First-Ever African Business Forum to Explore the New Mobile Frontier, May 2

Forum organizers: Serge Ouedraogo, MBA 15; Ould-Ali Najat, MBA 15; Ahmed Khada, MBA 15; Oseyi Ikuenobe, MBA 15; Remona Moodley, MBA 16; Sadiya Abdullahi Nur, MBA 15

Forum organizers: Serge Ouedraogo, MBA 15; Najat Ould-Ali, MBA 15; Khadar Ahmed, MBA 15; Oseyi Ikuenobe, MBA 15; Remona Moodley, MBA 16; and Sadiya Nur, MBA 15

The first-ever business forum at Berkeley focused on the world’s second-largest continent—and second-fastest-growing economic region—will take place at Haas on Saturday.

MBA students organized the Africa Business Forum to fill a gap at the school, where students have long held regional business conferences focused on Asia and Latin America.

“Our vision is to make Berkeley-Haas the premier destination for the development of innovative business solutions to Africa’s challenges, and a home for visionaries who want to develop these solutions,” says Oseyi Ikuenobe, MBA 15, one of the event organizers.

They chose the theme, “Africa: The Next Frontier For Mobile Technology,” to resonate with the larger Berkeley community.

“We didn’t have to look far to find our theme,” says Serge Ouedraogo, MBA 15. “Mobile is where everything is happening in Africa—when you talk about access, it’s through mobile devices. As a business school, we should not be missing this emerging market.”

Growth Leader

The forum is not only a first for Haas, but for the larger Berkeley campus as well, organizers believe. Conferences and panels have focused on politics and policy, development, and advocacy, but never business. But given the growth forecasts for the continent, that’s likely to change.

A few stats:

  • For 2015, Kenya has the world’s 3rd-fastest growing economy, behind only China and the Philippines, according to an analysis by Bloomberg. Nigeria has the 6th fastest-growing GDP.
  • Only about 16 percent of Africa is currently online; the connected population is expected to grow to about 50 percent by 2025.
  • Africa’s middle class is expected to double over the next ten years.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to be the global leader in growth of mobile usage over the next seven years
  • Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana have emerging Silicon-Valley-type tech ecosystems.

Gathering of Big Thinkers

In the face of such rapid growth, what will Africa look like in ten years? That’s the central question of the symposium, to be explored by entrepreneurial speakers and panelists who are pioneering a range of innovative ventures, as well as in a hands-on business-model-design session for attendees.

Sophia Bekele, founder and CEO of DotConnectAfrica—which has advocated for .africa domain names—will give the keynote address. Panelists include Shashi Buluswar, co-founder and executive director the Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab; Stephen Ozoigbo, CEO of the African Technology Foundation, Sarah Kunst, venture partner at Future Perfect Ventures; Twitter developer advocate Bear Douglas, who will talk about Twitter’s Digits—a free mobile app authentication framework suited for emerging markets; and Kevin Schuster, growth director for VOTO Mobile, a Ghana and U.S.-based enterprise working to amplify disenfranchised voters’ voices through mobile phones. See the full speaker list.

Organizers expect a crowd of about 70 people, including students from Haas and other schools, and working professionals. The group has also been marketing the event at meet-up groups focused on African business.

The event will be held from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. May 2 in the Wells Fargo Room. Click here to register. Follow the forum on Twitter: @HaasAfrica.

New Global Norm: “Superbrands” Converge at Asia Business Conference, March 6

companiesExecs from border-spanning tech powerhouses like Houzz, Evernote, and LinkedIn—which already have tens of millions of users across Asia—will be featured at the 15th annual Asia Business Conference on Friday, March 6.

This year’s theme, “Converging on a New Global Norm,” will explore the long-term implications of increasing globalization for both Asian and Western firms. The student-run conference will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the San Francisco Marriott. Register here (use the code HAASASIA for $15 off).

“We wanted to take a step back from the latest headlines on emerging competitors from Asia and really think about where this is all leading—for startups as well as multinationals,” says conference Co-Chair Blake Street, MBA 15. “As we thought more about it, we kept coming back to the notion of global convergence.”

Street used Alibaba as an example: “Will it look more like Western tech giants in 10 years, or will it retain a uniquely Asian identity and operating model?” Already, Asian firms are undergoing significant reforms to become more like established multinationals in the West. And Western firms are adapting to local markets in Asia in order to capture growth opportunities, conference organizers pointed out.

The keynote speaker is Thomas Clayton, vice president of international operations for Houzz, which announced its first foray Japan in December. Other speakers include Ying Liu, principal international designer for LinkedIn, which surpassed 50 million users in the Asia Pacific region last year, and Linda Kozlowski, vice president of worldwide operations for Evernote, which has more than 30 million users in the region. The lineup also includes executives from Goodwater Capital; Kinzon Capital; Founders Spacebtrax; and 500 Startups.

“San Francisco and Silicon Valley are the Pacific Rim gateway for countries in Asia to do business and build partnerships for success in the US,” says Susan Hsieh, EWMBA 16, who plans to attend. “I want to hear from today’s business leaders on their exciting initiatives and how they are leveraging US and Asian talents to build better companies.”

Berkeley-Haas students explore Shanghai's Nan Jing Road during an International Business Development consulting project.

Berkeley-Haas students explore Shanghai’s Nan Jing Road during an International Business Development consulting project.

In addition to Street, the conference is co-organized by Simon Yoo, MBA 15, along with Danny Wang, EWMBA 16; George James, MBA 16; Sydnie Reed, MBA/MPH 16; and Sandeep Srinivasan, EWMBA 17.

Warm Buttered Pretzels: Insights from International Consulting Trips

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Brazil

From Kenya to Kazakhstan to South Africa to Singapore, full-time MBA students crisscrossed the globe this summer on International Business Development consulting trips.

All told, 23 teams traveled to 18 countries to complete projects they had spent months preparing for.

Their projects were as diverse as the countries they visited. A sampling: introducing mom-and-pops in India to SAP’s modern retail systems; developing a go-to-market plan for a cloud encryption product, improving distribution for a leading lab equipment vendor in China, and building market strategies to combat diarrheal disease in Tanzania.

While the content of their work varied widely, all the trips had a common theme: students picked up fascinating insights on international business culture. For example, the team working with SAP Labs in India blogged about the surprises they found from start to finish:

haas-at-the-taj“We walked into Bangalore anticipating another version of Silicon Valley on the other side of the globe. We were not prepared for what we came across, a city that was both developed and yet steeped in so much tradition, both modern and yet traditional, and altogether unpredictable. What we learned over the next three weeks was that this would be a theme rippling across our experiences in India.”

Pretzels, not muffins, at meetings in Munich

Pretzels, not muffins, at meetings in Munich

Another team, which stopped to meet with a strategic partner in Munich on the way to advise a startup in Moscow, found warm buttered pretzels waiting for them in a conference room. They were impressed when the CEO leading the meeting left the room, returned with a small toolkit, and repaired a malfunctioning air-conditioner knob—all without stopping the conversation.

“I guess the idea that no task is too small when you’re the CEO of a small company is cross cultural,” the students wrote.

Students found that in Thailand, clients prefer to build a relationship before getting to the task at hand, while in Moscow, it’s straight to business. Even so, Muscovites take lunch seriously, and would never eat at their desks unless it’s absolutely necessary.

To read more of the teams’ blog posts on their projects and adventures, visit Haas in the World.