Students Pack Aldrich Classroom to Meet the Technology Legend of China

Ever since the Nasdaq started its free fall last year, it has become difficult for a high-tech speaker to draw a full room in any Aldrich classroom. However, over 100 eager attendees, many of them from other Harvard Schools, MIT and even Boston area businesses, packed Aldrich 211 on Wednesday, April 11, to attend the presentation of a guest speaker from China, even though the presentation was given in Chinese.

Who is this attractive speaker? The answer is Mr. Liu Chuanzhi, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Legend Holdings, Ltd., the largest PC maker in Asia, which was founded by Mr. Liu and his colleagues 15 years ago with $50,000 seed funding. Mr. Liu was named “Star of Asia” by Business Week, “Asian Businessman Of the Year” by Fortune, and also the chief protagonist in a recently published HBS Case, “A Technology Legend in China”, part of the RC C&S curriculum.

Over one and a half hours, Mr. Liu shared with the audience how he and his colleagues turned the $50K investment into an IT empire with over $3 billion revenue, $8 billion market cap and one of the best recognized domestic brands in China. His humorous style drew waves of laughter from the audience throughout the presentation. His insights on the four major bottlenecks facing high-tech start-ups in China and the three major components of Legend’s successful management philosophy were well received and echoed by the audience, many of whom are contemplating launching their own start-ups upon graduation. Though much of his experience was unique to China and to IT, the key lessons learned along the path from a bungalow to an empire are applicable across countries and industries, namely, building leadership team on strong vision, formulating strategies with concrete goals, and developing superior staff through discipline and incentive scheme. Legend’s success was reflected in its stock price, which rose more than tenfold in three years and has remained at a relatively high level in the Hong Kong market despite the significant down fall of the tech sector, which follows the Nasdaq. Mr. Liu expressed his warm welcome to any HBS students interested in pursuing full time or summer opportunities with Legend or considering raising money to launch their high-tech start-up.

The Asia Business Club which sponsored Mr. Liu’s presentation, commented, “we are honored to have invited such a high-profile speaker as Mr. Liu to kick-off the Asia Business Club Distinguished Speaker Series of this year. I believe all of us learned something from the presentation on the rapidly evolving business environment in China, on entrepreneurship and strategy, and on how we can leverage HBS education in building a successful business.” Mr. Liu likened entrepreneurs to hatched eggs and difficult business environment to 105øF hatching bed. Though the temperature is beyond our control, HBS can certainly help us grow into stronger eggs that are likely to survive harsh hatching beds.

Mr. Liu is on a two-day trip to HBS, to attend class discussion on the Legend Case and to present to the students. The Case was developed by Henry Chen, Harry Qin, Greg Ye and Zheng Yin, all current EC students, under the supervision of Professor Mike Rukstad. A copy of Mr. Liu’s speech can be obtained by contacting the Asia Business Club.