The new center, formerly affiliated with the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, was created to conduct research, draft educational materials, host conferences, and offer policy recommendations for entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa region.
Founder and Director Dariush Zahedi approached Dean Rich Lyons in May, believing that Haas might be a better strategic fit because of its commitment to entrepreneurship and innovation. Lyons agreed and invited the center to join the Institute for Business Innovation at Berkeley-Haas.
“We felt that the proper location for the center is within the business school because we’re promoting entrepreneurship,” Zahedi explained. “The dean has been so helpful and supportive.”
Zahedi, a native of Iran, is no stranger to UC Berkeley. He has taught Middle East-related courses for the departments of Political Science, Political Economy, and Peace and Conflict Studies – and at the Boalt Hall School of Law.
Last June, Zahedi (pictured) organized the successful iBridge conference for the Entrepreneurship Center in Berlin, as well as conferences in Morocco and Turkey in 2014. He plans to follow up with another conference in the Bay Area this spring.
The goal is to bring more entrepreneurship opportunities, role models, and training to a region that has many challenges, including a high unemployment rate among a young population, anemic economic growth, and little access to venture capital.
“We believe this effort can help to change the youth’s attitude from frustration to possibility, and help to boost entrepreneurial activity, job creation, and sustainable growth,” Zahedi says.
While political and economic issues are a challenge and many countries in the region are oil-dependent, there has been some success in raising literacy rates and education for women, Zahedi says.
“Women are an important solution to many of the problems inflicting the region,” he says.
Zahedi also notes the number of successful Bay Area entrepreneurs with links to the Middle East, including eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and Twitter’s Executive Chairman Omid Kordestani. Both are of Iranian descent.
Maria Carkovic, director of the Institute for Business Innovation, said Haas is a good fit for the new center.
“We’re excited to expose these potential entrepreneurs to the opportunities that exist here at Haas.”