Training Innovators

New initiative will make Haas a campus gateway for entrepreneurial thinking

Rendering of Haas’ new Entrepreneurship Hub, slated for renovation later this year
Rendering of Haas’ new Entrepreneurship Hub, slated for renovation later this year.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that entrepreneurial thinkers are desperately needed to help society solve its greatest challenges. Haas students created a zero-waste startup to fill recycled plastic bottles with hand sanitizer they distributed for free to low-income communities. Alumni spearheaded ambitious efforts to deliver medical goods worldwide. They’ve succeeded because Haas taught them how to bring game-changing ideas to life, whether as entrepreneurs via startups or as intrapreneurs in their companies.

Showing students how to apply classroom lessons to entrepreneurial endeavors is the work of Rhonda Shrader, MBA 96, who’s directed the Entrepreneurship Program since 2016. Shrader coordinated 80 campus programs and clubs to help students acquire practical skills. “The big thing was about building a strategic pipeline of programs,” she says.

Now, a new Entrepreneurship and Innovation Initiative seeks to enhance Haas’ efforts on three fronts: creating a centralized hub for all of campus, expanding programming, and endowing faculty thought leadership. Haas has raised nearly $30 million for this initiative, but more support is needed to ensure Haas is a leading destination for entrepreneurial thinkers and leaders worldwide.

Renovation will start later this year on an Entrepreneurship Hub (shown left), located in a historic Julia Morgan building adjacent to Haas. The three-floor Hub, for which Haas is still seeking a $10 million naming donation, will feature spaces to gather, work, and learn while celebrating the entrepreneurial achievements (and Beyond Yourself attitude) of the Haas community. A generous donation from Brett Wilson, MBA 07, for example, named the Hub’s TubeMogul kitchen, after the business he launched as a student and later sold to Adobe.

The largest room will be called the Castaneda Innovation Forum in honor of the parents of Elena Gomez, BS 91, who pledged $2 million to the building. Gomez, the CFO of Zendesk, wanted to celebrate their hard work as immigrants from El Salvador and their dedication leading to her being a first-generation college student and talented business executive. “My parents didn’t have a lot of money or education, but they believed you have to give your kids the best education possible,” Gomez says. “My success and my ability to give this gift are directly due to their support.”   

To understand how best to expand learning opportunities, Shrader and a colleague interviewed students and stakeholders to identify their greatest needs. Haas is now seeking $17 million in endowed funds to support programming that will include, among other offerings, summer stipends so students can focus on startups.

On the faculty front, the new virtual Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group will enhance cross-disciplinary thought leadership by uniting Haas faculty from different groups who conduct research in innovation and entrepreneurship. The group is led by Prof. Toby Stuart, the Leo Helzel Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

“Having Toby is an asset,” says Rene Kern, BS 86, a Haas donor and member of the UC Berkeley Foundation. “He can bring entrepreneurship to life by bringing in practitioners who have successful track records at company building.” Kern has pledged $3 million to endow one of four new faculty chairs in entrepreneurship. The other three chairs have been endowed by Michael Grimes, BS 87 (electrical engineering and computer science); Mark Robinson, BA 88 (history and political science); and DK Kim, Parent 94, 98, and Dick Blum, BS 57, MBA 59.

“Berkeley offers a unique ecosystem by virtue of its rich tradition in research and sciences and its presence in Silicon Valley,” Kern says. “These incredible assets will allow Haas to establish a preeminent position in entrepreneurship.”