UCL Alumni


Alumni stories: discovering the business in you with Fangyu Wu

From the fast-paced world of investment banking to her own lightbulb moment business that’s redefining workspace sharing in Hong Kong, Fangyu Wu is a true 21st century entrepreneur.

Portrait of Fangyu Wu

19 March 2020

After graduating from UCL in 2011, she’s taken our ethos of disruptive thinking across the world. Now, Fangyu is ready to share what she's learned with the students looking to follow in her footsteps. “Life is full of serendipitous opportunities that come along,” she says. “But without my time at UCL, my journey would have been very different.”

Business in the blood

Born to Chinese parents, Fangyu grew up in Nottingham. She felt an attraction to the world of business, despite the pressure to pursue a career in medicine. During her A-Levels, Fangyu got her first opportunity to test her business acumen through the Global HSBC Young Enterprise competition.

Her ‘media company’ recorded and distributed CDs with tracks from local bands. “We actually managed to get our CD stocked in HMV!” she says. And after reaching the regional finals, Fangyu’s mind was made up. Instead of medicine, she decided to study economics at UCL.

Innovative thinking starts at UCL

For Fangyu, UCL had unique benefits that other universities just couldn’t offer. A combination of our central London location and our position as a truly global institution gave her more than just a degree. She says: “The people you meet at lectures are always changing. It’s like the best speed dating! I loved it, and it was a real privilege to experience it right in the centre of where business happens in the UK.”

Outside of her studies, Fangyu took a summer internship at Goldman Sachs. But it was an opportunity in her third year that had the biggest impact. “I decided to try out for the London Entrepreneur’s Competition, which was open to anyone who was a student of the ‘University of London’. It was a Dragon’s Den-style concept where you pitched a business idea in front of a panel

“This just happened to shape the course of my life and career.”

During a time when most of the UK was still drinking instant coffee, Fangyu’s ‘Coffee in a teabag’ venture, which replicated the experience of a French Press without need for cleaning, won the undergraduate’s prize. But more significantly, she made a new connection.

“It’s ultimately not companies that open doors, it’s people,” says Fangyu. “When I won, there was a former investment banker in the audience who was taking a Master’s degree at UCL and wanted to invest. He also had a friend who worked at UBS – who was hiring.”

A global outlook

During the next six years, Fangyu worked as an investment banker for UBS and lived in London, New York and Hong Kong. She says: “I was 25 when I moved to my third country. Compared to other employees at my level, I had a skillset that was difficult to beat because I had experience working in all of the major financial centres in the world.”

From Hong Kong, Fangyu was an ideal fit to look after the banking of the firm’s major technology company clients in mainland China. She says: “I sat with these founders and chairmen who were incredibly bright, but also just hard-working people with a lot of grit. I realised that I could spend my life working for these people, or I could try to be them.” 

Making your own way

After a transitional year as Vice President of Business Development and Product at a pre-IPO fintech unicorn, Fangyu decided to launch her own business in January 2019.

MilkGarage connects flexible workspaces across Asia on one platform, with one pass that allows you to access them all. Fangyu says: “Hong Kong is the most expensive real estate market in the world, so I could never understand why there were so many beautiful, under-utilised spaces during the day.”

“It’s about putting all of these empty spaces and seats to work, and transforming our idle resources into something useful for our increasingly mobile and global workforce.”

Fangyu puts a lot of the business’s success down to a changing marketplace – where technology is allowing ideas to be put to the test with minimal expense. She says: “The cost of trying out a business idea has never been lower. You can put out a website, test the concept and if it doesn’t work, you can delete it and continue with your day job.”

Inspiring the next generation

“I believe everyone has, at some point in their lives, a really fantastic, high-value business idea,” says Fangyu.

“You don’t have to go big straightaway,” is her key advice to new graduates. “Start small, find a problem that you want solved in your life. Solve it. Then figure out if someone else will pay you to solve that problem too. If this becomes all-consuming, then it’s probably a business idea with a future. That’s your cue to take a bit of risk to try out properly.

“A lot of people have realised you can do something entrepreneurial while you do your day job. The cost of trying a business has also never been lower – that’s why there are so many technology companies emerging now. 

“Ultimately, everyone has an entrepreneurial spirit inside of them. It’s up to you to feed, water and nurture it!”

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