Knowledge Exchange

How the HKU MBA Helped Kickstart My Career in Venture Capital

Melody Zhao (Class of 2020)

Making transitions between industries, functions, or both is one of the most prioritized rationales for MBA candidates to pursue an MBA. However, transforming one’s career and moving into a new position is not always an unchallenging practice for MBA candidates. This time, HKU MBA meets with Melody Zhao who successfully pivoted her career from the consumer sector (covering fashion, retail, construction materials, and F&B) into a venture capitalist. She joined Gobi Partners Hong Kong Office as an Investment Director mainly focusing on the Consumer & Tech sector. Gobi Partners is a leading Pan-Asian venture capital firm managing more than $1B dollars and the sole exclusive general partner (GP) for Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund, investing in startups and firms across a wide range of industry sectors.

HKU MBA: Prior to an MBA, you have been involved in a family-owned business. What was your major role?
Melody Zhao: I worked as an overseas project director managing key clients and partners overseas including South East Asia, the USA and Russia. I also managed the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative of the Uzbekistan Laminate Flooring Project for the public infrastructure establishment.

HKU MBA: Understand that you have also worked as a Marketing Consultant for many years, how was your experience?
Melody Zhao: I was mainly involved in providing consulting services in various premium brands in the fashion and retail sectors. My scope of work was mainly focused on brands’ business development, global KOL collaboration, event organisation, and HNWIs management. Such experiences are a critical cornerstone for me to understand the core of various businesses.

HKU MBA: Understand that you are the first Chinese ‘Debutante of the Year’ and ‘Co-host’ representing Chinese young females who gave a speech at 241st Queen Charlotte’s Ball at Lancaster Palace, how was your experience?
Melody Zhao: I was honoured to be the first Chinese Debutante of the Year to hold the prestigious roles of fundraiser and Co-host. It was great to be recognized by the global society, but more importantly for me to represent the new female generation in China and convey messages that we are resilient, humble, and always be open to others and engage with international communities as the future unfolds. In today’s awakening era, Chinese females are making the greatest contribution to promoting rejuvenation in China and building a community with a shared future for mankind through science and technology.

HKU MBA: With this outstanding background, what was your main purpose of pursuing an MBA program?
Melody Zhao: My main purpose in pursuing an MBA in Hong Kong was to deepen my understanding of the Asian business environment, especially the financial sectors, to broaden my horizons. My previous degree in B.S. c Statistics and Management from the University College London (G5) enabled me to gain specific technical skills in statistics and a thorough understanding of the business environment in Europe. Pursuing an MBA at HKU enabled me to conduct various business pursuits in both Asian and European economic environments.

HKU MBA: What was your major motivation to transition your career into the Venture Capital industry?
Melody Zhao: I view myself as an entrepreneur, enabler and venture capitalist. I think those roles should not be mutually exclusive, but integrated. The motivation for me to work in the VC industry is to make incremental changes and invest in entrepreneurs who can problem-solve, uplift their communities, and add value to various ecosystems across the globe. With that, I would like to help valuable startups and SMEs in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) to develop better and build a sustainable ESG impact on the region.

HKU MBA: To become an investment professional, you must require technical skills. How did you attain this skillset throughout the MBA programme?
Melody Zhao: I utilized the MBA offering by attending all VC/PE-related courses. The courses cover fundamentals and real-life investing cases which are very helpful in terms of learning. I also benefited from strong mentorship relationships and guest speaking sessions. Also, I used my strong interpersonal skills by connecting with various VC/PE professionals in Hong Kong SAR, China.

HKU MBA: Before we wrap up the interview, can you share with us one fun memory about your MBA Programme?
Melody Zhao: My most fun experience was the Chinese Immersion Program, which took place in Beijing for one month. Thanks to the journey, our class members and MBA staff really bonded. I took a chance and made many lifetime friends in the general aviation, media, mining, and financial services sectors.