Trial by Fire

Trio of alumni heat up cookware industry with direct-to-consumer brand

Six months after the 2017 launch of cookware company Made In, Chip Malt, MBA 15, and his co-founder, Jake Kalick, emailed a pitch deck to a dream collaboration partner: celebrity chef Tom Colicchio. “We didn’t hear back from him for two months, and it was a gut punch,” recalls Malt from the company’s home base in Austin, Texas. “Then we got an email saying, ‘Sorry guys, I was filming Top Chef and got a little behind, but I love everything you’re doing. Can you fly to New York tomorrow?’”

At the end of that half-hour meeting, Malt and Kalick had a new investor—and Made In had serious validation that its direct-to-consumer (DTC) alternative to the staid kitchenware industry was onto something big.

DTC companies like Warby Parker (eyewear) and BarkBox (pet supplies) are digital-first brands selling items consumers are accustomed to buying at a store or from a third-party wholesaler. By circumventing resellers, distributors, and retailers, DTC companies theoretically put higher-quality goods into consumers’ hands at a lower price. Malt had been intrigued by the model since joining Rhone Apparel while still studying at Haas, leading e-commerce and analytics efforts for the DTC men’s athleisure brand. “It seemed like every category had been taken down with the same story: sleepy industry, massive opportunity, retail focus, punchy brand,” Malt says. Except one.

In 2016, Malt sought Kalick’s reaction to the notion of a DTC kitchenware business. Kalick was his best friend of 30 years; his family had founded a cookware business in 1929 to outfit professional kitchens. “I knew how to build a digital brand,” says Malt. “Jake knew cookware, and after one phone call we were already at work on Made In.”

Cultivating Devotion

Made In faced a fundamental challenge at launch: getting customers to care about their pots and pans. “There was rising demand for cooking content from Food Network and Bon Appétit, and people were spending time sourcing quality ingredients. Then they’d come home and cook on a hand-me-down pan whose brand they couldn’t name,” Malt says. “There’s no other industry where people use a product so frequently yet have nearly zero brand affinity.”

So Made In’s founders communicated a message of authenticity, heritage, and quality to help buyers feel an emotional connection to the company and to the craftspeople behind the products. For instance, Malt says, “We went to the town in France that invented the modern chef knife and worked with a fifth-generation knife maker. We brought a camera crew so we could share the process of making a knife by hand.” Made In may be the only cookware company with a wooden spoon origin story featuring a Hungarian spoon man.

Matt Gunderson, Chip Malt, and Chad Brinton, all MBA 15, in a kitchen together. Malt is chopping onions, Brinton is cutting a steak, and Gunderson is looking on.
The mutual respect and admiration that Matt Gunderson, Chip Malt, and Chad Brinton, all MBA 15, developed for one another at Haas has helped them navigate Made In’s fast growth. Being able to be honest and not having to posture with one another has made all the difference in their success, says Malt.

Having Colicchio’s imprimatur also helped Made In’s kitchenware get adopted in multiple three-Michelin-star restaurants, including Chicago’s Alinea and New York City’s Le Bernardin. Demand was quadrupling year over year, and by 2019, it was clear that Made In needed specialists in supply chain and finance. Malt turned to classmates Chad Brinton and Matt Gunderson, MBA 15s, for help.

Assembling Experience

Brinton, who focused on supply chain management at Haas, is Made In’s vice president of operations. He was working for Walmart and jumped at the chance to work with Malt. Gunderson, Made In’s vice president of finance, was winding down his third year at Personal Capital and planning his next move. They became employees #7 and #8.

For Brinton and Gunderson, much of their roles involved formalizing and systemizing their respective departments—even if those were one-person departments at the outset. Brinton’s corporate experience has proved invaluable. “My time after Haas was spent seeing how organizations at scale are able to build and maintain a global supply chain,” Brinton says. “Walmart had a fantastic approach to focusing on the customer experience when making key decisions that I’ve carried into my role at Made In.”

There was rising demand for cooking content from Food Network and Bon Appétit, and people were spending time sourcing quality ingredients. Then they’d come home and cook on a hand-me-down pan whose brand they couldn’t name. There’s no other industry where people use a product so frequently yet have nearly zero brand affinity.
—Chip Malt, MBA 15

Gunderson points out that he and Brinton often work at cross purposes. “Chad wants as much product on hand as possible, and I want to spend as little money as possible. So we took time in the early days learning each other’s roles to prevent shortsighted decision-making, and that’s helped a lot.”

Navigating the Pandemic

Malt characterizes 2020 as a transformative year for the company. The pandemic lockdown allowed home cooks time to experiment and scrutinize their kitchen tools. The company rolled out new products like glassware, flatware, tableware, copper cookware, and new knife shapes. Made In’s 2020 revenue multiplied by a factor of five over 2019 levels, and employees rose from 10 to 40.

Close-up of a Made In knife chopping herbs.
All of the knives sold by the alum-founded company Made In are crafted from one solid piece of stainless steel by a fifth-generation bladesmith in France.

At the same time, global disruption of supply chains hit hard, shutting down their French and Italian manufacturers for a time and impeding the flow of raw materials from China. “It forced us to think of more creative ways to operate, like selling shelf-stable meal kits,” Brinton says.

Today, Made In continues to innovate. Its latest product collaboration is a first-of-its-kind French porcelain baking slab developed with famed chef Nancy Silverton. The bakeware, which is part baking dish, part sheet tray, sold out in hours.

While rave reviews from professional and home chefs is gratifying, Malt points to another, more elusive marker of startup success—team dynamics. “We have just as many bad days as we do good days,” he says. “Having a good group of friends and colleagues with whom you can be honest and commiserate as buddies when you’re solving problems has been awesome.”

Big Business

Haas alumni innovate to help solve climate crisis

Most people look at cement and see the humble ingredient that helps form concrete and therefore the bulk of our most crucial infrastructure. Few are aware that cement—like steel, aluminum, and other core building materials—is a top polluter, contributing up to 8% of global carbon emissions, according to think tank Chatham House. That’s more than three times the impact of aviation fuel.

Headshot of Kas Farsad, EMBA 18, the vice president of corporate development at Fortera Corporation.Kas Farsad, EMBA 18 (shown left), looks at cement and sees opportunity. Thirteen years ago, Farsad was one of the lead inventors on a team that discovered a method of making cement that mimics nature’s approach. While human-made cement is produced by burning materials that release carbon into the atmosphere, nature makes its cement (think rocks, shells, and reefs) by doing the reverse: pulling carbon from the air and reacting it with calcium. Farsad and his team proved successful in their gambit to do the same—and created a cement that reduces carbon emissions by 60% and uses almost half the natural resources to manufacture.

There was just one problem: It required new production plants and was therefore more expensive than traditional cement to produce. “It worked,” Farsad says. “But at that time, the economics were just not there. So we kind of fizzled.”

The story has a happy ending for both Farsad and the planet. Ten years after their discovery, the team figured out how to make their cement in traditional factories—and more cheaply than the regular stuff, no less. Their company, Fortera, has partnered with a major cement producer and plans to have their cement in production by the middle of 2022.

Farsad’s story exemplifies a tension familiar to many working to usher the world into a lower- carbon, more sustainable future: A better way of building, powering our lives, and doing business isn’t likely to catch on unless it also makes economic sense.

“The businesses that will be important in fighting climate change have to be financially sustainable too. If they aren’t, they won’t be around in five or 10 years.”

—Stuart Bernstein, BS 86

 

“For us to solve this climate problem, the solutions need to have good business fundamentals,” Farsad says.

In conversations with Farsad and many of his fellow alumni, this tension emerged time and again. These inventors, founders, business leaders, and investors who are scouting out a sustainable future and helping to define its shape are driven by both a desire to effect large-scale climate impact and a need to realize healthy profits. For them, profits are not incidental. Staying in the green financially represents another kind of sustainability—one that will help to ensure that their new products, business models, and visions of the future can persist.

Headshot of Stuart Bernstein, BS 86, the founder and managing member of Sustainable Capital.Stuart Bernstein, BS 86 (shown right), says that many people equate impact investing and sustainable industries solely with mission-driven endeavors.

“Thinking of it that way is only half right,” says Bernstein, the founder and managing member of Sustainable Capital, an impact investment firm focused on companies applying emerging technologies to traditional industries in a sustainable way. “The businesses that will be important in fighting climate change have to be financially sustainable too. If they aren’t, they won’t be around in five or 10 years.”

Illustration of a concrete mixer truck with trees in the see-through tank.

Using a Sustainability Lens

Farsad and the others featured in this article chose Haas because its leaders and faculty understand the urgency and complexity of building profitable businesses that help the planet and its people. And within Haas, the sustainability focus is only getting stronger.

Already, Haas boasts a highly respected Energy Institute as well as the Sustainable and Impact Finance Initiative, the Center for Responsible Business, the Sustainable Food Initiative, and the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics, which is pivoting to focus on sustainability in the built environment and the financing that fuels it.

Headshot of Michele de Nevers, executive director of sustainability programs at Haas.Michele de Nevers (shown left), executive director of sustainability programs at Haas, says the goal is to establish Haas as the top business school on sustainability. She and her team are working with faculty to integrate relevant sustainability topics into all core MBA courses.

“We want every Haas graduate to have an understanding of the key issues, challenges, and framing of sustainability,” de Nevers says.

More options for students who want sustainability central to their studies have been recently unveiled or are coming soon. For example, students now have the option of earning the Michaels’ Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Business, which launched last January thanks to a $1 million gift from Doris and Charlie Michaels, BS 78.

Headshot of Charlie Michaels, BS 78, the co-founder and CEO of Sierra Global Management.“There’s a revolution underway,” says Michaels (shown right), the co-founder and CEO of Sierra Global Management. “The transition from a carbon-producing economy to a carbon-free economy is one of the biggest economic changes in history. It touches everything.”

Indeed, many parts of the economy are now signaling a sudden eagerness to transition to a lower-carbon future. Global investors closed as many climate-themed funds in the first half of 2021 as they had during the previous five years combined, PitchBook reports. In those six months, venture-backed climate tech companies raised more than $14.2 billion—almost 90% of the 2020 total.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever had significant dollars flowing into climate technology,” says Mira Inbar, MBA 09 (shown below), a partner at ArcTern Ventures, which invests in early stage companies that are part of the green-energy transition. “There’s always been a real scarcity of funding.”

“The transition from a carbon-producing economy to a carbon-free economy is one of the biggest economic changes in history. It touches everything.”

—Charlie Michaels, BS 78

 

Still, she says, these investment totals need to grow significantly to have real environmental impact.

Headshot of Mira Inbar, MBA 09, a partner at ArcTern Ventures.Inbar came to venture investing after spending over a decade working in energy-intensive industries like oil and gas, creating clean energy businesses from within. At Dow Chemical, she built a lithium ion battery business for electric transportation. At NRG Energy, she focused on renewables development, and at Shell she helped build a residential power business for North America. Ultimately, Inbar came to believe that, even though these large legacy businesses need to transition to low-carbon business models, the major disruptions that the climate and economy urgently need wouldn’t likely come from within these industries but from upstarts outside them.

“I wanted to take the knowledge and experience I had,” Inbar says, “and help early companies that are part of the next wave of the economy—which will be a greener, lower-carbon economy—to grow and scale and be more impactful.”

An electric car covered in flowers and leaves at a charging station.

Connecting with Capital

Headshot of Tony Lent, MBA 90, co-founder, Capital for Climate.Though some governments are taking initial steps to funnel resources into climate change mitigation and adaptation measures—like the European Green Deal—the private sector’s investment in climate solutions will be just as crucial, says Tony Lent, MBA 90 (shown right).

He points to the whopping $130 trillion in assets under management controlled by asset owners, investment managers, and banks who have pledged to help the economy achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 as part of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), which launched in April.Headshot of Deborah Stern, MBA 84, co-founder, Capital for Climate.

With this mobilization and others like it, he believes, comes a pressing need: Investors now must be able to understand decarbonization opportunity beyond renewables and act on it. Research indicates that large-scale wind and solar installations will be responsible for roughly 35% of required emissions reductions by 2050, he explains. Yet, they currently receive a disproportionate 80% of climate-focused investment. Climate opportunities in agriculture, industrial emissions, natural capital, and negative-emissions technology are equally important and significantly underinvested, Lent says.

To help ameliorate this mismatch, Lent and Deborah Stern, MBA 84 (shown above left), joined forces to create Capital for Climate, an investment platform to provide guidance on the landscape of climate solution opportunity that is aligned with leading science-based decarbonization roadmaps to achieve net zero. It’s designed to make it easier for large-scale investors, like pension funds, asset managers, and family offices, to identify and evaluate fund managers that focus on these climate solutions investments. Capital for Climate aims to help move billions of dollars a year into underfunded climate projects and technologies.

Rethinking Supply Chains

Headshot of Shannon Graham, MBA 03, director and team lead, Guidehouse.Education is also fundamental to the work that Shannon Graham, MBA 03 (shown right), does as a director and team lead focused on large European and Middle Eastern corporates at management consulting firm Guidehouse. She assists all levels of teams within companies along their sustainability journeys.

“I went to Haas because I wanted to be someone who could be a bridge across different disciplines, bring in information, and make things happen,” Graham says. “I wanted to see change.”

Prior to her role with Guidehouse, Graham had been a director in the energy practice at consulting firm Navigant (acquired by Guidehouse in 2019). One of her projects was helping a global logistics company headquartered in Dubai to decarbonize. Not only did the project draw on Graham’s technical background in renewable energy and energy efficiency, but it required her to deeply consider what drives behavioral change among busy management teams.

“How do you make it worthwhile for someone to put sustainability on the agenda?” she says. “You have to change the key performance indicators for leaders across a company, and the CEO needs to emphasize the importance while driving accountability.”

Headshot of Susy Schöneberg, MBA 17, founder and head of Flexport.org, Flexport. Susy Schöneberg, MBA 17 (shown left), also aims to significantly disrupt business as usual.

“If you want to change a whole industry, the business model is really important,” she says—especially in logistics and transportation. Transportation is one of the few sectors where emissions are on the rise and projected to increase. Schöneberg figured that supply chains also stood to play a critical role in addressing social issues.

Research indicates that large-scale wind and solar installations will be responsible for roughly 35% of required emissions reductions by 2050. Yet, they currently receive a disproportionate 80% of climate-focused investment.

 

She’s now at Flexport, a technology company making global trade easy and accessible for everyone. She founded and leads Flexport.org, which serves two networks: first, the thousands of companies working toward carbon neutrality in their supply chains. The Flexport platform calculates a company’s carbon emissions and finds turnkey ways to reduce and offset shipping impact. Second, the nonprofits, aid agencies, and social enterprises distributing goods to people in need. Flexport.org offers logistics services to these organizations (often supported by the Flexport. org Fund), whether they’re moving supplies to Afghan refugees, food to survivors of a natural disaster, or COVID-19 protective equipment.

In 2020, Flexport.org fully funded COVID-related aid shipments that reached over 100 million people—just the kind of impact Schöneberg had been seeking.

Making Electricity Work

Solar energy is one area where the economic incentives are finally in the right place—what remains is the need to dramatically increase market adoption.Headshot of Raghu Belur, MBA 09, founder and chief products officer at Enphase Energy.

“Today’s solar costs are so low that it’s the most economical form of kilowatt hour you can deliver to a load,” says Raghu Belur, MBA 09 (shown right), founder and chief products officer at Enphase Energy, which makes smart home-energy systems including components like solar microinverters that are used in 1.5 million homes worldwide.

And yet, Belur points out, solar penetration in the U.S. is only about 3%.

Illustration of solar panels in the form of one hundred dollar bills.

He hopes that Enphase—founded in 2006 and today an S&P 500 company valued at over $20 billion—can play a key role in helping change that with its transformative approach to solar energy. The Enphase Energy system pulls together solar generation, home batteries, and an app, which together allow users to make, use, save, and sell their own power.

Headshot of Jagdeep Singh, MBA 90, founder and CEO of QuantumScape.Powering electric vehicles is another area with sky-high potential for growth—and major implications for the planet. While EVs today only account for about 4% of the world’s cars, major car manufacturers are announcing ambitious goals to transition fully to electric fleets in the coming decades.

Jagdeep Singh, MBA 90 (shown left), founded and leads QuantumScape to help carmakers get there. The company is developing solid-state batteries for EVs with 50–80% more energy density than today’s best cells, which will mean more range per charge and faster charging.

“Circularity is a different lens through which to look at sustainability. It really focuses on waste and inefficiency across the entire value chain.”

—Evan Wiener, MBA 14

 

As a startup, QuantumScape received investment capital from Bill Gates and Volkswagen, which also took an ownership stake in the company and is partnering on a manufacturing joint venture.

“You can’t mandate your way to getting people to drive cleaner cars,” Singh says. “You have to have products people want to buy.”

In other words, he says, EVs must run on batteries that better compete with combustion engines. Singh believes that QuantumScape batteries, which he projects will be in commercial production by 2025, can help narrow that gap.

Embracing Circularity

Headshot of Evan Wiener, MBA 14, the general manager of circular business at H&M.As companies’ efforts to boost their sustainability practices improve, many of them will confront difficult tradeoffs—something Evan Wiener, MBA 14 (shown right), grappled with as global director of sustainability and circularity services at Nike.

Wiener and his team were tasked with designing, testing, and scaling services to promote circularity by helping consumers extend the life of their athletic gear or to responsibly recycle or donate it when worn out.

“Circularity is a different lens through which to look at sustainability,” says Wiener, who recently became the general manager of circular business at clothing retailer H&M. “It really focuses on waste and inefficiency across the entire value chain.”

“It’s the first time we’ve ever had significant dollars flowing into climate technology. There’s always been a real scarcity of funding.”

—Mira Inbar, MBA 09

 

The complication is that in some cases, these programs can actually increase a product’s carbon footprint. Even as companies grapple with these types of tradeoffs, Wiener emphasizes that moving toward more circular business models is critical, because it helps companies conceive of value streams in new, less linear ways—which encourages them to innovate new services, processes, manufacturing methods, and products. Like, for example, selling secondhand goods.

“Lots of people can make money,” Wiener says. “What’s really hard is to make money and do it in a way that is truly sustainable—environmentally, socially, and economically.”

Headshot of Lynelle Cameron, MBA 01, the VP of sustainability and CEO of Autodesk Foundation, Autodesk.Lynelle Cameron, MBA 01 (shown left), took on her current role as vice president of sustainability at software company Autodesk because she believes that circularity and sustainability must be embedded into every aspect of business and design—and that businesses achieving this will gain a competitive edge.

“I kept hearing about this software company that makes the technology that’s used to design and make quite literally anything on the planet— hardware, buildings, infrastructure, utility grids, even media and entertainment,” says Cameron, who was leading a sustainability team at Hewlett Packard at the time. That company was Autodesk, and its reach (and therefore impact) thrilled her. “I thought, ‘What if we could embed sustainability into this software to make it easy for any designer to make better choices?’”Green recycling bin overflowing with mis-matched sneakers.

She wrote Autodesk a letter that laid out her vision and was hired to start a sustainability program there. During her tenure, she also founded and serves as CEO of the Autodesk Foundation, which invests in entrepreneurs who are accelerating the transition to a sustainable and resilient economy.

Cameron’s reasoning in pursuing a 20-year career in sustainability is consistent with what has guided so many of her fellow alumni on their own career trajectories: “I wanted to use my business degree to help move toward a better future for all,” she says.

The Cooling Divide

The widening wealth gap in access to air conditioning

Close-up of the back of an apartment building with numerous air conditioning units.

Though air conditioners contribute to global warming, they’re essential to productivity and learning in hot climates (just ask anyone who’s tried to focus on work in a stifling room). Not to mention overall health: Heat-stroke deaths plummet as AC use increases.

Access to cool air will become even more critical as the planet warms. But it will also become more unequal, concludes a new study co-authored by Haas Professors Lucas Davis, Paul Gertler, and Catherine Wolfram and Stephen Jarvis, PhD 20 (Energy & Resources).

“Every hour, 10,000 new AC units are sold somewhere on the planet,” says Davis, the Jeffrey A. Jacobs Distinguished Professor. “Most of those purchases are in relatively wealthy countries, while in the poorest countries—which are also some of the hottest—only the richest are able to afford them.”

By analyzing household data from 16 countries, the researchers concluded that the overall share of households with air conditioning will increase from 35% in 2020 to 55% in 2050. But most of that expansion is concentrated among people with higher incomes.

Poorer people throughout the world are already more vulnerable to the fallout from climate change, such as more severe storms and flooding. The concern for those focused on fighting global poverty is that unequal access to air conditioning will put the poorest people even further behind.

High Temps + $$$ = AC

Compiled from data on more than a million households in 16 countries, this heat map shows air conditioning use is most intense (red) in areas that have the hottest climates (most cooling degree days) and highest incomes. Very poor, hot areas use relatively little AC (purple, blue, and green).

Cool for Some

The disparity in access to AC will grow ever wider in relatively poor, hot countries. For example, in Pakistan, only 5% of households in the lower third of income are expected to have AC by 2050, compared with 38% of those in the upper third of income. It’s similar in Ghana, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. Meanwhile, in China, widespread income expansion is expected to bring AC within reach of nearly half of households in the lower third of income. In the U.S., which already has high penetration of air conditioning, nearly everyone will have access by 2050.

 

Hail Merry

Ride-hailing apps reduce traffic deaths

View of a person in the backseat of a car who's looking at a phone, meant to denote someone using a ride-hailing service.

In a first-of-its-kind analysis of proprietary data from Uber, researchers at Haas and Berkeley have found that the ride-hailing platform has reduced overall U.S. traffic fatalities by about 4% and cut alcohol-related traffic deaths by over 6%— effects that were even larger during nights and weekends.

The research, co-authored by Haas Professor Lucas Davis and Michael Anderson, UC Berkeley professor of agricultural and resource economics, looked at monthly Uber rides from 2012 to 2017 for all 70,000 U.S. census tracts (except Seattle and New York City) combined with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data on all fatal U.S. traffic accidents.

Based on conventional estimates of the value of statistical life, the annual life-saving benefits from ride-hailing services range from $2.3 billion to $5.4 billion. Lyft was still nascent during the study period, but the impact would presumably be even larger if data from Lyft were included in the analysis, Davis says.

“I’m excited about the potential for ride-hailing, automated vehicles, and other new technologies to make driving safer,” says Davis.

Gifts to Last

On the road to fuller equity and inclusion

Stacks of money shaped into a staircase with a graduation cap on top in Berkeley colors, showing how donations bring about academic success.

As Haas works to increase representation of historically underrepresented communities across all academic programs, one challenge the school faces is competition from other elite MBA programs with deeper pockets.

“It’s hard to see the renewed interest in diversity as a bad thing,” says Élida Bautista, Haas’ chief diversity, equity & inclusion officer. “It’s good that more schools are showing up with money, but it can be hard for Berkeley to compete as the only public school in the top 10.”

But now, two new gifts aim to help.

Allan Holt, MBA 76, donated $1 million to further Haas’ diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) efforts. Holt, a senior partner and managing director of The Carlyle Group and chairman of Carlyle’s U.S. buyout group, made the generous gift because he believes greater diversity in business makes for a better environment.

“You make better decisions when you have a diverse group of people around the table,” says Holt. And Haas, he believes, is just the place to prepare diverse business leaders.

Half of Holt’s gift will establish the Allan Holt DEIB Fellowship, which will be awarded to full-time MBA students who are members of the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, an organization that provides scholarships to support diversity in MBA programs.

The remainder of Holt’s gift will establish the Haas DEIB Initiatives Fund. Among other things, this fund will establish a post-doctoral fellowship to create a pipeline for new faculty who have a commitment to racial equity in business.

The second DEIB gift offers funding for students in the Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA Program and was made by Jamie Breen, the assistant dean of that program.

She says the need to increase diversity has long been clear.

“We’ve been thinking about scholarship support to increase the diversity of our working professional student population for a while, but it’s hard to get these things started,” says Breen. “I have the capability to do it, so this seemed like a great place to use my philanthropy.”

Haas has established a partnership between the SF/Bay Area chapter of the National Black MBA Association and the Evening & Weekend MBA program. Haas and NBMBAA will select incoming students for fellowship (which includes membership and mentoring) in NBMBAA, and some students will also receive scholarship support.

The impact of these gifts supporting DEIB efforts will reverberate even beyond a fellowship student’s time at Haas.

John Bolaji, MBA/MEng 23, a student pursuing the new joint master’s degree in business and engineering and a recipient of a Consortium Fellowship, says assistance also grants a level of freedom when thinking about careers.

He’ll be able to consider industries where he’ll have the most positive impact rather than focusing exclusively on salary, as he might have to do were he saddled with huge loans.

“It allows me to think about what I want to do after Haas without financial limits or barriers,” Bolaji says.

Chain of Command

How chain stores influenced small businesses during COVID

Sign on a window that says, "Sorry we're closed due to coronavirus."

Since the pandemic began, local shops, restaurants, and other small businesses have struggled with how best to respond to the ever-changing crisis.

Haas researchers have found that when it came to daily closures, big chains set the tone: In the pandemic’s first few weeks, local businesses not affiliated with a chain were more likely to close their doors if competing chain outlets in the same ZIP code shut theirs.

The study, published in Management Science, focused on service-oriented businesses, such as retail shops, restaurants, movie theaters, and gyms, and excluded essential industries, such as grocery stores and gas stations.

The researchers—Assistant Professors Mathijs de Vaan and Abhishek Nagaraj; Associate Professor Sameer Srivastava, the Ewald T. Grether Chair in Business Administration and Public Policy; and PhD student Saqib Mumtaz— used anonymized cellphone-tracking data to determine whether 230,403 local businesses in the same ZIP codes as 319 national chain establishments were open or closed each day between March 1, 2020, just before local governments began issuing stay-at-home orders, and April 15, 2020.

Nationwide, if a chain store closed one day, a competing community business in the same ZIP code was, on average, 3.5% more likely to close the next day. That may not sound like a lot, but that’s just the daily level. “If you accumulate 3.5% across days and establishments and places, it adds up to be a fairly consequential effect in a town that may have hundreds of businesses,” Srivastava says.

While the focus was on closures, the researchers say the lessons are applicable to more current questions, such as whether to impose mask or vaccine mandates or let employees work from home.

Under the Influence

Strategic corporate donations can sway nonprofits and public policy

Illustration of a hand of a person wearing a business suit with finger puppets on all five fingers. The puppets are calling for some sort of action, denoting corporate influence.

In 2003, the Coca-Cola Foundation announced a $1 million donation to the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry, supposedly to improve child dental health. Shortly after receiving the philanthropic gift, the kids’ dental group changed its stance on sugary beverages, no longer calling them a “significant factor” in causing cavities but instead saying the scientific evidence was “not clear.”

Coincidence? According to new Berkeley Haas research, back-door corporate influence peddling through nonprofit donations is both common and effective.

In work for the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Associate Professor Matilde Bombardini; Professor Francesco Trebbi, the B. T. Rocca Jr. Chair in International Trade; and others provide the first systematic evidence that nonprofits change their stances in response to corporate donations, and government agencies change their rules alongside them.

Comparing data for rules posted by the federal government since 2003 with donations filed with the Internal Revenue Service, they found nonprofits are 76% more likely to comment on a proposed rule in the year after receiving a donation from a corporation that commented on the same rule. Using natural language processing, they found that the comment by the nonprofit was significantly closer to the corporation’s language after receiving a donation—and, even more alarmingly, that the language the government used in changing its proposed rule also became more similar.

“They are distorting the information policy makers receive,” says Bombardini. Nonprofits are often seen as speaking up for citizens or the environment, so “if the message from the nonprofit and the firm are the same, policy makers might weight that position more heavily.” To counteract that distortion, the researchers suggest that nonprofits commenting on a rule be required to disclose any donations from corporations potentially affected by that rule.

Fringe Benefits

Who wields influence on social media?

Photo illustrating social media by showing the hands of multiple people tapping on cellphones amid a cloud of emojis and thought bubbles denoting likes, shares, messages, etc.

Want to spread gossip? Seek out a social media celebrity. Want to go viral with a cutting- edge new product or unique idea? You may need to look elsewhere.

A new study by Assistant Professor Douglas Guilbeault found that popular influencers aren’t the most influential people to spread anything more complex than a new flavor of hard seltzer or a meme. Rather, the most innovative or provocative new technologies, social movements, and behaviors spread wider and faster from those on the fringes—what Guilbeault and co-author Damon Centola of the University of Pennsylvania term “complex contagions.”

“For unfamiliar ideas, the people on the edges of a network suddenly have the greatest influence across an entire community.”

Instagram posts of actor Mindy Kaling and Instagram celebrity Ezra J. William wearing face masks and encouraging mask wearing.

“With ideas or behaviors that require a lot of peer reinforcement to catch on—for example, wearing masks—the most influential people in a network are often those who don’t have the most connections and who are not the most central in traditional terms,” says Guilbeault. “For unfamiliar ideas, the people on the edges of a network suddenly have the greatest influence across an entire community.”

That’s because in order for a new idea or behavior to take off, people need to be exposed to it from multiple sources that they trust and can relate to. Eyeballs don’t equal influence: Asking Kim Kardashian or a celebrity on TikTok to persuade people to get COVID vaccines may be more polarizing than persuasive. But when our friends and neighbors all think something is a good idea, we tend to start to think so, too.

Home Work

The effects of remote work on collaborationIllustration of a disconnected team shown using several bulls-eye targets. In two of the targets, the center is open, as if a window, and silhouetted figures look out. A man is climbing a ladder up to a woman in one of the center areas. Two people watch from a different bulls-eye's center area.

As companies debate the impact of large-scale remote work, a new study of over 61,000 Microsoft employees found that working from home causes workers to become more siloed in how they communicate, engage in fewer real-time conversations, and spend fewer hours in meetings.

The study, published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour and co-authored by Assistant Professor David Holtz, suggests that a full-time remote workforce may have a harder time acquiring and sharing new information. If unaddressed, this could have implications for productivity and innovation among information workers down the road.

Holtz, who conducted the research as an MIT Sloan doctoral intern at Microsoft, and Microsoft colleagues Longqi Yang, Sonia Jaffe, Siddharth Suri, and seven others, compared the 18% of Microsoft employees who were already working from home with those who abruptly shifted online during the pandemic. Through statistical techniques, they teased out changes in behavior caused by remote work specifically rather than the upheaval of the pandemic itself.

The researchers had access to anonymized data on most of Microsoft’s U.S. employees. They also used aggregated weekly summaries of the amount of time workers spent in scheduled and unscheduled meetings and calls, the number of emails and instant messages they sent, and the length of their workweeks, as well as monthly summaries of workers’ collaboration networks.

The time people spent in meetings decreased by about 5% though unscheduled meeting time increased slightly. Holtz also analyzed how collaboration patterns are affected by an individual and by one’s collaborators working remotely. Both, he found, are important.

“That your colleagues’ remote work status affects your own work habits has major implications for companies considering hybrid or mixed-mode work policies,” he says. For example, having one’s collaborators in the office together improves communication and information flow for those in and out of the office. “It’s important to be thoughtful about how these policies are implemented.”

Flex Benefits

New cohort widens access to the Berkeley MBA

Online instruction during the pandemic came with its share of frustrations, but it also came with unexpected upsides, including flexibility for learning in remote locations and novel online tools adopted by faculty.

Haas is taking advantage of those benefits by launching a new Flex cohort for its Evening & Weekend MBA Program. The option will combine online and in-person instruction to offer a wider cross-section of students access to a Berkeley MBA.

“When the pandemic hit, our faculty became increasingly expert in using online teaching technology, with all kinds of tools for interaction and enhancements to their courses,” says Jennifer Chatman, PhD 88, the associate dean for academic affairs. “We saw we could scale this to meet the needs of students from a wider geographical and demographic network—people across the country but also the working parent in Santa Clara who can’t come to campus two nights a week for three years.”

Students will take core classes virtually from Haas professors who will be teaching in new state-of-the-art video classrooms created specifically for remote instruction. For electives, students will have the option to come to campus for in-person instruction. “If students want to complete the entire degree program online, they can do that,” says Jamie Breen, the assistant dean of MBA Programs for Working Professionals, who oversees the EWMBA program. “But they can also come to campus for their electives and get all of the benefits any evening and weekend student gets, including access to the career management center and student clubs.”

Core classes taught online by regular Haas faculty will include a mix of synchronous and asynchronous content. Associate Prof. Ricardo Perez-Truglia, for example, has recorded lectures for key theoretical concepts for his core microeconomics course; last year, he found that students watched them multiple times and even used them for open-book exams.

“For topics like price discrimination or versioning, I can make an hour-long video for something that would take me two hours to say live,” says Perez-Truglia. “Students can watch them over and over until they understand it.” He is then able to devote more time in synchronous classes to discussion and applications to real-world situations.

The online environment also allows professors to use new tools to enrich instruction, including collaborative whiteboard spaces, simulation exercises, and other experiences that would be difficult in a fully in-person environment. “You can do instantaneous breakout rooms and have oneon- one conversations in ways you couldn’t do together,” says Associate Prof. Juliana Schroeder, who teaches the core leadership course. In one negotiation exercise, for example, she assigns a group of 10 students roles in a fictitious company, then encourages them to meet virtually to discuss strategy. A week later, they attempt to persuade the CEO of their strategy objectives. “All sorts of amazing things happen when you get to see who wielded the most influence over the course of the week and what coalitions formed,” says Schroeder.

In addition to the core classes, students take a wide range of electives, such as Power and Politics in Organizations, a highly sought-after class which Prof. Cameron Anderson specifically designed for an online environment well before the pandemic, as well as popular in-person courses such as Financial Information Analysis and Data Analytics.

While much of the interest in the cohort has come from Northern California so far, Haas has also seen strong interest from Los Angeles, Seattle, Phoenix, and Portland, Ore., says Bill Pearce, assistant dean and chief marketing officer. “Our target is the same as for the evening and weekend programs: smart, talented people with seven to 10 years of experience who want to round out their skill set to prepare them for career advancement,” Pearce says. “Taking away some of the geographic restrictions just opens Haas up to more people.”

Cornell C. Maier

Oakland advocate, philanthropist

Head shot of Cornell C. Maier, smiling, in a suit and tie.

Cornell C. Maier, a socially conscious corporate leader revered for his years of generosity to and advocacy for various Oakland, California, causes, passed away on August 13 at age 96.

Maier earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Berkeley in 1949 and went on to serve as chairman and CEO of Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation and its successor company, KaiserTech, finally retiring after more than 38 years of service.

Upon retirement, philanthropy came to define Maier, who supported a long and diverse list of organizations, especially in the areas of education and medical care.

A generous donor to Haas and Berkeley, Maier also gave generously of his time, including serving as a member of the Haas School Board.

He was offered a seat on the board of directors at Oakland’s Children’s Hospital, but he chose instead to hold and comfort medically fragile babies in its neonatal unit twice weekly for some 25 years.

Janet L. McAllister, MBA 84

Professional services pioneer

Head shot of Janet L. McAllister, MBA 84, smiling.

Janet Louise McAllister of Mill Valley, California, a pioneer in professional services as well as corporate management of knowledge resources, passed away unexpectedly on June 29 at age 73.

After earning her MBA from Berkeley, McAllister worked in sales and marketing at IBM, where she developed strategy, finance, and management expertise that allowed her to advance, in less than 14 years, to corporate vice president with global responsibilities. She was an innovator in the area of developing and managing human capital, becoming the first IBM executive to carry the position of chief knowledge officer. After leaving IBM in 1998, she worked as a business consultant with The Insight Group for a number of years before finally retiring in 2012.

McAllister was a mentor to many young entrepreneurs and a role model of vision and leadership. She and her husband, Bill, supported several local arts and healthcare organizations, and McAllister served on several boards, including the Haas Development Council for eleven years and the San Francisco Playhouse.

Theodore “Ted” Bo Lee, MBA 66

Businessman, attorney, philanthropist

Head and shoulders shot of Theodore “Ted” Bo Lee, MBA 66.

Theodore “Ted” Bo Lee died peacefully on August 17 at his home in Las Vegas. He was 88.

During his career, Lee and his wife, Doris, developed industrial, retail, and multifamily projects in Las Vegas and the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1988 they opened the Eureka Casino near the Las Vegas Strip and later the Eureka Casino Resort in Mesquite, Nevada.

Lee earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1954 and both a law degree and MBA at Berkeley. The importance of education was at the heart of his identity, and Lee endeavored to expand educational opportunities for others.

A generous donor to Haas and Berkeley (among many other organizations), he also supported the business school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which was renamed the Lee Business School in 2011 in his honor.

In 2012, he was the first recipient of the Alumnus of the Year Award presented by the Las Vegas Chapter of the Berkeley Haas Alumni Network.

View a video of his memorial service.

Professor John Morgan

Game theory expert
Side view, close-up shot of Professor John Morgan teaching a class, with a Sharpie in his hand.

Professor John Morgan, an economist who found elegant ways to analyze the world through the lens of game theory and whose popular classes and sage mentorship made a deep impression on students, died Oct. 6 at age 53.

During his nearly two decades at Berkeley Haas, Morgan left his mark through his unconventional teaching that drew on strategy games he invented; his wide-ranging research on pricing and competition, auctions, expertise, and voting; and his generous leadership. He had been struggling with an autoimmune disease, but he continued with his research and had planned to resume teaching in the spring.

“It didn’t take long for anyone who met him to realize that his small physical stature was a disguise for the giant of a person he was,” said Prof. Steve Tadelis. “We have great researchers, we have great teachers, and we have people who give freely of themselves. But I cannot think of a single person who embodies all three of these at the extreme levels that John did.”

Morgan was the Oliver E. and Dolores W. Williamson Chair of the Economics of Organizations, co-director of the Fisher Information Technology Center, founding director of the Xlab, faculty director for Berkeley Executive Education, and a member of the California Management Review editorial board. He was the inaugural winner of the Williamson Award, Haas’ highest faculty honor, and won the Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2006.

He was devoted to his students, a number of whom became good friends and repeated co-authors after they graduated.

“He would generously give his time to PhD students. He put in the hard work to make them better—and they did quite well on the job market,” said Bo Cowgill, PhD 15, now an assistant professor at Columbia University. “Yet he also cared about things outside of academic success and climbing the career ladder. … He was like a father figure or a mentor for questions about life.” Adds Cowgill, “On top of that he was hilarious—he could bring down the house with his mixture of humor and insights on game theory and economics.”

Morgan’s game theory class was one of the most popular at Haas. Students competed in his signature strategy games, which he incorporated into a semester-long game based on the reality TV show Survivor. He said he wanted to teach students to be “outward thinkers,” by which he meant they would need to be able to relate to others to succeed in business.

“You don’t really learn how to empathize by having some professor tell you about the need to empathize. … You actually have to do it,” Morgan said.

Plans for a memorial are still being discussed. Donations in Morgan’s memory may be made to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) or The Humane Society of the United States.

Read his full obituary.

Emmanuel Vallod, MFE 11
Partner, GSR Ventures

Head and shoulders shot of Emmanuel Vallod, MFE 11, smiling.

Embedded finance is a hot buzzword in business because its applications are limitless. It involves integrating financial services—such as payments, lending, or insurance—into non-financial apps, websites, and business processes to create a seamless user experience. It’s how your Uber driver gets paid.

Emmanuel Vallod joined GSR Ventures (gsrventures.com), a global investment firm, to seek opportunities in financial technology, especially embedded finance. The big question he’s seeking to solve: “If you put financial services into a commerce, media, or healthcare platform, can you facilitate business transactions, growth, and user satisfaction?” he says.

Vallod spearheaded GSR’s recent investment in jaris, a Burlingame, California- based company that embeds banking services into the software that small and medium-size businesses use to conduct retail transactions. It gives companies next-day access to loans based on those transactions and other information residing in the software.

He’s also looking for ways embedded finance could make U.S. healthcare more accessible and affordable for consumers. This could be finding cheaper ways to finance elective surgery, which is typically not covered by insurance, or the out-of-pocket costs in high-deductible health plans, which are used by about half the U.S. workforce. Perhaps the most promising application of embedded finance for consumers: finding an efficient way to shop for medical procedures based on price and patients’ feedback.

Vallod says his MFE combined with previous work at traditional firms such as BlackRock gave him a deep understanding of financial and capital markets. “That knowledge makes a critical difference in working with founders on building huge businesses,” he says.

linkedin.com/in/emmanuel-vallod-00117410

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