MBA Internships: Thinking Big at Amazon


Post-its in practice: Jesse Silberberg, MBA 15, put design thinking skills to work in a focus group he led as an Amazon senior product manager intern.

Student: Jesse Silberberg, MBA 15

Internship: Senior Product Manager with Amazon’s Kindle Education group. “We are responsible for building eTextbook functionality for Kindle, and study features including Flashcards, X-Ray and Notebook. I’m focused on making Kindle an even more powerful tool for students.

Amazon because: “I came into Haas with a passion for education, innovation and technology, and I’m getting to work on all three at once. I was excited to get experience working in product management, which involves interfacing with folks across different functions, including business, engineering and UX. In addition, Amazon has a reputation for giving interns ownership of really meaningful projects, and I was also excited to push myself to deliver something that would make a difference for the company and its customers over the course of my 11 weeks here this summer.”

Thrilled to be getting the chance to: “Outside of my core project, I’ve had the chance to interact with the company’s most senior leaders, each of whom spend an hour with the MBA group talking about their experiences and answering questions in an informal setting. I’ve learned a lot from how they’ve approached their careers and solved challenges of a huge scale. It’s great motivation to push myself on what I can achieve as a leader.”

Highpoint so far: “In the third week of my internship I had an hour to present my early thinking at a weekly meeting of product managers from across the Kindle group. They were supportive of what I was working on at a high level, but dug into the holes in my argument in a really constructive way. Their feedback helped me figure out the right questions to answer far more quickly than if I was working through the challenge on my own.”

Inside Amazon: “Amazon takes a lot of pride in its Leadership Principles, and uses them to make decisions on a daily basis. My favorites are “Think Big”, “Bias for Action,” and “Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit.” They give everyone at the company, including interns, the grounds for taking a stand on a big idea, and it makes the work that much more exciting.”

Applied learning: “Everything Amazon does is in service of its customers, so for my project I wanted to get input from customers as quickly as possible. I held a focus group with students and brought some Haas flair to its execution, using design thinking tactics (and Post It notes) to push participants to really think outside of the box.”

Advancing career goals by: “From an exposure perspective, I had worked for an early stage ed-tech startup before school, and it’s great to work this summer for a much larger company to compare and contrast the two experiences. From a skill perspective, I’m flexing a lot of different muscles—customer interviews, survey design, data analysis, feature scoping—and getting feedback on my work from product managers, designers and developers. To sum it up, I’m doing— and learning—a ton.”

Warm Buttered Pretzels: Insights from International Consulting Trips



From Kenya to Kazakhstan to South Africa to Singapore, full-time MBA students crisscrossed the globe this summer on International Business Development consulting trips.

All told, 23 teams traveled to 18 countries to complete projects they had spent months preparing for.

Their projects were as diverse as the countries they visited. A sampling: introducing mom-and-pops in India to SAP’s modern retail systems; developing a go-to-market plan for a cloud encryption product, improving distribution for a leading lab equipment vendor in China, and building market strategies to combat diarrheal disease in Tanzania.

While the content of their work varied widely, all the trips had a common theme: students picked up fascinating insights on international business culture. For example, the team working with SAP Labs in India blogged about the surprises they found from start to finish:

haas-at-the-taj“We walked into Bangalore anticipating another version of Silicon Valley on the other side of the globe. We were not prepared for what we came across, a city that was both developed and yet steeped in so much tradition, both modern and yet traditional, and altogether unpredictable. What we learned over the next three weeks was that this would be a theme rippling across our experiences in India.”

Pretzels, not muffins, at meetings in Munich

Pretzels, not muffins, at meetings in Munich

Another team, which stopped to meet with a strategic partner in Munich on the way to advise a startup in Moscow, found warm buttered pretzels waiting for them in a conference room. They were impressed when the CEO leading the meeting left the room, returned with a small toolkit, and repaired a malfunctioning air-conditioner knob—all without stopping the conversation.

“I guess the idea that no task is too small when you’re the CEO of a small company is cross cultural,” the students wrote.

Students found that in Thailand, clients prefer to build a relationship before getting to the task at hand, while in Moscow, it’s straight to business. Even so, Muscovites take lunch seriously, and would never eat at their desks unless it’s absolutely necessary.

To read more of the teams’ blog posts on their projects and adventures, visit Haas in the World.

MBA students bring home gold for diversity T.E.A.M.-work


Kory and Nikita show off the T.E.A.M. trophy.

Berkeley MBA students working to increase minority representation and leadership at Haas and beyond have brought home the highest honor from the country’s largest and oldest business diversity organization.

The group also won $10,000 to build on their work for the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management.

Nikita Mitchell, Kory Vargas Caro, and Dan Wong, all MBA 15, accepted the T.E.A.M. (Together Everyone Achieves More) trophy earlier this month on behalf of Haas Consortium students. The three students served as liaisons to the organization this year.

“We were determined. For us, it was the way to prove to the Consortium that Haas is very serious about this work,” Mitchell says.

Established in 1966, the Consortium is an alliance of schools and corporate partners committed to reducing the under-representation of African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans in the ranks of upper management. It provides merit-based, full MBA-program fellowships to top candidates who have proven records of promoting inclusion in their schools, jobs, or personal lives.

Haas has been a longstanding member of the Consortium. There were 43 Consortium fellows in the Haas MBA program last year. Twenty-eight more will arrive this fall, bringing the total to 52.

The Haas group competed against 16 other b-schools for the hefty gold trophy.

Consortium fellow selfie

Consortium fellow selfie

To win, the group had to demonstrate their success in fundraising, community building, and fulfilling their duties as Consortium liaisons. They did much more:starting with a strategy meeting at the beginning of the school year to determine their goals and priorities as a group. Their activities included organizing school-wide social events; building a new leadership model for the group; organizing treks with other member schools; and taking an active role in the admissions process to increase the number of fellows who chose Haas.

In addition, the last two Consortium cohorts have stepped into more Haas leadership roles than ever—including Mitchell, who is the first African-American woman to serve as president of the MBA Association.

Mitchell said the race for the T.E.A.M. trophy is a different kind of competition.

“Everyone is happy for whoever wins, since we’re all working for a cause that we all believe in,” Mitchell says. “But at the end of the day, you want to prove that you are the school that is working the most passionately toward the Consortium’s mission.”



From student to startup

In the full-time MBA class of 2014, there at least nine serious startups percolating—and probably half a dozen more emerging. Many of the students who have pursued startup ideas while at Haas hedge their bets by accepting a full-time job offer, with plans to work on their venture in their spare time. But a few are jumping in with both feet.

Jesus Nieto Gonzalez, Mercadero

Jesus Nieto Gonzalez on the Pacaya volcano in Guatemala during a 2013 trek. Photo by Peter Brock, MBA 14.

Jesus Nieto Gonzalez on the Pacaya volcano in Guatemala during a 2013 trek. Photo by Peter Brock, MBA 14.

The Spanish make beautiful shoes. And people still buy them in shops. And, about one-third of those shops are small and local.

That’s why Jesus Nieto Gonzalez chose the Spanish shoe industry to test-launch the inventory management system he’s developing.

Jesus, who has a background in electrical engineering and worked in the Spanish telecom before coming to Haas, plans to return to his native Spain after graduation to build his startup full-time. He’s calling it Mercadero, from the ancient Spanish word for merchant.

“Offline commerce has a much bigger presence there, and one of the things I noticed when I was doing my research is that they still do things with pencil and paper. They don’t have a good system for tracking what they have in the store,” he says. “Now with the cloud and tablets, a small businesses can afford to go digital.”

Inventory management is critical to shoe retailers: if a shop doesn’t have the right size, a customer will go elsewhere. And keeping track of what’s in the storeroom is no less crucial for many types of small businesses–which gives Mercadero lots of opportunities for expansion once Jesus brings it from prototype to product.

Jesus says he moved across the globe to attend Haas because of its reputation for entrepreneurship and technology. The school did not disappoint: he learned about strategy in David Charron’s Business Model Innovation course, how to build mockups and use analytics in Design and Development of Web-based Products and Services, and how to approach investors in Toby Stuart’s Entrepreneurship. He has already taken the first steps to cultivate VC’s in the small Spanish investor community.

“Haas is the place to learn how to start something,” he said. “This is something I really want to do, and I need to try it.”

Albert Lucius and Agung Nugroho, KuDo


Albert and Agung on a 2013 exchange to the London Business School

These high school friends from Indonesia who ended up at Haas together plan to return home to build an electronic point-of-sale system that “transforms the shopping experience of consumers in Indonesia, where credit cards are virtually non-existent.”

They came up with the idea through their travels at Haas. “We viewed how payment systems are done in different parts of the world—in developed countries such as USA, UK, and Japan as well as emerging markets such as Morocco, Turkey, and Thailand. We want to bring the best of technologies in the developed market and apply them to address some of the restrictions and problems in the emerging market,” Albert says.

kudo_scale“The idea is that customers can find products from any of our e-commerce partners at KuDo machines located at retail stores. For example, instead of ordering online, you could use cash at a store like Walgreens to buy products sold by other stores such as Amazon.”

Prior to Haas, Agung worked at BCG Indonesia as a consultant, and he has postponed a new job there for a year. Albert, who had worked as a product designer at Apple in the U.S., will devote himself to KuDo full-time.

Kyle Rudzinki, Karmic

While climbing Mount Kilimanjaro over winter break, Kyle decided to pursue Karmic full-time.

While climbing Mount Kilimanjaro over winter break, Kyle decided to pursue Karmic full-time.

Using business to do good was always Kyle Rudzinki’s goal. He came to Haas from the Department of Energy, where he managed investments in innovative solar startups, and he planned to continue his career in clean energy and sustainability.

But just before his final semester, he stumbled on an idea that caused him to pivot in a completely different direction.

It started one evening with a Facebook post that reminded him of the power of asking for what you want. A classmate put out a call on for others to join him at a local radio station’s dance competition. Another replied that that she it was one of her life goals to do the same thing. Thus was born Haasies Helping Haasies—which has since morphed into Karmic. It has become Kyle’s new path.

“Karmic is my sole focus,” he says. “Ultimately the reason I’m building it is because of what it can do for people. It’s about taking online connections and bringing them offline, helping people to live more fulfilled lives,” he says.

The idea behind Karmic is that if people share their unfilled aspirations—whether openly or anonymously—someone within their social networks can probably help realize them. That proved to be the case with Haasies Helping Haasies. Students posted desires such as meeting Sheryl Sandberg, learning to surf, and even hugging a panda. “With such a talented group of people, someone was likely to have the connections to make these things happen. And they did.” More than five times as many offers to help were made as requests.

Kyle brought the concept to his Intrapreneurship class in November, which earned him an invite to Facebook. “That gave me an entrée into the VC world,” he says.

He’s now pursuing Karmic as a new platform, and leveraging his last semester to propel it forward. He’s tapping Berkeley talent through his courses in new venture finance, marketing research, and developing web products and services. Haas faculty outside of his courses are also lending their expertise and advice—from brand gurus Bill Pearce and Lynn Upshaw to startup experts Toby Stuart and Rob Chandra.

“I’m building all the scaffolding, so no matter what the edifice ends up being, I’ll have all the tools to build something great,” he says.

Ben Hamlin, OurTown

Ben came to Haas to study double-bottom-line businesses. He spent most of his time focused on social impact investing, hoping that an idea would emerge for a social enterprise to start.

Ben Hamlin at O-week

Ben and classmates during O-Week public service day

It wasn’t until his final semester—after he had registered for classes—that he hit on the concept. He was on BART with a classmate, tossing ideas back and forth to answer the question: in 100 years, what would be the ideal way to create and operate a local business?

“I started thinking about the high failure rate for local businesses. How could this be improved through technology? What if demand came before supply? What if local business owners knew what the community wanted before they ever made capital investments?”

That was the seed of OurTown—Ben’s working title for an online platform that will improve local businesses through engagement with local consumers and other local businesses. Inspired by his parents’ mom-and-pop, Ben, a former associate at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, believes he has landed on a solution to help mom-and-pops everywhere.

“Today, local entrepreneurs make business decisions and then consumers vote with their wallets. They take undue risk because they don’t fully understand demand, and they don’t share information. By collaborating with consumers and each other, they could do much better,” he says.

Ben plans to work on the venture full-time post-graduation. In his last few months at Haas, he’s taking advantage of every resource he can. He says last year’s Entrepreneurship and Problem Finding, Problem Solving classes have been invaluable. He also took Steve Blank’s Lean Launchpad class online. He’s now working closely on OurTown with Whitney Hischier, Lecturer and CEE Faculty Director, through an independent study.

“I’m trying to tackle a big, complex problem using the tools taught by the Haas curriculum,” he says.

Cross-Campus Collaboration + Innovation = 1st Place in Tech Challenge

Dirk de Wit, Kiki Liu, and Charles Guo (left to right), winners of the Tech-to-Market Innovation Challenge

Dirk de Wit, Kiki Liu, and Charles Guo (left to right), winners of the Tech-to-Market Innovation Challenge

The competition: Tech-to-Market Challenge, organized by the Berkeley-Haas European Business Club and sponsored by Orange Silicon Valley and Qualcomm Technologies.

The outcome: First-place win and $4,000 grand prize

The team: Charles Guo, MBA 15, Berkeley School of Information student Kiki Liu, and Dirk de Wit, a visiting I-School student from Eindhoven University of Technology in The Netherlands

The challenge: Students competed against teams from across campus to develop biz and tech strategies that capitalize on the emerging LTE Direct mobile standard. LTE Direct employs “ambient awareness,” which allows mobile devices to passively monitor broadcasts from other devices within several hundred meters. The technology opens up possibilities for hyper-local mobile advertising, a burgeoning industry expected to grow into the billions.

What made them winners: The team recommended that the competition sponsors adopt a platform they called “Connect Better,” which would allow retailers to attract consumers into their their stores by pushing out real-time offers and promotions. For example, a shopper strolling through a mall on a hot day might get an alert for a deal on a on a double Java Chip Frapuccino from Starbucks or a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cone.

Charles said the team’s go-to-market strategy to get the full range of potential users–telecoms, advertisers, brands, and mobile device users–to adopt the advertising platform distinguished their project from others.

Working in an interdisciplinary team was a big advantage, he said. “Everyone brought a unique view and skill set to the team. Our team was able to successfully balance technical and business perspectives in every part of our decision making,” he said. “Working with a data scientist and a programmer also gave me a glimpse of the environment that I would encounter during my internship with HP this summer.”

The H-factor: “This was an innovation case competition so we used several brainstorming approaches from Problem Finding, Problem Solving to generate use cases ideas and business models,” he says. “I was also exposed to a variety of business models through the cases we examined in Toby Stuart’s Entrepenurship class. Exposure to numerous models really helped me mix and match concepts to form our business model.”

MBA Students Score Big in Soccer, Trivia in Challenge for Charity

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Berkeley MBA students showed their prowess in soccer and trivia during the annual Challenge 4 Charity (C4C) Sports Weekend last month.

Nine West Coast business schools competed in physical and mental challenges at Stanford while raising funds for the Special Olympics and local charities.

Berkeley-Haas came in first with fancy footwork (and head and knee moves) in soccer. In addition, a quartet of Berkeley MBA students won the trivia competition. Overall, Haas came in third in the entire competition.

Haas students also flexed their musical muscle on stage in the final performance of David Haaselhoff and the Four Chord Principles, a band whose name is a play on the school’s four Defining Principles.

This year, Berkeley MBA students raised more than $69,000 ($30,000 of which was donated to Philippine’s Disaster Relief) and worked numerous volunteer hours for the Special Olympics; the Alameda Point Collaborative, a nonprofit dedicated to providing housing for and aiding the homeless or those at risk of homelessness; and Reading Partners, a nonprofit dedicated to improving children’s literacy rates through weekly mentorship.

Social impact campaign to help students have a “good” summer

Whether they’re here to pursue a career on Wall Street or a social enterprise in Africa, Haas has always attracted students who are interested in making positive contributions to the world—and in finding creative ways to do so.

A case in point: the Haas Social Impact Fund, founded by MBA students in 2004. The annual drive encourages those with higher-income internships to help those classmates who want to work in nonprofits, the public sector, or social enterprises. That way, everyone contributes to the greater good, in their own way.

First-year students typically pledge one day of pay to the fund.

“Students in non-profit and public sector internships earn a median salary of just $3,150 per month, versus the Berkeley MBA median of $7,100 per month,” says Chris Symmes, MBA 15, who is spearheading this year’s campaign as the MBA Association’s VP of community. “If we are going to live up to our culture and principle of going beyond ourselves, we need to support our peers and classmates who are acting as stewards for the greater good of the world.”

The campaign will run through early May, with a goal of 70 percent participation. Click here to donate online.

Last year, students contributed over $26,000 to the fund, which is administered by the Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership. Eleven full-time MBA students received grants averaging $3,200 to work at organizations such as Harlem Village Academies, Alpha Public Schools, and the Environmental Defense Fund.

Check out the videos above and below to hear about some of their experiences.



Students: Snap a Pic of Berkeley-Haas, Enter to Win a #haasome T-shirt!

graduationcollageAttention class of 2014: Your time at Berkeley-Haas is coming to a close. All that stands between you and your future are some final exams and a walk across a stage. But before you leave, use the tag #haasome to help us tell the class of 2014′s story, and we will give our five favorite photographers a #haasome T-shirt.


  • Enter by posting an original pic on social media with the tag #haasome by May 23 at 5 p.m. PT.
  • Winners must be members of the undergraduate, MBA, or PhD class of 2014, but we welcome photos from friends and family too.
  • Winners will be notified by May 26; delivery of T-shirts could take up to two weeks.
  • All pictures may be posted on a storify website for the class of 2014. Photos by winners and finalists also may be posted online, including on the Haas Facebook page.
  • The photo needs to reflect Haas or Cal in some way. It can’t be a pic that could be taken on any other campus.
  • We’re looking for any and everything: pics of creatively decorated graduation caps, scenic shots, close-ups, artistic interpretations of the Defining Principles, places (with or without people), etc.
  • Judging is completely subjective and based on the whims and personal preferences of the Haas Marketing & Communications Department. Surprise us! Enlighten us!

The UC Berkeley Startup Competition (LAUNCH): From Meeting Technology to Smart Vibrators, Winners Add to 16 Years of Big Ideas

From the opening elevator pitches to the closing award presentations, this year’s UC Berkeley Startup Competition (LAUNCH) was a suspenseful, high-energy event. Now in its 16th year, the competition attracted a record 200+ entries, which were narrowed down to eight finalist teams that presented their innovative and diverse business ideas to a packed Andersen Auditorium on April 24. The winners took home nearly $60,000 in prizes.


The Winners

Grand Prize ($20,000) and an automatic six-month spot at SkyDeck, UC Berkeley’s startup accelerator: ReMeeting, a mobile meeting recorder and personal cloud service for reviewing and sharing in-person meetings.

First-Place Track Winners ($5,000):

IT & Web: ReMeeting

Energy & Cleantech: Picoyune, a developer of chemical sensing technology that condenses a laboratory’s worth of equipment into handheld monitors anyone can use. The company’s first product is mercury monitoring for industrial and environmental applications.

Life Sciences: Awair: Breathe Better Technology, a medical device company that produces the Wyshbone catheter, which numbs the throat to eliminate discomfort from breathing tubes used by critically ill ventilated patients.

Products & Services: Teaman & Company, an e-commerce site for customizing and ordering high-end jewelry, including the ability to review a 3D printed plastic model before commissioning a piece.

People’s Choice Award ($5,000): ViVita Technologies Inc., which helps eliminate the donor organ and tissue shortage with off-the-shelf, animal-derived replacements.

Elevator Pitch Award ($2,500): SmartBod, which builds vibrators that learn from and adapt to a woman’s physiological reactions, heightening her level of pleasure and enlightening her (and her partner) about her sexual preferences.

Who made it happen: The 11-member LAUNCH 2014 Executive Committee, comprised largely of first-year Berkeley MBA students, organized the competition under the direction of the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship, which hosts the event. The LAUNCH student co-chairs were Kristen Duffel and Moses Lo. Primary sponsors included, UM, and The Dow Chemical Co., and nearly 90 venture capitalists, experienced entrepreneurs, and professional service providers volunteered as judges for the three rounds of the competition.

The challenge: Throughout the competition, each team is judged using five criteria: 1) attractiveness of business model; 2) quality of product(s), service(s) and/or solution(s); 3) market opportunities and competitive positioning; 4) team qualifications and experience; and 5) overall attractiveness of the venture.

The race: More than 200 teams from UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco entered the competition. After judges reviewed all executive summaries, 38 teams were selected as semifinalists. These teams then presented privately on April 22 to another group of judges who selected eight finalists—two from each of the four category tracks—to advance to the April 24 finals. A group of five finals judges selected the grand prize and first-place track winners, while the people’s choice and elevator pitch awards were determined by audience vote during the finals public presentation.

More on the grand prize winner:

According ReMeeting, 11 million meetings occur daily in the U.S. workplace. “The average cost of a five-person, two-hour meeting—including the cost of salaries and office overhead—is $1,200,” said ReMeeting CEO Arlo Faria, a PhD student with the International Computer Science Institute at UC Berkeley, as he addressed the LAUNCH audience. “And yet, one in three meetings is ‘unproductive,’ and a waste of time.”

Post-meeting follow-up, however, results in 20 percent more successful meetings. Based on this research, ReMeeting has developed a mobile-device-based meeting recorder and personal cloud service that, using advanced speech and language technology, allows people to save, search, and share conversations. The result is more productive meetings.

“The coaching and workshops provided by the LAUNCH Competition were extremely helpful to us,” Faria noted after his team’s win “Over the past months, we have developed a better sense of who might become customers.”

Michael Baum

Serial Entrepreneur Michael Baum, CEO of

Memorable moment: Memorable moments were plentiful, but perhaps the most valuable was when CEO and finals judge Michael Baum (whose career has included several startups) spelled out two primary things startup teams should remember not only when competing in LAUNCH, but also when pitching to investors.

“Most of the debate (among the judges) centers around two things: 1) the credibility and passion of the entrepreneur and 2) how big of a company we think you can ultimately create. Generally, investors think about a 5- to 10-year time horizon. We discuss not just how big we think the available market is, but how likely it is you will get there with your go-to-market and business model,” said Baum, also founder and former CEO of Splunk, one of the biggest IPOs in 2012.

The Haas takeaway:

The UC Berkeley Startup Competition was founded 16 years ago by two Berkeley MBA students and has been a student-run program ever since. Each year, students take on the job of attracting and showcasing the entrepreneurial drive that exists throughout UC Berkeley and beyond. “We worked hard to advertise our events and workshops to the larger UC Berkeley/UC San Francisco campuses,” says LAUNCH co-chair Moses Lo. “This came through in one of the largest events held to date and the record number of entries this year.”

In addition to students organizing the event, several Berkeley MBA students and alumni were members of this year’s winning teams. Among them: Dan Sherman, MBA 14, of Picoyune; Alastair Trueger, MBA 15, of Teaman & Company; James Wang and Bobby Davis, both MBA 15, of SmartBod; Albert Lucius and Agung Nugroho, both MBA 14, of second-place IT & Web track winner Kudo; and Laurie Peterson, MBA 11, of second-place Products & Services track winner Build & Imagine.


575 ideas, 50 nations, $50,000: the 15th Annual Global Social Venture Competition

Launched by  Berkeley-Haas students in 1999, the annual Global Social Venture Competition is the oldest and biggest student-run competition aimed at elevating social enterprise start-ups. This year’s competition attracted more than 500 entries from 44 nations, vetted through a partnership of universities around the world. The winners, determined in the two-day finals hosted by Berkeley-Haas on April 10 and 11, shared $55,000 in prize money.


The Winners:

      First place (25,000):  Sampurn(e)arth,  India, which develops end-to-end, environmentally friendly and profitable strategies for collecting and recycling solid waste.

      Second place ($15,000):  Odyssey Sensors, United Kingdom, which  developed low-cost water sensors to boost yields for Southeast Asian shrimp farmers and other aquaculture.

      Third place: ($7,500): Baisikeli Ugunduzi, Kenya, which designed and builds bicycle productsincluding a low-cost solid tirethat drastically reduce repair costs.

Who made it happen: Berkeley-Haas studentssome 29 organizers, encompassing 11 percent of MBA candidates, with assistance from the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship. The co-chairs were Ali Kelley, Khadar Ahmed, and Christine Hamann, all MBA 15. The lead sponsors included Dow Chemical, Intel, Gray Ghost Ventures, and Hanson Bridgett. Nine universities around the world collected and vetted proposals.

The challenge: Social entrepreneurs presented business plans for path-bending new strategies and products that promise to promote social and environmental stabilityespecially in the world’s poorest communities. Winning plans are chosen on the basis of their innovative boldness; potential social or environmental impact; practicality and scalability.

The race:  Teams went through three rounds of competition: an executive summary round, regional competitions hosted by nine universities; and the final judging hosted at Berkeley-Haas. Teams received mentoring and guidance along the way on how to strengthen and sharpen their plans.  Eighteen teams reached the final round, many of them traveling to Berkeley from Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa.

What made them winners:


Sampurn(e)arth, founded by three recent graduates of Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences, impressed judges by their creative and localized strategies to make better use of municipal waste. The company trains and employs waste-pickers to collect and recycle waste, and develops local facilities for biogas production, composting and recycling.  The judges were impressed by the company’s ability to re-think a growing global problem from the ground up.


Odyssey Sensors impressed judges by their identification of very low-cost technology that both increases the yields of impoverished shrimp farmers in Bangladesh and spurs healthier environmental practices. The firm has also developed a low-cost sensor to monitor trough water levels in remote livestock farms.

GSVC_UgunduziBaisikeli Ugunduzi charmed judges and attendees with their line of extremely simple-yet-valuable line of bicycle component products. Bicycles are essential pieces of income-earning transportation equipment to many people in Kenya, but tire repair costs and downtime can reduce the income of people who rely on bicycles by 25 percent. Baisikeli developed an inexpensive solid tire, made from recycled materials, that never goes flat. It also developed a novel interior liner that reduces punctures in conventional tires, and a cheap, fast tire-repair compound.

Memorable moment:  Two of the finalistsLegWorks of the United States and SwissLeg of Switzerlandboth presented potentially revolutionary new artificial joints for leg amputees in the world’s poorest nations. LegWorks presented a functioning artificial knee that can be manufactured for only $100. Co-founder Brandon Burke, an amputee himself, was wearing one of the knees during the team’s presentation. SwissLeg unveiled a low-cost prosthetic lower limbs.  Before the finals were over, the two teams were talking about areas of possible collaboration.

The Haas Takeaway:  Once again, students did the vast bulk of preparing and organizing a competition that attracted hundreds of attendees and many leading social entrepreneurs. The final day included breakout sessions on the nuts and bolts of launching social ventures, as well as keynote speeches by two Berkeley MBA’s who did it themselves: Priya Haji, co-founder and CEO of SaveUp; and Kirsten Saenz Tobey, founder and chief impact officer of Revolution Foods.  It was an organizational effort that began months ago but that Berkeley-Haas students have honed to a science.  As in past years, second-year students show first-year students the ropes, but first-year students run the actual planning and preparation.  “It’s like running a small organization with a very targeted objective every year,” said Christine Hamann.