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.

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.


Winners: Students Reel in Second Place in Impact Investing Competition

Zach Knight and Chad Reed tapped their storytelling skills to connect to their audience in their presentation on  myCatch.

Zach Knight and Chad Reed, both MBA 15, tapped their storytelling skills to connect to their audience in their presentation on myCatch.

The Competition: Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge

The Outcome: $5,000 and access to an impressive network of potential investors

Chad Reed and Zach Knight, both MBA 15

Chad Reed and Zach Knight, both MBA 15

The Team: Zach Knight and Chad Reed, both MBA 15

The Field: More than 220 MBA students from 39 institutions across the globe submitted applications. Ten teams were selected and presented at Morgan Stanley headquarters in NYC.

The Challenge: The challenge seeks outstanding proposals for novel investment strategies to meet some of the most pressing global challenges. As the world’s population approaches 9 billion people by the year 2050, the challenge of meeting human demand for scarce global resources will intensify. Finance has a key role to play in meeting this challenge. Moreover, an increasing number of institutional investors are seeking sustainable investment opportunities for their portfolios. Teams are encouraged to think beyond venture capital fund vehicles and strategies.

What made them winners (in the team’s own words): We tackled a challenge no other team addressed — lending to small-scale, sustainable U.S. fisheries — in an innovative and creative manner. Our financial instrument acumen was second to none, and our entertaining presentation told a compelling personal narrative.

The Haas Factor: Pitching a new and creative financial instrument, as exciting as that can be for us finance nerds, really needs a humanizing story to connect with a larger audience. By focusing on an individual who will both benefit from our work as well as provide returns to our investors, storytelling became an crucial element of our success as we were the only team to employee this strategy. Our story focused on Larry Collins, a small Bay Area crab and sole fisherman, who has been left behind by rights-based solutions to fishing.

Another key Haas value that was stressed throughout our core classes was that feedback is a gift.  We pushed all our classmates, professional contacts, and even first-round judges for feedback.  This was certainly helpful as we entered the final round of Q&A.

The Haas Impact Investing Network: While Chad and I are not members of the network, our classmates who are involved in the Haas Impact Investing Network were able to provide meaningful feedback throughout the process, including help with our final pitch. Their feedback was essential to our last-minute final touches, pushing us with some tough questions (as the Q&A part is usually the make or break with these competitions) and providing general feedback on our idea.

Most memorable experience from the competition: We saw great speakers, met interesting contestants, and got excellent presentation experience, but the most memorable part of the competition was seeing a room full of more than 200 people at a major Wall Street bank brought together by an interest in impact investing. We both very excited to see that our passion for the impact investing space, which is a key reason we both choose to come to Haas, was shared by so many.

Competitors Fold Under Haas Team Pressure in Origami Challenge

Origami Challenge team members

Origami Challenge team members Paul Roberts, Iris Korovesi, Andrew Masalin, Joel Morehouse, and Carmen Maxim, all EWMBA 2016.

The Competition: Origami Idea Challenge by Origami Partners LLC

The Outcome: Five Haas students beat out teams from Stanford, UCLA, and the University of Texas to win their division and $10,000. They now face seven other finalists for the $50,000 grand prize, to be announced May 16.

The Team: Evening & Weekend MBA students Carmen Maxim, Iris Korovesi, Andrew Masalin, Paul Roberts and Joel Morehouse, all MBA 2016.

The Field: The competition attracted 117 entries from students and professionals around the world. For the final round, Haas will go head-to-head with Dartmouth, University of Virginia, University of Nevada-Reno, Northwestern, Columbia Business School, and the Indian School of Business.

The Challenge:  Origami Capital Partners is looking for a unique investment opportunity that is large enough to absorb $100 million of capital and last from one to seven years. Investments can include any asset class or geographical location.

What made them winners (in the team’s own words): We won because we were a diverse team with extensive international expertise and a wide range of industry experience: : investment banking, financial modeling, market intelligence, pricing analytics, technology, architectural engineering, and real estate. Our diverse knowledge and common interest in finance allowed us to come up with various ideas across different sectors and regions, before narrowing it down to the idea that we all felt provided the highest potential upside, using our value investing lenses.

The Haas Factor:

For this competition we questioned the status quo, by pushing ourselves to come up with an idea that ignored geographical boundaries and conventional investment structures. Despite our diverse backgrounds, we all engaged with this competition in an effort to learn from our peers about investing. Our confidence in our idea allowed us to put in long hours of research to come up with a solid investment thesis.

Where your idea/strategy came from:  We looked for illiquid investments opportunities that would have long-term value, but are currently undervalued.  Our team’s experience with real estate in the US allowed us to evaluate undervalued real estate opportunities in other regions and to identify the structure that would best fit Origami’s investment mandate.

Your most memorable experience from this competition:

Reading the email that we had made it to the last round!

Winners: Berkeley-Haas SmartBod Team Takes 2nd in SXSW Challenge

SXSW Winners

SXSW SmartBod Winners: Bobby Davis, MBA 15; , Arlene Hadi; Liz Klinger; and James Wang, MBA 15. (Leo Chen, EECS 07, not pictured.)

The Competition: South by Southwest 2014 Business Startup Challenge

The Outcome: A Berkeley-Haas team took second place in the competition at University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business on March 8.

The Team: The winning team, a vibrator startup called SmartBod, consisted of Berkeley MBA students James Wang and Bobby Davis, both MBA 15; Liz Klinger and Arlene Hadi; and Leo Chen, EECS 07 (who was unable to attend the event).

“I think it’s worth noting that our entire team came together through Haas connections; Bobby and I are in the same MBA year, and Leo was introduced through another MBA classmate,” Wang points out. In addition, Klinger is Wang’s partner, and Hadi is Davis’ partner.

The Field: Competing teams came from Stanford, MIT, Ross, Darden, McCombs, and Chicago Booth.

The challenge: Teams had to make a 10-minute pitch for their startup ideas, business models, and progress to experienced angel and venture capital judges.

“Most competitions have shorter pitches, so mostly cover just the high-level idea of a startup,” says Wang. “Since this competition involved a longer pitch format, we had to get pretty detailed on not just our broad concept, but how we would execute, market, and make money from it. With experienced judges and a lot of fodder, all the teams got really good (and difficult) questions during the Q&A portion as well.”

What made them winners: “As a VC, you see the same idea over and over again—they loved that this was something they haven’t seen before, and feel that it’s a viable business versus one that just chases a hot trend,” says Wang. “Again, I think our willingness to challenge conventional wisdom came through here.

“Additionally, they really liked that we were a strong, diverse team where everyone brought something to the table. (We have two electrical engineers, a systems engineer, a data and software specialist, and a designer).”

The Haas Factor: “The Defining Principles are core to how we’re approaching our startup and how we got into it in the first place,” Wang says. “Our startup is a smart vibrator company (yes, those types of vibrators). It’s not a typical startup, but we feel like we can bring a great product to market—we’re definitely questioning the status quo with what we’re doing.

“Additionally, even during the Q&A session, I think it came through that we were very open to feedback (Students Always) and very focused on providing reasoned, logic-based answers and not just opinion (Confidence Without Attitude).

“Finally, a big part of what drew us all to this project is the fact that it’s not just a business—we’re able to go beyond ourselves and help remove harmful taboos and misunderstandings around the topic of female sexuality.”

Where the idea came from: “It was mainly from Liz’s experience. She’s studied human sexuality from an artistic, philosophical, and sociological perspective for nearly a decade now since college, and in the past few years has sold sex toys as a sales consultant. She has gotten to talk with a lot of women about vibrators and has seen basically all the products on the market. When Startup Weekend Berkeley rolled around (a weekend “hackathon” where you build a startup from scratch) she was ready with her idea, and we were off to the races from there,” Wang explains.

Most memorable SXSW experience outside of the competition: “Some members of our team got to meet Grumpy Cat. During a panel that one of our teammates attended, Shaquille O’Neal popped in as a surprise guest. That same teammate, tagging along with a new friend from the pitch event, ended up at a small, intimate dinner event with Hunter Biden (Joe Biden’s son),” Wang recalls.

“Personally, even though I was in Austin for less than 24 hours, I ended up having a long talk with my UberX driver on the way to the airport –he’s a music photographer in Austin now, but turned out to have worked at Google, and we ended up talking about the future of smart medical devices, artificial intelligence, and the different management styles of companies in the Valley. You never know who you’ll meet at a place like SXSW!”

Learn more about SmartBod at

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.“

Winning Approaches: Kellogg Biotech & Healthcare Case Competition

Winning at Kellogg: Eric Fishcer, Emily Mou, David Kagan, Jennifer Wong, Champ

Winning at Kellogg: Eric Fischer, Emily Mou, David Kagan, Jennifer Wong, Champ Suthipongchai

The competition: Kellogg Biotech & Healthcare Case Competition, Jan. 25

The outcome:
Haas placed first

The team: David Kagan, MBA/MPH 15; Jennifer Wong, M. Engin. 15; Champ Suthipongchai, MBA 15; and Eric Fischer and Emily Mou, both MPH 15.

The Field: A total of 32 teams applied, from which 11 were selected to compete. They represented four countries and nine schools, including Cambridge, University of Chicago Booth, Rutgers, and Mexico’s IPADE Business School.

The challenge: Teams were tasked with determining how to allocate funding to reduce childhood mortality from pneumonia in developing countries, particularly Uganda.

The winning approach: “We took the classic design-thinking innovation approach, which allowed us to focus on what the patient experience was like, to be able to really craft solutions that worked within the context of a third-world culture,” says Kagan. “The idea of design thinking is that you spend most of your time trying to understand who your customer is and what their needs are. In this case, we labeled five major points in a mother’s journey for trying to take care of a sick child. Our plan was about trying to create mobile medical clinics and empowering villages with trained health care providers to improve local access to health care.”

What made them winners: Judges lauded the Haas team’s insight into the patient experience and innovative approach to economic sustainability via micro-financing.

The H factor: “Haas really teaches you how to think outside the box,” said Kagan. “If you break down a problem through the eyes of a customer and not through the eyes of yourself, you can generate a much more creative solution to help that customer.” (This is the third time a team from Haas won the competition; Haas teams also won in 2007 and 2013.)

Why it matters: Pneumonia is the leading case of childhood mortality worldwide, killing an estimated 1.1 million children under the age of five every year—more than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

Haas Faculty, Staff, PhD Student Team up to Race, Raise Funds

Haas Corporate Run Group B

Haas represents at the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge: (front) Catherine Wolfram and Zsolt Katona; (back) Leif Nelson, Alastair Lawrence, Kate Ashley, Marcus Opp, Richard Sloan, Christian Puscasiu, and Monica Porter

A team featuring Haas faculty, staff, and a PhD student teamed up Tuesday to run the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge, which raises funds for San Francisco’s Larkin Street Youth Services.

Assistant Professor Alastair Lawrence put out the call for runners and got ten takers to form a Haas team for the 3.5-mile footrace, including faculty members Zsolt Katona, Leif Nelson, Marcus Opp, Christian Puscasiu, Richard Sloan, and Catherine Wolfram; PhD Student Kate Ashley, of the  Operations Management Group, and staff members Cathy Garza, Marco Lindsey, and Monica Porter.

“I thought this would be a good opportunity to bring faculty and staff together and to start a new tradition,” says Lawrence. “It’s a highly regarded event in the business world and it was nice to have Berkeley-Haas be represented with businesses in the area.” Lawrence hopes to expand Berkeley-Haas presence in future years.

Find a recap of the event here.