Amit Paka is not a man who wastes time. Three semesters into the Evening & Weekend MBA Program, he realized he wanted to be an entrepreneur. And in 11 short months, he hatched an idea, relocated, launched a venture—and sold it to eBay.
When Paka, MBA 12, began his MBA studies, he was a senior program and product manager with Microsoft, working in online advertising with Bing. “I entered the Haas program to broaden my perspective and explore all opportunities that were out there,” he says of an open-minded approach. The Seattle-to-Berkeley commute for Saturday classes was challenging, he acknowledged, but worth it.
Courses and seminars taken during Fall semester of his second year, such as Entrepreneurship and Competitive Strategy, became the game changer for Paka, introducing him to new ideas, frameworks, and people. “Becoming part of an entrepreneurial universe leaves an impression on you,” he says.
Launching a Mobile Conversation Platform
The impression made on Paka led him to take even more entrepreneurship classes, network extensively, at least once a week whether in Seattle or San Francisco, and to come up with an idea and a game plan. By the end of his second year in the Berkeley MBA Program he left Microsoft and relocated to the Bay Area, ready to commit to Flockish, his idea for a mobile conversation platform. “Flockish combines the status feed concept of Facebook with the location awareness of Foursquare to create conversation among people gathered in the same locations, such as a concert or a sporting event,” says Paka.
“I felt this was the right space, a big enough market and that I had the expertise to execute on it,” says Paka. eBay apparently agreed: Their event ticket site, StubHub, purchased Flockish and snapped up Paka to head their mobile apps division. In his new role, Paka was able to scale StubHub’s mobile apps, releasing a new iPad app that Apple featured on the App store.
Paka says one of the most important things he learned at Haas is to Question the Status Quo and to ask questions of other people. “If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to go talk to customers, you have to go talk to your investors,” he says. “You can’t just have an idea and hope that it will somehow become a successful product.”
A Full Entrepreneurial Education
Just how you approach those investors and customers matters too. Paka took Confidence Without Attitude, another of the Haas School’s four Defining Principles, to heart in presenting himself and Flockish to the entrepreneurial community. “When VCs connect you to other VCs, they put their reputations on the line,” he says. “It’s a very close-knit group, so people will hear about it if you come across as anything other than genuine, clear about your goals, and free of arrogance.”
eBay’s purchase of Flockish meant that before he even graduated, Paka engaged in a full entrepreneurial education–from idea generation to launch and all the way through the due diligence required for an acquisition. “I learned a lot about IP and trademark infringement,” he says.
Paka says that since he’s launched Flockish and joined eBay, “Mind-blowing opportunities come up every day.” The most recent one took him from StubHub to a group product manager role with PayPal’s Digital Wallet product team, a group he believes is well positioned to develop and scale the smart-phone-as-wallet. The rapid pace of personal recognition and capture of opportunity mirrors what Paka sees around him. “In this valley you have to keep moving,” he says.