Startup Spotlight profiles startups founded by current Berkeley Haas students or recent alumni.
EdVisorly was co-founded by Manny Smith, MBA 21, a former product manager with the U.S. Air Force and a first-generation college student, and Alyson Isaacs, BS 21, who is tapping her experience as a former community college student to help fix the transfer process for the next generation. Smith is CEO and Isaacs serves as COO.
We recently interviewed Smith and Isaacs.
What does your startup do (in 20 words or less)? We help California community college students transfer to their target universities.
How did you meet?
Alyson Isaacs: Manny and I met by chance while waiting on line for coffee at Cafe Think during orientation week my first year at Haas. Manny had started the ideation process for the company and we talked about it. We’ve committed to this mission ever since. Manny has always been inspired by community college students and their grit. Being a first-gen student, he empathizes with what community college stands for, so our mission for this company is aligned.
Where did the idea come from?
Alyson Isaacs: I attended three community colleges before deciding on business at Haas—Chabot, Santa Barbara City College and Las Positas. There’s a discouraging problem that there are few reliable resources for community college students to help them transfer and few students who know how to access and use the resources. The academic counselors are overburdened and the COVID-19 remote learning environment has exacerbated these issues. Students get misinformation. Also, the four-year universities each have their own unique admission requirements, from courses to the process of applying. We are aggregating all of the information and insights a student would need to transfer to a four-year university and improving the student experience.
How does EdVisorly solve the problem in a new or different way?
Manny Smith: Of the 13.1 million community college students, who represent a third of all undergraduate students across the U.S., about 40% drop out per year. After interviewing more than 200 community college students, we uncovered big resource problems that are causing students to drop out. That’s what we aim to solve with EdVisorly. With our student-centric approach, we aim to positively disrupt higher education by providing a more clear path to university acceptance from community college. I compare our approach to the way GPS works— you tell us where you are, and we tell you what path or set of paths to take to reach your destination.
After interviewing more than 200 community college students, we uncovered big resource problems that are causing students to drop out. — Manny Smith
What’s been the biggest challenge for you so far?
Alyson Isaacs: The data side of things. We have millions of combinations of what classes meet the requirements for which majors and there are a lot of different subsets of that information. We are generating more accurate data every day to improve the quality of our student data experience.
Manny Smith: We are running a concierge service where we use the software to work directly with students while planning their academic journey. This is helping us learn more about the student’s wants, needs, and fears to ensure we have a product that both helps students and garners high adoption rates. We are in the process of hiring additional software engineers to augment the team and help us refactor our product.
What are your goals for the next six months?
Manny Smith: Over the next six months, we plan to help 250 students plan their journey from community college to four-year universities. By exercising an action-oriented, go-to-market strategy, we’ll be able to better understand unique student experiences, refine our marketing channels, validate our pricing model, and deliver a better product by summer 2021.
Has Haas helped with resources for your startup?
Manny Smith: The Haas Entrepreneurship ecosystem has truly been a game changer. The expert professors, mentors, incubator and accelerator programs are second to none. I would like to call special attention to the Hansoo Lee Fellowship (named after the late Hansoo Lee, MBA 10, and co-founder of Magoosh) which provided mentors and resources to allow me to pursue EdVisorly for my summer internship. Mentors such as Steven Horowitz from the Big Ideas Contest, helped us develop frameworks to think critically about the problem we aim to solve. Kurt Beyer, Rhonda Shrader, and Phillip Denny have been phenomenal in helping us navigate the right incubator and accelerator programs based on our startup progress.
The Berkeley Haas community thanks our student veterans for their contributions to the greater campus and, more importantly, to their country.
“As we are experiencing a year unlike any other, it is even more important to recognize what we are grateful for and to express our gratitude to those who have served and continue to serve on our behalf,” said Dean Ann Harrison.
This Veterans Day, we asked four student veterans what dealing with times of uncertainty has taught them. Students interviewed include:
Manuel (Alex) Lopez, EMBA 20, former U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant (E-5)
Samrawit (Sami) Tamyalew, FTMBA 22, former U.S. Army Field Artillery Officer/Operations Manager
Nick Clark, EWMBA 22, former U.S. Navy Submarine Officer
Keagan Akles, BS 20, former U.S. Air Force Technical Sergeant
Founders: John Melizanis, BS 20, Joseph Lorenzo, a University of Tampa graduate, and Jake Lourenco, BA 20 (political science)
What does Newmen do (in 20 words or less)?
We’re a men’s grooming brand that helps hard-working men look good, feel good, and smell good.
How did you come up with the idea?
Joseph, my co-founder and best friend since fourth grade, had the biggest beard and didn’t like the grooming options that were out there. With that in mind, we both said, ‘Let’s make something happen.’ It’s the second company we’ve started together.
What problem does Newmen solve?
There’s an under-served demographic when it comes to men’s grooming needs. The men who come to our site are often buying products for the first time. We’re building a community around this group, offering products like scented beard oils, a beard straightener, and a protective heat spray for beards.
You participated in the UC LAUNCH accelerator with a different startup. What did you learn that you apply now?
LAUNCH taught us how to test products quickly. We did a lot of research on our Newmen oils, which are made by a small mom and pop shop in Detroit. We wanted to figure out what scents men liked and what’s good for the skin, so we looked at what a lot of women’s skin-care companies were selling.
We tested our products on hundreds of men super quickly, asking them how their faces felt after using our products for a week. We’re super close to our customers and we have early evangelists, people whom we text and email all the time. These people aren’t necessarily spending the most time on our website, but have been crucial in the development of Newmen. They might spend $40, but they’re giving us feedback all the time, telling their friends what they just bought and why.
Has anyone from Haas helped you with your startup?
Of course! Assoc. Prof. Panos Patatoukas has been super helpful. I met Panos before I came to Cal and he was extremely supportive throughout my undergraduate years. I’d be working on something and I’d ask him, ‘What do you think?’ He was a great sounding board and a supportive mentor. Additionally, Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program, has been the best, along with Aaron McDaniel, a professional faculty member at Haas, and Darren Cooke, a LAUNCH advisor.
I met Panos before I came to Cal and he was extremely supportive throughout my undergraduate years. I’d be working on something and I’d ask him, ‘What do you think?’ He was a great sounding board and a supportive mentor.
What are your goals for the next six to 12 months?
We’re selling only on our website right now. We’ve been making a profit so we haven’t thought about raising money yet. I don’t think much about the competition, I focus on what we’re selling. We’re thinking about new products and planning to sell a line of skincare, body wash, and shampoo in the future. As we continue to grow, we’re looking to sell into different channels, including regional and national retailers and barbershops around the country. We’re constantly focused on building relationships that can help us put our products in our customers’ hands wherever they might be in their grooming journey.
A lot of guys are telling us that they’re so proud of their beards now. They’re talking about their morning routines. It’s crazy to think we’re helping people with that!
Aila Health is a data-driven, remote-care platform for patients with chronic illness.
How did you come up with the idea?
My cousin has what you would call an invisible illness, meaning she looks healthy on the outside, but is actually managing multiple chronic conditions. After watching her bounce between specialists for years before getting a diagnosis and seeing the lack of communication between her different doctors, I thought there had to be a better way for doctors to deliver personalized care to patients with chronic illness.
What problem does Aila solve?
There are nearly 50 million Americans living with chronic autoimmune conditions today. That’s more than diabetes and cancer combined. Despite the fact that these conditions cost the health system billions each year, they are not well understood or managed. We aim to change that.
There are nearly 50 million Americans living with chronic autoimmune conditions today. That’s more than diabetes and cancer combined.
How doe Aila work and how do teams use it?
Aila Health is a chronic care management platform that offers personalized remote care at scale. It enables patients with chronic illness to sync all of their health information in one place and quantify disease progression over time. It similarly gives their healthcare providers a holistic view of a patient’s health so they can track symptoms in real-time and deliver the right care with the right provider at the right time.
What’s been the biggest challenge for you as a founder so far?
There are so many inefficiencies in the U.S. healthcare system that Aila’s solution can help with. One of the biggest challenges for us was determining which problem to solve first. During our customer interviews, we learned that the COVID-19 pandemic had drastically shifted priorities for healthcare organizations. There is a need for new technical infrastructure to deliver value-based care and personalized remote care at scale.
Has anyone from Haas helped you on your startup journey?
Haas gave me a great community of classmates and mentors who have helped us along our journey. Rhonda Shrader (executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program), in particular, has been an amazing mentor and advocate for me. From cheerleading during some difficult transition periods to supporting our team’s application for the National Science Foundation’s I-CORPS Program, I really appreciate having her in my corner. Dan Cloutier, EWMBA 21, was also a wonderful health industry mentor for our I-CORPS team.
What are your goals for the next six months?
We are kicking off our first couple of pilots now. We want to execute these really well and validate our solution with an improved provider experience and patient outcome. In the next six months, we aim to bring more health systems onto the platform and raise an initial round of financing.
Seren creates serendipity online by nudging people into instant and personalized water cooler calls—using AI to preserve relationships and collaboration.
How did you come up with the idea?
When COVID hit in March, I started looking for opportunities in the chaos. I looked for areas undergoing massive change and picked remote work because I had experienced it and understood its shortcomings.
As I spoke to my classmates about our challenges with remote schooling, I noticed a pattern. Without chance meetings in the Haas courtyard or around campus, my peers were finding it harder to stay connected. We were being told to “be intentional” but it felt like a ton of work, and our social interactions and circles were shrinking. I came to Haas for the culture, and I loved interacting with my friends and classmates, but I was beginning to feel isolated. Then I interned as a product manager at Cisco, where I saw first-hand how the problem of not having informal interactions could affect business. When informal connections are disrupted, employees find it harder to maintain a sense of belonging, and scientific research suggested this could impact culture and innovation.
What problem does Seren solve?
Seren solves the problem of staying in touch online by helping people to “bump into” other virtually, so that brief and informal conversations can happen.
We are making water cooler chats better in some ways than in-person, even though we can’t quite replace face-to-face conversations…yet. With this technology, we can customize water cooler chats for individual preferences around how people like to engage, who they want to talk to, how long they want to talk, and what they want to talk about. We want to help people have better informal conversations over audio/video with colleagues, on any platform, whether that’s Slack, Teams, Zoom or the web.
With this technology, we can customize water cooler chats for individual preferences around how people like to engage, who they want to talk to, how long they want to talk, and what they want to talk about.
What’s been the biggest challenge so far?
My biggest challenge has been finding software engineering and machine learning talent to join our team. We have used BearX, Handshake, and LinkedIn and are really keen to find more people who are excited about impactful startups.
So far, I have been working with an amazing team of Berkeley undergrads and alumni—Leonor Alcaraz-Guzman, Helen Xu, and Patrick Zhu. In my Product Management class, I am on a diverse team with grad students from the School of Information, Fung Institute, and Haas, and we are learning so much.
Has anyone from Haas helped you with your startup?
I’ve had lots of help from faculty and staff. Early on, I took the NSF Bay Area I-CORPS course, which helped me learn how to do customer discovery. Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program, has been consistent in pointing us towards potential partners, competitions, mentors, and opportunities.
Vince Law, a professional faculty member, has reviewed more than one version of our early prototypes, and given critical feedback. In Jeff Eyet’s class on design thinking, he shared great advice on trying to understand users’ emotions and motivations for using our solution. Greg La Blanc, another professional faculty member, helped me think strategically about whether to even pursue this idea or space of remote work.
What are your goals for the next six months?
Our top goal is to get a strong sense of whether our product is exceptional at solving the challenge of creating serendipity for our users or not. We will need to launch and get lots of user feedback to answer that question. When you think about it, these are unique times with millions of people stuck at home, so if they want this, we should be able to quickly determine whether we can satisfy that need, and build a business out of it.
Another key goal is to clearly show a path to defeating our competition. I joke with my teammates that every week someone else has launched a new product to solve the same problem. Currently, we segment our competition in these categories: bots offering instant water cooler calls, standalone virtual office applications, and platforms that match people for conversations based on interests. We understand the competition and have a distinct path toward differentiating ourselves.
The Berkeley Haas undergraduate program again ranked #3, tied with Michigan Ross, in the Best Business Undergraduate Programs Rankings by US News & World Report College (published on 9/14/2020).
This ranking is based entirely on a peer assessment poll of deans and undergraduate deans or faculty at accredited business schools. They are invited to rate peer programs they know on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being outstanding. Berkeley Haas had a peer assessment score of 4.6. Haas’ ranking in US News has fluctuated between #2 and #3 for the past 18 years.
UC Berkeley ranked as the #2 public university in the country, behind UCLA.
You can see the full UG business report at US News (login required).
Jay Zhao, BS 21, might just be able to add “life changer for transfer students” to his resume.
That’s now a part of his job as a founder of College Leap, where he’s making community college students’ dreams of transferring to four-year colleges come true.
College Leap supports community college students, particularly international students, many who want to transfer to a four-year school but are daunted by the process. The organization provides guidance on everything from course selection to personal essay advice to recommendations for extracurricular and volunteer activities that will help students build a competitive application. With 16 chapters at community colleges in California, New York, and Washington state, Zhao’s goal is to establish 50 chapters.
Carlos Maldonado Vega, who is from Honduras, runs the College Leap chapter at the Community College of San Francisco (CCSF). He plans to apply to Berkeley Haas this fall, a goal he set for himself after taking an Intro to Business course at CCSF.
When a College Leap chapter launched at CCSF, Maldonado Vega said he quickly volunteered to become president, as well as regional manager for College Leap’s upcoming National Business Plan Competition, which will be held in October.
Volunteering has given him leadership experience and enabled him to meet people from all over the world at information sessions he runs. “I’m gaining a lot of experience,” he said, particularly with international students who face unique challenges and need mentors.
A lack of resources
Speaking from his personal experience, Zhao, who is from China, said transfer students face plenty of challenges, including fewer connections and a limited personal network. That’s why he founded the nonprofit. “All of us at some point faced a lack of resources and opportunities.” said Zhao, whose resumé includes working at two startups and studying at the University of Rochester and at Foothill College, a community college in Los Altos Hills, before transferring to Haas as a junior.
This month, College Leap is hosting the National Business Plan Competition, a startup pitch competition which is open to all community college students, including those at schools where College Leap doesn’t have a chapter.
Teams must have at least one student enrolled full-time in community college and submit a business plan for a startup idea. The competition’s first round will be held Oct. 8-18, the regional round will be held Oct. 24, and the final round is Nov. 7. Teams who make the final round will be connected to mentors at Berkeley Haas. “Because College Leap is based at UC Berkeley, which has one of the strongest entrepreneurship ecosystems in the country, this competition is an opportunity for community college students to tap into the Berkeley ecosystem,” Zhao said.
To help participants prepare, College Leap is providing a series of nine free virtual workshops taught by community college faculty on a range of business topics including customer acquisition and finance. Participants will present their plans, which must have a section on their startup’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and take questions from the judges.
A message of inclusion
Richard Lyons, UC Berkeley’s chief innovation and entrepreneurship officer and former dean at Berkeley Haas, says that competition participants will develop knowledge and gain hands-on experience. “That’s big by itself, given the terrific diversity of the participants and the competition design,” Lyons wrote in an email. “I especially want to highlight the indirect value: The message here is deeply one of inclusion. Yes, the world of innovation and entrepreneurship includes you, whatever your background. It’s a doubly powerful transition from thinking, ‘they do that’ to thinking, ‘I do that.’ ”
Faculty at both community colleges and Berkeley Haas will serve as competition judges. Teams that advance to the finals will be matched with one of the many programs and incubators at Berkeley that support entrepreneurship.
When shelter-in-place orders went into effect for the City of Berkeley in mid-March, Vicky Lin, BS 22, thought the impact on local businesses would be temporary.
But as COVID-19 cases began to riseand the city extended restrictions well into May, Lin watched in sadness as some of her favorite restaurants, shops, and hangouts struggled and Daiso, a Japanese general goods store she visited weekly, closed permanently. “I just couldn’t believe it,” she said.
With so many small businesses struggling to remain open amid the pandemic, Lin quickly jumped into action. She teamed up with friends Kelly Pan, BS 22, Amy Cha and Amber Chen, both BA 22 (Econ), and together they founded Outhrive, an organization that offers free marketing and consulting services to small businesses impacted by the pandemic.
What seemed like a simple COVID-19 relief summer project quickly morphed into something much bigger. Since June, Outhrive has helped nearly two dozen minority- and family-owned, Bay Area businesses with a variety of projects ranging from website design to search engine optimization (SEO) fixes to social media upgrades.
Social media posts and Slack messages made it easy for the group to spread the word about Outhrive. By May, the group recruited 130 high school and college students, as well as working professionals from around the world to help with their cause.
Finding businesses in need of help wasn’t too difficult either. Cha, Chen, and Lin had worked as consulting project managers for student clubs imagiCal and Pi Sigma Epsilon and knew how to acquire clients. After cold calling and emailing nearly 200 local businesses, the group came up with a list of shops and restaurants eager to receive Outhrive’s help.
Some success stories include redesigning The Butcher’s Son website, making it easier for customers to order online; recommending outdoor classes for fitness boutique X°Core Studio; and creating a TikTok account to increase community engagement and designing an online store for Clues and Gumshoes.
Elaine Ko, a Berkeley alumna and co-founder of X°Core Studio, said Outhrive exceeded her expectations. “I really hope that they help a lot more businesses,” said Ko, whose studio now has a wait list for its bi-weekly outdoor classes. “They listened to our needs and gave us that extra push to take things across the finish line.”
Creating Outhrive was deeply personal for the students, who said they grew up eating and shopping at mom and pop businesses that are now at risk.
“When I was young, my family and I would go to Japantown in San Francisco and eat at San Wang Restaurant almost every weekend,” Cha said. “When I saw that the pandemic was impacting the businesses that my family and I grew to love, I knew that I had to give back.”
Chen agreed. “Going to Tawainese restaurants was an integral part of my upbringing,” said the Los Angeles native.
Pan said she empathized with many of Berkeley’s small business owners. Her parents are small business owners and they’ve run an imprinting business in Rancho Cucamonga for 20 years. And Lin wanted to contribute to COVID-19 relief efforts given that the first-known outbreak started in her hometown, Wuhan, she said.
Although the summer has officially ended, Outhrive’s founders have no plans of pressing the pause button. They’ve already organized teams to help another 10 businesses this fall. There are talks of turning Outhrive into a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, said Pan. But for now, “all we want to do is just help out in any way that we can,” she said.
A record-sized Berkeley Haas undergraduate class came together online this week, attending orientation sessions on everything from the keys to succeeding in the rigorous program to creating a climate of inclusion and belonging to navigating internship recruiting.
Students logged on Monday morning from housing on or off campus, where they were greeted by Erika Walker, assistant dean of the undergraduate program.
Dean Ann Harrison, who attended UC Berkeley as an undergraduate, studying economics and history, welcomed the group to Haas, and congratulated them for getting into the program. Not only is the program one of the most academically rigorous, she said, it’s also defined by its culture, anchored by the four Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself.
“The culture at Haas lets us develop the kinds of business leaders that we want to see more of in the business world,” she said, pointing to entrepreneur Kevin Chou, BS 02, as an example of Beyond Yourself. Chou’s $15 million pledge to Haas, the largest ever by an alum under age 40, helped build Chou Hall on the Haas campus.
Of the incoming 440 undergraduate students, 236 are continuing UC Berkeley students and 99 transferred into the program as juniors. Continuing students held an average GPA of 3.76 and transfer students’ GPA averages 3.91.
Todd Fitch, a member of the professional faculty who teaches economic analysis and policy, offered students advice for continuing their academic success in the competitive program, touching on in-class Zoom etiquette, the importance of helping fellow students and working collaboratively, and the need to ask for help when needed and accept feedback when it’s given.
“We’re going to push you very hard, we’re going to push you to your limits,” said Fitch, who wore his trademark bow tie. “It’s extremely rigorous so be prepared for a lot of hard work. You are at the best business school in the world and we’re trying to prepare you for the future when things are constantly changing.”
The undergraduate program has expanded in recent years, adding three multidisciplinary programs outside of the core program.
The newly-launched Biology+Business program, a joint venture between the Department of Molecular Cell Biology and Haas, enrolled 13 juniors in its inaugural class. The program allows students to earn a bachelor of science degree in business administration and a bachelor of arts degree in molecular and cell biology in the emphasis of their choice.
Students who enter UC Berkeley as freshmen apply to the program, and complete all prerequisite requirements for Haas and molecular cellular biology before entering as juniors. Saloni Patel, who is among the school’s 13 BioBiz students, said the program combined the two majors she’s always wanted. “It was the perfect combo,” she said. “We’ve had great access to Program Director Sarah (Maslov), who’s an amazing advisor…and it’s a nurturing cohort that’s very specialized. We’re developing as a group and it’s a smaller community of people with specialized interests.”
A love of the mathematics behind medical imaging led Emma Caress to the program. Medical imaging is used for practically everything in the field of medicine and makes up a vast majority of the information coming out of the healthcare system, she said. “Today’s hospitals store hundreds of millions of digital images, with their numbers only increasing as MRIs and CTs become better at capturing thinner and thinner slices of the body,” she said. “After talking to every person I could find involved in healthcare start-ups and the medical device and pharma industries, I realized my real passion lies at the intersection between business and biology.”
Meantime, the Global Management Program, a four-year international Berkeley Haas program that launched in 2018, enrolled 31 new students. On top of an already demanding undergraduate curriculum, students in the GMP program must fulfill a language requirement, study abroad their first semester, and take specialized global business courses.
The incoming class includes includes artists and world travelers, budding entrepreneurs and financiers, and a group of outstanding student athletes, including a few “future Olympians,” said Steve Etter, who teaches finance in the undergraduate program and mentors student athletes. There’s Cal swimmer Alicia Wilson, from the UK, who the gold medal at the 2019 University Games in Naples in the 200 the individual medley. Reece Whitley swims breast stroke for Cal and was named 2019 Pac-12 Men’s Swimming Freshman of the Year. The group also includes Cal gymnast Maya Bordas and Cal Football offensive lineman Matthew Cindric.
Whitley said the mindset necessary for success in sports and business is quite similar. “I’ve always believed that Haas would guide me to successfully translate the team working skills I’ve developed from the swim team into work life,” he said.
Kevin Truong, BS 22, who said he’s wearing a mask in the common areas of his Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house, said it’s been a goal to study business at Haas since he entered Berkeley as a freshman.
“I thought I might be a computer science major but my econ class in high school opened me to the business world and the stock market,” he said. “I chose Berkeley because I knew how great Haas was.”
Truong said he found the creating a climate of inclusion and belonging session led by Élida Bautista, Haas’ director of inclusion & diversity, particularly useful during orientation. A breakout session allowed the students to role play, giving people a chance to interact, Truong said.
Unlike Troung, Donna Kharrazi, BS 22, said she had no idea what she wanted to major in when she arrived at Berkeley. She said she was drawn to apply to study business for the different career directions that seemed possible, including marketing and advertising.
Kharrazi, who is considering minoring in data science because she loves to code, said she’s excited to be enrolled in smaller classes at Haas this year, where there are opportunities to connect with teachers. So far, she’s enjoying the breakout rooms during orientation with her cohort. “There was a little awkwardness in the beginning, but the level of conversation was great,” she said.
Collin Morikawa, BS 19, stunned the golf world Sunday, making history as one of the youngest PGA Golf Championship winners.
With the 2020 championship win, the Berkeley Haas alum joins an elite group of golfers, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIllory, and Jack Nicklaus, who all won the PGA Championship at age 23.
Morikawa, who held the Wanamaker Trophy high after his win on Sunday at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, is the first Cal athlete to win a major golf championship. “The California Kid is the new star in the game of golf,” CBS announcer Jim Nantz said after the tournament ended.
“I’m on cloud nine,” Morikawa, a Los Angeles-area native, said during a post-PGA Championship press interview. “I’ve believed in myself since day one and I haven’t let up from that. I feel very comfortable in this position, but it was going to take a very good round today.”
I’ve believed in myself since day one and I haven’t let up from that.
Members of the Haas community who’ve been tracking Morikawa’s golf career successes lit up social media with congratulations after his championship win.
“I’m so proud of Collin,” said Haas Dean Ann Harrison. “Collin has always been a standout student and athlete. I’m sure this championship win will be one of many in his golf career.”
“Collin’s success on the PGA Tour was not a surprise to me based on the intelligence, attention to detail, and work ethic he showed in the classroom,” said Finance Lecturer Stephen Etter. “However, his winnings to date far exceed the modeling we did in (the class) Finance for Future Professional Athletes. He is a humble young man who has confidence without attitude. It will be wonderful for all Cal alumni to watch his success on Sundays for many years to come.”
This isn’t the first time that Morikawa has made big waves. Since turning pro in June 2019, he’s won two PGA titles, including the 2019 Barracuda Championship and the 2020 Workday Charity Open.
While a student at Berkeley, Morikawa played for the Men’s Golf Team all four seasons and was named the Pac-12 Men’s Golfer of the Year in 2019. He’s also the only athlete to be named a four-time All-American and three-time first-team All-American in Berkeley history.
This fall, Berkeley Haas welcomes a diverse and international group of nine new professors, including a record five women. The new faculty members include one full professor, two associate professors, and six new assistant professors, who are from Italy, Argentina, France, China, Canada, and California.
In addition to the new professors, seven new lecturers have joined the professional faculty to teach classes in various programs.
Professor Francesco Trebbi, Business & Public Policy
As a child in Italy, Francesco Trebbi played basketball on a kids’ team with Kobe Bryant, whose father was a star in the city’s basketball team at the time. An athletic career did not prove as promising as his ventures in economics have been, however. “Our team lost even with Kobe on our side, so you can just imagine how bad of a basketball player I must be!” said Trebbi.
Instead, Trebbi attended Italy’s prestigious Bocconi University, earning a degree in political economy, before going on to receive his MA and PhD in economics from Harvard University.
Before joining Berkeley, he was the Canada Research Chair and professor of economics at the University of British Columbia Vancouver School of Economics, and an assistant professor of economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Trebbi’s academic research focuses on political economy and applied economics. He has studied the design of political institutions, elections, political behavior, campaign finance, lobbying, and financial regulation. He has also worked on the political economy of development, ethnic politics, and conflict. His primary teaching interests are in political economy, applied economics, and applied econometrics. Currently, he is working on new empirical approaches to the study of behavior of government officials, voters, and special interest groups. He also maintains an active research program on the political economy of non-democratic and low-income countries.
Trebbi also has an artistic streak. “I have only one modest talent outside of economics: I paint. Non-figuratively. Many economists I know have been inflicted with one canvas or two, which I think they keep in their homes and offices out of affection,” he said.
Associate Professor Matilde Bombardini, Business & Public Policy
Though Matilde Bombardini grew up in Imola, a city in Northern Italy, UC Berkeley has long had a special place in her life and career. It’s where she came as an undergraduate student on an exchange program in 1998-99.
“I took a graduate course in the Economics Department that opened the door for me to pursue a PhD at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Professor David Romer was one of my letter writers for PhD admission,” she said. Bombardini earned her PhD from MIT in 2005.
Before coming to Berkeley, she was an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics.
Bombardini is conducting ongoing research on the role of corporate charity as a channel for influencing regulation, and as a tool for political influence in general. She is also researching the role of politicians’ information in congressional voting on China’s Normal Trade Relationship with the U.S.
In her free time, Bombardini likes to ski, sail, hike, and enjoy the outdoors. “I am eager to explore the Tahoe area ski slopes, and the good weather in the Bay Area will make it easier to go back to sailing.” She is a beginner electric guitar player and likes all rock music.
Associate Professor Ricardo Perez-Truglia, Economic Analysis and Policy
Ricardo Perez-Truglia grew up in the Ciudadela neighborhood near Buenos Aires, Argentina, moving to the U.S. for a PhD in economics from Harvard University. He joins Berkeley Haas from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, where he was an assistant professor of economics for four years.
As a behavioral economist, one of Perez-Truglia’s main research interests is how social image and social comparisons shape economic behavior: What do others think of you? Are you rich? Smart? Hard-working? The desire to shape these opinions is a powerful driver of human behavior, he said.
His research often involves collaborating with private and public institutions, sometimes using large datasets to study the effects of policies, or conducting large-scale field experiments with their clients or employees. He studies a range of topics such as transparency, tax collection, and macroeconomic expectations. “My research is intended to inform firms and policy makers in the developed and developing world, leading to practical applications,” he said.
Perez-Truglia says he would be happy to talk to students about economics and social science research as well as two more personal topics: “I’m familiar with the challenges associated with being an immigrant and a first-generation college graduate, so I’m happy to discuss them with any of the Berkeley students who are facing the same or similar challenges.”
He’s also happy to talk about Latin America—and his favorite sport, fútbol or soccer. “I’d love to play soccer with the students if they want. I am a huge soccer fan—my favorite teams are River Plate (from Argentina), FC Barcelona (Spain) and obviously, I care the most about the Argentine national team.”
Assistant Professor Sydnee Caldwell, Economic Analysis & Policy
Sydnee Caldwell, who grew up in Fallbrook, Calif., is coming “home” to Cal. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a double bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics and economics in 2008, before earning her PhD in economics from MIT in 2019. She joins Berkeley Haas after serving a year as a post-doctoral researcher at Microsoft Research New England.
Caldwell’s research focuses on topics of labor and personnel economics, and she is currently interested in how firms find and recruit new employees. She has also conducted research on the gender-wage gap, recently examining how it plays out in the gig economy. In a paper forthcoming in American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, she looks at the differences between taxis and ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber from the driver’s perspective.
She says students should feel free to come to her with any questions they have about economics or data science, regardless of whether they are in her data and decisions class. “I am always interested in how companies and people use data to make decisions,” she says.
She’s also looking forward to hiking and skiing and spending more time outside now that she’s back in the Bay Area.
Assistant Professor Solène Delecourt, Management of Organizations
Solène Delecourt hails from Lille, a city at the northern tip of France. She earned her PhD in organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Delecourt’s research centers on inequality in business performance. She is passionate about using rigorous social scientific theories and methods to delve deeply into this phenomenon, particularly among entrepreneurs in emerging economies. Her research agenda focuses on what drives variation in profits across firms, and how to reduce inequality in business performance among entrepreneurs in different market settings—including India, Uganda, and the U.S. In the three papers that made up her dissertation, Delecourt used field experiments to understand how business characteristics, client search behavior, and peer-to-peer advice among entrepreneurs affect business success.
Delecourt wants students to feel free to come to her for discussions. “I would love to hear about their projects, especially as they relate to issues of gender inequality,” she said.
In her free time, she enjoys swimming and is excited for the numerous outdoor pools on campus. She also loves good bread and pastries and cannot wait to try out Fournée Bakery.
Assistant Professor Douglas Guilbeault, Management of Organizations
Douglas Guilbeault is from Tecumseh, a small town in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. He received his PhD in 2020 from the Annenberg School for Communication at University of Pennsylvania.
Guilbeault studies how people build shared concepts as they communicate in daily life, specifically within social networks and organizations. “Big problems on my list to tackle are: bias reduction in crowdsourcing, cross-cultural concept translation, equitable content moderation over social media, and enhancing scientific discovery,” he said.
Guilbeault is developing a computational theory of how categories emerge, grow, and evolve in social systems, as well as how categories shape social systems themselves.
Guilbeault looks forward to meeting his new colleagues. “I am most excited by the dynamic network of colleagues that I will get to exchange ideas with and learn from,” he said. “The Management of Organizations group at Haas is absolutely distinct in its integration of both macro and micro perspectives on organizations, and my work explores this interface.”
When he’s not conducting research or teaching, Guilbeault makes music and writes software that produces digital art. He also loves running, biking, hiking, and seeing live music.
Assistant Professor Xi Wu, Accounting
Xi Wu is originally from Beijing, China. She received her PhD in accounting from New York University’s Stern School of Business after studying mathematics and economics as an undergrad at Cornell University.
Wu’s research focuses on the intersection of securities regulation, corporate governance, and valuation. Her current research studies how regulations affect firms, how managers and creditors use information to address agency issues, and how to use newly-available data to value firms and cryptocurrencies. Her recent work shows that more heavily regulated companies fare significantly better during extreme economic downturns—including the coronavirus pandemic.
Since she is currently studying the valuation of cryptocurrencies and the market of initial coin offerings (ICOs), Wu says that being close to both the San Francisco Bay Area and the Silicon Valley is of huge value to her, and she is excited about the potential of connecting fintech research to the practical world.
Wu enjoys hiking and skiing in her free time.
Assistant Professor Luyi Yang, Operations & Information Technology Management
Luyi Yang, a native of Shanghai, China, joins Haas from Johns Hopkins University, where he was an assistant professor at the Carey Business School for the past three years. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago Booth School of Management in 2017.
Yang’s work is focused on developing new theories for understanding emerging business models and policy initiatives in service operations. On the business front, he has studied innovative mechanisms for managing queues—which are often a key feature of service systems—such as line-sitting, mobile ordering, and referral priority programs. On the policy front, he has studied the welfare implications of expanding patient choice in elective surgeries, as well as the pricing and environmental implications of the right-to-repair legislation, which gives consumers the ability to repair and modify their own consumer electronic devices.
Yang is excited to experience the innovative culture of Haas. He said students should come talk to him about their startup ideas and new business models. “Over the years I have engaged many startups in my research and teaching. If you have an innovative idea to start a new business, we should talk!” Yang said. In his free time, he likes travelling and hiking.
Assistant Professor Biwen Zhang, Accounting
Biwen Zhang is from Nanchang, the capital and largest city of Jiangxi Province, China. She completed her PhD in accounting in 2020 from Simon Business School at the University of Rochester.
Her main research interests are in the areas of financial intermediaries and corporate governance. Specifically, her current research revolves around the economic implications of conflicts of interest faced by capital market participants.
In her free time, Zhang likes to play table tennis and badminton.
New Professional Faculty
New lecturers this fall include Ahmed Badruzzaman, Deborah Krackeler, Don Hanna, and Sachita Saxena, who will each teach a course in the Undergraduate Program; James Zuberi, who will teach a course in the Executive MBA Program; and Temina Madon, who will teach in the Full-time MBA Program. Sasha Radovich will join in the spring to teach a class in the Undergraduate Program.
Saumya Goyal and Danielle Egan, both BS 21, were texting late-night after the coronavirus pandemic started when Egan shared a startup idea: How about a new program that helps connect bored teenage students to some fun classes during the pandemic?
Goyal loved the idea and the pair worked out the details to co-found startup Connect-in-Place, a free online “summer camp” for middle- and high-school students packed with dozens of classes taught by more than 100 college students.
“During this time, kids are especially lonely and disconnected and they really need that social connection for their development and growth,” Egan said. “Connect-in-Place is one way to find those connections.”
The Connect-in-Place idea caught fire fast. The first session, which ran from June 22-July 17, enrolled 750 kids from around the world in more than 60 classes that reflected the passions of the teachers, many of them student-volunteers from across UC Berkeley and other UC schools. The second session, which starts today, is even more popular than the first, with around 1,400 students enrolling in 150 classes.
The classes range from pure fun (Intro to DJing and Bollywood Dance) to a bit more academic (Intro to Python and Game Theory) to pragmatic (Personal Finance 101 and a High School Survival Guide). There’s even a class that explains the biology of COVID-19.
Classes, taught two to three times a week, are capped at 10 kids per class.
Relationships that continue after classes end
The popularity of Connect-in-Place is a surprising success story for both its founders, who met during Haas undergraduate orientation. Both are working on Connect-in-Place while interning—Goyal is working for Deloitte this summer and Egan is at Salesforce.
But they’re getting support for the new venture from a 10-person management team, comprised of UC Berkeley students, including Haas undergraduate Kevin Wu, BS 20, who manages corporate relations. They also reached out through their networks and social media to find students who wanted to teach.
Lauren Yang, a rising sophomore at UC Berkeley who said she plans to apply to Haas, agreed to teach algebra during Connect-In-Place’s first session, and said it was a great experience.
“Even though I was teaching math, I tried to use fun games like Kahoot or Jeopardy, so the kids wouldn’t feel like it was summer school, but more of a fun class that they were excited to attend,” she said. Yang said she believes that the Connect-in-Place classes are designed to push students to form bonds. “We keep classes fun, interesting, and lighthearted so students wanted to come to every class to get to know their friends more.”
Classes led by teachers who are not that much older than they are is a refreshing change for teens, Goyal said.
Goyal’s sister, Deeksha, who taught a Bollywood dance class, said the kids were having so much fun during her one-hour class that they extended it to three hours. Even though the session has ended, she said the kids planned to meet for an hour every week for the rest of the summer on their own.
A “cool impact on kids”
Currently, Connect-in-Place is a bootstrapped operation. It has no funding—the founders cover any expenses they have out of pocket and they ask for a suggested donation of $10 per week per class from those who can afford it.
They’re using all of the money they’ve raised through donations–around $9,000 so far–toward providing laptops or digital infrastructure to students with financial need.
Goyal said they’re also researching potential nonprofit partners to work with as they consider the future and how to scale.
With schools in the Bay Area and beyond preparing for distance learning to continue into next year, the problems of isolation and boredom for teens isn’t expected to go away any time soon, she said.
But both founders say they’re willing to put in the extra time to help out.
“When I get tired I just realize we’re having such a cool impact on kids,” Goyal said. Egan agreed.
“That’s all the motivation we need,” she said. “We’re so passionate about this that it doesn’t feel like work.”
A plan to help marketers design and place creative, data-driven ads that could deliver a high return on investment (ROI) landed an undergraduate team a first place district win at the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC).
The competition, which was supposed to be held at San Jose State University, took place via Zoom on April 24-25. It’s the team’s first major win since 2016. Team members: The 29-member team, called imagiCal, included UC Berkeley undergraduate students from multiple disciplines, including business, economics, computer science, sociology, and architecture. This year’s team was led by imagiCal’s President, Maya Iyer, BS 21 (economics). Presenters included: Shelley Cai, BA 21 (sociology); Cicily Deng, BS 22; Nikhil George, CS 22 (computer science); and Brendan Shih, BS 23.
The field: About 2,000 undergraduate students from 200 schools around the country competed in district-level competitions before advancing to the final round. Haas competed against teams from San Jose State University, University of Nevada, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and University of San Francisco.
The challenge: The team was tasked with developing a business and marketing strategy to promote the Adobe Experience Cloud–a digital platform to manage online marketing–among advertising media buyers.
The plan: The team’s campaign slogan was “Data-backed, Story-driven,” showcasing the ways that marketers could create a curated ad experience using data-informed messaging. Secret sauce: “Our secret sauce lies in our diversity,” said Tyler Wu, BS 22. “We pride ourselves on having a diverse community of students, which allows us to consider multiple points of view, learn from each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and think creatively.
Wu also credited the team’s success to student designers who were able to see the practicality of certain ad executions and data scientists who crunched the numbers to see the potential impact of these executions.
The Haas factor: “Our Haas faculty advisor, Judy Hopelain, was very helpful in guiding us through this difficult case,” said Wu. “With her expertise in business-to-business (B2B) marketing, we were able to gain a stronger understanding of how to market B2B products and approach our campaign strategy.”
Diane Rames, a NSAC advisor, also helped the imagiCal team with their B2B marketing and guided them through the competition. NSAC is a college advertising competition with 16 districts and over 150 teams nationwide. Each year, students are challenged to create a multi-million dollar advertising campaign for a corporate sponsor.
With a nod to Dr. Seuss, Haas Business Student Association (HBSA) President Shun Lei Sin told the undergraduate Class of 2020 that they’re off to great places.
“Today is your day,” she said in a video prepared to celebrate the day. “So take pride in how you’ve far come and have faith in how far you can go—and of course keep in mind our four core (Defining Leadership Principles) that define the Berkeley Haas culture.”
Dean Ann Harrison noted their remarkable journey. “You have achieved so much,” she said. “However you’ve applied yourselves, you’ve learned important lessons about collaboration, about failing and trying again, and about making an impact. In short, about leadership.”
However you’ve applied yourselves, you’ve learned important lessons about collaboration, about failing and trying again, and about making an impact.
Undergraduate Defining Leadership Principles Award Winners
Graduate Student Instructor of the Year: Rohi Rana, the GSI for Financial Accounting and Managerial Accounting.
Mia Character, BS 20, DLP winner for Students Always
A team of HBSA members interviewed Haas faculty and staff, who offered advice and well wishes to grads in this video.
The undergraduate class of 2020 has been through a lot together over the past four years: a controversial presidential election, political protests that rocked campus, wildfires that led to canceled classes, and the outbreak of COVID-19, which made final days at Cal “quite a whirlwind,” said graduation speaker Diane Dwyer, BS 87.
“You’ve been tested not just once but many times,” said Dwyer, a Haas professional faculty member and a former broadcast journalist. “Part of what college is supposed to do is prepare you for the rest of your life and I can’t imagine a group that’s more prepared than you.”
As a freshman at UC Berkeley, Celia “Cubbie” Kile, BS 20, became interested in studying business while managing the Cal Men’s Swimming & Diving team, alongside Coach Dave Durden.
“Going into Haas I thought I wanted to pursue sports management,” said Kile, who pivoted at the start of junior year to pursue finance. Kile’s success as a business major led to a top honor this year, as the recipient of the Departmental Citation for Outstanding Achievement. Every year, the award goes to the graduating senior with the highest GPA.
“I feel so honored to win,” said Kile, who is also a coxswain for the Cal Women’s Rowing Team. “I’m surrounded by students who strive to the highest caliber, so receiving this award is just incredible.”
Kile, who will graduate May 18 with a 4.0 GPA, will work for Altamont Capital Partners, a private equity firm in Palo Alto, starting in August.
At Haas, Kile took advantage of every opportunity that would prepare her for a career in private equity and venture capital, including networking with MBAs, seeking mentors through the alumni database, and doing an independent study that explored the intersection of healthcare and business with Stephen Etter, a member of the Haas professional faculty, who often advises student athletes.
Kile said Etter, who convinced her to pursue finance instead of sports management, completely changed the trajectory of her life. “He’s my biggest inspiration,” she said.
She said she shifted to finance, drawn by the good that money can do. “If you target it to something that’s beneficial to all, you can make a larger impact on society,” she said.
Etter said Kile “is an amazing woman who excelled in and out of the classroom,” with boundless energy. “It’s as if she cloned herself or created the 30-hour day,” he said. “Everything she did was at an exceptional level.”
Among her proudest moments while at Haas was spearheading a Women in Finance Speaker Series, attended by finance executives who spoke about their career paths.
Kile is not only a standout student, she has also served as a coxswain for Berkeley’s Women’s Rowing Team. Rowing, she said, has taught her patience, resilience, discipline, and how to lead a team–essential skills for a career in private equity.
“Being a cox, it takes a lot of leadership and communication skills,” Kile said. “You have to have a fire within you and the ability to have trust from others and for others to trust you.”
Coming to Berkeley and enrolling at Haas has been one of the best decisions she has ever made, she said.
“Berkeley has given me so much,” she said. “It’s made me who I am today and I’m very happy about where I’m going in the future.”
When Lauren Grimanis ran a rural education organization in a remote community in Ghana with no running water or electricity, she turned to yoga and meditation to handle the stresses of daily life.
“While I had community around me, I still felt socially isolated,” said Grimanis, MBA 20, who founded the nonprofit Akaa Project in 2008. “I had to climb a hill into a tomato farm behind my house to get cell service so it was difficult to connect with friends and family.”
Grimanis had no idea that what she’d learned about the value of mindfulness in Africa might prove a handy tool for both helping herself and her tight-knit MBA class cope with the isolation and frustrations of social distancing under the COVID-19 outbreak. As head of the Haas Mindfulness Club, Grimanis not only exercises online with her MBA friends; she’s also put together a Google doc listing everything from free meditation apps to CorePower Yoga classes and shared the doc with both FTMBA classes.
“Last week people were feeling really frustrated and anxious, both understandable feelings. I wanted to help, so we jumped into action,” she said. “We really want to get people to think more positively and use mindfulness in their new daily routines.”
Cheering each other up
Under COVID-19 restrictions, student life has continued online. Joey Parker, MBA 21, organized a toast on Zoom at 9 pm on St. Patrick’s Day for all MBA students. Chris Lee, MBA 20, celebrated his recent 30th birthday online, surrounded by about 50 of his MBA friends. The new reality won’t replace the in-person courtyard lunches, cohort parties, or Tahoe weekends, students say, but they’re working hard to use tech to keep their communities together and stay focused on their work.
The same rings true for evening and weekend students. Terrell Baptiste, EWMBA 20, said his classmates are phoning each other and tapping into the class’ WhatsApp chat group to keep in touch. About 40 classmates are using the app to cheer each other up or initiate discussions about the pros and cons of a shelter-in-place order and whether a stimulus package would help stabilize the U.S. economy.
Haas undergraduates, too, are finding ways to stay virtually connected.
Shun Lei Sin, BS 20, uses Zoom and has joined a Slack channel called SF Entourage, a private virtual community, where she can participate in cooking competitions, play games online or start a book club with friends. Zaheer Ebtikar, BS 20, uses Slack, Instagram, and Twitter to connect with friends while he finishes the semester at home. Neha Dubey, BS 21, sends Google hangout links to classmates, inviting them to virtual lunches. She’s also tapping into Berkeley’s Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC) to stay in touch with friends.
“One of my friends is the community engagement associate for SERC and she’s hosting virtual study sessions every Tuesday and organizing baking classes and Netflix parties. It’s just another way to have that human interaction,” Dubey said.
Despite not being able to see her friends in person, Dubey said life under COVID-19 has brought her friends closer together.
“All of my friends have really bonded through this. We’re all making an effort to be a larger part of our everyday lives,” said Dubey. “It’s a lot less texting and a lot more calling.”
For some international students in countries where borders are shutting, the decision to stay on campus or go home, depending on border and visa situations, is difficult. Before Thais Esteves, MBA 21, returned home for the summer to Brazil this week her friends threw her one last impromptu party. The party, initiated by a handful of classmates who were playing an online board game together, started after they sent a few photos to WhatsApp with a link to the virtual celebration. A bunch more classmates joined in to celebrate Esteves’ birthday, and to say goodbye before she boarded the plane. They donned costumes, as they often do at MBA parties, including a polar bear, a viking hat, a unicorn, and a ship’s captain.
A sari, never worn
Many students are grappling with the possibility of a virtual commencement. Ije Durga, MBA 20, said she understands why commencement can’t be held in-person, but is hurt that she won’t be able to say goodbye to her friends. Durga, who worked in India before coming to Haas, is also disappointed that she won’t be wearing a special sari she’d picked out for the ceremony and ordered from India. “I was looking forward to putting that on and surprising everyone—an African woman in a sari,” she said. She said the friend who was going to bring it to her can’t even travel to the U.S. now. “The world has changed so much in just two weeks,” she added.
For many students, spring break meant canceling planned trips, and treks, and suddenly wondering what to do with all that time off. On Thursday, Ana Christina Alanis, MBA 21 and the class’ VP of social, was canceling a web of spring break flights to Colombia. She’d planned to visit Medellin and then scuba dive in Cartagena with a group of 12 students, including her roommate. She was looking forward to relaxing for nine days and a break from her job search. “Spring break starts tomorrow and I have absolutely nothing to do,” she said. The upside? She might teach an online cooking class to Haasies—and she might be able to reschedule her trip with her Colombian classmates, who couldn’t go with her this time.
Get your Zumba on!
After in-person classes stopped, the FTMBA Association and Alex D’Agostino and Annie Powers, both MBA 20, got together and worked on a spreadsheet of classes that could be taught by students for students. Lipika Grover, MBA 20, is one of the first to go for it. She taught her first Zumba class ever on Zoom on Thursday morning. Grover, who had taken many Bollywood classes and loves to dance, was live teaching by 10 am from her home in Houston, where she returned to be with her family.
“It will hopefully lift people’s moods and we’ll get some exercise—wherever we are,” said Grover. “Virtual is the best way to be together and to be strong now. We have to make the best of what we have and come together as a community.”
Jason Li, BS 20, was at brunch with friends earlier this month chatting about the impact of the coronavirus when an idea popped into his head.
“I realized that the coronavirus was getting worse, and that people should be informed of the figures so that they can properly assess their risks,” said Li, a senior who is a double major in business and computer science. “But without data, they can’t do anything.”
That idea led Li and his team to work two straight days and nights toward the launch of LiveCoronaUpdates.org. The website aggregates data on coronavirus cases from the WHO, local governments, and major American news outlets. So far, the website has had more than 210,000 page views.
Li and his team, which includes code-savvy interns and engineers who work at his chat-and-payment startup, LoopChat—currently housed at Berkeley SkyDeck—update the figures every three to four hours.
Li, a budding entrepreneur, says he aims to provide accurate, easy-to-understand information about the virus, including the number of deaths, confirmed cases, people who have recovered and active cases in specific geographical areas. The goal is to get the data to the largest audience possible and to help calm anxiety with facts people can rely on as they navigate the new normal of their daily lives.
CoronApp Team races to develop mobile app
Li isn’t the only student on campus to jump into action on a coronavirus tracker. Anupam Tiwari and Anushka Purohit, both electrical engineering and computer science (EECS) majors and exchange students at UC Berkeley, started working on CoronApp together. The pair recently added first-year MBA students Akonkwa Mubagwa and Manuel Smith to their team.
The group connected at a recent coffee meetup for entrepreneurs in the Haas courtyard.
“The idea (for CoronApp) was great, but the form and user experience wasn’t there yet,” Mubagwa said of the design Tiwari showed him. “It was impressive that he set it up so fast, and we knew it would be useful.”
The students joined forces and later added coder Sahil Mehta, an EECS undergraduate; Ean Hall, MS 20 (mechanical engineering) who specializes in quantitative analysis; and Daniel Smith, a software developer. Sevith Rao and Andy Cheng, both medical doctors and first-year MBA students at Berkeley Haas, agreed to serve as CoronApp advisers.
CoronApp for mobile browsers, now available, allows users to click on red dots on a map to provide updates on virus cases. It integrates COVID-19 data from Johns Hopkins University, the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization (WHO), and a Twitter feed provides the latest curated news.
Tiwari first tested CoronApp on his roommates, who rated it a seven out of 10. Their feedback helped him improve how fast the app loads—and to decide to add a Twitter feed and information on the right way to wash your hands and wear a face mask. The team had planned to offer the app for iPhones, but Apple is currently only accepting apps “from recognized entities such as government organizations, health-focused NGOs, companies deeply credentialed in health issues, and medical or educational institutions.”
Once they have perfected the app, the team believes it will become a scalable platform for crowdsourcing during future emergencies — from disease outbreaks to wildfires.
Mubagwa said that the way that the team came together to form CoronApp is a perfect example of why he came to Berkeley.
“Excellence across schools—engineering, business, and public health—allows for spontaneous cross-pollination,” he said. “We are all very different and from different backgrounds, but we are tied together by entrepreneurship. That’s what makes Berkeley so special.”
Li, who has been working to get word of his website across campus, said it’s rewarding to build a product that so many people find useful. “A lot of people have been emailing me saying how much they appreciate it,” he said. “I like building stuff that helps people. That’s what entrepreneurship is about: making a positive impact.”
Note: Haas News is following two of this year’s 25 teams participating in LAUNCH, an accelerator for UC startup founders that has helped create more than 200 companies since 1999. They are gearing up for Demo Day in April, when they’ll pitch their ideas to VCs and angel investors and compete for $25,000 in funding.
The two teams are pitching startup ideas that are worlds apart: one is trialing dog food made from—wait for it—insects, while the other is coding software that will power advertising displays used by ride-sharing vehicles.
What do both teams have in common? Big plans to scale their ventures.
At LAUNCH boot camp at the end of January, all 25 teams were assigned mentors. Here’s more on the startups.
SuperPetFoods founders: The all-woman startup team includes María del Mar Londoño, MBA 21, Thais Esteves, MBA 21, a former veteran BCG consultant in banking and impact investment, and Gina Myers, MS 20 (bioengineering), a chef who trained at the Culinary Institute of America. Gina is in charge of product development. “When Gina mentioned she had done nine Ironman races I immediately knew she was up for the challenge,” says María, who goes by Mar. “On the other side, there’s Thais, whose solid finance background has been critical to quantify the scalability of our idea. She’s also a fabulous sounding-board.”
The story: Mar grew up on a farm in the verdant, biodiverse coffee-growing region of Colombia, surrounded by more than 15 dogs. Her family was in the animal feed business, using non-conventional raw materials, so it’s no surprise that Mar is continuing that quest to find alternative, more sustainable ways to feed pets.
The “aha moment”: When Mar’s cousin started producing black soldier flies (Hermetia Illucens) on the Colombian farm and introduced her to the insect, she became intrigued by the idea of making it the basis for pet food. “It is a truly remarkable insect, capable of converting food waste into high-quality protein and fat with incredible efficiency, with an undetectable carbon footprint,” she says. Used to feed both poultry and fish, she saw an opportunity to use the larvae in dog food because it’s nutritious, digestible, and has a nutty, smokey taste. “These insects hold the massive potential to reimagine the food system,” she says.
Previous accolades and upcoming competitions: Winner at UC Berkeley’s StEP Demo Day, where she met her co-founders. In the upcoming months, they will be participating in two competitions where they are finalists: The Hult Prize Regional Competition and the 2020 Rabobank-MIT Food and Agribusiness Innovation Prize.
What they’re up to at LAUNCH: SuperPetFoods is in very early-stage work on the product, Mar says. “We need to work on product development and packaging and the overall execution of our idea—and do that in tandem with getting customer insights, and learning the most important problems that pet owners face,” she says.
Most enthusiastic test subject: Gina’s German Shepherd, Qora, is a key member of the team as QA controller, in charge of tasting. Qora has already erased one of the team’s first fears: that the food wouldn’t taste good. In the first trial, they loaded the food with sweet potato and peanut butter. But it turned out that they didn’t need all that filler. Qora gobbled it up without it.
Team mentor: Urban farmer John Matthesen, an adjunct professor in culinary arts, who teaches a farm-to-table cooking lab at Diablo Valley College. John is general manager at Biome Makers, a company that’s using the latest technology to test agricultural soil health.
Biggest challenge: Marketing dog food made with insects in the U.S. “The first time Mar told me about the flies I saw huge potential,” Thais says. “It’s about changing the minds of people. Dogs are not that picky and this is better for the environment.”
Origin of the idea: In high school, Ash developed an idea for YAPnGO, a digital bumper sticker. When she got to Berkeley, she discussed the idea with fellow undergrads Armaan, Justin, and Shreya, and they realized that the technology could be used as an advertising display for ridesharing vehicles. They entered BumpR in the AccelerateHer immersive startup weekend at Haas and that led to LAUNCH. Bumpr is building a cloud-based, back end for advertising displays that intelligently targets advertisements to strategic consumer demographics.
Why they applied to LAUNCH: To learn about startup creation outside of the traditional classroom. “It’s one of the main things that brought me to Cal and how I wanted to spend my next four years,” Justin says. “There’s so much raw passion for entrepreneurship among students here and it’s a privilege to be a part of it.”
Accolades: AccelerateHer winner, Trione grant recipient, SkyDeck Hotdesk team, and 1st place at Entrepreneurs@Berkeley Pitch Competition.
Where they’re at now: The team already pivoted from focusing on hardware to developing software for physical advertising. “Pivots are a healthy indicator that teams are actively testing their hypotheses to get to the ground truth,” says their LAUNCH instructor Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program. “Sometimes that leads to a scalable business model, sometimes it doesn’t. We celebrate either outcome as a “win” for learning and a solid outcome for LAUNCH.”
Armaan and Ash are now working through the business model to see if it makes sense. Justin and Shreya are looking at industry competitors and working on the technology’s implementation.
Biggest challenge: Dealing with the technology used in outdoor digital advertising, which is extremely outdated. Also, advertising monopolies make it a difficult industry to break into, Shreya says.
Do they think their team will win at Demo Day? Armaan says that LAUNCH isn’t about winning. “It’s about making the most out of the opportunity and being challenged by the program,” he says. “No matter what happens we’ll come out of it a better team.”
Two pioneering women in tech sales and broadcast television will serve as commencement speakers for the full-time, evening & weekend and undergraduate programs this May.
Laura Clayton McDonnell, MBA 85, a visionary sales executive who has held leadership roles at two of the world’s top tech companies, was chosen as speaker at the 2020 Full-time MBA and Evening & Weekend MBA commencement; Diane Dwyer, BS 87, former KTVU and NBC broadcast journalist, was chosen to speak at undergraduate commencement.
The MBA commencement will take place on Friday, May 22, 2020, at the Greek Theatre.
“We are so thrilled to welcome two successful female alumnae who represent our Defining Leadership Principles to speak at our commencements,” said Haas Dean Ann Harrison. “Laura questions the status quo as a business leader in so many ways and Diane, as a professional faculty member, is a student always.”
McDonnell, who is vice president of enterprise sales for management software company ServiceNow, was previously vice president of Microsoft’s New York region. Managing a team of more than 230 people, she was responsible for increasing sales revenue and expanding Microsoft’s influence in the region by building relationships with key stakeholders, such as New York City’s Department of Education.
McDonnell also piloted innovative programs such as Microsoft’s Tech Jobs Academy, an educational program that offers free tech training to underrepresented communities.
At IBM, where she previously worked for 11 years, she rose to vice president of strategic services for North America, before taking on a role as senior vice president of North America Sales at Aspect Software.
Dwyer, a professional faculty member at Haas who teaches Innovations in communications and public relations, has been a broadcast journalist for 25 years, reporting important stories from the inauguration of President Bill Clinton to the Oakland Hills Firestorm.
She began her career as an anchor and reporter at KXLF in Butte, Montana, in 1988. Two years later she and joined the KTVU-Channel 2 newsroom, where she launched and co-hosted the Morning Show on KTVU with Ross McGowan for several years.
She then moved to San Jose to become the weekend news solo anchor for NBC Bay Area. Her reporting won her two Emmy awards and other prestigious awards from the Associated Press and the National Academy of Radio and Television Artists. In addition to teaching, Dwyer runs her own consulting business, Dwyer Media Consulting.
A new Berkeley Haas program will give undergraduates the option of applying early for a coveted spot in the full-time MBA program and deferring for two to five years to gain the required professional experience.
Accelerated Access, which launches today, will be initially open only to UC Berkeley undergraduate and graduate students in their final year of study, with a plan to expand to students throughout the University of California system and then more broadly in the future. A kickoff event will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 28, in Chou Hall from 6-8pm.
“Accelerated Access is an innovative way for students to secure a seat in our MBA program, providing a way for them to pursue full-time work that aligns with their passions, with reassurance that they will be able to return to a top-ranked MBA program in a few years,” said Morgan Bernstein, director of strategic initiatives, who is spearheading the launch.
Reaching across campus
Under Accelerated Access, undergraduates will apply to the MBA program during the final year of their bachelor’s program. Successful applicants will gain conditional admission, and can enroll after a flexible two-to-five-year deferment period for professional experience.
Haas Dean Ann Harrison said Accelerated Access is another way that Haas is reaching across campus to offer new opportunities to students who previously might not have considered an MBA.
“We’re so excited to offer this program exclusively to UC Berkeley students this year,” she said. “We have so much talent here in the Berkeley community—and this is another way that we are cultivating and committing to that talent.”
Bernstein has been introducing the program across campus in recent weeks, and says the early response has been enthusiastic.
“We believe that this program will increase the diversity of our class, compelling students from a wide variety of academic disciplines to consider an MBA—from students in environmental science who want to pursue careers in sustainability to engineering students who want to complement their technical skills with a business foundation,” she said.
Application fee waived
There are two application deadlines in the pilot cycle: Thursday, April 2, 2020 and Thursday, June 11, 2020. The application process is similar to that of the full-time MBA program, with requirements including a resume, two letters of recommendation, two short essays, undergraduate transcripts, and either the GMAT or GRE standardized test. An interview will be required for admission.
Haas will waive the $200 application fee for UC Berkeley applicants this year and will be making up to five $100,000 scholarship awards to celebrate the launch as well as the 10th anniversary of the Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always and Beyond Yourself. Embodiment of the principles will be among the criteria that are considered for the awards.
Shaibya Dalal, who earned a BA in political science in 2011 from Berkeley and returned in 2018 as a full-time MBA student, said she couldn’t be happier that she chose Cal twice.
“The MBA culture at Haas is incredibly collaborative—whether you need notes from a class, advice for your start-up, or even help moving furniture, you can rely on Haasies,” she said. “My peers are kind, generous, open-minded, and intellectually curious. Constantly being around such brilliant people has challenged and stimulated me in completely new ways.”
For more information about the program please email email@example.com.