Peet’s gets a shot of creativity from Berkeley MBAs

Drinking coffee is a given for students pulling all-nighters to finish up final projects, but for a dozen MBA students this spring, coffee drinking was the project.

The students spent hours on recon at local cafes, serving coffee to classmates and surveying them on every detail of the experience, and conducting a nationwide poll on coffee consumption habits. The research team was part of the Haas@Work program, and their goal was to help Peet’s Coffee & Tea find new ways of engaging Millennials.

And they did: Jessica Mitchell, Peet’s Director of Innovation, said that the students’ ideas are more than likely to see the light of day. “We felt they had a lot of potential to reach customers who are new to coffee. They’re really tangible solutions that we could see implemented.”

Peet’s earned a place in local lore and helped launch a nationwide specialty-coffee trend after opening its first store in 1966 in North Berkeley. Peet’s now has 237 cafes and 141 licensed partner locations nationwide, including seven in Berkeley. So it was only natural that Peet’s turn to Berkeley-Haas for a shot of creativity.

Haas@Work dispatches teams of MBA students to help inject fresh thinking into client companies. Students began with insight generation, identifying Peet’s core competencies and its customers’ core values, before moving on to idea generation—“It’s literally putting as much stuff out there as you can,” says team member Michael Christman, MBA 16.

After paring their list down to 15 ideas, the team worked with Peet’s management team to select the top three. Next, they designed and ran micro-experiments to validate their key assumptions. Students then transformed their insights into concrete recommendations for some of the company’s top leadership, says Ceren Baseren, MBA 16.

“The fact that you, as a student, have a chance to have your voice heard and to present in front of such a high-level client is extremely valuable,” she says.

Past Haas@Work clients have represented a wide range of industries and products, including banking, enterprise software, electric vehicles, health care, cloud computing, and pet food. In addition to the dozen students at Peet’s this semester, another 12 worked for Bio-Rad Laboratories, a 63-year-old medical diagnostics company also founded in Berkeley.

“What’s really unique about the model for Haas@Work is that the teams operate like an outsourced innovation agency,” says Dave Rochlin, Haas lecturer and Haas@Work executive director.

Over the course of the semester, students are introduced to the innovation framework and tools, and the teams collectively put in thousands of hours identifying insights and developing novel concepts for—and with—their clients, Rochlin explains.

“In the case of Peet’s, we took a deep dive and fresh look at both coffee drinkers and cafes, and how people connect with coffee, to try to understand areas where Peet’s innovation team can take advantage of unmet needs,” he says. The team also spent time examining how the company’s unique sourcing and roasting model might be further leveraged, holding in-depth discussions with Peet’s coffee roasters, buyers, and baristas.

In addition to Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA students, Haas@Work is open to students in the Haas school’s Executive MBA program and the UC Berkeley School of Information.

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.

“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.

Haas Community Comes Together in Solidarity Against Racial Profiling and Violence

IMG952014120495122842For four-and-a-half minutes on Thursday, Haas students, staff, and faculty stood in silence, with their hands up in the air in a position of surrender, in respect for Ferguson teenager Michael Brown and other young African Americans who have died recently at the hands of law enforcement.

The Stand in Solidarity demonstration was organized by several MBA students—in parallel with larger campus demonstrations—to call attention to issues of police brutality and racial profiling.

“Today we want to observe 4.5 minutes of silence because Michael Brown’s body had reportedly been left in the street for 4.5 hours,” said Angela Steele, MBA 16, who co-organized the demonstration with Emily Yao and Michael Young, all MBA 16 and members of The Consortium, a network focused on promoting underrepresented minorities in business education.

“Many of us have been wrestling privately with the events of the past week, and we wanted to gather publicly and recognize what is happening and respect the lives that have been lost.”

Demonstration_Organizers

Demonstration organizers Michael Young, Emily Yao, and Angela Steele, all MBA 16.

Steele, who is the incoming MBA Association’s Vice President of Diversity, was referring to the back-to-back decisions by grand juries in Ferguson and New York to drop charges against white police officers involved in lethal altercations with unarmed African Americans—as well as the nationwide upheaval that has followed. Organizers also distributed information packets with news articles and information about the death of Eric Garner, who had been held down in a chokehold; the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland; as well as statistics about police violence in African-American communities.

Dean Rich Lyons, Senior Assistant Dean & Chief Strategy Officer Jo Mackness, and Senior Assistant Dean for Instruction Jay Stowsky were among the Haas administrators, staff, and faculty who joined the students packed into the Bank of America Forum.

“I’m here to stand in solidarity with our students,” Stowsky said. “I’m also here because my son is half black. He’s only four years old, but he’ll grow up to be a young black man and he’ll face these same issues.”

Young, a first year student, said he was moved by the strong show of support.

“This has easily been my favorite moment at Haas so far,” he said. “If I wasn’t talking I would have been crying.”

The demonstration was followed that evening with the first of the student-organized series “Hot Topics: The Conversation You Haven’t Had,” where Haas classmates shared personal stories on controversial topics in talks titled Black in America, Muslim Extremist, and Death With Dignity.

“Hot Topics is supposed to be a conversation starter”, said Dan Fishman, MBA 16, who organized the event with classmates Amin Aaser and Kenny Vaughn, both MBA 16, and Ryo Itoh, MBA 15.

The goal of the series is “to create a safe space within the Haas community that triggers the important but difficult conversations around challenges that vex our society, in an effort to create self-aware business leaders who will always think beyond themselves on their journey to shaping our future.”

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.

ReMeeting

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 FOUNDER.org, 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 FOUNDER.org

Memorable moment: Memorable moments were plentiful, but perhaps the most valuable was when FOUNDER.org 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.

 

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!