Startup Roundup: Better beards, smarter healthcare, virtual water cooler chats

The startup roundup series spotlights students and recent alumni who are starting a new business or enterprise.

Newmen founders
John Melizanis, BS 20, founded men’s grooming product company Newmen with Joseph Lorenzo, a University of Tampa graduate, and Jake Lourenco, BA 20 (political science).

Newmen

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.

Joseph Lorenzo grooms his beard.
Newmen co-founder Joseph Lorenzo straightens his beard with a Newman beard brush.

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.

Newmen beard oils
Newmen beard oils come in different scents that the company tested with customers.

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

Founder: Rory Stanton, EWMBA 20

Rory Stanton
Rory Stanton

What does your startup do (in 20 words or less)?  

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.

Aila Health's remote app
Aila’s app lets a patient’s care team track symptoms in real-time to help deliver the right care.

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 

Founder: Olayinka Omolere, MBA 21

Seren founder Olayinka Omolere
Seren founder Olayinka Omolere

What does your startup do (in 20 words or less)?

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.

Seren app screen shot.
Seren instantly matches people with teammates in Slack, based on availability and interests.

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.

 

 

Undergrad program ranked #3 by U.S. News

Photos Copyright Noah Berger / 2018

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). 

College Leap: Startup helps students navigate transferring

Jay Zhao of College Leap
Jay Zhao, BS 21, who transferred to Haas as a junior, founded College Leap to help ease the process for other community college students.

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.

College Leap team
UC Berkeley students who are working with College Leap

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.

 

Collin Morikawa, BS 19, wins PGA Championship

Collin Morikawa holding trophy
Collin Morikawa holds the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the PGA Championship golf tournament at TPC Harding Park Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

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.

Collin Morikawa, BS 19, at graduation
Collin Morikawa, BS 19, shakes Dean Ann Harrison’s hand at graduation.

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.

Nine new professors join Berkeley Haas faculty

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

Berkeley Haas Prof. Francesco Trebbi
Prof. Francesco Trebbi

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

Assoc. Prof. Matilde Bombardini
Assoc. Prof. Matilde Bombardini

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

Assoc. Prof. Ricardo Perez-Truglia
Assoc. Prof. Ricardo Perez-Truglia

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

Asst. Prof. Sydnee Caldwell
Asst. Prof. Sydnee Caldwell

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

Asst. Prof. Solene Delecourt
Asst. Prof. Solene Delecourt

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

Asst. Prof. Douglas Guilbeault
Asst. Prof. Douglas Guilbeault

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

Asst. Prof. Xi Wu
Asst. Prof. Xi Wu

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

Asst. Prof. Luyi YangLuyi 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

Asst. Prof. Biwen Zhang
Asst. Prof. Biwen Zhang

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.

Undergrads launch popular virtual summer camp for teens

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.

Daniel Egan
Danielle Egan, BS 21, co-founded Connect-in-Place

“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

Saumya Goyal
Saumya Goyal, BS 21, co-founded Connect-in-Place

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.”

Haas team wins regional National Student Advertising Competition

ImagiCal team
imagiCal’s Executive Leadership Team

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.

Berkeley Haas-sponsored imagiCal team.
A screenshot of imagiCal’s leadership team and NSAC presenters. From left to right: Jago Pang, Tyler Wu, Frances Cheng, Maya Iyer, Vicky Lin, Amber Chen, Michelle Gong, Melody Ding, Kelly Pan, Cicily Deng, Brendan Shih, Shelley Cai, and Jordan Loeffler.

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.

Undergraduate Class of 2020: “Off to great places”

Shun Lei Sin, BS20
HBSA President Shun Lei Sin

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.

Kiara Taylor, BS 20
Kiara Taylor, BS 20, DLP winner for Beyond Yourself

Undergraduate Defining Leadership Principles Award Winners

Robert Paylor
Robert Paylor, BS 20, a winner for Question the Status Quo, was told he would never walk again after his rugby injury. He’s now walking with the aid of a walker.

Beyond Yourself:  Kiara Taylor (Read about Taylor’s adventures at the 2019 Diversity Case Competition.)

Confidence Without Attitude: Jordyn Elliott (Read about Elliot’s experience as a Cal athlete here.)

Students Always: Mia Character (Read more about Character in this Q&A.)

Question the Status Quo: Robert Paylor (Read about Paylor’s journey back from a critical rugby injury.) Paylor is also winner of the Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award, one of just five recipients across all three NCAA divisions.

Other Award Winners

Departmental Citation for Outstanding Achievement: Cubbie Kile  (Read about Kile here).

Graduate Student Instructor of the Year: Rohi Rana, the GSI for Financial Accounting and Managerial Accounting.

Mia Character

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.”

For more photos of Berkeley Haas graduates, check out our grad gallery on Flickr.

Adam Forest, BS 20, with his parents. Photo: Adam Forest.

Cubbie Kile, BS 20, to receive Departmental Citation for Outstanding Achievement

Portrait: Cubbie Kile
Cubbie Kile, BS 20, received the Departmental Citation for Outstanding Achievement.

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.  

Cubbie Kile and members of UC Berkeley Men's Swimming Team
Cubbie Kile, BS 20, was the manager of UC Berkeley’s Men’s Swimming and Diving Team.

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. 

Cubbie Kile with rowers
Cubbie Kile (pictured left, kneeling, with UC Berkeley’s Women’s Rowing Team.

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.”

 

From virtual birthday parties to yoga, Haasies stay connected as life shifts online

Lauren Graminis practices yoga
Lauren Grimanis (left) practices yoga with a student during her time in Ghana.

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

Chris Lee's birthday party on zoom chat
Chris Lee celebrated his 30th birthday with classmates online. Photo: Chris Lee.

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.

Four women talk via Zoom, a video chat platform.
Shun Lei Sin, BS 20, (bottom right) chats with friends via Zoom.

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.” 

Saying goodbye

Two Haas students work on school project.
Thais Esteves, MBA 21, (right) with classmate Maria del Mar Londono Jaramillo, returned home to Brazil for the summer after her FTMBA friends threw her an impromptu birthday party online. Photo: Jim Block

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

Ije wearing a sari in India.
Ije Durga, MBA 20, who lived in India prior to coming to Haas, planned to wear a special sari to commencement.

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.

April staycation

Ana Alanis and classmates.
Ana Alanis (front, middle) spent the morning canceling a spring break trip to Colombia.

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!

Six students do Zumba online.
Lipika Grover, MBA 20, hosted a virtual Zumba class for FTMBA students.

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.”  

 

Students race to launch coronavirus trackers

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.”

Photo of Jason Li
Jason Li, BS 20, a double major in business and computer science, launched LiveCoronaUpdates.org.

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.

a screen shot of the corona virus update website
LiveCoronaUpdates has had more than 210,000 page views since March 3.

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.

CoronApp screen shot
Users click on the red dots on the CoronApp map to unveil info about virus cases.

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.

L-R: Sahil Mehta, BS 23, (EECS) Manuel Smith, MBA 21, Anushka Purohit, BS 22,  (EECS) Anupam Tiwari, BS 23, (EECS) Daniel Smith, a software developer, Akonkwa Mubagwa, MBA 21, and Ean Hall, MS 20 (mechanical engineering). Photo: Benny Johnson

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.”

 

LAUNCH Diaries: turning insects into tasty dog food and building smarter billboards

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

(l-r) María del Mar Londoño, MBA 21, Thais Esteves, MBA 21, and Gina Myers, MS 20, (bioengineering) with Gina’s German Shepherd, Qora,  SuperPetFood’s chief product tester.

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 who is is passionate about sustainability. She 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.

Team member with Qora the German Shepherd
Gina Myers, MS 20, with Qora.

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.”

BumpR

Students on team BumpR
BumpR’s Shreya Shekhar, Armaan Goel, M.E.T. 23 (Management, Entrepreneurship & Technology) students, Justin Quan, BS 23, (Electrical Engineering & Computer Science) and Aishwarya (Ash) Mahesh, M.E.T. 23, sketch out ideas. Photo: Jim Block

 

BumpR founders: Armaan Goel, Aishwarya (Ash) Mahesh, Shreya Shekhar, all M.E.T. 23 (Management, Entrepreneurship & Technology) students, Justin Quan, BS 23 (Electrical Engineering & Computer Science).

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.”

 

Laura Clayton McDonnell, Diane Dwyer named 2020 commencement speakers 

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.

The undergraduate commencement will take place on Monday, May 18, 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.”

Laura Clayton McDonnell
Laura Clayton McDonnell

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.  

Diane Dwyer
Diane Dwyer

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.

 

 

 

Haas launches deferred MBA admissions program

Undergrad students
Undergraduates will be able to apply early to the Full-time MBA program under the new Accelerated Access Program. Photo: Noah Berger

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

Morgan Bernstein
Morgan Bernstein is spearheading the new Accelerated Access Program.

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 accelerate@haas.berkeley.edu.

 

Veterans Day 2019: Why we serve

The Berkeley Haas community thanks our student veterans for their contributions to the greater campus and, more importantly, to their country.

“Every year, our student veteran community grows, enriching our campus with unique insights, wisdom, leadership, and unyielding dedication to helping others,” said Dean Ann Harrison.

This Veterans Day, we asked four student veterans about what it means to serve and how they continue to serve their communities. Students interviewed include:

  • Ami Patel, FTMBA 21, former U.S. Army captain & Black Hawk pilot
  • Andrew Price, EWMBA 20, former U.S. Coast Guard commanding officer
  • Joseph Choi, FTMBA 21, former U.S. Navy Seal officer
  • Adan Garcia Nevarez, BS 21, former U.S. Marine Corps squad leader

Check out what they had to say:

AccelerateHer plans immersive startup weekends at Haas

Left to right: Christine Kim, Tanya Krishan, Julia Liu, Rajavi Mishra, Labanya Mukhopadhyay, Alissa Hsueh & Jiyoo Jeong.
Left to right: AccelerateHer board members: Christine Kim, Tanya Krishan, Julia Liu, Rajavi Mishra, Labanya Mukhopadhyay, Alissa Hsueh & Jiyoo Jeong

As a kid, Saumya Goyal, BS 21, was already an aspiring entrepreneur, sketching drawings of mechanical wings that she planned to build for flying.

Saumya Goyal
Saumya Goya, BS 21, is chief advisor to AccelerateHer.

Now a Haas junior, Goyal is still enthusiastic about making things, as chief advisor to AccelerateHer at UC Berkeley, a campus club that promotes entrepreneurship for women and will be hosting the first of two new AccelerateHer Startup Weekends next month. Goyal will be among the AccelerateHer team welcoming UC Berkeley students who are ready to dive deep into new startup ideas on Nov. 9-10 and 16-17.  Students can apply here.

“This club has been through a lot of growth and now we’re focused on these weekends,” said Goyal, who interned this past summer at Palo Alto-based startup TripActions and is working on her own social startup that will help women in India’s developing villages.

Focus on collaboration

The weekends are funded through a three-year grant from Blackstone LaunchPad, a program created by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation and the Techstars network to equip students with more tools and resources for exploring entrepreneurship. (Earlier this month, Blackstone announced a $5 million expansion of  the LaunchPad program, allotting $500,000 to each University of California campus).

Rajavi Mishra, president of AccelerateHer
Rajavi Mishra, president of AccelerateHer

Rajavi Mishra, president of AccelerateHer, said the weekends will provide an opportunity for more team collaboration, something that she has sometimes found challenging at hackathons, where females were underrepresented and the focus was on coding.

“We wanted to host this because at a lot of the hackathons you have to know how to code and a lot of my friends don’t know how to code, so they won’t apply,” said Mishra, a computer science major who is applying to Haas. “This is a platform for both people who know how to code and have other skills so that they can collaborate and build a product over the weekend.”

Dipping a toe in the water

The weekends also provide an immersive opportunity to students who don’t have time to commit to a semester’s long course in entrepreneurship or a longer startup boot camp.

Over each weekend, the teams will explore their ideas, discover customers, build prototypes, and validate the business opportunity. The events, to be held in both Chou Hall and Cheit Hall, culminate with teams pitching their startups.

All teams will have at least three and a maximum of five members, and two of the team members must identify as female. Participants need only arrive with an idea, said Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program. Anyone who arrives without a team will be matched with other students, she said. The events offer 10 interactive startup workshops, mentorship from top startup founders, networking mixers, and startup toolkits.

Shrader said the weekends are a way to bring more women into entrepreneurship, particularly those who shy away from hackathons and coding.

“This is a way for them to dip their toe in the water,” she said. “If we want more female founders this is how we’ve got to do it.”

Mishra, who grew up in Delhi, India, a fourth-generation entrepreneur, started her startup journey in grade school, building websites for friends and small businesses.

By ninth grade, she created a social enterprise called Zariya, that developed workshops and programs aimed at helping abused children in New Delhi. But she said that there wasn’t a lot of support for startups in her area. “That’s why I wanted to come to Berkeley and when I came here I realized the amount of support we have,” she said. “I cannot be more thankful.”

Mishra said the group has received great enthusiasm from students and is accepting more applications. The deadline to apply is Thursday, Oct. 31.

Haas launches Biology+Business dual-major program

Photo of Chou Hall with cyclists passing
The new Biology+Business dual-major program aims to provide interdisciplinary solutions to 21st-century challenges.

The new Biology+Business dual-major has launched, a program designed to prepare students for careers in healthcare, in addition to biotech and drug discovery research.

The program, a joint venture between the Department of Molecular Cell Biology and Haas, will enroll about 25 students a year, providing undergraduates with an integrated curriculum, mentoring, and internships to develop innovative leadership skills in bio business. It is the second program of its kind in the country.

Former Haas Dean Rich Lyons and Michael Botchan, dean of Biological Sciences, came up with the idea for the program. The first class of Biology+Business students will enroll in fall of 2020. The window for students to apply is Nov.1-29, 2019.

In the program, students will 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: biochemistry & molecular biology; cell & developmental biology; genetics, genomics, & development; immunology & pathogenesis; or neurobiology.

Admission to the Biology+Business Program is open only to students who enter UC Berkeley as freshmen. Students must complete all prerequisite requirements for Haas, alongside the requirements for molecular cellular biology. Students apply to the Biology+Business Program during their sophomore year.

There are no curriculum changes to either degree program, although there is specialized coursework offered along the way, said Sarah Maslov, program manager of the Biology+Business Program. Internships are a key part of the program.

“The program’s real value-add is the professional development opportunities it offers,” Maslov said.

Gail Maderis, BS 78, and Ann Stock Zakaria, BA 79 (biochemistry), PhD 86 (comparative biochemistry), are among the founding program donors.

“This program will provide Cal students with the fundamental knowledge to change patients’ lives,” said Maderis, president and CEO of San Francisco-based Antiva Biosciences, a venture-backed biopharmaceutical company. “Having a baseline of understanding of business and science creates a much more well-rounded employee who can move fluidly between the disciplines.”

Zakaria said the program is crucial for preparing students to enter professional life. “While the academic labs are a very rich environment for innovation and the generation of ideas, it’s hard to bring those things to a marketable point—or even to a point where large pharma would be interested in them—without biotechnology and venture enterprise coming in,” she said.

U.S. News ranks Haas undergrad program #3

US News & World Report ranked the Haas Undergraduate Program #3 in this year’s college ranking.

The ranking, part of the U.S. News Best Colleges report, is based solely on a peer poll of business school deans, faculty, and undergraduate directors who are asked to rate business programs on a scale of 1 (marginal) to 5 (distinguished). Two years of poll data are used to calculate the score.

In top specialty rankings, Haas ranked as follows:

#3 in management

#3 in real estate

#4 in marketing

#5 in entrepreneurship

#5 in international business

#5 in finance

#8 in production/operation management

Haas welcomes more than a thousand new students to campus

photo of the new MBA class
The new full-time MBA class! Photo: Benny Johnson

Haas welcomed new students in the full-time MBA, undergraduate, and PhD programs to campus this month for orientation and the start of fall semester. New students in the evening & weekend MBA program arrived earlier this summer, beginning classes July 29.

Full-time Berkeley MBA Program

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Photos of the Cohort Olympics by Jim Block.

The theme of diversity and inclusion in business ran throughout orientation, also known as Week Zero, for the 283 new students in the full-time MBA class, with sessions on diversity and leadership led by Director of Inclusion & Diversity Élida Bautista, and new Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer David Porter.

“We chose the diversity and inclusion theme intentionally this year and we wove it throughout the week,” said Peter Johnson, assistant dean full-time MBA program and admissions. “We want to help our students better understand the business case for diversity and the importance of becoming leaders who are able to effectively guide a diverse and inclusive organization.”

The week kicked off with alumni speaker and Cisco executive Nikita Mitchell, MBA 15, and continued with a business case reveal Tuesday and surprise visitors: executives from global investment management firm BlackRock (students had read a case about BlackRock’s diversity efforts before arriving). Weijian Shan, chairman and CEO of PAG Group, launched the fall Dean’s Speaker Series, discussing his new book “Out of the Gobi: My Story of China and America.” (Watch the video of Shan’s talk here.)

Class members also met their study teams, worked together at an urban farm at the Alameda Point Collaborative, and competed in the annual Cohort Olympics.

Photo of BlackRock's Frank Cooper, who surprised the MBA students
Frank Cooper, global CMO of BlackRock, makes his way to the stage, as surprised students react to BlackRock’s visit. Photo: Benny Johnson

The incoming class of MBA students is comprised of 37% women. U.S. minorities are 30% of the class overall, and underrepresented minorities comprise 14% of the class (or 22% of just the U.S. students). They include a total of 41 African American, Hispanic American, and Native American students—a sharp increase from last year, when they were 7% of the class (11% of the U.S. students). The group is 35% international, hailing from 39 countries; India, China, Brazil, Peru, Canada, Japan, and Mexico are the top represented countries.

Dean Ann Harrison photo by Jim Block
Dean Ann Harrison: “We have really high expectations of you.” Photo: Jim Block

Dean Ann Harrison, addressing her first entering MBA class as dean, urged students to take time to really get to know each other, and to take advantage of the Haas alumni and broader UC Berkeley network. “This place is awesome, and it’s also awesomely demanding,” she said. “We have really high expectations of you. How hard you work this year will immediately pay off.”

Students in the class have an average of five years work experience, 20% in consulting, 17% in finance and financial services, and 11% in the nonprofit world. The class includes 24 veterans.

Morgan Bernstein, executive director of full-time MBA admissions, called out many students by name during a reception, including Manny Smith, who competed at the Team USA World Sprinter Championships and was the Armed Forces Men’s Track Champion in 2017; Randall Nixon, a Division 1 football college quarterback; Margie Cadet, a trained doula who helped expectant mothers; Jung Bahk, a back-up dancer for K-pop singers; and Daniela Kurinaga, who helped give 600 small & medium enterprises their first access to credit at Banco Credito del Peru.

MBA students break into study groups to get to know each other.
MBA students met their study groups during orientation. Photo: Jim Block

Students said they are excited to begin classes.

“If Week Zero is a representation of what the next two years at Haas will be like, it will likely be the best two years of my life,” said Soniya Parmar, MBA 21, who is from India.

Undergraduate Program

The new class of undergraduate students—an international group of music lovers, cooks, speakers of multiple languages, athletes, travelers, and photographers—kicked off orientation Tuesday in Spieker Forum in Chou Hall. Dean Harrison welcomed the students, professional faculty members Todd Fitch and Krystal Thomas led a discussion on thriving in the Berkeley Haas community. Chief DEI Officer David Porter and Derek Brown, a Berkeley Haas PhD candidate, steered sessions on team building and leadership.

Of the 362 incoming undergraduate students, 265 are continuing UC Berkeley students and 97 transferred into the program. Continuing students held an average GPA of 3.67 and transfer students’ GPA averages 3.89.  The class was accepted from a total of 2,663 applicants.

In addition, 49 undergraduate students in the Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology program (M.E.T.) started this week. The program, a collaboration between the Haas School of Business and the UC Berkeley College of Engineering, grants graduates two degrees—in business and in engineering—in four years, with the goal of providing deep leadership and technology skills.

Over the summer, 28 new students arrived in the undergraduate Global Management Program, a selective, four-year international Berkeley Haas program that launched in 2018. On top of an already demanding undergraduate curriculum, students must fulfill a language requirement, study abroad their first semester, and take specialized global business courses.

“We’re so proud of this international, talented new class,” said Erika Walker, assistant dean of the Haas Undergraduate Program “They’ve achieved amazing feats academically and are going beyond themselves in so many ways inside and outside of the classroom. We can’t wait to see what they do.”

All of the new undergrad students received new Berkeley Haas backpacks.
Entering undergrad students show off their new Berkeley Haas backpacks. Photo: Dinko Lakic

Evening & Weekend MBA Program

The 279 new students in the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program gathered for their WE Launch orientation July 26-28 at the Doubletree Berkeley Marina, where they were assigned to a cohort of 70 to 75 students for their core courses.

Students in the EWMBA program balance their classes while working full time. Class members work for a total of 216 companies—23% in high tech, 11% in computer related services, and 9% in consulting. The top job role is engineering (18%), followed by marketing and sales (15%).

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The 279 new students in the EWMBA class participate in We Launch orientation before starting classes. Photo: Jim Block

Seventy-nine percent of the class lives and work in the Bay Area, although the students hail from 21 countries. More than a third of the class are women and the median student age is 30.

A few fun facts: one student was an extra in the 2011 Steven Soderbergh movie “Contagion,” while another founded the Bay area’s Greenfoot Hiking Club, which has more than 350 members. The class also includes a former pro baseball player and an opera singer. Many of the students are multi-lingual (one even speaks seven languages).

PhD Program

Twelve new students began the PhD program this year, bringing the total number of the students in the program to 71.

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The new class of PhD students. Top row, left to right: Top row, l-r: Pavel Bacherikov, Yixiang Xu, Shoshana Jarvis, Charlie Townsend, Jaeyeon Lee, Yunhao Huang. Bottom row, l-r: Morgan Foy, Saqib Choudhary, Sandy Campbell, William Ryan, Summer Zhao, Konhee Chang Summer Zhao. Photo: Jim Block

The new students are international, hailing from China, Russia, Korea, and India and from universities including Carnegie Mellon, Higher School of Economics Moscow, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, Duke, UC Berkeley, and Tsinghua University.

Their research areas range from the impact of gender bias on women to why people make systematic errors with certain types of choices. “It’s always so exciting to follow our students as they work their way through this rigorous program, to learn about their fascinating research, and ultimately how it contributes to their field,” said Melissa Hacker, the program’s director of student affairs.

Read the latest campus information on coronavirus (COVID-19) here →