Fast-Tracked: Alumni-Led Companies Noted for Explosive Growth

Six firms whose skyrocketing growth is being led by Haas alumni recently made the San Francisco Business Times’ “Fast 100” list of the Bay Area’s fastest private companies.

The top two Haas companies, Back to the Roots at #7 and TubeMogul at #13, have much to celebrate.

Martha Stewart and Back to the Roots co-founders

On October 15, Martha Stewart honored Back to the Roots co-founders Alejandro Velez  (l.) and Nikhil Arora (r.), both BS 09, with an American Made award for innovative and creative entrepreneurs in the garden category.

Back to the Roots, which produces home mushroom-growing kits and now a self-cleaning fish tank that grows food called AquaFarm, is one of nine firms on the list catering to the food and beverage industries. It grew 845.8 percent from 2010 to 2012 and won national recognition this month with two awards: an American Made award from Martha Stewart, given to nine of the country's most innovative and creative entrepreneurs, and inclusion in the 2013 Empact Showcase, which honors the best U.S. companies started by entrepreneurs who are age 35 and under and whose annual revenues or nonprofit operating budgets are more than $100,000.

The company has 23 employees, including five Cal graduates and one alum from Haas.


TubeMogul co-founders Mark Rotblat, Brett Wilson (CEO), and John Hughes (president of products), all MBA 07.

TubeMogul, a media-buying platform for online video advertising co-founded by Brett Wilson, John Hughes, and Mark Rotblat, all MBA 07, also made the Fast 100 list in 2011 and 2012 (#7 each year) and has grown 517.7 percent from 2010 to 2012. If you include 2013, CEO Wilson says, TubeMogul is on track to more than double business this year as well. TubeMogul's rapid growth landed it on many other lists this fall, including #239 on the Inc. 500 America's Fastest Growing Private Companies.

What's the secret to managing such sustained growth? Knowing when to pivot is one reason for TubeMogul's success, Wilson says. The company switched from focusing on video distribution and analytics to building software to power video ad buying based on feedback from its first clients, ad agencies.

Being discerning with new hires also helps TubeMogul stay ahead. "We tend to shun perfect pedigrees in favor of people who embody several key traits: do what you say, go fast (making mistakes is OK), and do a lot with a little," says Wilson. "And it works. Ad agencies voted that we have the best customer service in the industry, and our engineering team is constantly building tools to simplify brand advertising and make it more effective."

Perhaps hiring Cal also helps. The company now employs more than 50 Berkeley alumni worldwide out of a total staff of more than 225 employees worldwide. The company, headquartered in Emeryville, also has offices in London, Singapore, Sydney, Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Detroit.

Here are all the Haas alums who made the 2013 Fast 100 list of the Bay Area's fastest-growing private companies:

#7 Back to the Roots, Co-ounders Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora, both BS 09
Producer of home mushroom-growing kits and the AquaFarm.

#13 TubeMogul, Co-founders Brett Wilson (CEO), John Hughes (president of products), and Mark Rotblat, all MBA 07
A media-buying platform for online video advertising.

#54 Webmarketing123, CEO Paul Taylor, BS 83, MBA 88
Search marketing, web design, and social media management firm.

#59 Lead5 Media, Co-Founder Brian Hom, BS 97
Marketing services firm specializing in education, health, automotive, home services, and insurance industries.

#83 Yes To, CEO Joy Chen, BS 87
Manufacturer of natural face, body, and hair-care products

#98 cPrime, CEO Zubin Irani, MBA 13
Project management firm.