Jack Ma founded Ho You University to nurture young entrepreneurs in China. However, the government decided to suspend the enrollment of this school.
12 years ago, Alibaba founder Jack Ma and a group of colleagues, who are entrepreneurs in the technology field, took a trip to Bhutan. Two decades have passed since the first stones that laid the foundation for the Chinese internet began to develop, which is also a long time for a startup culture to be formed and mature in the country. this. The group of entrepreneurs came together to discuss the issue: Why not refine this culture through an educational and pedagogical environment?
In 2015, Jack Ma and 8 of his friends founded Hupan University to nurture the next generation of Chinese entrepreneurs. The school was built on the outskirts of Hangzhou, the city of science and technology of the future, with an eye-catching campus, a cross between the Apple Store and the royal garden in the palace with glass walls, rooms. meditation and an old house. The campus is only a 5-minute walk from the peaceful West Lake and a 20-minute drive from Alibaba’s headquarters. With the title “Harvard University of Economics of China”, Ho You’s mission is “discover and develop pioneer entrepreneurs with an entrepreneurial spirit”.
Recently, as the Chinese government’s moves towards the tech industry have become increasingly harsh, Ho You has been criticized for operating as a club for China’s tech elite – and also the political elite. ruler. In the past few months, in the context of the government actively controlling Jack Ma’s empire, Ho You also became a target when the government forced the school to suspend enrollment, forced Jack Ma to resign as president and abandoned the “university”. learn” out of the name. For the Chinese government, Hu You is not a simple matter, as it embodies an elite, but an elite that no longer wants to share their values.
When Hu You was founded six years ago, the values of the Chinese businessman and the Chinese government were more or less aligned. The school gets its name from “Hupan Gardens”, an old, cluttered apartment complex in Hangzhou where Jack Ma founded Alibaba in 2002. Like Hupan Gardens, the school was created as a startup with a learning-by-doing program. The school’s curriculum includes the practice of humility, the spirit of taking risks and accepting failure. None of Ho You’s founders knew how to run a real school. Instead, the curriculum is designed around the needs of the students, and classes are curated by school-invited entrepreneurs to share on topics ranging from financial management to technology. art. “On the first day of class at Ho You, we didn’t even know what to teach the students.”, Jack Ma shared in an opening ceremony in 2017. “But we don’t lie to our students, we share it with them, let’s build this school from scratch together.”
In terms of entrepreneurship, Ho You’s vision is that you can change the world for the better with enough motivation, ambition and of course capital. Failure is celebrated as the path to success. Similar to when Jack Ma rose from a mediocre person, from a mediocre English teacher and was rejected by KFC, to becoming a symbol of success in China with an e-commerce empire. die and become one of the most powerful businessmen in the world – so will you. To become a freshman of Ho You, you must have been successful in business. Each year, freshmen must stand in front of all their classmates and teachers and answer the question: “How has the world changed because of me?”
Many of the first generations of students, born after 1985, were part of the group that benefited from the economic reform that created social change by harnessing the potential of the free market. Some prominent names can be mentioned such as Geng Le, the founder of a dating app for gay men that aims to harness the power of “pink economy” of China, helping to bring about a better image of the LGBTQI community; and Peng Shen, founder of a crowdfunding platform to help patients in China who can’t afford medical expenses beyond their financial means.
While Hu You may appear to be an ordinary school, the admissions process presents it as a club dedicated to China’s emerging tech elite. Every year, Ho You school only accepts from 30 to 40 students with an admission rate of 4%. Candidates must be founders of a company with at least 30 employees and annual sales of more than $4.5 million, and must be recommended by one of the school’s sponsors, the list of which includes sponsors. Alibaba co-founder, Lucy Peng and Sequoia Capital China founder, Neil Shen… Tuition is $44,840 for three years of study.
Students only need to fly to Hangzhou to attend classes about 4 days every 2 months, so they can go back to their regular jobs. To date, the number of graduates can include 40 CEOs of tech unicorns in China such as Yu Kai (CEO of AI chip maker Horizon Robotics), Zhu Zhaojiang (founder of Transsion, one of Africa’s largest smartphone distributors)… Some other notables include the president of Didi, China’s largest ride-hailing app, and Ele.me, one of the delivery platforms. eat the biggest.
It is also not surprising that Hu You have come under fire from the government for acting as a club of China’s tech elite. In the media, Chinese netizens also call Ho You as “lakeside nightclub” nice “club of CEOs”, is where the idea of a centralized network of connections is exclusively for tech elites, and it is no longer the path to success for the average person. Former resentment towards guanerdai (second generation political elite) and fuerdai (second generation wealthy class) now has a new goal, which is chuungerdai (second generation business elite) and their own ways of connecting and perks.
While the image of technology workers having to work with an exhausting time frame, commonly known as 996 (9 am to 9 pm, 6 days a week), has been honored as an icon , it is now uttered by industry workers themselves with frustration and displeasure. In 2019, when Jack Ma called 996 “blessing” and credits that long working period for Alibaba’s success. This comment by Jack Ma has been criticized for being irrelevant. “It’s just a blessing to him, not his staff.”, one user commented on Reddit.
And not only the comments on Reddit, but even the Chinese government wants “rectify” Jack Ma. In October 2020, after Jack Ma publicly criticized China’s state-owned banks and regulators, the government began curbing Jack Ma’s influence, as well as cracking down on the growing tech empire. his growing. In November 2020, Jack Ma’s fintech company Ant Group was forced to stop its planned IPO in Shanghai estimated at $34 billion. In April 2021, the antitrust regulator fined Alibaba $2.8 billion for monopolistic practices and Ant Group was forced to downsize its operations. Since October last year, Jack Ma seems to have “sink” more and limited public appearances.
Not only Alibaba and Ant, Ho You is of course also affected. In April 2021, it was reported that the government forced the school to stop enrollment. In May 2021, the Financial Times reported that Jack Ma would step down as chairman at Ho You. A week earlier, Ho You had quietly removed the phrase “university” from his name and changed the name to Ho You Startup Research Center.
Some videos posted on social media in China have captured the image of a janitor using a torch to erase the name of Ho You University from a stone stele placed in front of the campus after the Chinese Ministry of Education announced that only newly licensed educational institutions are called “universities”. “Companies need to rethink their thinking, put the university name in its place, and adjust to the social environment.”, online news site Xia Ke Dao writes, this site is an offshoot of the government-run People’s Daily.
Indeed, the startup environment in China has calmed down. When Ho You was founded in 2015, the relationship between the government and tech startups was very optimistic; Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has also just made a policy “Innovation and comprehensive entrepreneurship”; and the government has poured money into startups and “Seeds”. “But their support is merely a temporary consent, a regulatory approval.”, Professor Silvia Lindtner at the University of Michigan answered page Rest of World, he studies Chinese entrepreneurship and innovation. “Chinese entrepreneurs never know how long their privilege will last”.
Ever since Alibaba and generations of tech leaders have grown so powerful that they have defied the Chinese government, as Jack Ma did last October, the political wind has reversed. Ho You’s vision of entrepreneurship believes that unregulated markets and new technologies with powerful capabilities can serve as vehicles for disruptive social change. This vision has ceased to align with China’s current vision of a state-led capitalism. In some ways, the two sides’ values are at odds: the tech world values experimentation and disruption, and the government wants stability. The government is fine with Alibaba’s rise as carefully controlled, but not an entire community, with about 30 businesses potentially becoming Alibaba, all with the audacity to do so. form a separate vision of China’s future.
“There’s always a question people ask about entrepreneurship in China: Can China give birth to a second Steve Jobs?”, Lindtner said. “Now, there’s a newer question: Can China create another Jack Ma?”
No one knows. It remains unclear whether China wants to encourage another tech mogul to rise. But so far, the government’s message to Hu Bei’s students, and also to China’s future entrepreneurs, has been clear: Break the envelope, but stay within the limits. Change the world, but don’t dare defy the law.
Minh Bao (According to Rest of World)