Adventure Outings

Waiao Beach cleanup bounty

Waiao Beach cleanup bounty

Meet Trash Baby, the local ghost of Waiao Beach. Pick up after yourself or it'll follow you home.

Meet Trash Baby, the local ghost of Waiao Beach

Teaming Up to Solve Taiwan’s Pollution Problems: National Taiwan Clean Up Day at Jinshan Beach

National Taiwan Clean Up Day in Taipei TimesJinshan Beach along the north coast was trashed by the time our crew got there on National Taiwan Clean Up Day. So, perfect conditions!

One Brown Planet discovered a full-grown bamboo stalk that we used to load five bags at once. A photo of us with our bounty made the front of the Taipei Times, the most read English newspaper in Taiwan.

Wait, what’s National Taiwan Clean Up Day? This year, volunteers cleared trash from beaches around Taiwan. My American friends who run Taiwan Adventure Outings started it to get in touch with what we have to do to keep Taiwan beautiful. A place locals want to love, and a place travelers want to visit. So, you get a mix of people who come out and want to do something good for each other.

A Little Bit about the Culture of Volunteer Work in Taiwan

National Taiwan Clean Up Day probably shouldn’t have been headline news. But in Taiwan, this is the kind of work many locals full-on dodge because there’s an element of public shaming amongst some out-dated people. Keep in mind that this is anecdotal:

  • Volunteer work isn’t a big thing because it’s still work and people want to get paid for work. People in Taiwan often work long hours and try to spend more of it with their families. Groups like ours do get together. But some Taiwanese also believe we are here because we don’t have families to spend time with. Like I said, out-dated, to the core. Besides, once you get to a certain point in your life — your friends are your family.
  • People may think you’re doing some kind of community service. Did you do something wrong? People might gossip in an aw-shucks kind of way about what that could be. And locals love to gossip about what expats are doing. If you’re as lucky as I am, they’ll ask you directly. I mean that, because I’d rather deal with issues head-on. Give people something good to talk about!
  • Other than outdoorsmen (and women), most Taiwanese go out of their way to avoid getting tan. Some say it makes a person look like a blue-collar worker. Which is a disarming cultural exchange, because Americans see tan and ask where you went on vacation.

Universally, people think there’s always someone else around who will clean up for them — that’s not a Taiwan thing. I wouldn’t point this out if the local characteristic weren’t a little more particular than that, though. People in Taiwan focus more on doing what they’re supposed to because of the rule-of-law that bosses and elders have in East Asian culture. Unfortunately, that also means people leave it to others to “do their jobs.” What does that mean? Someone else will do something about it.

That someone else is us! Because garbage is a problem on Taiwan beaches. Why is there so much trash on the beach? Well, Taiwanese people don’t often go to the beach, so the sands get less attention than they should.

Jinshan Beach before cleanup (Courtesy: XpatMatt)

Speaking for myself, beach clean up is a kind of payback I do for all the beautiful scenery I experience around Taiwan. I don’t deserve any special credit; it’s just being human. And it’s a fantastic way to make new friends who care about the outdoors. Doing this kind of volunteer work also makes obvious the other effects of pollution on quality-of-life. Like food safety, and tourism.

That brings us to the way I see National Clean Up Day. A model for how locals and expats can take on several of these problems at once, through a simple intervention like partnering with each other. We make it meaningful, we make it fun (clearly), and we make it count.

Let’s talk more about these problems.

Singing Garbage Trucks That Clean Cities

Every now and then the Taiwanese show me awesome ingenuity. The cities’ musical garbage trucks is one of my favorite examples. “From Garbage Island to one of the world’s top recyclers, Taiwan (now) keeps its garbage disposal in check.”

However, whatever 垃圾 (lèsè) isn’t thrown away or incinerated tends to end up in nature. If you can’t see something, does it exist? Maybe not. Until the 100 inches of annual rainfall Taiwan gets washes it down to the beach.

Sometimes people go one step further and burn garbage at the beach by digging a hole, setting a fire, and covering it up. Over time, the sand moves, and the trash rises to the top. The ocean also brings in its own garbage from other places. The situation at Jinshan is, well, it’s not great. Mostly, it’s just a lot more of the usual.

      • Plastic (bottles, bags, helmets)
      • Aluminum cans
      • Rubber pieces, gloves, parts of tires
      • Broken glass
      • Small appliances
      • Hypodermic needles
      • Somebody’s hand

Okay, I’m kidding about the hand. But this time, the beach looked as if it was carpet-bombed by plastic shrapnel. New pieces, always surfacing. It’s just a guess. Seems the last time they gave Jinshan Beach a facelift, they brought in cheap sand from the bottom of the river — another place where people used to do their dumping.

Taiwan’s EPA


“Everything that happened in the U.S. in the 60’s is happening in Taiwan now.”


There are still locals who remember when many of these rivers were clear and the water was drinkable. Then, factories and growing towns began dumping more chemicals, and trash into rivers. Two of the assumptions I’ve heard are believing the rushing water would cycle out whatever was unnatural, and that the fish would eat the waste. A two-some of wishful thinking.

People came up with their own reasons for justifying dumping. As an early administrator of Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Agency, Jaw Shau-Kong 趙少康, explains, “When people are poor, their only concern is making money. They say, ‘When we become rich, we’ll do something about the environment.’ But once they become rich, they find it’s too late. That’s the way it always is.

Tamsui River Garbage Dump Site in Taiwan Today

Typhoons clear these dump sites at rivers. (Courtesy: Taiwan Today)

Speaking of, in 1987, Taiwan started its own Environmental Protection Agency, realizing “everything that happened in the U.S. in the 60’s is happening in Taiwan now.” At the time, Chang Kow-lung, a physics professor at National Taiwan University, told the New York Times, “nearly every river has been polluted to the extent that the water is pronounced dead — it is dead water.”

For a bureaucracy, the EPA acted quickly, but by 2000, illegal dumping was still only illegal-by-day, according to this letter in Nature magazine. “Taiwan currently has just one secure landfill, in Kaohsiung. It cannot handle all the toxic waste it produces, hence the government is seeking cash-starved countries that will dispose of it for a hefty fee. In a high-profile case last year, Cambodia returned 2,700 tons of Taiwan’s mercury-laced waste after several deaths near the disposal site.

It’s not as drastic now. Taiwan is in much better shape than the United States and other Asian countries — like China. The government is heavy into clean up. Natural restoration. And getting more serious about penalties. In 2013, Taiwan shut down ASE’s K7 plant in Kaohsiung. ASE was discharging “industrial wastewater containing the heavy metal nickel and other toxic substances into a nearby river.”

Practical Considerations for Daily Living

Every action has a totally unexpected WTF reaction, when it comes to dumping toxic chemicals. In the Kaohsiung case, it was also affecting rice paddies down the river. One of the reasons some Taiwan foodies swear by importing their rice from Japan.

The average person doesn’t have to care about saving the planet. They should care about their surroundings. There are practical considerations affecting quality of life for ordinary Taiwanese, like this example. It’s not like you can throw a couple of magic eggs into a wok and fry the heavy metals out of the rice.


“When people are poor, their only concern is making money. They say, ‘When we become rich, we’ll do something about the environment.’ But once they become rich, they find it’s too late. That’s the way it always is.” – Head of Taiwan EPA


Also, recreation. Huang Tsai-Jung grew up near the Tamsui River. “It was very clean, es­pecially during high tide, and when you dove into the water you could see bril­liantly colored fish.” What stands out to me is the span in which this level of pollution happened took less than two generations to take root.

Taiwan’s iconic Sun Moon Lake isn’t invincible, either. The lake is a much different now than 20 years ago, because of fertilizer run-off. Sun Moon Lake is still a beautiful lake nestled in the central mountains. But tourists like myself are figuring out the bureau sometimes uses old photos. Good thing people have Instagram!

Tacos, Corona, and Clean Up! Or, How to Attract Tourists

Taiwan is constantly asking itself what it can do to bring more travelers. It’s a big question that deserves more than this paragraph, but the simplest thing everyone can do is to clean up after themselves.

When we were done, Jinshan Beach became a little more like the kind of beach that looks clean, not just from afar. On a good day, surfers come here, looking for an under-the-radar cove. There are a lot of positives to having surfers around. They clean up after themselves (usually). They’re friendly. They bring friends. And they tend to be Westerners, whom Taiwanese love to see.

In fact, I’m pretty sure if you told the local residents that to draw more Western tourists, all you had to do was: 1) Clean up the beach, and 2) Open a tacos and Corona stand, they’d be on it.

So, Jinshan and a lot of other lightly populated areas like it has the potential for much more casual tourism. Only if people take better care of the land.

Jinshan Beach Bridge in Taiwan

The bridge to Jinshan Beach. In the back, you can see Yehliu Geopark.

Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau kind of already knows this.

Taoyuan International Airport greets travelers with beautiful large format images of some of Taiwan’s statement destinations. Many of the more popular stops are starting to become overrun by trash. Same as in every country, but in Taiwan, it’s lately gotten worse. A combination of having a reputation for beautiful scenery, and a reputation for low cost of traveling. You end up having to go further out – like Hehuanshan – to get to the good stuff.

For Taiwan to stay special, the most popular hikes can’t involve colonies of fleas at the summit, because hikers are leaving their garbage behind. It’s normal to find garbage at the top of many California mountains, but you shouldn’t find it at Yangmingshan Mountain, if we’re assuming Taiwan’s goal is to bring in more foreign visitors. Isn’t it?

No one comes to Taiwan to see the garbage. Taiwan is still much, much cleaner than many other places in Asia, but those places don’t have the same reputation Taiwan has for scenery. Making Taiwan a more beautiful place to live and visit is a project locals and expats need to continue working on.

If you’d like to join the next beach clean up, Contact Me or TAO! They’re also running a TravelStarter campaign to raise funds for a 12-passenger van, in case you’re feeling generous!

Jinshan Beach Surf Scene

Jinshan Beach, after the clean up

Winning the Top Prize at the Competition of Entrepreneurship for Sustainability

Our team from National Taiwan University (NTU) won the top prize at the 2016-17 Competition of Entrepreneurship for Sustainability. The contest is to create profitable businesses that achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Our concept, OM Share Charging, is a platform business model targeting the light electric vehicle (LEV) industry with a battery exchange system.

OM Share Charging Team at Competition of Entrepreneurship for Sustainability

With Dr. Niven Huang, GM of KPMG Sustainability Consulting. (Left to right, R. Shyam Shankar, Dr. Huang, Tanmoy Kundu, Philip Chang, Brian Blankinship)

I’d like to tell you more about plans for OM, but there’s still a lot of work ahead of us. Also, Shyam fathered the idea (I took on the finance and PR roles). For now, we’re spending weekends absorbing an elective course at National Chengchi University on sustainability practices in European industries, before flying to Europe in April to see these in action. Our prize covers the trip and the course to Italy, Switzerland, and France. In broad strokes:

  • We are utilizing the unique capabilities of Taiwan technology partners to grow the LEV industry. This is good for the environment, the future of transportation, and the Taiwanese economy.
  • Our business model benefits all our stakeholders. Including, those at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
  • The pilot we propose targets a smart city, and provides last-mile connectivity to help complete the city’s vision. I know that’s vague. It’s simply too soon to say more. Stay tuned.
  • OM fulfills five of the United Nations’ 17 SDGs. Good Health, Renewable Energy, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Consumption, and Climate Action.
  • I’ll need one hell of a refresher course in French before we fly over. Merde.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Why Should You Sign Up for the ‘Competition of Entrepreneurship for Sustainability’

Networking! You’ll meet entrepreneurial young people from other universities who are interested in business and sustainability. At this moment in history, governments, companies, and citizens are aligned on the importance of taking care of the environment.

Business Plan. Get more experience putting together a business plan and refining it. This is a useful skill whether you start a company, because you’ll also use it to create any kind of business proposal. Also, Taiwan has a lot to offer. You’ll begin realizing it a little more when you start looking for ways Taiwan can produce sustainable businesses.

Industry Connections. The Competition of Entrepreneurship for Sustainability does an impressive job of bringing together executives to be judges and/or serve as consultants to the teams. A partial list of the people we met include:

Leaders from KPMG’s Sustainability Consulting practice, KPMG Transaction Services, Delta Electronics (One of Tesla’s OEMs), Delta Electronics Foundation, Ford Lio Ho Motor, Leopard Mobile, Ogilvy, HSBC, as well as several venture capitalists, chief strategy and chief technology officers.

In other words, these are the people I came to Taiwan hoping to meet.

Competition of Entrepreneurship for Sustainability Taiwan Photo Collage

The Big Prize

OM Share Charging Logo

First prize is more work! Such is life and yes, if you win, it means you’ll have more work to do to prepare for the European trip.

  • Learning about the companies you’ll visit
  • Researching their strategies and reading their sustainability reports
  • Reading industry reports from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development on current trends
  • Refining your business plan into something for sharing

And the fun stuff, too. Checking out what each city has to offer… A few days of tourism…

But, the learning opportunity is unique. The class is taught by National Chengchi University professors and professionals, like Dr. Huang. You travel with them. And then you spend a few weeks meeting the executives who are actually making these strategies happen, at company headquarters. The knowledge and connections is what I really want a MBA education to be like, and I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to being in the same room as these industry leaders.

April 1. See you in Europe.