The daunting experience of arriving into a country with no language or bearing on culture would be enough reason to hide away and just stick to one’s own familiarities. But when Michael Khuwattanasenee arrived in New Zealand at just 14 years old, he chose instead to see this life change as an opportunity to become the entrepreneur he had dreamed of. And despite lacking the language skills, true to his nature he found his own way around this, reading all the management and finance books he could get his hands on and using the internet to learn English.
School was tough though, but fortunately his teachers spotted this and nominated him to participate in the Dingle Foundation’s Project K programme, designed for Year 10 students to strengthen confidence in their own abilities. Looking back, Michael now knows this was a turning point for him (something his mum saw right away, of course!) and it gave him belief in his abilities to push forward with ideas and grab the opportunities he saw.
Michael’s sense of humour and light hearted nature belies his internal drive for success.
But it was clear right from his teenage years he wasn’t going to let life just happen to him. Saving up earnings from working in his grandfather’s Thai restaurant as a dishwasher, Michael started his first venture – importing iPhones from the U.S to sell to keen Kiwis while NZ still lagged behind the international markets. It was successful enough to branch out into other consumer goods but most importantly gave Michael a taste of what entrepreneurship was like.
While still studying for his Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting and Finance) at Auckland University, Michael opened his first ‘proper’ business – The Taste, a Thai restaurant, on Auckland’s North Shore. But one business was never going to be enough for Michael and he continued to seek out opportunities to move sideways, or leapfrog into other markets. Today, Michael has business ventures in biotech, consulting and hospitality (including vegan thai eatery Khu Khu)… and, he says, there’s always room for more.
In 2018, despite his business successes, consummate learner Michael felt there was still so much to understand, and after searching around for MBAs or other Master’s programmes he found The Master of Technological Futures at Tech Futures Lab. The entrepreneurial nature of the programme appealed to him and as luck (or perhaps serendipity) would have it, joining the community of future thinkers opened the door to his next big venture – BioFab.
Michael is a truly inspirational example of someone who doesn’t let setbacks obstruct the vision – he takes all that life has to offer and squeezes as much as he can out of it. His philosophy of life-long learning keeps his mind supple and it gives him the mindset and capabilities to grow and adapt as environments change. His enthusiasm to try things out and keep his mind expanding will no doubt contribute to a successful future. And he deserves it all.
Connect with Michael Khuwattansenee on LinkedIn