Christopher Zobrist ‘06
An Entrepreneur Invests in Vietnam
Shortly after receiving his MBA in 2006, Christopher Zobrist moved to Ho Chi Minh City. He subsequently founded and managed an IT outsourcing company, cofounded a lead-recycling company and has advised numerous start-ups. He also co-authored a grant proposal to raise $1 million U.S. for empowering people with disabilities in Vietnam.
What drives you in your work?
Entrepreneurship has always been my biggest passion. As Vietnam is one of the world’s fastest-growing, there are examples of entrepreneurship of every size and scope everywhere you look. It’s been the perfect place for someone like me.
Where is your career headed?
I’ve been a successful entrepreneur for 10 years. While I love starting my own businesses, I find that providing knowledge, sharing experiences and making connections with emerging young entrepreneurs is even more rewarding. So I’m returning to school for a Ph.D. in entrepreneurship—and hopefully I’ll be able to join the ranks of my former professors at Davis.
How has your UC Davis MBA experience helped shape your success?
Three courses in particular had a tremendous impact on my decision to relocate to Vietnam: Andy Hargadon’s entrepreneurship series, Cleveland Justis’ social entrepreneurship course and Anand Swaminathan’s social networks course. The first two gave me a solid foundation in both traditional and social entrepreneurship, while Anand’s course taught me the true value and importance of cultivating relationships for both business and personal success. The knowledge I gained helped me to start two companies in Vietnam, as well as obtain lecturing positions at several international universities, where I’ve been teaching entrepreneurship and leadership development to Vietnamese undergraduate and MBA students.
The most interesting development since graduating?
I’ve been featured in news stories and interviews several times, but the most amazing experience I’ve had in Vietnam was appearing on a three-person judging panel for a hit TV show called “Keys to Success— CEO,” where contestants face a challenging business situation and, as the CEO, must respond. The show was broadcast nationally in Vietnam several times a week, and I was featured on it for two consecutive months.
Your favorite GSM memory?
My favorite memories of Davis are of spending time outside the old GSM building with my classmates and my guide dog, Leo. I am legally blind, and Leo was my guide for six years before I moved to Vietnam. Because the environment in Vietnam is so radically different from what Leo was used to, I made the difficult decision to retire him from active duty, placing him in the good care of a close friend who works at the school where he was trained.
Any other news you’d like to share?
I’ll be launching a program to raise money to provide scholarships to people with disabilities in Vietnam. (The annual tuition for most Vietnamese colleges is around $400, so I call them “microscholarships.’) Anyone interested in helping with the program should get in touch.
I’ll be in Vietnam full time until September 2011, and would love to meet with visiting GSM alumni.