New Startup Marketplace Matches MBA Students & UCSF Scientists


As a consultant to a bioscience startup last semester, Evening & Weekend MBA student Anita Lal developed a roadmap that outlined the different possible business paths the company could take.

In her role, Lal, EWMBA 17, (pictured) is one of seven MBA students who participated in the newly launched Startup Marketplace, a pilot program that provides Berkeley MBA students with experience working with early-stage science startups.

The Marketplace grew out of a conversation last year between Dean Rich Lyons and Joseph Guglielmo, the dean of University of California San Francisco’s School of Pharmacy, about bringing business talent to companies that are started by UCSF scientists and faculty members.

After the two talked, Abby Scott, associate director of Emerging Initiatives at Haas, was brought in to develop and oversee the new Marketplace program, which launched in September 2015.

Here’s how the Startup Marketplace works: qualified students express interest in the program and participate in a live online session—essentially a speed date—with UCSF faculty and scientists. Each side delivers brief elevator pitches.

The MBA students and scientists then rank their top choices and are matched according to their expressed interests. Students are asked to spend 10 to 20 hours during the semester on the project; Berkeley-Haas provides them with mentors, including startup advisor Deepak Gupta of the Berkeley-Haas Career Management Group (CMG) and Rhonda Shrader, the director of the Berkeley-Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP).

“Haas students are particularly suited for this kind of collaborative, experiential learning that we are emphasizing every day in the classroom,” Shrader says. “Engaging with other Bay Area schools builds meaningful relationships that serve to strengthen our entire ecosystem.”

Scott says there’s a clear demand among MBA students and scientists to work together.

“We realized that here was an opportunity to bring the sides together,” she said. “On the scientists’ side, they have had a breakthrough in their research, and they now need someone who can do something more business-related, which is where our MBAs come in.”

Most of the students who participated in the program’s launch are enrolled in the Evening & Weekend MBA program, including Lal, Andy Chen, Orian Williams, Pamela Morris, Chadwick Strange, Sydnie Reed, and Jason Chiu.

Lal, who holds a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology, served as a consultant to Alaunus Biosciences, a startup co-founded by UCSF pharmaceutical chemistry professor Charles Craik. The company has developed a profiling technology that can identify new drug targets and biomarkers for diagnostics.

Craik said that Lal’s work experience as a program manager at Siemens Healthcare and the knowledge she’s gained as an MBA student have proven valuable to the team.

Lal said the experience has been worthwhile as well. “For me, it’s just exciting to see how a startup evolves and the hurdles that it faces,” she said.

Based on positive feedback from students and startups participating in the program, Haas is extending the pilot this year with a new crop of participants.

“We’d like to see where we can take this next,” said Scott. “In the future, we can bring together students with partners developing all kinds of different technologies. I can imagine us going to other departments, perhaps even working with incubators directly, or even moving it beyond just Berkeley.”