An AI-powered app aimed to help construction workers experiencing anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts netted a first place win at the first inaugural John E. Martin Healthcare Tech Challenge. The competition was held online Nov. 16-20.
The winning team, Team CLiKS, included Eugene Kim, Zhuoran Li, Zixuan Chen, and Chen Su, all EWMBA 23. The team competed against 11 other teams from top U.S. business schools, including Wharton, Harvard, Columbia, MIT Sloan, and Kellogg for $10,000 in prize money.
Another Haas team placed second, earning $4,000 in prize money for pitching a chatbot that could collect health data, such as sleep patterns and appetite, and recommend tele-health therapy and wellness ambassadors stationed at construction worksites.
Team members included Sophie Schonfeld, Ben Delikat, both MBA/MPH 21; Doug Pollack, MBA/MPH 20; and Vishalli Loomba, MD/MS 23.
The competition was organized by the Berkeley Haas Healthcare Association and the Berkeley Haas Tech Club, and sponsored by Google.
For the competition, students were asked to come up with an innovative solution to address mental health issues in the construction industry, which reports some of the highest rates of depression and suicide.
Team CLiKS pitched a mental health app that addressed three critical factors: prevention, assessment, and intervention. Through this app, construction workers would have access to music, podcasts, mental health specialists, peer volunteers, and a community-based forum to seek emotional support. The app would also collect daily mental health data from users through notifications, wellness checks, and diary entries.
The team credited its success to interviewing and surveying more than 90 construction workers, powerful storytelling, and a personal commitment to helping construction workers with mental health issues–an issue that hits close to home for Chen, Kim, and Li.
Chen, a civil engineer who’s worked in the construction industry, said one of her co-workers committed suicide. “The amount of work, the physical stress, and the financial instability that comes with the job pushes people to the edge.”
Kim, an Army veteran, said several soldiers he served with had committed suicide and Li, a music rehabilitation therapist, treats patients with severe mental health illnesses.
Su said the cause was important to him and he wanted to leverage his AI and computer engineering skills to help.
The team also credited its success to their construction industry mentor Matt Schulte; Rebecca Portnoy, a professional faculty member who teaches an organizational culture course called Leading People; and James Sallee, an associate economics professor at UC Berkeley.
“As a first-year Evening and Weekend MBA student without previous business knowledge, I was thankful to have taken a class with Prof. Sallee to guide my thinking and to tackle this mental health challenge from a health and business perspective,” Li said.
For Michael Martin, MBA 09, teaming up with Berkeley Haas to launch the 2020 John E. Martin Mental Healthcare Tech Challenge was deeply personal. The challenge is named for his father, a Vietnam veteran who in his later years counseled veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
It was Martin’s father’s commitment to improving the quality of and access to mental healthcare that drove the theme of this year’s inaugural competition, which invites 12 teams from top MBA programs to find ways to use data to better support construction workers facing anxiety, addiction, depression, and suicide. The challenge kicks off on Nov. 11, Veterans Day.
“It’s an auspicious date considering that my dad was a veteran,” said Martin, a portfolio manager in Google’s Energy & Infrastructure division. In 2014, Martin established the John E. Martin Memorial Fellowship to honor the memory of his father who succumbed to injuries resulting from a car accident in 2013.
Earlier this year, Martin decided to further his commitment to the cause his father was most passionate about.
Martin connected with the Haas Healthcare Association, whose members then reached out to the Tech Club. “Michael wanted to set up a case competition linked to mental health and the Tech Club has experience with running cross-MBA competitions through our annual Tech Challenge,” said Corrine Marquardt, MBA/MPH 21. “A team effort between the two clubs seemed like an ideal way to blend healthcare industry knowledge with the operational know-how of running a competition like this.”
In planning the event, which is sponsored by Google, Marquardt worked with fellow Tech Club leaders Brad Deal, Mary Yao, and Dunja Panic, all MBA 21, as well as Haas Healthcare Association leaders Elena Gambon, MBA/MPH 21 and Will Herling, MBA/MPH 21.
The idea for a mental health case competition focusing on the construction industry sprang from Martin’s many job-related visits to data center construction sites. “I was going to more rural locations in middle America and I had the opportunity to establish a rapport with a lot of these folks,” he said.
He noted that the construction industry, one of the largest sectors in the U.S., suffers disproportionately high rates of depression and suicide. He further noted that many mental disorders are going untreated, which can have serious consequences. “When people bring these problems to work and they’re handling heavy machinery on a job site there’s a greater chance of injury and death.”
In addition to the challenge, a speaker series consisting of three sessions will be held on Mental Health in the Construction Industry, YouTube in Mental Health, and Google in Healthcare. Google’s leadership team earmarked $30,000 for the competition, and Martin contributed an additional $20,000.
The case competition field includes teams from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, MIT’s Sloan School of Management, The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Harvard Business School, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, Columbia Business School, Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, and Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.
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.
Note: Berkeley Haas News followed two of this year’s 25 teams participating inLAUNCH, an accelerator for UC startup founders that has helped create more than 200 companies since 2015. At last Friday’s Demo Day finals, 10 UC teams remotely pitched VCs and angel investors, competing for $70,000 in funding. Startup SuperPetFoods made the finals; BumpR did not.
María (Mar) del Mar Londoño, MBA 21 and CEO of SuperPetFoods, headed into last week’s LAUNCH Demo Day finals determined. After failing to place in the top three at last month’s Hult Prize Global Regional Competition in Bogotá and the 2020 Rabobank-MIT Food and Agribusiness Innovation Prize finals, she’d buffed up the startup’s presentation, polished answers to potential questions, and emerged ready to win.
Her team’s efforts paid off, as SuperPetFoods took second place (and was voted audience choice) at LAUNCH Demo Day May 1, netting $20,000 to move into the summer phase of developing her eco-friendly dehydrated pet food, made from black soldier fly larvae. Digiventures, a Berkeley Haas MBA led team that built a platform enabling Latin American customers to be evaluated for credit, took the top prize.
Missing from Demo Day, however, was BumpR, an undergraduate team aiming to produce an inexpensive Internet of Things (IoT) device that drivers mount on their cars to easily collect data over geographic areas. The startup, founded by Armaan Goel, Aishwarya (Ash) Mahesh, Shreya Shekhar, all M.E.T. 23 students, and Justin Quan, BS 23 (Electrical Engineering & Computer Science), didn’t make it to the finals, mainly because the team pivoted right before the semifinals and ran out of time to do the necessary customer interviews to vet their new idea.
BumpR will continue to work on the idea at UC Berkeley’s SkyDeck this fall, as a SkyDeck Hot Desk team. Rhonda Shrader, the executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP), which sponsors LAUNCH, also helped the team apply for a $25,000 VentureWell grant to prototype and test their product. “The lessons we learned along the way under the guidance of all the LAUNCH faculty will stick with us whether it’s with this product idea or another,” Ash said.
“The lessons we learned along the way under the guidance of all the LAUNCH faculty will stick with us whether it’s with this product idea or another.”
We spoke to Mar, who founded the company with Thais Esteves, MBA 21, and Gina Myers, MS 20 (bioengineering), about LAUNCH and what’s next for SuperPetFoods.
What was the biggest challenge participating in LAUNCH during the coronavirus crisis?
There were many challenges. The first was managing the emotional stress that coronavirus brought to this— worrying about your family and evaluating your priorities. As a team leader my biggest challenge was being able to give my team the space they needed while seeing this project as something that could make them feel excited about the future. That’s a difficult balance. You want to give them their space but you also want people to be engaged.
Another challenge was the operational part. Literally, we had to start cooking the food in Washington state, where Gina is staying in her family’s cabin. All the people we contacted to do pet food trials are in Berkeley or the Bay Area.
So Gina is cooking the food you plan to send out for trials this summer?
Yes. Dogs are lucky to have a trained chef from the Culinary Institute of America cooking for them. At this point, Gina has everything she needs to start cooking: a recipe that offers complete nutrition that was formulated with a board-certified pet nutritionist, and the required machinery: a dehydrator and a bag sealer. Our target for the summer is to give 100 free samples to friends, family, and people who have shown interest through Facebook ads.
Depending on feedback we get from people, we’ll be able to go on to a bigger scale and go to local pet food stores. We are at a stage where we are literally testing how people feel about a pet food that is highly disruptive. It’s not only that it’s made of insects. It’s also dehydrated, so people need to add water, stir and serve. This format is more nutritious and tasty for dogs, so we have the hypothesis that pet parents will like it and prefer it to kibble. But that’s for us to test.
You plan is to eventually produce the food in your native Colombia. What’s the timeline this summer?
Producing in Colombia will give us a cost advantage and that is a crucial element of our operational model. However, we are focusing our efforts on two fronts this summer: testing product market fit and building the brand identity. First, we need to collect feedback on our product. All of our work so far was gathering consumer insights and understanding their sentiment around feeding their pets insects. Now we will get their feedback with an actual product. Second, we need to develop the brand identity and translate that into a website, package, and logo. We already conducted an A/B test that proved that the sustainability angle has more appeal than the nutritional one. Next step is to define which tone to convey around sustainability. We need to identify which is more effective: the loving, caring, tree-hugger kind of tone, or the more vigorous approach targeting changemakers who are empowered to make a change in the world.
What was most valuable about the LAUNCH experience?
Belonging to a cohort of collaborative teams. The collective brainstorming when you present progress and roadblocks, and having the other teams there. They help you think and you can identify elements from listening to them that might be useful for you—like what platform you’re using to set up your website. It’s a good place to get help. The second thing is you see how the teams are progressing and that allows you to have accountability for what you are doing.
Members of the winning team included Maryam Rezapoor, MBA 20, and Asif Mohammad, Cynthia Sobral, and Vera Xiao, all MBA 21. The Haas team, one of 25 teams representing 10 universities, won $5,000.
The Technology Club at Haas has held the tech-focused MBA case competition at the school since 2011. The challenge, which moved online between March 30-April 3, brings together MBA students from top programs around the country, providing an opportunity to solve real-world business challenges.
Teams this year were asked to write a three-page response to the question, “How should businesses or organizations think about resiliency, recovery, and hope in the face of unforeseen global crisis?” Teams could choose to write from the point of view of a CEO sharing thoughts with employees on how to brace for the next 12 months, or as a reporter working for a major news publisher “who will write an article read by millions.”
The Haas team opted to write from the perspective of a CEO, who emphasized the value of individual vulnerability and created a corporate culture of shared empathy to reassure employees during a major crisis.
We took the perspective of a CEO sharing his or her own story and brought that experience to a very personal level.
“We took the perspective of a CEO sharing his or her own story and brought that experience to a very personal level,” Mohammad said.
The team wanted to stress the notion of “experiencing grief both individually and collectively,” Sobral said. “We need to be honest about that. We need to consider how we find meaning in this crisis.”
The pitch also suggested encouraging employees to volunteer time to help a struggling small business and that the firm establish an impact investment fund and an accelerator to support startups. “We need to be preparing for the next crisis, so we sought to empower new companies for the future,” Rezapoor said.
Ultimately, the pitch encouraged employees to consider the bigger picture of helping a tech firm facilitate “more collaboration and innovation and to be able to think beyond themselves,” Xiao said.
After submitting their entries, teams participated in an April 3 round-table discussion with the judges—executives from cloud software company Nutanix, the competition sponsor, as well as Haas Lecturer Gregory La Blanc and Gauthier Vasseur, executive director of the Fisher Center for Business Analytics.
Even in the midst of a global crisis, participating in the Tech Challenge “gave me a sense of optimism,” Sobral said. “I shifted from thinking about the here and now to thinking about the future path for business and society.”
The eight teams in the event’s final round represented Haas, UC Berkeley’s School of Engineering, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Dartmouth, Northwestern, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, and University of Washington. Mary Yao, Corrine Marquardt, Dunja Panic and Brad Deal, all MBA 21, organized this year’s competition.
The decision to buy a publicly listed clinical research company and take it private landed a team of MBA students first place in the inaugural Oxford Global Private Equity Challenge. The competition, which was supposed to be held at the University of Oxford Saïd Business School, took place remotely on March 26.
Team members: Swamit Mehta, Shawn Meyer, Luis Reina, all MBA 20, Austin Nalen, MBA/MPH 21.
The field: Ten teams from the world’s top business schools competed for a grand prize of $5,000. Finalists included Haas, University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, London Business School, Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management, and INSEAD.
The challenge:Playing the role of a private equity firm, the team had to conduct market research and recommend a take-private buyout of a public company valued between one to four billion.
The plan: The team decided to do a take-private buyout of Medpace, a clinical research organization focused on small to medium-sized pharmaceutical companies. The team built a detailed financial model of Medpace, spoke to healthcare professionals to understand the business and industry dynamics, and created an investment strategy to successfully convert Medpace into a private company.
Secret sauce: “The Haas community was our secret sauce,” said Swamit Mehta, MBA 20. “The CRO (clinical research organization) segment of the healthcare industry is incredibly complicated and opaque,” he said. “Fortunately, we were able to rely on our healthcare-focused classmates for our research.”
The Haas factor: “Huge thanks to Lecturer Steve Etter. Steve went above and beyond in terms of helping us draft our investment presentation and provoking us to think about the gaps in our investment thesis,” Mehta said.
A new technology to help companies assess climate change risk and a financial tool to help insurance companies invest in the best portfolios netted first-place wins for two Berkeley Master of Financial Engineering students participating in a competition at Moody’s Analytics.
Yashoraj Tyagi and Akshay Gupta, both MFE 20, each took home $500 and received awards for helping to design new financial tools while interning at Moody’s Analytics this past winter.
“It’s rare for an intern to win, especially when you’re competing against actual Moody employees,” said Tyagi. “It feels good to win.”
Using Natural Language Processing (NLP), an artificial intelligence that helps computers and people communicate with each other, Tyagi helped design a new technology that aggregates information about a company, including annual filings, news articles, and climate disclosures, and evaluates a company’s risk to climate change. Investors could use the evaluation to determine whether a company is a safe or risky investment bet.
Gupta helped design a financial tool that assesses the risk level and expected returns of investment portfolios by analyzing millions of data points, including GDP, stock performance, and current events. This new tool would help insurance companies optimize their financial investments, especially when faced with economic challenges such as low interest rates and increased demands for improved credit modeling.
Deciding on the best place to build a new bike-sharing station in New York City based on ridership data landed a team of Berkeley Master of Financial Engineering students first place in the Citadel West Coast Datathon. The competition was held at the San Francisco Marriott Hotel on January 25.
Team members: Raymond Ji, MFE 20, Yili Wang, MFE 20, and Weipeng Shao, MFE 20, working with Ying Jin, PhD 24 (statistics), of Stanford University.
The Field: Twenty-three teams from top U.S. universities on the West Coast, including Caltech, Stanford, UCLA, University of Southern California, and the University of Washington, competed for $20,000 in prize money and the chance to move on to the Citadel National Data Championship in April.
The Challenge and Team’s Plan: The team had to decide where to build a bike-sharing station in New York City based on current and future ridership, demographics, proximity of public transportation, and the popularity of ride-sharing alternatives. Using those data points, the team built a regression model that accurately predicted South Brooklyn as the best location for a bike-sharing station.
The Secret Sauce: “Our wide skill set as well as our extensive preparation set us apart from the other teams,” said Raymond Ji, MFE 20. “Our ability to dig well in depth into a topic question while still covering a broad range of aspects and techniques helped us win the competition.”
The Haas Factor: The students said Prof. Martin Lettau’s Empirical Method in Finance course and Prof. Laurent El Ghaoui’s Finance Data Science course provided useful knowledge for the competition.
The first place team in the Future of Mobility Case Competition. Holding check, left-right: Andy Min, Johnny Lin, Rebecca West, and Yifeng Wang.
A team of MBA students working with a Berkeley architecture student placed first in the University of Michigan’s Future of Mobility Case Competition for designing a mobile network that would allow customers to access multiple modes of transportation on demand. The 3rd annual case competition was held in Ann Arbor on Nov. 8 and sponsored by Ford Mobility.
The Team: Johnny Lin, MBA 21, Rebecca West, MBA 21, Andy Min, MBA/MEng 21, and Yifeng Wang, MA (architecture) 21.
The Field: Eight teams were selected from a pool of 24 teams to compete for a $5,000 prize. Finalists included the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, Notre Dame’s Mendoza School of Business, and the University of Texas’s McCombs School of Business. The Challenge: Create a new profitable business venture that focuses on customer experience and innovation within the current transportation ecosystem, which includes cars, buses, e-scooters and bikes.
The Team’s Plan: The Haas team designed a mobile network that customers could use to access different modes of transportation at any time using the FordPass App. By re-purposing the car share program, vehicles would not only serve as short-term rentals, but also as a pick-up and drop-off location for Ford’s SPIN scooters. Trunk space would act as a storage and charging station for scooters. This transportation network would allow Ford to meet customer needs for multiple transit modes.
What set them apart: Drawing from all of their experiences, both professional and educational, the Haas team presented a unique proposal. Lin contributed to the development and structure of the presentation; Wang, with his environmental and service design background, worked on the customer experience; Min, drawing on his Marine Corps experience and MBA courses, identified technical specifications for the project; and West, using her economic development background, identified stakeholders and community growth opportunities.
“Our team stood out because of our diverse perspectives that led us to a very creative solution and presentation,” said Rebecca West, MBA 21. “We approached the initial prompt from four very distinct backgrounds, and through Andy’s leadership, were able to weave them all together. Johnny and Yifeng then drove the development of the presentation forward.”
“I was so impressed by all three of my teammates,” said Johnny Lin, MBA 21. “We each lead from and collectively integrated our different experiences. Our solution focused on the user experience, civic responsibility, engineering, and profitable business, and it was really thanks to every member of the team that we were able to deliver a winning proposal.”
The most memorable experience from the competition: Andy Min, MBA/MEng 21, said the brainstorming session was the most memorable experience. “We all had differing approaches and ideas, but we were able to come up with a solution that melded those thoughts together,” Min said.
MBA team wins first place in National Real Estate Challenge held at the University of Texas at Austin on Nov. 21. From left to right: David Eisenman, Maribel Garcia Ochoa, Jon Lam, Abby Franklin, Lecturer Bill Falik, Matt Tortorello, Andrew Sublett and Eric Valchuis.
Haas took first place in the 17th annual National Real Estate Challenge for the second year in a row, taking home a $10,000 prize. Teams from the nation’s top-ranked business schools competed at the University of Texas at Austin on Nov. 21.
The Team: David Eisenman, MBA 20, Andrew Sublett, MBA 20, Matt Tortorello, MBA 20, Eric Valchuis, MCP 20 (city planning), Maribel Garcia Ochoa, JD 21, and Jon Lam, MBA 21 & MRED+D 20 (real estate development and design).
The Field: Finalists included Haas, Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, and UPenn’s Wharton School.
The Challenge: Playing the role of a real estate investment firm, the Haas team had to decide if it should buy 1,000 mixed-income housing units in Lakewood, a fictional city modeled after New York. The firm would receive a tax abatement from the city if it converted a portion of the units into affordable housing.
The Team’s plan:The team weighed the pros and cons of investing in a housing portfolio that included market-rate and affordable housing units. After careful consideration, the team decided to invest in the Lakewood property.
The Haas Factor: The Haas team received coaching from Professor Nancy Wallace, Lecturer Bill Falik, Abigail Franklin, an investment banking and real estate student advisor, and Haas alumni.“Questioning the status quo and having confidence without attitude set us apart from the pack,” said Eric Valchuis, MCP 20. “We prepared for this challenge for months and delivered a story-centered presentation to the judges.”
The team also benefited from Berkeley’s unique Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Real Estate program, allowing us to take classes at Haas, the College of Environmental Design, and Berkeley Law, Valchuis said. “As a result, we demonstrated a cohesive understanding of the social, political, and financial impacts of our investment that may have been more difficult for other schools to match.”
The Haas team places first in the Duke Energy Case Competition. Third from left: Haas students Alan Southworth, Will Bowman, Rebecca West, and Simon Greenberg. Photo courtesy: Will Bowman.
A plan to transform a Nigerian energy company into a sustainable and profitable virtual utility company landed a full-time MBA team first place in Duke University’s Energy in Emerging Markets Case Competition. The 7th annual case competition was held in North Carolina on Nov. 5.
The Team: Will Bowman, Alan Southworth, Rebecca West, and Simon Greenberg, all MBA 21.
The Field: Nearly 40 MBA teams from Europe and North America competed for a $10,000 prize and the chance to meet recruiters from top U.S. energy companies. Finalists included teams from Haas, Yale SOM, University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, and Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.
The Challenge: Develop a strategy to help a Nigerian energy company find high-skilled workers for their solar energy project and devise a long-term plan to finance the project, all the while transforming the company into a sustainable virtual utility in the country. (A virtual utility is a company that generates electricity in one place and then sells it to someone in another place without owning or controlling the distribution wires.)
The Team’s Plan: The Haas team proposed a three-pronged strategy that included developing an apprenticeship program to find high-skilled laborers, selling health benefits by replacing diesel energy with solar, ultimately reducing pollution, and identifying target customers—Nigerians who lived in residential estate communities or “gated communities.” “Our secret sauce was to think creatively about how to monetize benefits from solar and storage which are often left on the table right now,” said Simon Greenberg, MBA 21. “I think we won by taking those novel ideas and thinking not only about how to apply them in the market now, but also about how the company can use them as engines of growth in the future.”
What set them apart from the pack: “We brought more creative ideas and worked hard to test those ideas with those who are on the ground,” said Will Bowman, MBA 21. “We came up with a vision-driven proposal and provided concrete recommendations to make the Nigerian company a virtual utility.” The team spoke to Nigerian bankers, former officers of the Gates Foundation, freelance Nigerian electricians and other solar companies in Nigeria and Africa to assess if their proposal was plausible and profitable.
Rebecca West, MBA 21, said it was the composition of the Haas team that also set them apart from the rest of the competition. “We had three of us dive deep on each of the three content areas, and then Will drove the overall strategy and managed the project and the process,” West said. “It was very helpful to have someone who looked at the bigger picture, and continually pushed each of us to make improvements on our sections and dive deeper. Additionally, Alan and Simon are incredibly talented and have a deep knowledge of the industry. They could think critically about some complex problems, in such a way that we could come up with a cogent and creative strategy!”
The Haas Factor: A BERC Energy workshop helped shape their ideas. They learned how to monetize benefits of natural resources and renewable energy.
The most memorable experience from the competition: Alan Southworth, MBA 21, recalled his teammate Will Bowman posing a question to the judges about whether they have ever been to Coastal Maine. “Everyone in the room was taken aback; the case was about solar panels in Nigeria,” said Southworth. “Will proceeded to give an impassioned speech about sometimes having to take an indirect route to get to the hardest to reach places. The metaphor landed and I think he even received a standing ovation from one of the members of another school’s team. I can’t say whether that answer was the reason we won, but it was absolutely the moment that generated the most buzz among the crowd for the rest of the evening.”
The Team: Golden Bear Real Estate: Bianca Doerschlag, M.Arch. 19; Matt Tortorello, MBA 20; David Eisenman, MBA 20; Brynn McKiernan, MRED+D 19; Matthew Anderson, EWMBA 19.
The Win: First Place in the NAIOP San Francisco Bay Area (SFBA) Real Estate Challenge, April 30. The friendly real estate competition between Berkeley and Stanford just celebrated its 30th year, with Haas taking home the coveted James W. Brecht Memorial Golden Shovel. The team’s $2,000 prize is donated to the nonprofit Challenge for Charity.
The Challenge: The City of San Jose challenged students to create a plan for an undeveloped 159-acre site located adjacent to Highway 237 and Zanker Road in North San Jose. The two teams spent 10 weeks researching a solution to the challenge and pitched a jury of six executives from the banking, real estate development, property management, and public utilities sectors.
The Pitch: The team proposed “Zanker Yards.” Since San Jose’s demand for office space is low, the team dedicated half of the development—3 million square feet—to industrial space for businesses like food distribution, manufacturing, water technology, (the development is site is located near a water treatment plant) and medical devices. The remaining half would be divided into 2.7 million square feet of office and retail space, a hotel, and 40 acres of open space.
The Clincher: Breaking with the U.S. tradition of sprawling, single-story industrial buildings, the Berkeley team proposed an architecturally innovative, multi-story design that drew inspiration from the world’s densest cities. The development would also accommodate nearly 15,000 employees in the initial phase and have flexible zoning that could eventually double that number.
The Haas Factor: The team credited Haas’ overall strength in real estate. Competition adviser Bill Falik—reprising his role from last year—and the faculty at the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics worked to validate and challenge the team’s assumptions. They also helped connect the team to developers, property managers, prospective tenants and financiers. Leveraging these networks, the team conducted more than 60 interviews to hone their ideas and complete due diligence. In addition, this year’s team received coaching and moral support from last year’s winners, which helped the team stay inspired, refine their process, and benchmark progress.
Kellogg Real Estate Conference and Venture Competition winners: (l-r) Stefan “Steve” Jeitler, LL.M 19; Kyle Raines MBA 21; Esmond Ai, MBA 20; Nithya Rathinam, MBA 21; Hind Katkhuda, MBA 20; and Julia McElhinney, MRED+D 19. Photo: Kellogg School of Management.
The competition, hosted April 10 at Northwestern University at the Kellogg School’s Guthrie Center for Real Estate Research, aims to encourage entrepreneurial real estate ventures.
Nine international semi-finalist teams were asked to create a scalable, profitable real estate business—complete with supporting financials and profit projections—that would transcend traditional real estate and help solve urban and social issues.
The Berkeley team included Esmond Ai, MBA 20, Kyle Raines, MBA 21, and Nithya Rathinam, MBA 21, all students in the Evening and Weekend MBA Program. They were joined by teammates Hind Katkhuda, FT-MBA 20; Julia McElhinney, MRED+D 19, who is earning a master’s degree in real estate development and design from Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design; and Stefan “Steve” Jeitler, LL.M 19, a master of laws candidate at Berkeley School of Law.
Raines said their proposed real estate venture, named Click + Mortar, would provide secure delivery options through package pick-up centers—and help businesses that sell mostly online to benefit from small, short-term brick-and-mortar presences in key urban centers.
“We see the social and economic challenges of empty Bay Area retail spaces every day,” McElhinney said. “So we wanted to create a viable and scalable business that would address this issue locally, drive profits, and offer opportunities to expand to other urban areas facing the same challenges.”
“An incredibly creative solution”
The team spent four months researching the concept, talking to developers, property managers, e-tailers like Sugarfina and Ministry of Supply, and package locker providers. The idea includes signing discounted, long-term master leases in large, vacant retail spaces; adding package lockers to part of the space; and filling the remaining area with small, short-term retail lots.
“Our students found an incredibly creative solution to an intractable problem,” said their faculty adviser, real estate Professor Nancy Wallace, co-chair of the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics. “Their idea is so compelling that they’ve already found real property owners and clients who are willing to sign on if Click + Mortar launches.”
The team members are currently considering how best to bring this business idea to fruition. They have seed capital from the competition’s $25,000 cash prize and an additional $75,000 to apply toward co-working space and legal and accounting professional services. In addition, several investors who attended the event have already requested pitch decks.
Before the competition, Rathinam said she believed that real estate offered a limited range of traditional career paths. “With Click + Mortar, I now have an opportunity to start off on my own and build something that is very unique and that solves an important urban issue all at once,” she said.
This is the latest in a string of Haas real estate wins. This week, another Haas team won the NAIOP San Francisco Bay Area Real Estate Challenge, dubbed the “Golden Shovel” competition, for the second year in a row. In December, a Haas team took the top prize at the University of Texas McCombs’ National Real Estate Case Challenge.
The two teams: (L-R:) Sid Mullick, Cici Saekow, Mark Sheiness, Kylie Sale, William Lynn (from Edison International/Southern California Edison), Bree Soares, Kate Tomlinson, Joyce Yao, Deborah Tan, and Nick Matcheck, all MBA 20.
The Field: Seven teams competed from across the country in the case called, “Pedal to the medal: Southern California’s transportation roadmap timed with the 2028 Olympics.” Haas sent two teams—Team Metromile and Team Vinculara—that went to the finals this year, competing for $5,000 in cash prize money.
The Case: Teams were challenged to answer the following question: With Southern California leading the transformation to electrify the transportation sector, where is the money to be made, and how can I get my company involved? Teams could position themselves anywhere in the electric transportation supply chain—as either a new company or an existing player in the market. The case needed to support the zero-emissions 2018 roadmap and the electrification of California’s transportation sector.
A little background: Los Angeles is hosting the summer 2028 Olympic games. As the city prepares, the LA Cleantech Incubator is partnering with local government and businesses, including Southern California Edison, to speed up the region’s move toward transportation electrification. The partnership’s members have agreed to go beyond California’s goals for emissions and pollution reduction before the games begin by targeting an additional 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gases and air pollution—by accelerating transportation electrification.
The pitch from Team Vinculara (first place): (Nick Matcheck, Bree Soares, Kate Tomlinson, Deb Tan, Joyce Yao) Vinculara proposed a blockchain-based platform that would provide a more efficient and effective allocation of the state-regulated Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) credits to electric vehicle fleet owners. The idea came from team member Kate Tomlinson, a business consultant for Blockchain at Berkeley, who is researching the use of blockchain in the energy industry. The problem they addressed? Electric vehicle owners are compensated for avoiding carbon emissions though the Clean Fuel Reward Program run by utilities, but the current tracking system is costly and inaccurate and does not incentivize enough behavior change. “Blockchain helps to reduce a lot of back-end inefficiencies,” Yao said. Vinculara’s blockchain platform, when used by electric vehicle owners, fleet managers, and regulators, would help reduce the cost and complexity of tracking and verifying credits and in doing so, open up the LCFS market to smaller players who are currently unable to get involved and claim their credits. “I think the market-opening part is the most interesting part of our proposal,” Tomlinson said.
The pitch from Team Metromile (second place): (Sid Mullick, Cici Saekow, Mark Sheiness, and Kylie Sale) The team proposed combining Metromile’s per-mile auto insurance program with a calculated cash advance to accelerate adoption of electric vehicles, while simultaneously transforming the company’s potential to become a preferred provider of auto insurance among electric vehicle owners. Traditional cash incentive programs rely on fuel savings, which take several years to recover. This proposal leverages per-mile calculated auto insurance, with a three-year insurance subscription to deliver immediate electric vehicle savings to potential customers up front, thereby converting on-the-fence customers into EV adopters.
On seeing double at the final: “All the teams worked really hard and we were honored to be chosen as finalists,” Saekow said. “When the judges announced that both first and second teams went to Haas, I felt especially proud to share the stage with my classmates.”
A plan to build an inclusive new small-format Target store in Oakland netted a Haas undergraduate team a first-place tie with the host school at The National Diversity Case Competition (NDCC). The 8th annual event was held at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business Jan. 18-19.
The Team: Team captain Claudia Diaz, BS 19, Kiara Taylor, Alec Li, and Frances James, all BS 20. The team’s advisor was Mary Balingit, assistant director of admissions & outreach for the undergraduate programs, and the undergraduate lead for inclusion & diversity. Faculty coaches were Haas Lecturers Steve Etter and Krystal Thomas, along with Erika Walker, assistant dean of the undergraduate program.
The Field: 168 undergraduates from 42 business schools around the country, competing for a total of $20,000 in prize money.
The Challenge: Choose a neighborhood and develop a strategy for the location, design, and merchandising of a new small-format Target store, as well as address ways to help the community integrate Target into their neighborhood. Target asked the students to consider community engagement, marketing, the supply chain, delivery options, finance & logistics, and diversity & inclusion.
The team’s plan: To build a small-format Target in downtown Oakland, called The Town’s Target, with a locally-owned café to be operated by a local food entrepreneur. The cafe would double as an incubator—a residency program that would allow that local entrepreneur to build clientele and develop an exit strategy to launch a business at the end of two years, at which time a new entrepreneur would take over the café. The café would include a mural painted by an Oakland artist collective, and a community space for local social justice organizations to meet. Electronic lockers in the store would house customer’s hot lunches or purchases and be accessible to people with disabilities and farmer’s market produce would be delivered daily, along with locally sourced products, like coffee, chocolate, and apparel.
What made them winners: Storytelling, originality, and depth of content. Competition judge Zain Kaj, CFO of GE Global Supply Chain at GE Healthcare, said the team’s ideas were “creative and delivered with passion and a genuine sense of inclusion and celebrated what the weekend was all about.”
The competition provided the perfect platform for the team “to showcase how we’re living our culture out loud,” Walker said. “The Defining Leadership Principles were in full effect and I’m so proud of the team for its authentic approach and positive energy. It’s a well deserved win!”
James opened the team’s 15-minute presentation in a unique way—with spoken words.
Oakland The land of culture, the home to change The Brown Berets carried the torch for Chicano freedom Black Liberation ignited The voices of Malcolm X and Angela Davis heard loud and clear—they called for more Oscar Grant killed, a flawed police force at fault Black Lives Matter, they yelled, Black Lives Matter! Tupac preached about changes, America needs change Said forgive but don’t forget, always keep your head up All of these voices came to form the Oakland we know But it has become so much more…
Li designed a stunning visual presentation, with collages representing Oakland’s rich history. “We hit every emotion,” he said. “We made them laugh, and made them cry.” Taylor had great command and presence in the room, Balingit said.
The secret sauce: Diaz’s slow and steady delivery of her personal story of growing up in a low-income community in South Central Los Angeles—a food desert, she said, where your choices were either “McDonalds or Jack in the Box because there were no fresh strawberries or apples.” A Haas senior and a social justice warrior, Diaz served as team captain, and “the person who had to rally everyone together,” Taylor said.
The Haas Factor: Questioning the status quo. When the students read the case they boiled it down to one word: gentrification. Then they focused on Oakland, and how gentrification has impacted the city. That led them on a tour of Oakland with Balingit, where they drove past shuttered mom and pop stores and discussed the homeless problem and how lower income people were priced out. They decided that every aspect of their case must prioritize inclusion and the needs of the community. The approach was very “Berkeley,” Balingit said, referring to the focus on social justice.
Most memorable experience from the competition: A standing ovation from the crowd. “We could not get out of that building when we were done,” Taylor said. “We were literally held back.” At that moment, James said, “we knew we had made an impact.”
The students got to bring their whole authentic selves to the competition, Balingit said. “They brought such a fresh, innovative and risky approach but still won the hearts of everyone there,” she said. And another fun outcome: they all finish each other’s sentences now—and might just be friends for life.
A team of Berkeley MBA students took first place at the 16th annualNational Real Estate Case Challenge for their creative investment strategy surrounding a new commercial property.
The prestigious finance-based competition, hosted by the University of Texas McCombs School of Business last month, charged 20 teams from the top MBA programs with analyzing a real estate investment case and presenting a recommendation before a panel of industry leaders.
For three of the six Haas team members—Matthew Hines, MBA 19; Robert Kelly, MBA 20; and Mark Trainer, Master of City Planning (MCP) 19—the win comes just months after participating on a team of students that took back the Golden Shovel real estate award from Stanford. The other National Real Estate Case Challenge team members—Claire Collery, MBA 19, Joe Dembesky, MBA 19, and Mike Wiedman, MBA 20— participated in their first competition. The team took home $10,000 in Haas’ first win since 2009.
Case sponsor Invesco asked teams of six to figure out the best way to use money generated from a new commercial real estate construction project. The options given were to keep the building in the portfolio with no change to existing financing; keep the building in the portfolio but refinance the loan on it; sell the building and return the profits to investors; or sell the building and invest the profits in building a new property.
Questioning the status quo, the Haas team came up with a different option.
“We questioned why there were only four options given, and we began to suspect there was a hidden fifth option,” Hines said. The team proposed refinancing the existing building and combining the savings with additional money in the private equity fund to invest in building a new property.
The Berkeley Haas team spent nearly three months preparing for the competition during an independent study course taught by LecturerBill Falik, a managing partner with Westpark Community Builders, andAbigail Franklin, an investment banking and real estate student adviser. Students in the class practiced solving sample cases each week and presented to guest judges, including former competition participants and local finance and real estate professionals. The format helped build competence, cohesion and confidence, Dembesky said.
Judges said they were impressed with Berkeley’s presentation, which called for role playing, creativity and financial acumen.
“I was playing the role of the fund manager, and Matthew [Hines] burst onto the scene from the development team and pushed for funding the second building,” Collery said. One of the judges told the team that the performance felt like being in a real investment committee meeting, Dembesky said.
For the challenge, 34 competing teams from around the world pitched a go-to-market strategy that PowerGen Renewable Energy could use to decide where to expand its business. The competition required a team of three to five graduate students to compare the electrical infrastructure, regulatory environment, and competitive landscapes in Benin and neighboring Nigeria and recommend a strategy for one of those nations based on their findings.
The UC Berkeley team included Isa Ferrall, a PhD student in the Energy & Resources Group; Felix Schadeck, MBA 20; Hao Shen, MBA 19; Chandler Sherman, MBA 20; and Joe Swartley, MBA 19.
The team credits its win to assembling a diverse group. Understanding that primary research and real-world data on energy access in West Africa would be a challenge, Shen and Swartley selected a team of people with complementary backgrounds and broad networks.
“Our final presentation stood out because we did so many interviews with people working in the space, and we were able to test and evolve our strategy instead of sticking something speculative against a wall and hoping the judges would go for it,” Shen said.
In total, the team tapped more than 30 experts from their professional and UC Berkeley network—including contacts at Tesla, Facebook, Google, nonprofits, regulatory agencies, professors, and others.
Each team member also offered unique expertise.
Shen previously worked as a consultant at Deloitte’s power and utilities division and spent his MBA summer internship working in energy access in Uganda, while former impact investing consultant Schadeck had worked in energy and education in emerging markets in sub-Saharan Africa. Sherman brought regulatory knowledge from several positions at Tesla and SolarCity. Swartley, a former Bloom Energy senior marketing associate and d.light design intern, spent several years looking at financial models for renewable energy and examining customer willingness to buy electricity for the first time.
Ferrall, an engineer who has worked in renewable energy in Kenya and Tanzania, said it was fascinating to work with team members who understood how to finance solar projects and assess market potential.
“Their valuable feedback guided all of our recommendations,” Ferrall said.
“For me, this felt like a five-week master class in energy access for emerging markets,” Sherman adds. The team had to consider a very granular degree of detail during the competition: how material would be sourced; how solar equipment would be ferried to the ports; how workers would be hired; and what currency would be used, she said.
The team, after conducting its analysis, recommended Nigeria, concluding that an established regulatory environment and access to capital would have the most significant impact on PowerGen’s success in West Africa.
A panel from Cypress Creek Renewables, Duke Energy, Duke University, The Fuqua School of Business, NextEra Energy, PowerGen Renewable Energy, Plotwatt, Schneider Electric and Southern California Edison judged the UC Berkeley team the winner in the final round of four presentations. The team received $10,000.
A team of Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) students took first place in “The Data Open” this month, besting 25 teams who competed across UC Berkeley in the regional data science competition.
The winning team—Li Cao, Pierre Foret, Teddy Legros, and Hosang Yoon, all MFE 19—won $20,000 in the competition semi-final, sponsored by Citadel LLC, a global asset management firm, and operated by data scientist recruiting firm Correlation One.
The Berkeley Haas semi-finalists will travel to the New York Stock Exchange later this fall to compete against top universities for a $100,000 grand prize.
The Sept. 8 competition asked teams to solve a complex problem by analyzing complex data sets.
More than 400 students across UC Berkeley applied to participate, and 100 were accepted. Event organizers grouped the contestants into teams, many of whom—including the winners—had not worked together before.
Choosing a question
The night before the event, the teams were given a description of data sets—data that applied to everything from 311 calls in New York state to restaurant inspection data. The teams were challenged choosing a question and finding the answer in the data.
“Most data science competitions focus on achieving the best possible score for a predefined metric,” Foret said. “In contrast, we had to come up with our own question, which is a lot closer to the type of problems a data scientist has to tackle in the industry.”
The team outlined two goals: identifying the top factors that influence public health in New York state and providing local government officials with policy recommendations based on their analysis.
Working through the night, they prepared code that allowed them to test their hypotheses quickly, so they were able to spend most of the competition time running experiments, analyzing the data, and choosing the most relevant problem to solve.
Legros said their data analysis tracked factors that affect residents’ health, including both traditional socioeconomic ones and several lifestyle considerations—such as smoking habits, eating habits and living conditions—that evolve over time. “Next, we identified clusters of regions where some of these determining lifestyle factors are more dominant. This can help policymakers develop regional proposals to improve the health of residents.”
“It was one of the most intense 24 hours I have spent,” Yoon said. “While the competition itself was short, I really learned a lot from our preparation.”
The judges, announcing the winner, said they impressed by the originality of the team’s question and the strategy to focus on comprehensive view of the factors involved.
The case competition, which was open to all UC Berkeley undergrads, grew out of EGAL’s alliance with customer service software company Zendesk, which recently provided a $1 million gift to the center.
The students were charged with helping Zendesk solve problems with its existing pilot mentorship program, including an imbalance of mentors and mentees, a program that was too short, and inadequate engagement. They were also asked to design the mentorship program to operate on a global scale.
Team Azend’s secret sauce may have been a standout app they developed for the company’s mentoring program. The app, developed around a curriculum and targeted content, allowed both mentors and mentees log in to a home page, check events, connect with each other outside of mentoring sessions, watch videos, and collect data to assess progress. During each quarter, the women participating in the Azend mentoring program would focus on one area, such as “growth and development,” and follow a self-assessment, working toward a goal that included sessions on developing self-confidence through skills such as public speaking.
The project was a true team effort that required many hours of intense work during the week they had to work on the case, said Metz, who is from Romania and transferred to Haas from Diablo Valley College. “Last night Alec, Beta, and Adriana were up until 3 am polishing the slides and making sure the app was working,” she said. “This week was hard. I had interviews (for internships), exams, and working on the case. But everyone did a great job.”
Li, who developed the app using prototyping software he’d used before in class, said everyone on the team had different strengths that made their project come to life.”
Nyquist agreed. “We all brought something to the table,” she said. “I brought the idea for the app and Alec was the brainpower behind putting it together.”
Kate McMahon, a senior director of sales and one of three Zendesk employees judging the case, praised the winning team’s work, noting that it was clear how serious they were about the challenge. “What we loved was the simplicity and how you pulled the challenges into one place,” she said. “We loved the engagement piece. That was a challenge. How do we keep people engaged when they’re not in one-on-one sessions?”
After the winner was announced, the Azend team cheered and hugged.
Vanegas, a transfer student from Irvine Valley College, said she never expected to win. “As transfer students we really didn’t think that we’d be able to live up to the other continuing students so we didn’t believe we’d be here,” she said, adding, “I think one of the best experiences was being up all night and working together and making mistakes.”
A team of investors from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business bested 22 teams from 15 global schools with its top portfolio returns to win the Performance Prize in the Global Network Investment Competition.
The six-month competition, sponsored by the Yale School of Management’s International Center for Finance, began last November. Each team that competed was required to invest in five stocks.
The Berkeley Haas team, called CALiforniaflation, took first place last month with a nearly 30 percent net return on its portfolio. Judges measured the teams’ stock performances over six months, weighing their performance against that of the S&P 500.
Key to the team’s success was an investment in MuleSoft. Company shares rocketed after Salesforce announced an acquisition of MuleSoft in March, said Haas team member Jake Wamala, MBA 19.
“That locked in a great return for us,” he said. “In investing you have to get a little bit lucky. We had some opportunities in a variety of industries and the acquisition helped us a lot.”
Team CALiforniaflation also invested in NRG Energy, Jounce Therapeutics, KAR Auction Services and Smart & Final.
The team, which spent hours during the competition on Bloomberg’s website tracking their stocks in real time, included Daniel J. Clayton, Melissa Hulme, Stephen Keim, and Tejbir Bakshi, all MBA 19s. Their advisor was Ted Janus, MBA 94, and a principal at J Capital.
Bhinneka Investment Group from Universitas Indonesia won the $1,500 second-place prize with a return of 21.6 percent.
Competition has a “performance aspect”
The Global Network Investment Competition is comprised of two parts: The Performance Prize and The Security Analysis Prize, won by Incatraz for its work analyzing the stock offering of Cemex Latam Holdings, a firm investing in cement products.
Wamala, who will serve as a co-lead and principal of the Haas Socially Responsible Investment Fund (HSRIF) at Berkeley Haas in the fall, said the stock pitch competitions are helpful for students who are interested in careers in market investing. “Most competitions don’t have a performance aspect—you’re judged on a narrative—but this one included actual performance, which was cool,” he said.
Hulme agreed, noting that the competition was unique because the team’s performance was measured over six months.
“Given the shorter time period, we chose companies that we believed would be near-term catalysts over our investment horizon,” she said.