Silicon Valley Immersion Yields Entrepreneurship Insights for EMBAs

In an office above San Francisco’s leafy South Park neighborhood, Amy Errett reveals the inner workings of entrepreneurship to students from the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program: how she observed 50 different women in their own bathrooms while they were coloring their hair. The search for a way “to stop torturing women and give them a delight point” around home hair care resulted in her new venture, Madison Reed.

Errett was one of 28 entrepreneurs to sit down for a no-holds-barred conversation during Silicon Valley Immersion Week, one of five deep-learning, off-campus modules the 68 students will experience and that will include trips to Washington, D.C., and Shanghai.

In classrooms at Google, Facebook, and Airbnb, the students engaged in intensive case study with Professor Toby Stuart to learn entrepreneurship fundamentals. They also had Q&A opportunities with Haas alumni that included John Hanke, MBA 96, VP of Google's Niantic Labs (Google acquired Hanke's startup in 2004 to become the foundation for Google Earth); Tim Campos, BS 95 (Engineering), BCEMBA 10, CIO of Facebook; Shantanu Narayen, MBA 93, CEO of Adobe; and a panel of partners with leading venture capital firms.

“What’s special about this program is that we have a cohort,” says Stuart. “The students are all in it together and this gives a completely different vibe to the classroom. It’s much more intimate and that’s really refreshing to me.” Cases and classroom time focused on the more tangible aspects of entrepreneurship, such as funding and business models. In small groups, students met with seven founders of newer startups who showed them how those lessons have played out in real companies, sharing mostly off-the-record secrets and stories.

“Interfacing with the people we’ve met and having Toby Stuart’s intellectual power to string it all together for us has been a great opportunity,” says Rochelle Webb, EMBA 14, senior vice president of global marketing activation at Quiksilver. “The amount of value I’ve extracted from this one week is amazing.”

“Toby put together an all-star cast that we, even as established executives, would not have been able to access on our own,” says Paul Simpson, EMBA 14, founder & CEO of SageTel International LLC. Morad Movassaghi, EMBA 14, senior manager at Accenture, agrees. “The number of CEOs and entrepreneurs we’ve interacted with in one week would take a year, or two or three, to connect with on your own—if you could do so at all.”

“The goal is to get students to think about what the entrepreneurial life involves,” says Stuart, "to get them to reflect on what they want to do with their professional lives.” Reflect they did.

“I entered this thinking, ‘This will be interesting, but entrepreneurship is not for me,'” says Nupur Thakur, EMBA 14, director of portfolio management for Juniper Networks. “I’m coming out of it saying, ‘This is something I am willing to try.'” Says David Martinez, EMBA 14, COO of Clickview Corporation, “I went into this week thinking I was looking for a startup role or task. Now I realize I’m looking for a culture and a team.”

Amy Errett, CEO and co-founder of Madison Reed, talks to students in the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program during their Silicon Valley Immersion Week. Throughout the week, students interacted with dozens of entrepreneurs for frank discussions.