First-year full-time MBA students Elsita Meyer-Brandt and Jens Uehlecke connected quickly in the opening weeks of school, brought together by German roots, media-related backgrounds, and a business idea. The idea began with Uehlecke, who sees a way to help publishers thrive in a world of diminishing print. He says Meyer-Brandt’s consulting experience in media and entertainment was the perfect complement to his journalism background.
The two are taking advantage of classroom learning and participation in the Digital Media and Entertainment Club and Haas Entrepreneur’s Association to plot their future careers and to explore their interest in entrepreneurship. For a kick-start on their business idea, they sought candid feedback from Matt Kirmayer, a member of the Tech Group at Lowenstein Sandler.
Kirmayer, who specializes in the representation of emerging growth companies, is one of 40-50 entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and attorneys advising would-be entrepreneurs through Entrepreneurs Corner, a program offered for 15 years by the Haas School’s Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. In the Corner, experts such as Kirmayer give some 200 hours of advice across nearly 400 sessions per year. Many advisors are local, but sessions by phone and by Skype broaden the expert pool and offer more flexibility to students who may not be on campus when the entrepreneurs are.
Kirmayer’s interest in mentoring at Haas was sparked about six years ago when his firm sponsored the Berkeley Business Plan Competition. “I got an incredible kick out of working with these students–who don’t even realize how bright they are,” says Kirmayer. “They ask unbelievably intelligent questions and have insights and ideas one would expect of much more experienced entrepreneurs.”
Meyers-Brandt came to Haas to make a shift from consulting to industry or entrepreneurship. She says she and Uehlecke are still in the very early stages, “so we used our time with Matt to discuss our idea at a high level. He was very generous with his time and gave us a candid assessment of our idea and our team’s strengths, along with many important insights into how we take our idea from a project to a business plan.”
As for his motivation, Kirmayer says, “Think about what it means for the future to have people innovating at an early age. If we give them the tools they need now, they will find their passions and move forward with some truly amazing ideas in the future.”