Jackie Lu (MBA ’12) is the founder and CEO of Yem Innovation, located in Shanghai, China. Yem Innovation is a SaaS cloud platform that encourages employee innovation. Jackie shared how his Rady MBA contributed to his journey of success with Yem Innovation.
What impact has Rady had on your career progression?
After years in a multinational and local stock listed company, I found the most important resources executives ignored is their own employees. There are huge opportunities to leverage employee talents and boost corporate profits by motivating employees. During my study and life at the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego, I learned about Marketing, Operations, Human Resources, Innovation & Technology and Lab to Market. All of these courses prepared me for launching my own business: Yem Innovation, which is a human resources SaaS cloud platform. The Yem Innovation platform can be used to stimulate, manage and monetize employee ideas, or simply put, it is a cloud platform for corporate internal innovations. The results of using our platform are three fold: to improve corporate revenues, boost employee engagement and lead a bottom-up management revolution.
Has your Rady MBA enabled you to change industries or functional areas?
Before I joined the Rady MBA program, I had years of marketing and corporate communications experience. With the help from the Rady School’s Innovation & Technology and HR & Leadership courses, I made the pivot from marketing to human resources. Now with Yem, I am dealing with ABC technology leveraging AI, Big Data, and Cloud Computing to monetize employee ideas.
How did the Rady School help you create and launch your company YEM Innovation? The Rady School is not just about business; it is also about management. From here, I learned more about the problems of modern management. After some solid research, we found that there are six bottlenecks for corporate internal innovations, which are caused by a traditional management style. By tackling these problems, we built a human resources SaaS cloud platform to simulate, manage and monetize employee ideas. Using our product, employees can submit ideas on the Yem Innovation cloud platform, which is both compatible for PC and smart devices. Meanwhile we provide professional service and help to make the ideas happen, with the ultimate goal of creating innovative revenues to the client. Yem Innovation has been referred to as an internal incubator. Under the new era of uncertainty, we truly believe the power of enabling, and the power to unlock each employee’s potential. What makes us special is that those staff who submitted ideas are responsible to implement the ideas. When finishing the idea, employees will get 30% profit sharing, and the other 70% goes to the company. It is a win-win-win solution to drive new business revenues and to initiate a new management style of bottom up. So far, we have had a very successful case in a manufacturing industry. Our client used our platform to encourage employees to submit ideas and to implement their ideas. One idea saved 400,000 Chinese Yuan for the company. My Rady experience has helped every aspect of my business, especially when starting the new business. I needed to go through a business plan, and every class I attended during the school helped me a lot to make the business plan more reasonable, more practical and more convincing for the investors.
What event or realization served as a ‘turning point’ for you during your Rady School and/or professional career? Honestly, I would say there is no turning point for me, but a continuous adaption for change. Nothing changes overnight. By learning and adapting, I found my way to start a business that is unique and innovative. All of my clients and potential investors think it is new, special, and the right time to help companies to drive innovation. Currently, we are working with Fortune 500 companies and also middle to large size local companies. We are working with manufacturing, medical devices, hospitality, and consumer goods industry companies to help their product innovation, service innovation and process innovation. We even made our own turning point by creating a feature called Inno-Cube, which is a tool to stimulate employee ideas. This set us apart from competitors. With the whole platform innovation, we were awarded the Best SaaS Provider 2018 and a Top Digital 100 Award.
Why did you decide to come to the Rady School? What attracted me to the Rady School is its young, vibrant spirit and entrepreneurship. It is located in San Diego, which is indeed American’s Finest City. It gave me the chance to walk along the beautiful beaches, and I met various people to talk about Random Act of Kindness. That inspired me to create China’s First Random Act of Kindness Happiness platform: Happiness100. Happiness100 is an non-government organization (NGO), open innovation platform to collect ideas. We have only one criteria for the idea, which is to make people feel happy, and we will provide funds to make the idea happen. I feel proud to have a charity and I include this as part of Yem Innovation’s corporate social responsibility. More than 10 creative projects have been carried out, and Happiness100 itself also got honorable mentions by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and Overseas Young Chinese Forum.
What was your favorite class and why? My favorite classes are Consumer Behavior with Wendy Liu, Innovation & Technology with Kevin Zhu and Lab to Market with Del Foit. What’s funny is that because they were my favorites, I found they were also very easy to learn.
How did your view of entrepreneurship/innovation change throughout your time at the Rady School? I had a much larger view of the world because my classmates were from different backgrounds and different countries. It was a small class so we had the chance to know more about each other. My peers in the class were willing to share, to help and to inspire. In my point of view, the Rady School is a perfect school to get connected to an unexpected and surprising world. The entrepreneurship and innovation atmosphere there is like a soil that inspires people to grow new ideas and create their own business.
What was the most valuable thing you learned while at the Rady School? I remember the slogan years ago of our school is “From innovation to impact.” The most valuable thing is to impact, to do something to change the status quo. The goal of Yem Innovation is to change the status quo of traditional management styles, empower staff from the bottom up, and drive innovation. Instead of managing people, we change to empower people. Actually, scalability is another critical thing I learned in school. It is quite important for a business, especially for a mobile internet company like Yem Innovation. Because of our scalability, we got investment from an angel investor and also from SOSV last year for nearly one million Chinese Yuan. SOSV is an accelerator VC that manages $500 million USD worldwide. Another benefit of the Rady School is the ability to network and collaborate. For example, alum Jason Qi (MBA ‘16) is our COO, because we knew each other as alumni. He was also the vice president of the Rady Student Board at that time. Without the Rady School, I would not have found a brilliant alum and team member like Jason.
How have you applied your studies to your career? I applied human resource and technology, especially cloud technology, to create my new business. In some ways, I would say innovation is not that hard. Innovation is just a new arrangement of two old elements, which is how we created the one-of-its-kind Inno-Cube feature to stimulate employee ideas. I believe newcomers at the Rady School can also apply any two-field knowledge to create their own new business after they graduate.
What is the best thing about being a Rady alumni? Since the Rady School is a young school, there are advantages of being young. I feel strongly being part of the growth and I could witness its growth every single day. Thus I feel more engaged with the school and more engaged with the university alumni too, since UC San Diego is also a young university established in 1960. I always feel proud to say Go Tritons!
Yem Innovation is compatible for PC and smart devices (pictured above)
Yem Innovation was awarded the TopDigital 100 in 2018
Jackie is pitching on Chinaccelerator Demo Day
Jason is doing two live streamings for thousands of audience