2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Diego Rojas Arancibia, University of Oxford (Saïd)

Diego Rojas Arancibia

Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford

“An always energized Latin American passionate for social impact.”

Hometown: Sucre, Bolivia

Fun fact about yourself: I failed my final English test when I was 18 because I thought the test started at 8pm. In fact, it started at 8am. I found out on my mistake at 8:05am so I missed the exam.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

– Universidad Católica Boliviana, Bsc in Mechatronics Engineering, Bolivia

– Northeastern University, Msc in Energy Systems, USA

– University of Oxford, Masters in Public Policy, UK

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Project Engineer at Piusi Spa in Mantua, Italy.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? I was an SDG Lab Fellow at the University of Oxford. Spent the summer as an intern at Tenerife working with EasyJet Holiday.

Where will you be working after graduation? CEO and Co-founder of PasanaQ, a fintech bringing financial inclusion to Latin America.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

– Pershing Square Scholarship Recipient (full scholarship for two master’s degrees).

– Co-chair of the first Latin American Conference at the University of Oxford.

– 1 of 20 initial SDG Lab Fellows

– 1 of 10 initial fellows at the Oxford Venture Capital Network Program

– Member of the VCIC team representing Oxford at the national finals.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? While in Oxford, I was able to fundraise a pre-seed round for my fintech PasanaQ. We raised $180,000 from different VCs and angel investors. Oxford allowed me to learn about fundraising through classes, events, and talks with professors. Additionally, I met 90% of my investors and mentors at Oxford through different pitching events organized by the university. Finally, by talking to fellow students I was able to meet prospective employees.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Five years ago, after studying a master’s degree in the US as a Fulbright Scholar, I co-founded founded an NGO alongside a Bolivian friend to help other Bolivians get access to scholarships abroad. What started with a team of 20 volunteers and $50 in budget eventually became one of the largest NGOs in Bolivia focused on education. We are now a team of over 200 volunteers that directly impacted 10,000 Bolivians through means of tutoring and mentoring, robotics and English contests, and social incubator programs. I am proud of having been the CEO of Tu Beca Bolivia during these 5 years, and of everything we achieved. We organized the largest Robotics competition in the country alongside the National Government, and created the largest pre-incubator program with the help of the US Embassy.

Why did you choose this business school? Oxford is amongst the best five universities in the world and Saïd Business School is globally renowned for its focus on impact. This is just the perfect combination. Additionally, Oxford is a truly global community of future global leaders who all want to create a positive impact on their regions. Finally, through the 1+1 program, I had the chance to study two masters in 2 years. While I was studying a master’s in Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government during my first year at Oxford, I could also attend MBA electives and join student clubs. These opportunities enriched my MBA experience in a way I did not imagine.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Samer Jarkasy. He teaches the elective “Hedge Funds” at Oxford Saïd. Professor Jarkasy has tons of experience working in hedge funds and has a unique passion for teaching. His class was probably one of the most content-heavy ones I took, and it provided us with everything we needed to know in order to go work for a hedge fund or think about starting one. Moreover, he used his own personal experiences while teaching and brought in a different high-profile speaker every week to talk to us about their work. I learned a lot at HF and had so much fun while doing it.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? Entrepreneurial Finance with Thomas Hellman. When I signed up for this elective, I was thinking about starting to fundraise for my startup. The class was just what I needed. There were tons of really good case studies and we had different speakers that brought the investor and founder perspective to the table. For our final project, we had to do due diligence on a real startup. After the 8 sessions of EF, I was ready to start fundraising with my startups and I have also made the first initial contacts with investors.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Oxford Saïd combines a modern and cutting-edge business school with the second oldest university in the world. At Oxford, there are tons of traditions that really make your experience unique. My favorite one was the in-person exam. For exams, the dress code is a suit and white tie, and to symbolize learning one carries a carnation on the pocket: A white one for the first exam, a pink one for following exams, and a red one for the last one. The change in color represents the passing of time during the academic year; a white carnation turns into a red one by the time one’s degree is over.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? The Oxford MBA is an amazing and international cohort of over 300 people, you can literally meet a new person every day. Additionally, by being a student in Oxford you are also part of a college. My college is a community of over 600 students where only three of us are MBAs. The rest of the students are lecturing in such diverse subjects such as nuclear physics, astronomy, and religious philosophy. If I could start my experience in Oxford again, I would try to spend more time at my college and not only at the business school to meet more students from other areas.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? Oxford feels as if you were living inside a fairy tale. The city is full of old and beautiful churches, libraries, and buildings. At least once a day, I stop to take a picture and every time I post on my social networks, my friends tell me that it seems as if I lived in Hogwarts. I think that there is indeed a bit of magic in Oxford, but there is not just one Hogwarts but thirty-nine! The university has 39 colleges, each one more beautiful than the last.

What surprised you the most about business school? When I applied, I was excited for the MBA content in terms of classes and projects that the program provided. Once here, I was not expecting the extracurricular activities organized by both the university and the business school to be that enriching. One can basically find a talk, a person, or resources on anything one wants to learn. And it is not just the content, extracurricular activities are really well structured and provide you with a complete overview of any topic. Short courses such as the Oxford Program in Sustainability Leadership or the Climate Tech Roundtable were activities that I got access for free by being at Oxford and that I could have easily paid for just to have the opportunity to join.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I knew before coming to Oxford that I wanted to go back to Latin America after finishing the MBA so I could have a real impact in my region. Having that clarity was key as ever since I arrived, I have been able to connect with key players in the region and to form strong relationships with like-minded people. The MBA offers you so many possible paths to follow, and all of them are exciting, that is difficult to choose only one. Knowing since the beginning of my journey here that I wanted to go back to Bolivia as an entrepreneur made choosing activities and clubs at Oxford easier.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Isabela Uribe. Bela is one of the smartest people I met and has the kindest heart. She is always trying new stuff (polo, rowing) and learning new skills (Arabic, coffee preparation). All of these while doing a double masters and working at the IBD. Moreover, even though we just met last year, she helped me and supported me through one of the toughest times of my life. It is because of people like Bela, and trust me that you will find many like her at Oxford, that I know I made the right decision when coming to Oxford.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

1. To start the first Venture Capital Fund in Bolivia. I am convinced that by fostering entrepreneurship, one can improve people’s lives. I want to be able to support Bolivian’s dreams not only financially but also logistically.

2. To run for the Bolivian presidency. Through the work that I did with my NGO I understood how easily good ideas can be scaled through good public policies. I want to apply learnings from the private and social sector for the benefit of my country.

What made Diego such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“As the staff lead for the Oxford Seed Fund at the Entrepreneurship Centre, I have found Diego to fit the architype of an MBA entrepreneur and a popular member of the cohort. His positive persistence in making his start-up fly is an inspiration to his peers, and a testament to his character. He brings positive energy to the cohort, and as a knowledgeable and driven member of the cohort he is well respected by his peers.”

James Murray
Head of Partnerships and Oxford Seed Fund
Entrepreneurship Centre


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