play day: slideshow

The 10th annual >play conference packed Fort Mason last month, attracting a record 700 people to San Francisco last month to explore the latest, greatest, and most disruptive digital trends.

Organized by the Haas Digital Media Entertainment Club (DMEC), >play is the largest student-run technology and digital media conference in the country. The day included a “start-up alley,” hackathon, keynotes from business leaders—and some time to play at the silent disco.

Check out the highlights.

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Five Things: >play Digital Media Conference 2013

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Making it even easier for industry innovators to attend, >play, the Berkeley-Haas digital media conference, this year moved across the Bay to San Francisco’s Nikko Hotel and from Saturday to Friday; Non–student attendance doubled over last year.  Below, five more things about >play 2013:

1. Who made it happen: Co-chairs Noa Elan and Chao Li, both MBA 14, along with 67 MBA student volunteers

2. Broken records: 600 people in attendance–the most ever.

3. “Always On”: A Body Electric panel on wearable technology and a Cutting the Cord on Cable panel were two ways of exploring the “Always On” theme.

4. Just one observation:

5. Covered in Inc: The 45-Minute Onboarding Rule and Lyft CEO: You Must Keep Your Consumer Focus


Career Changes: From Grant Applications to Music Apps

EWMBA careers Stephanie Lai croppedStudent: Stephanie Lai, MBA 14 in the Evening & Weekend MBA Program.

Then: Grantmaking Operations Coordinator at The David and Lucile Packard Foundation

Now: Marketing specialist at Smule, creator of social music-making apps such as Magic Piano, Glee, I Am T-Pain, and Ocarina. “I manage customer acquisition and app monetization. Internally, I work with product managers to optimize advertising, publishing, and cross-promotion of our apps. Externally, with mobile ad networks and monetization platforms.”

Why Smule: “Smule’s mission to connect people through music resonates with my own life mission. As an avid cellist, I’ve longed for people to experience the joy of making music. With our apps, you don’t need an instrument or musical talent – all you need is your mobile device.”

Inside Smule: “Our SF office has a grand piano, guitars, and drum set, and we periodically rock out in impromptu jam sessions using our apps and real instruments. While most company holiday parties involve hiring a band, the staff at Smule perform their own acts, including opera, jazz, rap, and a homegrown musical!”

Lai (lower l.) with the Smule band

Call them Maybe: Lai (lower l.) with the Smule band. Video here.

How she did it: “After spending 5 years in philanthropy, I realized I wanted to make a direct impact on people’s lives, rather than funding others to make a difference,” says Lai. “Given my passion for music, I searched for an innovative music start-up with a fast-paced, creative environment.” Lai says Luke Kreinberg of the Career Management Group encouraged her to network and ask friends about any music-related start-ups. “It turned out that my college pianist friend knew the CEO of Smule, and he introduced us via email. Without this connection, I doubt I would have gotten my first interview!”

Haas connections: Two Haas alums work at Smule – the Chief Financial Officer and Director of Marketing. “I met Jessica Wan, Smule’s Marketing Director, when we performed at the same wedding in 2009. When I applied, she kindly helped me prepare for my interview by answering my questions about the company. In addition, Smule’s CFO, Sunil Pareenja has shared tips on the Berkeley MBA courses he’s found to be most valuable in his career.”

Life Lessons: “From Mark Rittenberg’s active communications class, I have applied Rule #6 — don’t take yourself too seriously! This reminder has been especially helpful as I learn the ropes of the mobile ecosystem. When making a career transition, it is important to be open to change, new ideas, asking questions, and receiving feedback.”

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.

Evening & Weekend MBA Startup Makes SXSW Finals

A Berkeley MBA venture aimed at making travel decisions easier and even more appealing has just been named one of eight finalists in the South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive tournament Student Startup Madness. Traverie, co-founded by Gaurav Agarwal, MBA 13, has also been selected as one of the top travel innovations of 2012 by PhoCus Wright, a travel market research company, and made strong showings in previous competition.

Described by Agarwal as “an interactive magazine that helps you explore travel through friends,” Traverie emerged from an original field of 64 startup teams competing for a finalist slot at SXSW.

Agarwal and co-founders Jimming Cheng, and Tiffany Yang will make their final pitch in Austin, TX on March 11, presenting before a judging panel of investors and entrepreneurs for top honors and technology tools provided by Google.

“SXSW has become a premier destination for digital media innovation and we thought it would be a great platform to represent Berkeley, compete with other top schools, and create awareness for Traverie,” says Agarwal. “We believe our team and focus on helping consumers discover relevant, trusted content amongst the plethora of data available on Facebook were what made us competitive in this nationwide tournament.”

Agarwal has said that classes such as Problem Finding Problem Solving and New Venture Finance, along with the Startup Board of Mentors Program at the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and the UC Berkeley Startup Competition all greatly contributed to the team’s success. “At Haas I’ve learned how to create a business out of an idea and how to build a strong team, which is the most important asset in a knowledge company.”

Mobile Insights Garner Finalist Honors at Infocom

Evgeniya Kalenykh, MBA 14

Evgeniya Kalenykh, MBA 14

The Competition: The 2012 Infocom Future Leadership Awards, held in Calcutta, Dec. 7 as part of the Infocom conference for professionals in information and communications technology.

The Winner: Evgeniya (Eve) Kalenykh, MBA 14, who was one of six finalists.

The Field: More than 1,000 students from 70 b-schools worldwide.

The Challenge: To write a paper on the theme of mobility.

The Winning Approach: In addressing the impact of mobility on organizations and consumers, Kalenykh wrote from her perspective as an MBA candidate who will rejoin the workforce in two years, exploring what the organizations would be like and the skill set that would be required. “For instance, I talked about the importance of seeing and sensing the big picture in the terabytes of data that we are now able to obtain. As a result, ideal employees of mobile era would be visionary and curious rather than skilled.”

A Winner Because: Kalenykh thinks it’s because she identified key trends, such as the ability of companies to offer more with less, (i.e. creating meaningful data instead of simply abundant data,) and the need to be supportive—without being “creepy.” “Suppliers struggle with a desire to offer more, while assuring the user of privacy and anonymity of his information,” she says. “There will be more educated guesses about consumers, more bold campaigns–and more epic failures.”

The H Factor: Kalenykh is pursuing her Berkeley MBA to re-enter the tech industry after four years with the global consumer goods giant Unilever. At Haas she has helped with the school’s annual digital media conference, >play, putting together a mobile application to replace a conference brochure. “This appealed to me from both a sustainability perspective and the ability to get up to speed with latest technology advancements.” She also worked on the annual challenge put on by the Haas Technology Club and will co-chair that event in 2013.

Winning Approaches: 2012 Adobe Digital Analytics Competition

2nd Place in the Adobe Challenge: Dino Boukouris, Tamara Patterson, and Alex Leung

The Competition: 2012 Adobe Digital Analytics Competition, held at Adobe’s new campus in Salt Lake City on Nov. 16.

The Team: Dino Boukouris, Alex Leung, and Tamara Patterson, all MBA 15 in the Evening & Weekend MBA Program.

The Outcome: Second place.

The Field: The team emerged from an original field of 160+ to compete in the finals against NYU, Northwestern, MIT, and UCLA and take the second-place prize of $7,500.

The Challenge: Use the Adobe Site Catalyst and Discover tools to analyze site data. “We had to come up with our own understanding of XfinityTV’s business objectives, identify key performance indicators, and make actionable recommendations to improve,” says Leung.

The Winning Approach: “Our solution focused on collecting relevant visitor data for understanding users better,” says Leung. “Using the themes of engage, attract/grow, and retain, we provided recommendations to improve the experience for the most valuable customer segments.”

Won Because: “None of our team members have previous experience in marketing or digital analytics,” says Leung. “We are all scientists/engineers so we stuck with the numbers and made observations in the data as we saw it. We think our fresh perspective helped us lay out a clear path to our recommendations, which the judges complimented.”

The H Factor: “The timing was great because we are all currently studying Marketing, and we had just completed the Leadership Communication course,” Leung says. “We knew to use a vertical takeoff, minimize text on the slides, and use stories as much as possible.”

Try it because: “It was great experience to directly apply our learning from class lectures and even win a big check!” says Leung. “We got to learn new tools, pick up new skills (marketing/digital analytics), define a problem from a new perspective, and collaborate with those we haven’t worked with before. We had so much support from our EWMBA classmates and are really proud we could represent Haas in the finals.”


Haas Achieves: A Video Year-in-Review

Congratulations to the full-time MBA classes of 2012 and 2013. In just one year you have accomplished an extraordinary amount, from organizing conferences and international treks to winning case competitions. We are so proud of all you achieve at Haas–and have captured what we could (i.e. some, certainly not all!) in this Haas Achieves video. We know you have many achievements yet to come and wish you the best.

Video produced by Tritone Media

MBA 11s at Work: Riot Games

Welcome to MBA 11s at Work, a periodic series on the career launches—in consulting, finance, tech, entrepreneurship, and more—of the Berkeley MBA class of 2011.

Nan Duan (front and center) From MBA glee to Riot Games gig

Grad: Nan Duan, MBA 11

Working as: International Publishing Manager at Riot Games, a Santa Monica-based video game developer. Riot is known for  League of Legends, which has over 32 million registered users worldwide.  “My main responsibility is working with Asian publishers who operate our game in Mainland China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia.”

Riot because: “It’s one of the most dynamic companies in the video games industry right now.” In his second year, Duan narrowed an interest in consumer tech down to gaming. “Riot emerged as attractive due to its combination of a free-to-play business model with a ‘hardcore’ video game, as well as its aggressive expansion in Asia, which fit well with my international student background.”

Inside Riot: “We have adopted many of the techniques used in social games and applied them to a really competitive, hardcore title,” says Duan. The company organizes development around a highly rapid and iterative cycle. “This is not common at all for traditional core gaming, where studios spend two years and multi-million dollar budgets before the game is launched.”

Networked: “Haas has great presence in some of the leading areas in gaming—during my job search I interacted with alumni at Zynga and EA.” Duan observes that gaming has not been a typical sector for MBAs (He thinks he is the first fresh MBA grad hired at Riot), but says this is rapidly changing with recent social/mobile gaming trends. “Gaming is rising as a heavyweight component within the broad entertainment sector so, in this sense, I feel I’m helping Haas establish a footprint in this industry.”

Best career search strategies: Taking advantage of every event to socialize and know more people in the industry. “The opportunity at Riot came up after two Rioters were invited to speak at Haas.”

Classroom lessons in action: Duan is a big fan of Reza Mozzami’s strategy courses on IT, Media, and Wireless. “They have really shaped how I think about the technology industry and are a must for anyone interested in the sector.”

Living the So-Cal life: It’s Santa Monica—beaches and the weather to enjoy them are a top draw, along with “an amazing selection of Asian food.” 


One official week in and full-time MBA students have already been clubbed: They’ve worked through a Zynga case with the Digital Media and Entertainment Club (DMEC),  attended an “Energy Boot Camp” held by the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative (BERC), and heard Bain & Company perspective on the smartphone ecosystem, thanks to the Haas Consulting Club. Here is just a sampling of what’s happened in just a couple of weeks on the club scene–and what’s coming up:

A number of DMEC club officers, fresh off of summer internships at Zynga, came to Haas during O-Week to work through a Zynga Career Workshop with new students. Along with alumnus and Zynga Product Manager Matt Salazar, MBA 11, they gave an overview of the product management role and how games are designed. First-years then pitched game ideas for prizes. 

Zynga COO Marcus Segal addresses Digital Media club event

Those game industry contacts were leveraged once again the first week of school, when Zynga COO Marcus Segal addressed DMEC’s first speaker series class. Brain Guenther, MBA 12, serves as VP of Marketing for both DMEC and the Haas Technology Club (HTC) and says to watch for career treks to prominent digital media and technology companies, the annual DMEC >play conference, and a new case competition from HTC sponsored by VMWare.

BERC greeted students with an energy boot camp, where a crowd of people turned out to hear VC and legal perspectives on technology, policy, and business aspects of clean energy. BERC’s annual lecture on Sept. 1 features Samir Kaul of Khosla Ventures and UCB alternative energy Professor Chris Somerville, who will discuss a regulation, the role of large corporations in cleantech startups, and financing and deployment of clean technology.

The Haas Consulting Club welcomed some 80 people at each of their first two events: A management consulting primer and a discussion by Bain & Company consultants on the smartphone ecosystem wars. Watch for Consulting 101 on September 1, when a panel of 2nd-year students will discuss their internship job search and work experiences. “Interviews for management consulting start early and resume drop deadlines are coming up soon,” says Co-president Jarom Feriante. “The Haas Consulting Club has a lot of members who are serious about executing interviews successfully, and the time to start preparing is now.”

From Marketing to Latin American Business to Design and Innovation Strategy, if you’d like to go clubbing, visit the Berkeley MBA Campus Groups web page to learn more.