Ambition in action: Vincent Can Cui (MBET '16) leads big data startup in Beijing

Vincent Can Cui

Hometown: Weifang, China

Undergraduate: B.Comm, Concordia University

Pre-MBET position: Owner of Escape Matrix Inc.

Post-MBET position: Cofounder, Flow++

Favourite event of MBET: Hearing Steve Blank speak at Communitech's Rev Centre Stage event

Quote that keeps him inspired even on the long days: "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." (Oliver Goldsmith)

The ink was hardly dry on MBET grad Vincent Can Cui's diploma when he found himself signing the term sheet for his startup's angel round of $1M from a group of Silicon Valley and Chinese investors.

This wasn't Vincent's first time working with a term sheet—it's one of the topics covered in MBET's entrepreneurial finance course—but the stakes were higher in real life than during the in-class exercises led by instructor and former VC Tim Jackson. The financing round was one milestone of his startup's rapid acceleration, which began only months after the last MBET class.

A reunion leads to opportunity

It all started with a trip to China. At the time, Vincent was working with a local startup that he had partnered with as part of MBET's Entrepreneurial Applications of Technology course. The company creates air filtration masks for the Asian market, and Vincent travelled to China to raise capital and find distribution partners. Though he had often visited China in the seven years since he moved to Canada, he hadn't spent much time in the business hotspots, and he was surprised with what he found: a flourishing spirit of entrepreneurship and a strong ecosystem of entrepreneurial support to back it up.

On the same trip, he connected with a former high school classmate who had recently completed his postdoctoral studies at UCLA in cybersecurity. His friend had a business idea for an automated data mining algorithm which would help companies to make business decision backed with data. He asked Vincent for some pointers based on his pitching experiences in MBET, which included a spot in the International Business Model Competition in Seattle. Together, the two of them condensed a thirty minute technical talk into a pitch that would resonate with investors. And it did.

Vincent and Alex at IBMC

Vincent and fellow MBET student Alexandru Gogan pitching at IBMC.

Taking the leap

The team had technical strength in spades, but needed someone with business expertise to take their technology to market. After the success of the first pitch, Vincent extended his trip and spent a week working alongside the team. Impressed by their work ethic and the potential of the business, he made the decision to join the team as a co-founder. This willingness to jump on opportunities, he says, is the game-changer of MBET:

Being around so many classmates and companies who were driven to make things happen helped me find my ambition and act on opportunity when it arose.

Now eight months in, he is living the startup life: twelve hour days and six day weeks. He oversees the business, which includes everything from high-level strategy to setting up the office furniture. The company was incubated by TusStar, and now has its own offices in Beijing housing a team of 12.

The knowledge he learned in MBET comes into use daily, as he conducts market research for new customer segments, balances the budget, and leads his team, but it's the mindset instilled in MBET that really makes the difference: the drive to push beyond the ordinary, evaluate opportunity and, when the time is right, take the leap.

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