Brasenose alum and global entrepreneur, Joachim Chao (PPE, 1986), enthralled a largely student audience on Thursday evening of 4th week when he made a welcome return to College. Mr Chao founded his first company at the age of just 25 after spotting the potential to attract external investment into the Greek shipping industry with the launch of Global Ocean Carriers. Stressing the importance of getting involved in sectors a would-‐be entrepreneur can learn to understand, he subsequently moved from bulk carriage of energy-‐related commodities (e.g. coal) into energy generation in China. Holding his nerve at the peak of the 1998 Asian financial crisis, Mr Chao steered the construction of two Chinese power plants through to completion. Building on this success, his current venture, engages in energy resource exploration in various parts of China. Drawing on his experiences, Mr Chao encouraged the undergraduates and graduates present to think positively about pursuing future entrepreneurial opportunities. Given the unpredictable nature of business, he stressed the importance of having a vision clear enough to encourage investors and managers to come on board. At the ideas stage, he advised not shying away from the obvious – implementing a vision, he reflected, was where innovation came into its own. Promoters of successful start-ups, he observed, communicated their core ideas clearly and possessed the confidence to achieve goals in their own way. Failure, Mr Chao cautioned, was a necessary lesson for success and he recounted his own setback in the early-1990s after a soil purification investment proved successful environmentally but then derailed after costs overran and follow-up contracts disappeared. It was best (and cheaper), he stressed, to learn the lessons from failure early and quickly. Taking questions from the floor, Mr Chao shared his concerns for the environment. Cleaner fossil fuels, more extensive tree planting, and stronger forest protection were areas where he felt progress could be made to combat carbon emissions. There was an urgent need, he stressed, to look further and tackle the pollution risk posed by toxic heavy metals in mobile phones (mercury, lead, cadmium and many others) now that their use had become globalised. He added that soil and ground water contamination posed an even greater risk to the environment than carbon emissions.
Pictured in conversation with the speaker are (right, front) graduate fresher Penpitcha Priyametha, studying for an MBA, and (right, rear) DPhil candidate Laura-‐Marie Topfer (Geography), who recently completed six-‐months of fieldwork research in China. Laura-Marie comments:
"I enjoyed learning about Joachim Chao's personal story. His talk provided food for thought on how China's economy is shifting from being the world's workshop towards an investment environment led by high-tech industries such as clean energy. The opportunity to discuss and share ideas with accomplished alumni is certainly one of the perks of graduate life at Brasenose."