As Chris Hulls, BS 06, watched the chaos that unfolded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, an idea for a new kind of business emerged.
Hulls’ idea—which was the kernel for startup Life360—was to create some sort of location sharing application so people could locate each other in the thick of an emergency.
“I thought that mobile could be a real use of technology to help families stay connected,” he said.
In an entrepreneurship class at Berkeley-Haas, Hulls wrote his business plan for a web-based system to allow families to prepare for emergencies. He developed and tested the idea at the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s entrepreneurship lab, a business incubator for startups.
More than 80 million families registered
Seven years later, Life360 is a growing startup tucked away in 55,000-square-foot building in the the tech corridor on Market Street, which also happens to be Twitter’s first San Francisco headquarters.
The company makes a free location-sharing mobile phone app that helps families and friends keep track of one another through private “circles” that display each member’s whereabouts on a smartphone map. In 2014, the company got a big boost, through a partnership and $25 million investment from home security giant ADT.
While it’s still considered an early-growth-stage company, over 80 million families have registered with the service since its founding in 2008. The venture capital community has also taken notice, pouring slightly more than $76 million into the company.
Hulls, who grew up in Marin, joined the air force after high school and also served a tour of duty in Afghanistan as a member of a C-130 team. But he was always interested in starting a business. After finishing his stint in the service, Hulls returned to the Bay Area with the intention of getting a degree at Berkeley and eventually becoming an entrepreneur.
“This is in my blood,” Hulls said. “I’m a business-y guy.”
“A real impact on peoples’ lives”
While growing the business, CEO Hulls tapped his Haas network to strengthen management ranks, connecting with Itamar Novick, MBA 12, now the company’s chief business officer. A native of Israel, Novick was working as a senior associate at Morgenthaler Ventures while he was finishing his MBA at Haas. Mark Goines, MBA 76, an angel investor in Life360, introduced Novick to Hulls. Novick said he was intrigued by the company and wanted to wait for the right opening.
“I love that Life360 makes a real impact on people’s lives, keeping families safe and connected when they are apart,” said Novick.
After graduating from Haas, Novick helped put together a group of investors to buy out a co-founder who was leaving the company. He joined in 2012 as an employee and stakeholder.
Hulls says they make an effective team. “If you have him take on a project he will grind it down in a piece by piece like a woodpecker until he wins,” he said. “I’m probably a bit more creative but also a lot more erratic. So we are a good combo.”
Novick said he draws on his education often while helping to run Life360.
“I don’t think that I could have been effective in my job without going through the Haas experience,” he added. “Haas helped me to really think about innovation and new business opportunities and quantify them. All those tools that I learned were invaluable in helping me reach where I am today.”