Full-Time and Evening & Weekend MBA Commencement: Slideshow & Student Speeches, & Video

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 Photos: Jim Block

Evening & Weekend MBA Brandon Middleton’s Commencement Rap

IMG_0258Dearly beloved as we close this last chapter

It’s appropriate to be sent off by the class’s favorite rapper

When I heard I’d been elected to give to you this message

I knew I had to try to do it big and make it epic //

For the record this was the last assignment I accepted

First commencement rap ever … Guinness Book of World Records? … hmm

Student Always, Beyond Yourself … forever

Questioning the Status Quo so we can change the world … together//

DCF, SG&A, and WTP,

LBO, IRR, and EVC

All foreign concepts to Brandon at the start

Thousands later though they’re tattoed on my heart//

MBA equals marriage babies and academics

Manifestations from all three I’ve seen from the beginning

I’ll miss a lot of things like taking naps on that shuttle

Like sometimes not reading a case and somehow not getting in trouble//

Like rich case discussions, the insights and lessons

Not getting to the insight because we asked so many questions

Like Jim the photographer and Dean Lyon’s dances

Like Saturdays not checking and showing up at the wrong campus//

Y’all never did that right, probably wasn’t your struggle

But you must admit that being EW teaches you how to juggle

It teaches you how to hustle, my look at how we’ve grown

Multitasking homework, family, and watching Game of Thrones//

So thank you Haas for the challenge and thank you for the love

We did more than what we thought we were capable of

Congrats to the spouses, professors, and the staff

On a job well done filled with lots of fun and laughs//

And finally my hats off to the class of fifteen

You’re a good looking group … you’re So Fresh and So Clean

This for gold and for oski to axe and to blue

It’s B. Middleton signing off I will now bid you adieu//

 

Full-time MBA Sandeep Pahuja’s Commencement Speech

IMG_9438My greatest fear in life is that I won’t live up to my potential. And two years ago it seemed more certain than ever that I would have to settle for a life I didn’t want to lead. There was that nagging voice of self-doubt in my head telling me, “You’re not ready.” Round 1, rejection email. Round 2, rejection email.  Round 3, rejection email. Each time, every successive round that voice screaming louder and louder in my head “I told you so.” In those moments of intense self-doubt, when all that I had worked hard for seemed futile, my family and friends picked me up—because they knew that I could. And they believed in me when I stopped believing in myself. And they gave me the gentle push to go after the life I wanted and I applied to Berkeley in Round 4.

I remember getting the phone call, and being so afraid of the possibility of what might happen that I let it go to voicemail (sorry Stephanie), because something I worked so hard for was about to happen and it was scary.  I like to think that I was the last person the school let in, the one that Haas took a chance on, the one with below average GMATs, but above average facial hair growing ability. I wanted to come to Berkeley not only because Haas creates leaders, whether in investment banking or non-profits, but because Berkeley teaches us how to think differently, find the right problem to solve, and most importantly, helps us find the right path for us.

But we never would have gotten here today if it weren’t for all of those people that believed we could even when we were sure we couldn’t.  To the partner who told you that you needed to go across the country to go to Berkeley-Haas even if it meant a long distance relationship, the friends that continued to ask you what you really did at business school since all they saw on your Instagram feed was pictures of HaasBoats and VegHaas and HaasLoween and HaasDogs and #HaasTag and #Haasome and every other event we like to combine with Haas, the professors who’ve dedicated themselves to teaching us to recognize the pitfalls of the leaders that came before us, and the amazing staff that does all of the little things with no fanfare and makes this place better year after year. THANK YOU.

But I want to especially want to thank our families who made us we are—I am thinking of my family today, that couldn’t be here today because my mother needed emergency surgery yesterday, who thankfully is doing okay—love you Mom. Hopefully the livestream is working better than AirBears2. But most of all, thank you class of 2015. Because if you happen to be by yourself today, I want to remind you that you have 250 family members sitting with you today in this audience. We’ve spent the last two years growing into this family, and we’ve accomplished amazing things. And we did it because we pushed, challenged, and supported each other.

Take my friend Gordon Yu, who pushed me to join Ben Killmer’s Lean Launch Pad team.  A push and a challenge that’s changed my path and led me to co-found a startup. Together we won 12 case competitions, started 10, soon to be 11, companies, raised over $170,000 for charity and volunteered the equivalent of 155 days, had more than 5,000 people attend the 9 conferences we organized, created our own signature cocktail, and incredibly had 9 babies born in two years.  We were all admitted to Haas because they saw who we could be, we’ve spent the last two years pushing each other to reach new highs, and now it’s our time to go out into the world and live up to that potential.

I want to turn my fear into an asset so I am going to leave you with a challenge today. Find your own path. Don’t go follow someone else’s because it’s what you are supposed to do. Associate to engagement manager to partner—throw it away.  Make your own—skip around, skip ahead, go backwards, but do it because it’s yours and it’s the one you want to be on, not the one you think you should be on or the one that’s going to give you the most money. You have to. You’ve given so much of your heart and soul, and frankly, your bank account, to become the leader Berkeley believed you could be. You know right now in your gut if you are on the right path or if you aren’t. I want you to make calendar invite for one year from now, and invite the classmate that has pushed, challenged, and supported you the most. If you haven’t found your right path yet, spend the next year doing what you’re passionate about in all of your free time. On May 22, 2016 call that person up, and talk to them about where you are at because you’ll need a push to walk away from a comfortable life to go for one that holds meaning for you. And if in a year you don’t get the push you need, call me because we’re family, and I know you can.

Our lives are short, and our time is fleeting. Spend it with the ones you love, doing the things you want, with the people who matter the most. We are ready.

 

WeFinance: Funding for the Student Crowd

It’s a common student dilemma: you’ve got a full-time offer post-graduation, but you still have several more months to finish your degree. And you’re facing the up-front costs of relocating—before your first paycheck or signing bonus hits your account.

What do you do? Often, your only option is to pile more credit card debt on top of your student loans, and bite the bullet on the high fees.

WeFinance_WillyChuEnter WeFinance, a crowdfunding startup co-founded by Willy Chu, MBA 15, that launched last week. Though crowdfunding is becoming a crowded space, Chu acknowledges, WeFinance is the first platform focused on truly peer-to-peer loans.

“Many students are paying seven to 8 percent on their student loans—even higher if you’re international—and they have living and moving expenses,” Chu says. “They’re low-risk borrowers but their credit scores don’t reflect that, and they can’t refinance until they have more credit history. Meanwhile, a peer lender in these students’ network could earn four percent or more on their extra savings.”

Built-in Assets

WeFinance launched with two critical resources. First, it has a software platform built by co-founder and CEO Eric Mayefsky, a Stanford econ PhD grad and ex-Facebook product manager who spearheaded the concept. This platform fully automates disbursements and repayments between borrowers and lenders, allowing both parties to rest easy that payments are made on time. Second, WeFinance has been tested by Chu’s network of fellow Haasies, a dozen of whom have signed on as guinea pigs seeking funding.

“My classmates have been incredibly supportive, willing to try out the product,” he said. “Faculty members have provided core guidance.”

Ton Chookhare, MBA 14, used the platform to refinance some of his higher-interest student loans, raising $5,000 in just a few weeks and lowering his interest rate from 8 percent to 4 percent. He already had accepted an offer with Kaiser Permanente, and was working on a side project involving custom suits made in his hometown of Bangkok, Thailand. “I think many people will be surprised at how willing people in their network are to offer financial support, especially when they’re getting much better returns while supporting someone they know and trust,” he says.

Entrepreneurial Evolution

Chu says when he came to Berkeley-Haas, he thought he might end up working for a startup—but had no intention of launching his own. His thinking evolved while taking Entrepreneurship with Prof. Toby Stuart and Lecturer Rob Chandra. His new path began last summer when a Stanford MBA friend saw an email from Mayefsky seeking help with the venture. After a few months of working well together, Chu—who previously worked at Credit Karma and Kiva—became a co-founder. He’s focusing on marketing, partnerships, and growth while Mayefsky develops the technological infrastructure.

“I’ve benefitted from starting this in my second year, after I had a strong base, and I’ve been able to piggyback on my coursework and lessons learned from my peers who launched businesses last year,” he says. “In particular, New Venture Finance with Asst. Prof. Adair Morse has been useful.”

Chu’s goal is to expand WeFinance to 40 schools within a year, beginning with Stanford, Harvard, and Wharton. In addition to MBAs, the company will focus on law and other top master’s and undergrad program students.

Read more about WeFinance in TechCrunch.

Root Beer Floats With the Oracle of Omaha: 2 MBAs Recount Their Visit With Warren Buffett

On Feb. 27, a group of 20 Berkeley-Haas MBA students from the Investment Club trekked to Omaha, NE, to meet Warren Buffett. Every year Mr. Buffett invites students from MBA programs around the country to tour some of the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio companies and participate in a two-hour Q&A followed by lunch.

In a guest blog post, two students share what they learned from the legendary Mr. Buffett.

By Ben Ferrara and Sulaiman Al-Bader, MBA 2015

If we had to choose our Top 5 favorite nuggets from the many that Warren Buffett shared with us, it would be these:

#5. Some people go back and relive their youth by finding old Playboys; I buy old Moody’s reports.

#4. Risk is losing purchasing power—NOT volatility.

#3. Always surround yourself with people better than you are.

#2. Study success and failure through the biographies of leaders like Sol Price and Sam Walton, who didn’t care about money but about being the best and winning.

#1. Success comes from thinking and by creating time to think without meetings, committees and PowerPoint.

But there’s so much more to say…

Buffett Trek_1200

It’s a brisk 8 degrees Fahrenheit and far from California 20 Berkeley MBAs are embarking on an adventure in Omaha. This special day includes company visits at Nebraska Furniture Mart, Borsheims, and Oriental Trading Company. Yet all of us are laser-focused on catching a glimpse of, inspiration from—and yes, a group photo with—the Oracle of Omaha. Warren Buffett is one of the few living and actively working legends in the game of finance.

En route to Berkshire Hathaway headquarters in Kiewit Plaza, we actively prepare for our Q&A with Mr. Buffett. We gather in a room with 160 MBAs—from Canada, Boston, and Austin—where a deep appreciation of capitalism and opportunity is brewing. When Mr. Buffett (and his world champion bridge partner, Sharon Osberg) enter the room, there is silence—and then, a feeling of warmth and familiarity when we see Mr. Buffett’s contagious smile and ever-present Coca-Cola product (which happened to be Cherry Coke).

Over the next two hours, the 84-year-old Buffett shares his wisdom on how to pick winners (both companies and people), personal models of success, how to develop a contrarian viewpoint, trends in income equality and philanthropy, and more. What makes the most impact on us is the importance he puts on picking “first-class human beings.” Mr. Buffett shares a story of meeting a Holocaust survivor who told him that whenever she makes a new acquaintance, she hears her internal voice asking: “Would this person hide me?” Her story provided a life lesson to Mr. Buffett, and now to us. He sums it up like this: “If you’re 70 years old, even wealthy, but you don’t have people in your life who would be willing to hide you in that scenario, you have not succeeded in your life, no matter how other people see you.”

Our Omaha adventure does not stop there: Mr. Buffett generously invites us to join him for lunch at Piccolo Pete’s, where we socialize with other MBAs. The two of us have the tremendous good fortune to sit with Mr. Buffett at his table, where we enjoy a plate of steak and fries, along with more of his pearls of wisdom in this intimate setting. One of these pearls is Mr. Buffett’s sharing his self-proclaimed favorite investment: GEICO. He says investing in the insurance company was a turning point for his career, and positioned Berkshire Hathaway for long-term success. He also encourages us to challenge the status quo by avoiding shortcuts in finance—for example, relying too much on third-party analyst reports—and thinking for ourselves, citing an example of exciting South Korean companies he found from a paperback book on equities.

“You’re unlikely to get great ideas from others,” Buffett tells us. This is a recurrent theme for him: thinking for yourself and following your own path, surrounded by gracious and giving people, is the recipe for success. It’s hard to argue with the sweet success of the Oracle of Omaha. As we finish our root beer floats, and leave that afternoon for Berkeley, we feel we have gained not only a renewed sense of purpose, but also inspiration about the endless possibilities we have to make a difference in this world over the course of our entire life journeys.

Sold-Out Crowd Expected at Women in Leadership Conference, March 14

When organizers of the Women in Leadership Conference began planning this year’s event, the impact of empowering the next generation of women felt tangible. Some of the organizers are in the Full-time MBA Class of 2015, whose work with admissions helped boost the percentage of women in the Class of 2016 to 43 percent. Energized by their record-breaking class, the first-year students are building on that work in what they are calling the Haas Gender Equity Initiative.

WIL organizers 2015

The 2015 Women in Leadership Conference organizers

The conference theme, “Empower Me: Invest in All,” reflects those experiences, says Co-chair Carmela Aquino, MBA 15. “This came about exactly because we were seeing the momentum at Haas around these ideas,” she says. “We wanted this year to embody the positive drive we were seeing, so attendees walk away feeling empowered to go beyond themselves in their respective paths and do more to help other women aspiring to leadership.”

The 19th annual conference, organized by the Women in Leadership club, is expected to attract more than 500 business leaders and students to the Haas School from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Sat, March 14. Click here to learn more .

The primary goals of the conference are to help women gain concrete skills for advancing in their own careers, connect with others, and get inspired, says Co-Chair Libby Hadzima Perkins, JD/MBA 15. But that’s not to say it’s geared exclusively toward women. In fact, “manbassadors”—as the male student actively involved in gender equity are calling themselves—have been key.

“Without the support of men in the workplace, there is only so much we can do to help promote more gender-equitable outcomes,” Hadzima Perkins says. “That’s why we wanted our theme to focus on the benefit that investing in women lifts everyone up, and provides a benefit to society as a whole.”

Conference Highlights

Keynotes: The morning will kick off with Ann O’Leary, Director of the Children & Families Program for Next Generation and former Legislative Director to Hillary Clinton, in conversation with Prof. Laura Tyson. In the afternoon, Donna Morris, Sr. Vice President, Global People and Places for Adobe will be introduced by Asst. Prof. Kellie McElhaney to close out the conference.

Leadership Stories: For the lunchtime session, attendees will get “an intimate look into the cycle of confidence and failure in leadership” from four leaders in diverse fields.

Invest in All Alley: This new addition to the conference is a space for companies, organizations, and entrepreneurs to exhibit their products or services, to showcase their dedication to gender equality, and to raise their brand awareness.

Panels will focus on tangible skills, from mastering difficult conversations in the workplace to taking control of finances for the future.

One Day, Triple Play: 3 Competition Wins in Finance and Sustainability

Braving the cold: Akshay Yadav, Jessica Holland, and Carl Olson (not shown: My-Thuan Tran). All are MBA 16.

Big Impact in Boulder

The Win: First place in the Leeds Net Impact Case Competition in Boulder, Feb. 20-21

The Team: Akshay Yadav, Jessica Holland, Carl Olson, and My-Thuan Tran, all MBA 16

The Field: Twenty-five teams of four graduate students each, competing to solve real-world sustainability business cases

The Pitch: Our team was asked to plan the optimal coastal restoration infrastructure for a city that is facing a growing threat of erosion and severe flooding due to climate change. Our approach was to minimize costs and risks and develop a diverse capital expenditure plan to ensure long-term protection. Our solution was a three-pronged approach of green infrastructure funded by water protection taxes; earthen berms funded by FEMA grants; and wetlands protection funded by wetlands mitigation banking.

The Clincher: One thing our team kept top of mind was the Haas defining principle “question the status quo.” The solution we came up with was not a conventional way of financing similar projects, according to our research. However, we knew we needed to take a bold approach for a bold solution. We worked to mitigate the risks in our proposal, and we prepared for the tough Q&A session.

The Investment Club team, left to right: Miran Ahmad, MBA 15; Carl Choi, MBA 16; Scott Furumoto, MBA 15; and Zane Keller, MBA 15

The Investment Club team, left to right: Miran Ahmad, MBA 15; Carl Choi, MBA 16; Scott Furumoto, MBA 15; and Zane Keller, MBA 15

Stars in LA

The Win: First place in the Fink Center Stock Pitch Competition at UCLA on Feb. 20

The Team: Miran Ahmad, MBA 15; Carl Choi, MBA 16; Scott Furumoto, MBA 15; and Zane Keller, MBA 15, all of the Haas Investment Club

The Field: MBA students from 10 other business schools across the country

The Pitch: Our team, “Get Shorty”, pitched a short recommendation on insurance company Assurant in the first round. Living up to iour name, we also decided to short Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba in the final round. We defended our investment thesis in front of a panel of judges, from hedge fund managers to equity research analysts.

The Clincher: While our team fielded difficult questions during the Q&A, one judge later remarked that what helped the us stand out was our ability to defend its thesis confidently but without sounding defensive. 

Veteran team member Zane Keller believes that the difference came down to the team’s decision to take a controversial short position on final round stock Alibaba.  “After thoroughly reviewing the macroeconomic assumptions and the underlying fundamental growth projections required to justify its lofty stock price, we knew it would be difficult to make a long recommendation.”

RotmanWinFeb2015

Going International in Toronto

The Win: 2nd Place in the Rotman International Trading Competition, the largest trading competition in the world, in Toronto, Feb. 20

The Team: Master of Financial Engineering students Simon He, Yi Lu, Tanya Gupta, Tong Lu, Wontai Cho and Maoqi Wang, all MFE 15. MFE Lab Manager Charles McCutchen helped prepare the team.

The Field: More than 50 teams from universities around the world, including MIT, Columbia, NYU, Princeton, the London School of Economics, and 1st-place winner LUISS Guido Carli/University of Rome.

 

Student Spotlight: Nikita Mitchell, Full-Time MBA Class of 2015 President & Diversity Leader

Nikita Professional optionIt was the scariest thing she could think of doing as a new MBA student.

When Nikita Mitchell arrived at Haas in the fall of 2013, her top goal was to develop her leadership skills—which she knew would require stepping outside her comfort zone. So instead of heading up a club or organizing a conference, she decided to run for class president.

“I’ve never been in a big public role. I’ve never had to be the face of something, and the idea was terrifying,” says Nikita, MBA 15. “Ultimately, I decided I should do it because I didn’t have anything to lose.”

A few months into her first semester at Haas she was elected, and in 2014 she served as the first African-American woman to head the MBA Association. She also served simultaneously as a liaison to the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, which works to bring more under-represented minorities into top MBA programs. Along with co-liaisons Kory Vargas-Caro and Dan Wong, both MBA 15, she led the Haas group to win the Consortium’s highest honor and $10K to build on their work.

Just after passing the mantle to the 2015 MBAA President Dan Fishman, Nikita spoke with us about her leadership style, her accomplishments, and what she learned.

TEAMwin

Nikita and Kory Vargas-Caro, MBA 15, celebrate winning the T.E.A.M. (Together Everyone Achieves More) trophy from The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management in June 2014. Not shown: Dan Wong, MBA 15

Team spirit

“I’ve grown a lot,” she says. “Most importantly–both personally and professionally—I’ve also learned how to ask for help when I need it.”

Nikita is up front about the fact that balancing outside leadership activities with the rigorous academic demands of the MBA was the biggest challenge she’s faced. During her first semester as president, she took on some big issues for the program, including how to make changes in the academic culture.

She credits the support of her classmates, and former MBAA President Stephanie White, for going out of their way to support her. “It was really incredible what people did to help me, often without even being asked.”

Her approach to managing it all was to build a strong team.

“I feel I created a high functioning team where everyone has been able to accomplish a lot in their own roles,” she says. “And I feel like I’ve been a strong voice for students.”

With the Berkeley MBA members of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, Classes of 2015 and 2016

With the Berkeley MBA members of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, Classes of 2015 and 2016

Making choices

As a natural collaborator, she knew being at the top of an organization would sometimes mean making tough calls.

“Being at the point of making a decision, where you know not everyone is going to be happy, was the biggest development area for me,” she says. “I think my biggest lesson was the realization that being in a leadership role among my peers wouldn’t harm my friendships. In fact, the relationships I built fueled my leadership.”

Though Nikita says the experience underscored how critical it is to not go at decision-making alone, she also learned that sometimes people don’t want to have input.

“That’s part of leadership too—knowing when people want to be brought to the table,” she says. “It started to become more instinctual toward the end.”

On a student trek to Morocco, spring break 2014

On a student trek to Morocco, spring break 2014

The importance of community

As the daughter of Caribbean immigrants, Nikita is proud that she was the first African-American woman to serve as Full-time MBA class president—and it was important to her family in the tight-knit community around Howard University where she grew up.

Her father came from Trinidad on a soccer scholarship to Howard, and her mother immigrated from Barbados. They met in the 1980s at Howard, where both worked as accountants. Nikita and all four of her sisters earned their bachelor’s degrees at Howard as well.

After graduation, she landed a position at Deloitte Consulting. She later earned a fellowship through ProInspire, which matches young professionals with nonprofits, as she explored careers in social impact.

She applied to MBA programs through the Consortium, which offers full scholarships to students who get into their top-ranked school. At the last minute, she ranked the University of Michigan’s Ross first, which has a large and active minority population. But in a twist of fate, she visited Haas during the Women in Leadership conference weekend, and knew it was the right place for her.

“I was so surprised by how right the culture felt. The warmth was there. The connections I made with people felt authentic,” she says. “I felt included immediately, and I thought ‘that’s somewhere I’ll continue to grow.”

As she looks toward graduation in May, Nikita summed up her biggest takeaway:

“What this leadership experience taught me is that I like to run things,” she says.

No doubt she will.

Update, March18: Nikita has accepted a job as Chief of Staff for Cisco Consulting Services.

Haas ranked #1 in support for LGBTQ students: one student reflects on being an ally

Last week, the organization Friendfactor ranked Haas #1 in the MBA Ally Challenge—a quarterly award that recognizes business schools for creating a culture that’s supportive and inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (or questioning) students. Twenty-two schools participated in the challenge.

Friendfactor says Haas moved to the top by:

“…Engaging a whopping 75% of their student body in their LGBT ally initiative through 13 activities over the fall. Their biggest hits were a 200-person speaking event with openly gay Brigadier General Tammy Smith, an Ally Pledge and t-shirt sale during National Coming Out Week, and an educational Ally Guide distributed by the dean to every student.”

In today’s post, a full-time MBA student reflects on what he has learned about being an ally, and what it says about the culture at Haas.

By Sandeep Pahuja, MBA 15, Outgoing VP of Allies, Q@Haas

Back in September, the Q@Haas board was preparing for Coming Out Week and one of our goals was to have allies—friends and supporters of the LGBT community—make a big public showing. We planned on making t-shirts that our students could wear to show their support. We ended up selling about 250 “PROUD” shirts and took a couple of sweet photos in the process.

Proud_group shot

Dean Rich Lyons stands with students during National Coming Out Week.

My original plan for the shirts was something entirely different. I wanted to really call out the allies, and be very explicit about it. Our original designs looked like this:

Ally out

In talking to the Q@Haas board—mostly gay males—we were quite happy with the design and thought the shirts looked really good. It was a conversation I had with Nikita Mitchell, our Haas MBA 2015 class president and LGBTQ member of Q@Haas, which made me realize that my myopic focus on allies would force everyone else within the community to label themselves as “out” or not participate.  There are certainly peers at Haas who had not come out, or weren’t sure if they were “out.” What shirt would they wear? Our conversation made me realize that the shirts would accomplish the opposite of what we hoped for, and in fact exclude some people. I was so focused on the ally perspective, thinking about how allies would want their own shirt so that no one thought they might be LGBTQ based on the shirt they were wearing. That was my own insecurity shining through.

Final designs were due to our printer in two days, and we were just about to take orders. We had gone through multiple designs already to pick those two shirts. I got on the phone with our co-presidents and we knew that we had to change the shirt. We decided we’d create shirts around the theme of Pride. We landed on a simple design, and in the process we found a term that encompassed all of us, allies included: Proud.

To me, this story highlights that being an ally is an ongoing process. Allies need to remember to ask questions and recognize the gracious understanding we get from our LGBTQ peers. Without that frank conversation with Nikita, a well-intentioned project could have alienated some of our Q@Haas community in the process. Instead, thanks to dialog and understanding, we were able to make something that brought people together, and that people wear almost every day. These shirts are a visible symbol of the inclusive culture we’re actively trying to build at Haas.

Read more Berkeley MBA student perspectives on why it’s important to be an ally: 

Berkeley MBA Students: Proud to Be LGBTQ Allies, Part I

Berkeley MBA Students: Proud to Be LGBTQ Allies, Part II

 

“Tangible Team Spirit” a Winning Strategy for Consulting Competition Champs

National Strategy Consulting winners_1200

Shadie Andraos and Andrea Soto, both MBA 16; University of British Columbia student Nicole Nauss; Dan Reddin and Anthony Patterson, both MBA 16.

A team of four first-year Haas students who thought on their feet took first place in the National Strategy Consulting Competition in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The team had 24 hours to create a market-growth strategy for a start-up focused on digital health services. Going head-to-head with students from the University of British Columbia in the finals, they won $1500 and first-round interviews with competition sponsor Deloitte.

Shadie Andraos, MBA 16, said the judges included the chief strategy officer from the startup that was the subject of the competition.

“The judges commented on how well we worked together as a team, emphasizing a tangible team spirit evident in our presentation,” said

“From an experience perspective, we are all interested in consulting and used the competition as an opportunity to apply lessons from our core courses, as well as our interview preparation in a practical setting,” he added.

The November competition, held in conjunction with a conference, gives undergraduate and MBA students the chance to hone their abilities in analyzing problems, solving cases, and pitching, as well as learning about the consulting industry.

A Taste of the Startup World—in Real Time

By Karen Sorensen

After earning an engineering degree and consulting at large companies for five years, Ben Ferrara arrived at Haas with an appetite for learning more about what it would be like to work with a small, dynamic startup.

He got a taste of that this fall when he and a team of fellow MBA students consulted on an expansion plan for gourmet meal delivery service Munchery. Popular in San Francisco and Seattle, the company wanted to avoid potential growing pains by clearly identifying customers and creating a roadmap to scale its operations nationally.

Munchery_1

The Munchery team

Ferrara, MBA 15, is among the 60 students who formed Startup Lab teams to work on real-world strategic business challenges faced by a dozen startups. The applied innovation course is taught by Lecturer Whitney Hischier, who co-created it last year with former MBA student Faisal al Gharabally.

“Startup Lab provides students the unique ability to work directly with an entrepreneur or company founder and experience startup life,” Hischier said.

While students gain insight from the startups, the reverse is true as well. “Startup Lab students are usually experienced in many fields,” said Gonzalo De Los Rios, Founder and CEO of GameMiles, which asked its Startup Lab team to work on valuation and key documentation for potential investors. “The team really brought value to the table and helped us learn more about our industry.”

The 12 startups that participated this fall provide a variety of innovative products and services, from drones to fire detection technology to online collaboration software. Several have deep ties to Haas: Skimatalk, which provides English language coaching, was co-founded by Koji Shimizu and Ted Smith, both MBA 12; Lecturer Ajay Bam co-founded Produkme, which provides online purchase product support; and Slava Balter, MBA 14, heads business development for online collaboration software startup Convo. Two other companies came out of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Team projects ranged from developing new market entry strategies, products, and pricing models to pitch decks for investors.

Julie Barmeyer, MBA 15, worked on the team dedicated to online advertiser MightyHive. The group researched potential new markets and experienced firsthand the importance of adaptability. “The company pivoted during the middle of the semester, so our project pivoted too,” she said.

Ferrara said he drew on knowledge from his core Marketing and Operations courses, and also incorporated Problem Finding Problem Solving (PFPS) concepts. “The PFPS course has been extremely useful because it really helps you understand the business model canvas and brainstorm in a way to see opportunities and be more creative with ideas.”

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KarenSorensen_BioPhoto_300Guest blogger Karen Sorensen is a San Francisco Bay Area-based writer who specializes in business, innovation, and education.

Student Spotlight: Entrepreneur Dan Schoening, MBA 16

Dan Schoening_MBA 16Dan Schoening began his entrepreneurial career early.

At age 14, he was running his own soccer camp company. By 18, the Seattle native was advising high school students on how to get recruited to college athletic programs. As an undergrad, he started a mobile shuttle tracking service.

So it’s no surprise that Dan has continued his entrepreneurial journey at Haas, as co-chair of LAUNCH: the UC Berkeley Startup Accelerator & Competition. He was also selected as one of two Berkeley students to go on the inaugural Silicon Valley Bank Trek, a tour of the Valley and San Francisco’s startups, banks, and investment firms. For three days this week, he and 18 other students from the across the U.S. are meeting a who’s who of influential tech leaders, stopping to visit the Silicon Valley Bank, the offices of Andreessen Horowitz, startup business analytics company BIRST and VC data provider Mattermark, and the San Francisco-based co-working facility WeWork Golden Gate.

We recently talked with Dan about the Trek, the LAUNCH competition, and his experience at Haas.

Haas: Tell us about your most innovative startup.

Dan: As an undergrad at Tufts University in 2009, I co-founded a mobile service that provided information about bus schedules to students traveling to and from campus. We were pleasantly surprised with the traction it gained on campus and we began to expand its applications into the shuttle management space.

Haas: What drove your decision to enroll at Haas for an MBA?

Dan: I was only interested in the West Coast—I wanted to immerse myself in the entrepreneurship world and the startup scene here in the Bay Area. This is where you have to be. I ended up doing a West Coast entrepreneurship search, and I chose Haas. I’ve only been here a few months, but I’m really excited about the program and the various opportunities and the resources it presents for entrepreneurs. I’m especially excited for Toby Stuart’s entrepreneurship class this spring—I’ve heard rave reviews about it.

Haas: What do you hope to get out of the Silicon Valley Bank Trek?

Dan: The Trek is a new event this year, so it will be fun to see how it unfolds. In addition to connecting with key influencers in the Valley, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to meet and learn from the other students from around the country.

Haas: As co-chair of LAUNCH, you (along with co-chair Franklin Russell and the student executive committee) are shepherding the established competition through some significant changes. Tell us about them.

Dan: The criteria for competitors are more stringent this year: applicants needed to be further along with their startups and present more mature businesses. We’ve also shifted the program to be more of an accelerator model versus a standard business plan competition.

We had over 100 applicants from all across the UC system, and all of them have validated a product in their space. Many have incoming revenue. Only one team member has to be an affiliate of a UC school, and applicants include alumni, faculty, and staff.

LAUNCH Bootcamp is coming up on Feb. 6-7. This will be the first full-group event with the 16 teams, the faculty advisors and the mentors. We’re feeling really confident about the new model.