Students, Staff, Faculty Give Big Thanks to Donors

Berkeley-Haas students, faculty, and staff stopped by the Bank of America Forum last month to thank donors, and to acknowledge the fact that tuition only covers about half of the cost of running Haas. Philanthropy covers one-third of the other half.


Donor Appreciation Week is celebrated each January, halfway through the school year, to honor donors’ generosity.

Students, faculty, and staff wrote hundreds of personal notes, thanking benefactors for keeping Haas a top-ranked business school. Many students reflected on the value of their Berkeley-Haas education and shared their commitment to become supporters of the school one day.

Dean Lyons, BS 82, had this to say:

“This outstanding institution would not be what it is—not anywhere close—without private support like yours. Thanks for being part of all the momentum.”

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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.


Designing Women: Leadership Conference [re]Frames the Conversation

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This year Berkeley MBA students brought the design-thinking skills they gained at Haas to hundreds of women from around the Bay Area who attended the annual Women in Leadership Conference. We interviewed Stephanie Curran, MBA 14, who co-chaired the conference with Lauren Fernandez, also MBA 14, about how they came up with the conference’s theme, “Design Your Future,” and their decision to focus on design thinking as they planned the conference.

What has been your experience with design thinking at Haas, and why you were inspired to share that through the conference theme?

I was first introduced to design thinking at a case competition shortly after I started school. We used “divergent” thinking to brainstorm the feelings one has when buying cell phones, which led us to create a story around the anxiety our proposed consumer segment goes through when purchasing a new cell phone for themselves and their family members. The Haas team was the only team that took this emotional approach, and the judges were incredibly impressed by our depth of consumer insight, ultimately declaring us winners of the competition. Soon after, I took the core MBA class Problem Finding, Problem Solving, where design-thinking tools were further explored and I was able to expand on my previous experience.

After that, I was sold on the power of design thinking and  began to apply it to projects I worked on for Berkeley Board Fellows, IBD, and elsewhere, always with success.

How did you end up applying design thinking to planning the Women in Leadership Conference?

Lauren and I actually used this diverging brainstorming activity as we were trying to come up with themes for the WIL Conference. We highlighted six topics that were trending and then spent two hours post-it note brainstorming to think about all the different things that fell into these topics. “Design Your Future” was one of the results, and we both felt strongly that exposing people to tools of design thinking and how they can apply to your life both professionally and personally was incredibly important.

Did this lead to any changes to the conference from previous years?

As the conference planning began to take place we used the theme to structure both the panels and interactive workshops. The panels had been traditionally industry focused and we decided to switch them to a functional focus. We wanted to give attendees a broad overview of all the different roles that can fall under one function like marketing, consulting or finance. This way if one worked or aspired to work in marketing, they could get a better idea of what “marketing” means across different industries in one panel.

The afternoon workshops focused on teaching attendees specific tools that are key to design thinking, whether it be reframing problems or learning how to tell stories. We wanted to ensure that at the end of the day attendees would be able to walk away with a “toolkit” around how to “Design their Future” going forward.

Did you do anything else differently?

On the day of the conference, we also conducted an interactive design thinking whiteboard activity designed by our classmate Lindsey Schatzberg, also MBA 14. In the morning, attendees were challenged to think about some opportunities they were facing in life, both personally and professionally. These opportunities were aggregated into four distinct themes around lunchtime and the afternoon then focused on attendees providing solutions and thoughts focused around these themes.

This activity was incredibly important because for most attendees this was their first exposure to design thinking and it allowed them to see the entire solutions based process of design thinking come to life.

What were key takeaways for you from the conference?

We received incredible feedback both at the conference and after on the keynotes, panels, workshops and everything in between. It was extremely rewarding for both Lauren and me to see a year of hard work play out and go off without a hitch. I know we are both so thrilled to have been a part of such a wonderful experience and that we had an amazing team to work with. The other ladies on the Women in Leadership board were incredibly instrumental in making this conference come to fruition.

Winners: Haas Students Score Touchdown in NFL Case Challenge

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The Competition: NFL Case Challenge

The Outcome: Haas took first place in the finals Feb. 14 at the NFL offices in Culver City, Calif, in front of a panel of NFL and university judges. Each member of the winning team received an Xbox One console and a copy of Madden 25.

The Teams: The winning Haas team consisted of Brandon Doll, Steffanie Johnson-Magnus and Natalie Rudd, all MBA 14. A second Haas team that competed in the the finals was composed of Lindsey Schatzberg, Robert Shaye, Sarah Walker, and Vishal Shah, all MBA 14.

The Field:  Nineteen teams from Berkeley-Haas, USC Marshall, UCLA, and San Diego State University entered the competition. Fourteen Haas teams applied to be in the finals, winnowed down to the two teams that competed. The two Berkeley MBA teams competed against one finalist from USC, one from SDSU, and two from UCLA.

The Challenge:  Students were asked to recommend a new program or product that would drive growth for NFL Media. The winning Haas team proposed a behind-the-scenes documentary called The Grind: Road to the International Series, to be produced by NFL Films and broadcast in the UK, which has hosted the American football games since 2007. The documentary would feature teams, fans, families and others involved on the road to London’s 2014 International Series Kickoff game: Raiders vs. Dolphins. The documentary promised “a unique storytelling experience by taking viewers deeper into the worlds of the two teams and their fans as they prepare to meet on the field in London,” according to Rudd.

What made them winners: During Q&A feedback, George Scott, general manager of NFL Club Sites for the Media Group, said: “Halfway through your presentation, I’m hitting myself in the head, thinking, ‘How are we not doing this already?  We need to do this!”

In announcing the winning team, Tom Brady, VP of content for the NFL Media Group, said: “If you’re selling something, you have to tell a story.  And when it came down to it, one group told their story just a little bit better.”

Johnson-Magnus added, “We faced an outstanding group of teams. I think what ultimately set us apart from the competition was that we not only had a great story, but we also had a great plan for taking it from concept to consumption through the intended distribution channels, the promotional strategy, and expected revenue streams.”

The H Factor: Johnson-Magnus says the team drew from two Haas courses in particular: Core Strategy with Assistant Professor Ned Augenblick and Brand Strategy Boot Camp with Lecturer Bill Pearce, former chief marketing officer of Del Monte.

Gratitude: “We’d definitely like to thank Keith Smith aka Crusader Raider, of London, England, for sharing his 30-year journey of being Raider fan in the UK with us, especially while recovering from knee surgery in the hospital,” Rudd says. “We’d also like to thank Eyal Gutentag, BS 97, a Haas alum and NFL’s VP of business intelligence and user acquisition, for inviting us to this competition and flying all the way to Berkeley to kick off the competition in person.“

Go Girl: Indiegogo’s Innovative Leader

Indiegogo Co-founder Danae Ringelmann, MBA 08, shares the story of how her Berkeley MBA experience helped her build the leading international platform for crowdfunding—an industry that did not exist when she began her career at Haas.

Executive MBA Alums Back Classmate’s Biotech Venture

Matt Cooper of Carmenta Bioscience

Asked to describe the ROI on his executive MBA studies at Haas, Matthew Cooper, MBA 11, has no difficulty with the calculation: Lifelong connections and 25 percent of the funding for his new venture, Carmenta Bioscience.

Cooper, previously Global Head of Non Clinical Safety Information at Roche, co-founded Carmenta in April 2012. The startup is developing a highly accurate diagnostic test for preeclampsia, a high blood pressure condition affecting pregnant women that can lead to life-threatening seizures. Cooper, who nearly lost his wife to preeclampsia, says, “I am passionate about making this disease irrelevant.”

Apparently, several of his classmates are as well. When Cooper went out for a recent round of funding, this group of alums from the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA Program (Haas now offers the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program) invested nearly $500,000 of the over $2 million raised by Carmenta.

Among the investors are Tim Campos, MBA 11, CIO, Facebook; Bala Kudaravalli, MBA 13, IT architect, Symantec; Sonal Sinha, MBA 11, VP, industry solutions, Metric Stream; and Krishna Srinivasa, MBA 11, VP, Manthan Systems. Cooper, who also holds a PhD in toxicology, was greatly moved by the support, but says he knew he had chosen the right MBA colleagues before he even began the program.

“I initially had a very difficult time choosing between two EMBA programs,” Cooper says, “but I went to admit receptions for both and was most impressed by the attitudes of people  in the Berkeley-Columbia program. They were genuinely interested in you as a person and what you wanted to accomplish. They were all impressive and completely without attitude and that was extremely refreshing.”

Bitten by the entrepreneurship bug at Berkeley-Haas, Cooper, previously “a big company guy,” launched one venture while earning his MBA. Then, as an adviser for the SPARK biotech accelerator at the Stanford School of Medicine, Cooper was approached by two Stanford professors, Atul Butte and Bruce Ling, to discuss their research on preeclampsia. Cooper immediately became a strong advocate for their research. “Atul and Bruce subsequently asked me to join and lead Carmenta’s commercialization efforts,” Cooper says.

He was so “all in” that he left his previous venture and sold his house to seed Carmenta—a level of commitment that did not go unnoticed by his BCEMBA colleagues. “A number of them approached me about investing, but I had to hold them off,” says Cooper. “I was uncomfortable accepting funds from my friends and colleagues until I had bona fide life science investors on board.”

An initial bid to raise $300,000 resulted in more than twice that, so Cooper increased the stakes to $1.8 million and opened the door to additional investors. That funding round closed oversubscribed at $2 million, with a quarter of that coming from Cooper’s BCEMBA colleagues.

“The investment in Carmenta was at its core a great business opportunity,” says Tim Campos, “but it was also an opportunity to do something with someone that I have grown to respect and appreciate. I would consider investment with any of my classmates—a cohort of incredibly smart, ambitious, and capable people—who have great business ideas. I see this as a perfect example of what Berkeley-Haas has to offer to its alumni network.”

Cooper agrees. “Beyond the financial support, there was a ton of advice, guidance, and mentorship from many of my classmates,” he says. “I am so glad to be able to share this potentially lucrative opportunity with them and work together towards saving lives of mothers and their babies.”

MBA 12s at Work: The Strategic Side of Gucci

MBA 12s at Work Eamonn Courtney cropped 3

Grad: Eamonn Courtney, MBA 12.

Working as: Business Analyst to Gucci President & CEO, Patrizio di Marco in Milan. “At a high level, my role is to support Mr. di Marco with analysis that enables him to make data-driven decisions on strategic business issues. In practice, my responsibilities range from ideating on new services that can enhance customer experience to evaluating the financial productivity of our stores across the world.”

Gucci because: “Gucci’s management team is incredibly accomplished. The opportunity to work closely with these industry talents directly out of business school is truly special.” Courtney also appreciates Gucci’s active adaptation to the new ways clients shop and interact with brands.

MBA 12s at work Eamonn fabric cutting

Fabric cutting in Italy for ready-to-wear

Inside Gucci: “I travel to HQ in Florence quite a bit for work. When I’m there my colleagues and I will sometimes head over to product development to watch Gucci’s artisans at work. On one visit, the artisans happened to be making Blake Lively’s shoes for the Gucci Premiere commercial, so we were able to get a sneak peek before the rest of the world!”

Job search strategy: “Following my heart. I had to wait until mid-June for my offer from Gucci , which was incredibly stressful at times, but I knew it was what I wanted. I can’t tell you how it felt when I finally got that call.” Mock interviews were one tool Courtney used to prepare. “The Career Services staff has an adept lens through which to view you as a potential candidate since they are constantly talking to recruiters to understand the qualities that really resonate with interviewers.”

Classroom lessons in action: “One that I consider almost every day—and studied in Leading People with Prof. Don Moore—is bias and how it can impact data and behaviors. I frequently come across qualitative studies produced from numerous sources, and for each it is necessary to critically consider the source and how perspective might bias what they say. Otherwise, taking action on the data could be quite detrimental.”

The BILD approach:  “As an MBA, there are skills that are simply expected of you, and rightfully so. Thus to create unique value for your company you must be able to innovate. PFPS is an asset to Berkeley MBAs because the skills taught can differentiate you at any company, in any position, at any stage of your professional career.”

The Milan life: “Shopping. Milan is world-renowned for design across the board—fashion, industrial, etc.—so there are amazing local shops for all sorts of products. The people in the shops here also have incredible passion for their craft, so you can learn a tremendous amount at the same time.”

MBA 12s at Work Eamonn favorite shop in Milan

One of Courtney’s favorite shops in Milan–in addition to Gucci, of course!

How an Evening and Weekend MBA Student Moved from Idea to Acquisition–in Eleven Short Months

IMG_9183Amit 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.

How Taking a Stand on Culture Makes the Difference at Berkeley-Haas

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When Dean Rich Lyons partnered with faculty, students, alumni, and staff to articulate Berkeley-Haas culture, the aim was to capture the school’s essence. What emerged were our Defining Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself.

“These have always been the Haas heartbeat,” says Lyons, “but we have never used them so deliberately to shape our community and to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace.” Here are ten ways, among many, that taking a stand on culture has already had an impact at Berkeley-Haas:

  • Curriculum: As part of the Berkeley Innovative Leader Development (BILD) curriculum, Haas launched the groundbreaking MBA course Problem Finding Problem Solving, giving students valuable tools to Question the Status Quo and bring solutions.
  • Admissions: The school assesses prospective students, in part, on how they live the Berkeley-Haas Defining Principles, through essay questions, interviews, and letters of recommendation.
  • Alumni: We have conducted the first of bi-annual alumni surveys to gauge familiarity with our Defining Principles. Already, 50 percent of those graduating in the past 10 years and 30 percent of those graduating prior know the Berkeley-Haas Defining Principles. Our aim is that in two years this familiarity will register with 70 and 50 percent, respectively, and, ultimately, with 100 percent of alumni who are within ten years of graduating.
  • Student Recognition: The Masters in Financial Engineering Program honors four students at commencement, awarding one student for each defining principle.
  • Careers: The “Standards of Professionalism” document signed by students to retain MBA career services leads with how the Berkeley-Haas Defining Principles apply to the career search process.
  • Recruiters: The MBA Career Management Group gives a copy of our Defining Principles to corporate recruiters and surveys them on how well Berkeley MBA candidates reflect them.
  • Faculty: All faculty, both tenure-track and professional, are now brought on-board with an orientation day that includes discussion of the Berkeley-Haas Defining Principles.
  • Thought Leadership: For two years, Dean Lyons has served as a leading expert in a national conversation on the importance of business school culture. He now expands his role in shaping that discussion, having been tapped by fellow deans to serve on the governing board of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the leading accrediting organization for U.S. business schools.
  • Staff-Faculty Teams: Volunteer staff teams spent fall 2011 developing ways to further deepen Haas community engagement with our Defining Principles. As a result, the school created two new staff positions dedicated to culture building and internal communication and is committing resources to implementing recommendations made by the teams.
  • Staff Recognition: Each year the school recognizes four employees with Outstanding Staff Awards for clear commitment to, and demonstration of, a defining principle.

Read more about the power of culture in the latest issue of Berkeley-Haas magazine.

A Look Back at 2012-13: MBA 11s at Work

This week, Haas Achieves takes a look back at the year. First up, how 2011 grads put their MBAs to work–in consulting, gaming, finance, and cleantech entrepreneurship.

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