A crowd of more than 600 people—from engineers and investors to Bay Area startup founders and students passionate about the environment—bundled up in the Berkeley Haas courtyard on a recent chilly evening to network about climate tech.
“We hope the night helped inspire the cross-pollination of ideas beyond the MBA community,” said Adriana Penuela-Useche, EWMBA 22, who helped organize the Feb. 23 Climate Tech Cocktails Happy Hour with classmates Sneha Solanki and David Siap, also EWMBA 22. “Climate tech is a necessity for humanity and seeing so many people completely engaged and alive talking about climate encourages all of us to roll up our sleeves and act fast.”
Climate Tech Cocktails Happy Hours, founded by climate tech investor Matt Myers, have brought more than 1,200 people from the climate tech innovation community together across the country since its launch in summer 2021. “My hope is that the Climate Tech Cocktails platform can help inspire MBA students to create or work for climate tech startups to save humanity from itself,” said Myers, who produces a podcast of the same name.
The night came together at Haas after Penuela-Useche, Solanki, and Siap reached out to Myers, who was looking for a venue to host his next event.
“Sneha, David, and I had been going to these in the Bay Area,” said Penuela-Useche, who recently left her job to focus on a career in venture capital funding for climate tech. “When Matt’s email went out asking for a venue, we jumped on board.”
Major climate tech investors, including Strawberry Creek Ventures, Fifty Years Ventures, Lowercarbon Capital, and Sapphire Ventures, co-sponsored the event.
Matt Caspari, MBA 06, is a managing partner at Strawberry Creek Ventures, a UC Berkeley alumni venture fund that invests in companies led by UC Berkeley alumni. “It was the largest in-person gathering I’ve been to in a couple of years and it was energizing to see so many people passionate about climate and sustainability,” he said.
Holding the event at Berkeley Haas and having so many students, along with 20 startups, attend made the event special, said Caspari, who started climate-focused venture-backed company Aurora Biofuels while he was at Haas.
“Being back at Haas and seeing how much interest has grown in this sector made it significant for me,” he said. In 2006, venture creation was focused heavily around alternative fuels and solar, he said. “Today, every industry is being transformed—and that creates a much broader opportunity for startup creation for entrepreneurs interested in sustainability/climate.”
Penuela-Useche, Siap and Solanki enlisted the help of 15 MBA volunteers to help welcome and register attendees. Avni Kansara, director of student experience with the Berkeley Haas EWMBA program, helped with event logistics and Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program, rounded up climate tech startups to attend.
Solanki, who like Penuela-Useche studied chemical engineering as an undergrad and is now interested in early-seed stage venture investing, couldn’t get a visa in time to attend the event, but said she was present “in spirit.” “I think it was amazing to have people standing in the middle of campus speaking from the heart about climate change,” she said.
Siap, a former intern in business and strategy at X, the moonshot factory, where he consulted on climate-related projects including direct air capture, e-fuels, and carbon offsets, said the event came together well. “There was a ton of organic interest from startups, VCs, and, most importantly, students,” he said. “I would love to see Haas use its position in the ecosystem and make this its own annual event.”