On 14 April 2017, we finished our GCP project by making the final presentation in Japan to our client, WHILL, a late-stage start-up founded in 2012, dedicated to reinventing the personal mobility industry with an intelligent personal electric vehicle that aims to eliminate the negative perception associated with wheelchairs.
Whereas the GCP is just a four-week project, in retrospect my GCP was almost a one-year project.
I decided to try sourcing a GCP project and started contacting various potential clients, mainly Japan-based start-ups, soon after getting admitted to the Cambridge MBA in the round one last year. There were three reasons for this. Firstly, I wanted to gain as much perspective on start-up ecosystem as possible through the Cambridge MBA for my future career. Secondly, I expected that sourcing a GCP would offer me a unique opportunity to have a leadership experience in a multinational team. Lastly and most importantly, I thought taking my classmates to my home country through the GCP would be a lot of fun.
Although I knew it was too early to reach out to potential clients one year before the project, I approached approximately twenty companies in Japan by utilizing my limited networks or sending cold e-mails. Among the potential clients, WHILL was by far the best start-up. At the initial meeting with the CEO in June 2016, I was enormously impressed by his strong vision and great passion along with the company’s innovative product and unprecedented approach, which made me believe that I should work with this company. Instead of agreeing to work together, the CEO suggested I talk with the VP of Global Business Development who was not based in Japan but based in Taiwan. I was so eager that I flew from Japan to Taiwan in July 2016 to meet the VP and discuss how WHILL could utilize the GCP, and roughly agreed with him to work together.
At a later time, in January 2017, as the deadline of the GCP proposal submission approached, I e-mailed the CEO and the VP to arrange the submission but did not receive any reply. They seemed too busy to discuss the details of the GCP proposal. I was about to give up this opportunity. Then, just one week before the deadline, I finally received a reply, immediately wrote up the project proposal, and submitted it to the school at the last minute.
WHILL requested the team to research and provide recommendations for a successful market entry in Europe. We agreed on the project scope and started working. The team was a perfect mix of talented members with different backgrounds – Haina Wang from Hong Kong (ex-branding/marketing consultant), Jenni Ebert from Germany/UK (ex-finance manager in the healthcare industry), Chih Hsiang Michael Tang from Taiwan (ex-venture capitalist), Yuta Ohashi from Japan (ex-PR/communication agency), and myself from Japan (ex-investor/metal trader). Having said that, we had never worked as a team. To work well together, we discussed the team charters that defined the purpose of the team, how it would work, and what the expected outcomes were. This enabled us to have a great start. During the project period, we trusted each other, and worked together surprisingly efficiently and seamlessly. All of my teammates are extremely smart, and brought their professional skills and creative ideas into the project work.
After conducting thorough market research in Europe, we flew to Japan to make the final presentation. We celebrated the end of our project by viewing beautiful cherry blossoms in full bloom.
Thanks to the amazing teammates and the excellent client, my GCP experience became the highlight of the MBA. What I learned through the GCP will be my great asset that will be available throughout my life.