Category Archives: AdVENTURE Challenge: China

Top 5 Highlights from AdVENTURE Challenge: China

By: Justin Taubman

I am home in Washington, D.C. and I am sifting through hundreds of photos and reflecting on tons of experiences as I prepare to move to Boston for my internship. I think it would be useful to list my five favorite parts of the program now that it is over.

  1. Customer Discovery in China

Each of us had been working on our business plans since the course began in April. We had been asking Chinese students at Maryland about our concepts, and while it was useful, nothing was as helpful as talking to our target customers when we were actually in China. We learned so much about customer pain points and the nuances about doing business in China compared to other Western countries. This was invaluable for launching our business in China.

  1. shnaghai dumplingsShanghai Dumplings

Several us arrived to Shanghai a few days before the program began, so that we could get to see some more of the city. We decided to venture into a very local part of town for lunch to get the famous Yang’s Dumplings. I had never tried these types of dumplings before. They were different from the dumplings that I had before because they were filled with a slightly sweet tasting hot soup. So you took a little nibble out of the side of the dumpling and sucked the soup out and then ate the rest of the dumpling. They were DELICIOUS! They have ruined dumplings in the States for me.

  1. Traditional Chinese Banquet Style Dinner

Our group experienced its first traditional banquet style dinner in Bengbu, where we dined with city officials, local businessmen, and students from the local university. We were considered guests in this dinner and therefore we were toasted many times by our hosts. The toasts would consist of a short speech and then the word, “ganbei” (literally meaning “dry glasses”). Our hosts usually toasted with a rice wine alcohol, such as maotai in a small glass. The toasts were repeated at least a dozen times throughout the meal and everyone got pretty “loose” as a result. Lets just say I mustered up enough courage to try snapping turtle after a few toasts.

  1. Lisa: Our Beijing Tour Guide

The tour guides we had in each city were fantastic, but our guide in Beijing was outstanding. Lisa was extremely knowledgeable about the city that she grew up in and about the history of her country and culture. Among many sites, Lisa brought us to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City where she taught us about the lives of the many emperors that resided in the ancient city. Lisa also arranged a rickshaw tour of where the “common people” resided during ancient times. The Forbidden City was forbidden to these “common people”, so it was very cool to get the perspective of how the two sides lived. As an example of how Lisa went above and beyond the scope of her job, she arranged for many of us to get professional massages in our rooms after long days of touring. We will all miss Lisa!


  1. Learning to Make Dumplings

After a long day of climbing the Great Wall and touring the common people’s neighborhood, our final meal kicked off on a beautiful rooftop where we were taught how to make steamed dumplings. We surprised ourselves at how well they turned out. Chinese people make dumplings from scratch for special occasions, like the Chinese New Year. This seemed like a fun tradition and it was a ton of fun to learn. It was a wonderful final meal with the group.

I will mJustinTaubman Headshotiss China, our group, and the program!


Tagged , , , , ,

Reflecting on China Following the Adventure Challenge

By Justin Gordon

Dalian, Chian

Dalian, China


In 1985 at 60 years old my Grandmother decided to move to China to teach English. While she spent most of her six months in the country teaching in the city of Dalian located on the east side of the Yellow Sea, she did have a chance to travel throughout.  When she left, she even took a train from Beijing to West Berlin. I was only three years old at the time, but over the course of the last 30 years she has described her experiences in vivid detail a bit at a time. The China she knew was only about a decade past the turbulent “Cultural Revolution” period. She described streets filled with far more bicycles than cars. English speakers were difficult to find, even in large cities. Telephones capable of calling back to the U.S. were few and the cost was substantial. The primary means by which she communicated with my grandfather was by mail; letters could take up to weeks to arrive. Her depiction is of a country rich in culture and history, as well as one with a great deal of possibility, but a nation with a long way to go to realize it’s full potential. Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,

Winning the China Business Model Competition

By: Tiffany Chang

L-R: Prerana Delal, Tiffany Chang, Justin Taubman, Shuichi Manabe, Brent Goldfarb

L-R: Prerana Delal, Tiffany Chang, Justin Taubman, Shuichi Manabe, Brent Goldfarb

I can’t believe the competition is already over and our trip to China is winding to an end…but another thing I’m still trying to wrap my head around is WINNING FIRST PLACE!!

My team and our business idea, Style Star, a personal stylist mobile app, took first place among some truly excellent competing models, and the Smith School once again is coming home with such great honor and such excitement to actually put our $3,000 prize money to good use in launching our app development. Terps also took 2nd place and an assortment of individual awards. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , ,

Entrepreneurship in China is on Fire

By: Justin Taubman 

After meeting with many successful entrepreneurs at some of China’s top start-up incubators and accelerators in Shanghai, it is clear that China is getting serious about entrepreneurship. Until recently, Chinese families have not been very supportive of their children leaving secure jobs to pursue entrepreneurial ventures. The most educated and wealthy families have always pushed their children towards traditional businesses, but that is starting to change. The Chinese government has realized the importance of innovation and the creation of new businesses and technology. While traditional careers in industries like finance, engineering, or medicine are still pursued by many, the government support of these initiatives has made entrepreneurial pursuits more accepted. Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,

Adventure Challenge: China – In Country Prep and Customer Discovery

By Philip Webster

Conducting customer discovery for a product aimed at the Chinese market while you’re actually in China is an eye opening experience. After weeks of refining our business plan in the U.S., the chance to talk directly to potential customers has been invaluable. Yesterday Justin and I were fortunate enough to pitch an abbreviated version of our business plan to a delegation of business and educational leaders in the city of Bengbu. Afterwards we received a lot of feedback from students who attended the presentation.

Me and Vivian negotiating her intern salary

Me and Vivian negotiating her intern salary

One student, Vivian, came right up to me afterwards and told me exactly why our business wouldn’t work in China. When I defended our plan she continued to elaborate on exactly why it wouldn’t work and she convinced me that we did indeed have a few holes in our pricing scheme and our bring to market strategy. Luckily, Vivian is a marketing major and had a ton of great ideas on how to fix the product and market to young people in China. I’m hoping she’ll be the first unpaid intern for our company! (Vivian was also instrumental in encouraging our table at dinner to drink a concoction that I referred to as Dragon’s Blood, that began a series of hilarious and bizarre events that Justin blogged about yesterday.) Continue reading

Tagged , , , , ,

Greetings From the City of Bengbu

By: Justin Gordon 

We JUST departed Bengbu, China, and it is my pleasure to blog about this portion of our trip. We departed Shanghai early from the brand new Hongqiao High Speed Rail Station bound for the central coast of China. The High Speed Rail was an experience in itself. Honqiao Station reminded me more of an airport than a train station. That is no coincidence; it is collocated in Hongqiao Airport, Shanghai’s domestic airport. This combination made for an impressive inter-modal transportation hub the likes of which are rarely seen in the U.S. The train journey itself is essentially identical to a trip on the Japanese “Bullet Train”, except in China the trains are known as “Harmony”. At an impressive speed of 300 km/h (roughly 190 mph) we whisked towards Bengbu.


It was a bit hazy with light drizzle as we arrived. We immediately traveled by bus to Anhui University of Finance & Economics. We were treated to yet another wonderful authentic Chinese buffet.  During the meal we had the opportunity to dine with a number of undergraduate students studying various business disciplines. Using their impressive English skills they provided us insight into what it’s like to study at a Chinese university. They also discussed what they hope to do in the business world upon graduation. I think the sense in the U.S. is that China is lagging the West in gender equality in the workplace. I thought it was interesting that the female students said they anticipate having just as many opportunities in the job market after graduation as their male peers. Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,

Kicking Off the AdVENTURE Challenge: China – First Impressions

By Philip Webster

After a brief fifteen-hour flight, Tiffany and I arrived in Shanghai on Thursday afternoon. Upon arrival I was seriously questioning my decision to pull an all-nighter the night before we left Maryland. I was trying to reset my body clock on Day One of this trip and planned to be so tired on the plane that I would sleep the whole time on the plane and arrive in China completely ready for action. I don’t usually sleep well airplanes even when I’m exhausted, so I brought a sleeping pill to make sure I could get some quality zzz’s just in case. Unfortunately my desire to watch the in-flight movie, Night at the Museum 3 (don’t judge) counteracted some of the soporific effects of the Ambien and I only slept for about four hours. So, the first thing I did after arriving in this amazing country for the first time was take a nap.

IMG_0046 Continue reading

Tagged , , ,

What’s happening at the Dingman Center?

Every two weeks, the Dingman Center distributes The Pitch, which highlights important happenings in our community. In case you missed it, here’s a look at what’s up in entrepreneurship:

Dingman Center Offers Lean Startup Program Exclusively for UMD Alumni

jumpstartThe Dingman Center has created a unique program to help UMD alumni entrepreneurs jumpstart their startup ideas. Dingman Jumpstart will help alumni de-risk their ideas using the principles of the highly effective Lean Launchpad methodology. The eight-week program kicks off with a  boot camp weekend (Jan. 9-11) featuring interactive workshops, lectures and intense customer discovery. The program continues with two additional workshops in February and March. In the end, alumni should be equipped to make a “go or no-go” decision on their idea.

Campus partners include the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, DC-ICorps and Mtech. The full schedule, program materials and registration information is available online.

Don’t miss the opportunity to jumpstart your business idea. Register by December 12.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , ,

AdVENTURE Challenge: China – Final Thoughts On An Amazing Adventure

By Tiffany Lee

I can’t believe that we just finished the AdVENTURE Challenge: China trip a few days ago and now every Terp is preparing to start their summer internships. All of us are a little tired after the long trip, but we know it was worth spending almost 20 hours on an airplane.


We learned a lot from the business plan competition at Peking University and had a great connection with students from different top business schools across the globe. We enjoyed listening to other teams’ business ideas and felt excited to show our business ideas to others. I was especially proud that my team got the “Best Presentation Award”.  5

During the trip, we also visited four different companies in China, many of which were overwhelming. Doing business in China is a dream for many people and during this trip we got a glimpse of that. Yes, we worked hard on our projects and learned a lot from the competition. But, at the same time, we had lots of FUN. We got to view the Hong Kong skyline at night; had Dim Sum for breakfast; we connected with Smith alums in China; visited the Great Wall and tried to destroy it; learned to use chopsticks; and we even did Karaoke.

In addition, the Dean of Smith School of Business, Alex Triantis, also joined us as member of the delegation. It felt great having him there. The Dingman Center was able to arrange the competition and city tours very effectively. We really appreciate Dingman Center’s efforts and support, especially since it allowed us to focus on the competition and not the travel details.


I know most of us have already started to miss China, and so do I. I truly believe that this experience and all of things we learned could easily apply to our internships and future full time positions. Thanks for the great trip to start our summer. Be prepared to see Terps rocking it all over the world!

Lee_C-21Aug13-7Tiffany Lee is a first-year MBA student originally from Taipei, Taiwan. Tiffany is concentrating her MBA experience on marketing, and decided to go on the AdVENTURE Challenge: China to learn more about the Chinese market. She is most excited about using the subway in Beijing during peak traffic hours, although she may not find any classmates quite as courageous to join her. 

AdVENTURE Challenge: China – Final Days in China

By Bethy Hagan

After ten days in China, our adventure is coming to a close. In just a few hours we will fly back to the United States, equipped with stories and lessons learned from this incredible experience. The last two days in Beijing, in particular, have been eye opening and very rewarding.

On Friday, we went to Peking University to pitch the business ideas that we have been developing since mid-March. The opportunity to partner with Peking University was an honor in and of itself, as many consider it to be the best university in China. Thirteen teams gathered from around the world for a series of rounds in front of highly qualified judges, who scored each team based on the following criteria:

  1. Feasibility of the idea in the Chinese market;
  2. Radical impact on the market;
  3. Customer demand and discovery process;
  4. Profit potential;
  5. Presentation;
  6. Use of cross national resources; and
  7. Use of lean startup methodology.

Teams were given four minutes to pitch the business idea and describe the process through which they developed it. Following the four minutes, judges were given two minutes to question the teams for further information. Each team presented three times to three different sets of judges, and then five teams were chosen for a final round.

The pitches were truly inspiring. Each of the thirteen teams developed ambitious and disruptive business ideas that could change the landscape of the Chinese market. It was incredible to see the presentations of the five finalists. The teams chosen to compete in the final round were:

  1. Wireless ISP: a team made up of Smith students and Chinese students who were studying at Peking University, that planned to enter the telecommunications industry to provide more reliable internet to rural Chinese areas.
  2. Kids Minding: a Chinese team with a prototype for a toy car whose speed is determined by the level of concentration of the driver. The toy would teach children how to increase their concentration abilities.
  3. Smart Mediband: a team of Smith students and a student from the Technion in Israel, who proposed to provide the Chinese with a product to monitor the health of their aging family members remotely.
  4. Skills Fair: a team from Peking University, who planned to create a platform to allow for better hiring of skilled workforce for large corporations.
  5. Say What?!: a team of Smith students who devised a mobile application that large credit card and luxury hotels could purchase in order to provide their clients with language and cultural assistance while traveling abroad.

After much deliberation, the judges revealed the results of the closest and most difficult vote in years. The Smith School took home first place (Wireless ISP), second place (Say What?!), fourth place (Smart Mediband), best presentation (Fresh Express), and best use of cross-national resources (China Buddy). We left Peking University full of pride and excitement. Not only had we succeeded in the competition, but we had also come away with relationships with students from all over the world, and a much better understanding of what it means to launch a new venture in a completely different market.

The Winning Team, Wireless ISP

The Winning Team, Wireless ISP

The following day was our last in China and we planned to make the most of it. Our tour guide, Jessica, took us to the Great Wall to climb and explore and to the Pearl Market to get in any last minute shopping. The area of the Great Wall that we visited is called Mutiyanu and is Jessica’s favorite portion of the entire Wall. After a group picture and about an hour of climbing the many slanted steps, we returned to the base on toboggans on a large slide! It was quite a rush after the long hike up the wall.

great wall

The Great Wall of China

On Saturday evening we all felt very sad to be leaving this amazing country.  After an authentic Hot Pot dinner and many toasts, we spent the rest of the evening singing karaoke and enjoying each other’s company. There were some talented voices in our group!

hot pot dinner

Hot Pot Dinner


Smith’s rendition of “New York, New York”

Now our adventure is over and it is time to say goodbye to Beijing. This trip has changed our perspective and opened our eyes to the opportunities within the Chinese market. I can confidently say that we will all remember this experience for the rest of our lives.

Hagan_E-21Aug13-5Bethy Hagan is a first year MBA student and Dingman Venture Fellow from Baltimore, MD. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia. Following her degree, she worked for a sports startup in Santa Monica, CA in a variety of operations and program management roles. Through the Smith School and the Dingman Center she hopes to build her understanding of strategy implementation in order to assist in the growth and development of early stage companies.