Out of the comfort zone with Cindy, Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund

Cindy donating a lunch and raising 196 volunteer hours

Just a day before Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund announced their first batch of investments, we were fortunate to have lunch with Cindy Chow — Executive Director of this exciting initiative.

Cindy joined Alibaba Group in 2007 as Senior Director of Finance. Prior to this, she started out as an accountant at Arthur Anderson and has worked in various finance roles in HK listed companies including Hutchison Whampoa. All her key career decisions were made based on two beliefs — “Internet” and “China” will be the future, and that learning takes place once you step out of your comfort zone.

Even before joining Alibaba, she was already ahead of the trend and was working in mobile technology start-ups in China in the early days of her career.

In discussing her goals and vision for this fund, Cindy shared that as a local born and bred in Hong Kong:

“It is my wish to run the fund in a meaningful way to make positive changes in Hong Kong.”
Picking Cindy’s brains on investor insights and pitching skills

With that in mind, the aspiring entrepreneurs and startup founders in the audience jumped in with questions. The top burning question from everyone in the room was:

What advice do you have for potential applicants of the fund?

Cindy lists out the factors they consider:

1) Scalability: the business model could expand in other markets

2) Execution: proven track record of the business

3) Passion: the team is committed to what they believe in

4) Presentation: know what and how to pitch your idea

What technology trends are you excited about?

“To name a few — E-commerce, IoT (Internet of Things) such as wearables, gadgets, OTO (Online to Offline) and Fintech. We are looking to invest in early and growing stages of startups.”

Should I work in a corporate or start a company after graduating from university?

Cindy shared that when she first graduated, no one would even think about becoming an entrepreneur.

“Our culture has changed dramatically and the entrepreneurial spirit is much higher now than 20 years ago. Both paths offer valuable experiences and you are able to learn lots of things either way. It really depends on what you want to achieve. Ultimately, try different things and find something you are truly passionate for.”

What do you think about the startup ecosystem in Hong Kong?

“Hiring is difficult for many startups. We see that there is still a skills gap in Hong Kong especially for e-commerce startups. Alibaba will be launching a program to educate and train talent for startups in this field, so watch this space!”

What are the important experience to get out of your 20s?

“Go out of you comfort zone. Say YES to whatever valuable opportunities that come your way, grab it and try different things.”

Lastly, is there any action or ask you would like everyone to take away?

“Embrace your dream and do the things you love and believe in.”

Cindy’s personal path has shown us that by having the courage to try and the drive to learn, you will eventually reach places you may never have dreamed of. The road map to success might not be clear, but one thing is certain — all it takes now is a step outside of your comfort zone.

Thank you Cindy for donating your precious time to Time Auction, which has contributed 196 volunteer hours to Hong Kong Society of the Deaf, Soap Cycling, Youth Arch Foundation, Food Angel, Hands On Hong Kong, Leo Club, Hong Kong Dog Rescue and more.

If you like this, check out Time Auction, a platform that connects you with inspiring people while encouraging volunteerism.

By Johnny Tang, Time Auction Ambassador and Fion Leung, Co-founder of Time Auction

Volunteer testimonials:

Timothy Wong, CUHK Student

A BIG THANK YOU to Time Auction lining up the lunch meeting with Cindy Chow from Alibaba together with so many bright and self-driven talents. We had an insightful session with Cindy who shared her past experience and her current responsibilities as the Executive Director of the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund. Each attendee also had our chance to introduce ourselves and participate in the broad discussion. Since most of us are interested in entrepreneurship, Cindy also explained what’s the main component to build a good venture which I think it’s very rewarding to all of us. All in all, I really enjoyed the session and another thanks to Time Auction for the opportunities!

James cleaning the apartment of a local senior citizen with Hands On Hong Kong

James Slusser, Founder of REUNIONCare

A brief thank you for your time, as well as to Time Auction for providing the opportunity. It was great to hear your personal story, career trajectory, and current challenge with the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund. You provided inspiration for the entrepreneurs in the room (like REUNION Care!) who are hoping to make a difference in Hong Kong and Asia, hopefully with an opportunity to team up with Alibaba in the process. For the younger folks in the room, I believe you provided some wonderful insight for how they can each more forward with their careers as they grow. I look forward to seeing you again, and wish you the best of luck going forward.

Rita Li, Education & Marketing Professional

Cindy is a truly inspiring business leader with broad exposure and sense of humor. By sharing her work experience and personal stories, Cindy encouraged us to adopt an entrepreneur mind no matter we are working at corporates or startups. It was a wonderful time speaking to Cindy and other Time Auction participants.

Sundararaja Valiyapan, HKU Student

Thank you for hosting us for lunch with Time Auction. I really enjoyed getting to know your background and the insights you had to offer about venture funding and startups.

Your story on going from being an accountant to becoming the director of a major venture fund is very inspiring.

Thanks again for your time and sharing.

Vincent Kwok, Architect and Entrepreneur

Thank you for donating your time to give guidance to entrepreneurs. I think the work that you are doing and Alibaba entrepreneur fund are very meaningful. And I guess, I will start running a lot in the morning like you too.

Larry Lam, Compliance Professional

I am grateful to have met Cindy and the other counterparts. Though the time was short, I feel excited that Cindy and her team has plan to improve the whole ecosystem better and more competitive by providing training to the people in Hong Kong. This let me know that the Fund is not just only a fund but with a bigger vision and commitment.

Sharon volunteering at Feeding Hong Kong for The Bread Run

Sharon Hsu, HKUST Student

It was such an honor to be at the lunch with Cindy! I found great interest in entrepreneurship a while ago, and I’ve been finding ways to gain deeper understanding of it. Meeting with Cindy and other Time Auction fellows was a pleasant and meaningful experience. Cindy’s abundant industry experience and the diverse background of the participants spurred exciting and insightful conversation. I realized my original understanding of career as an entrepreneur was very shallow and narrow, thanks to the event, I think I have gradually widened and deepened my understanding of it. Furthermore, it was a wonderful chance for a international student like me to become more engaged in Hong Kong society. At last, I very much appreciate Time Auction for the organization!

Erika walking dogs at Hong Kong Dog Rescue

Erika Ho, Banking Professional

Cindy is charming, lively and intelligent. As the Executive Director of the new Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund, she shared industry insight which is precious to local entrepreneurs.

King Chan, Medical Industry Professional

I would like to personally thank you for your sharing to us on 4/5. Judging from the comments of those who attended, the meeting was very successful. It was very interesting to hear about your experience working in Alibaba for almost 9 years. Your stories about your whole career were fascinating. Your sharing gave us a close look at the landscape, culture, and people in the startup circle that we couldn’t have gained in any other way. Thank you so much for sharing your time and experiences with us. Hope to see you again soon in the future!

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