A Berkeley Haas MBA student team took first place at the 2022 Net Impact Case Competition for crafting innovative ways that a leading outdoor retail company could invest $50 million to make a sustainable impact.
The March 5 competition, hosted by University of Colorado Leeds School of Business, virtually brought together 50 MBA teams from U.S. business schools, including Daniels College of Business (University of Denver), Robert H. Smith School of Business (University of Maryland), and Darden School of Business (University of Virginia).
The winning team, Too Haas to Handle, won $10,000 in prize money. Team members included Tomoe Wang, Adriana Rueda, Liz Kanovsky, and Tomas Stegmann, all MBA 23.
This year, teams were asked to consult a leading outdoor retail company on how to allocate $50 million to address three priorities for the company: narrowing the racial wealth gap, reducing climate emissions, and strengthening democratic institutions.
The Haas team proposed creating a sustainable impact fund that would support initiatives including offering down payment loans to 7,000 employees to narrow the existing racial wealth gap; distributing grants to nonprofits focused on redistributing political and economic power; and providing loans to all stakeholders–from employees to suppliers–who initiated projects that raised sustainability standards and reduced climate emissions. Those projects included installing solar panels at the company’s warehouses.
“What set us apart from other teams was the diversity of our team,” Stegmann said. “Each of us came from different backgrounds, grew up in different countries, and experienced different cultures. However, despite being so different, we complemented each other very well and we were able to leverage each other’s strengths to get the most out of the team.”
The students, presenters for the 30-member Haas-sponsored imagiCal club, will compete against eight other teams in the finals June 3-4 in Nashville, Tenn. They will pitch a marketing campaign to promote the Meta Quest 2, a headset by virtual reality systems maker Meta Quest.
The presenters include Jasmine Zheng, BS 24 (business), BA 24 (art practice); Claire Shao, BS 24 (business) BA 24 (media studies); Sydney Fessenden, BA 25 (global studies); and Anika Srivastava, BS 24 (business) BA (psychology). ImagiCal is UC Berkeley’s official American Advertising Federation chapter.
This year’s team heads to the finals for the first time since 2016. According to Continuing Lecturer Judy Hopelain, imagiCal’s faculty adviser since 2013, “the team recommendations were based on a solid strategy, keen user insights, and creativity. The Meta Quest clients said their beautiful design and clever execution were key to the team’s success in this year’s competition.”
The students competed against teams from over 200 universities at the district and regional levels to make it to the finals. In Nashville, they’ll pitch to a panel of judges including brand and marketing leaders from Meta, and advertising, marketing, and communications professionals.
Asked what sets the team apart, Zheng said it was about putting together a group of “the most eccentric, worldly, empathetic, creative individuals in a room together” and asking them to create a marketing campaign.”
“We’re telling a story,” she said. “We’re connecting with our audience. And we’re seeking to expand the capacity to be empathetic and creative at every step of the journey.”
This year’s competition will be the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic that teams will be presenting in front of a live audience, rather than a computer screen on Zoom. While nerves are understandably high, imagiCal’s philosophy is to “go big or go home,” Zheng said.
MBA teams competed for top prizes at the 5th annual Investing in Inclusion Pitch Competition last Friday, pitching ideas to address issues of exclusion, marginalization, and belonging at the workplace and beyond.
The Berkeley Haas team, Firstly, pitched a virtual mentorship program that aims to help first-generation college students with on-campus recruitment and internship placement. The team tied for second place and won $5,000 in prize money.
Team members included Kevin Hu, Divya Vijapurapu, Elle Wisnicki, all MBA 22; Austin Long, MBA 23; Stacey Li, BA 15, and Leanne Do, BA 19 (both from UC Irvine).
Other winning teams included:
First place: Innerlytic Innerlytic offers an online assessment tool that helps people detect their inner-biases. The team included Jordan Rose, MBA 22, (Yale School of Management) and Vernae Rahman-Smith, MSW 20, (Howard University). The team won $8,000.
Second place: Firstly and Paraventures Paraventures provides outdoor excursions for people with disabilities. Team members included Yosuke Ochiai, Cassandra Christian, and Vincenzo Morla, all MBA 22, from IE Business School in Madrid, Spain. Firstly and Paraventures each won $5,000 in prize money.
Third place: Nema Nema is an AI and natural language processing (NLP) tool that aims to help businesses better understand and reach multicultural audiences. Team members included Mbere Monjok, Keyaira Lock Adewunmi, Braylong Gurnell, Carmen Del Valle, all MBA 23, from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. The team won $2,000 in prize money.
The competition truly embodies the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles, said Genevieve Smith, associate director of EGAL. “Our hope is that this competition will help move the needle forward in creating a more equitable society for all,” she said.
“Competitions like these are changing the way people are valued at work and how they show up at work,” said Ulili Onovakpuri, who served as one of the judges and is a partner at venture capital firm Kapor Capital. “Companies are beginning to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion issues and are changing organizational structures.”
Members of the winning team that competed at University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School on April 8-9 included Berkeley Haas student David Wang, BS 22, (Business & Chemical Engineering); Victor Li, BS 22, (Electrical Engineering & Computer Science), Carol Xie, BA 22, (Computer Science & Statistics); Allen Wang, BA 23, (Economics & Data Science); and Blair Wu, BA 24, (Economics & Biology).
A team of Berkeley Haas evening & weekend MBA students took third place, including Andrew Celin, John Eastman, Shenshen Hu, Terrence Tse, and Georgia Wright-Simmons, all EWMBA 22.
“I’m blown away by these wins,” said Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP). Shrader, who accompanied the students, said she was pleased that VCIC returned as an in-person event this year.
More than 120 university and graduate school teams compete at VCIC. The competition has a two-fold mission: to make students VCs for the day and allow startups to jumpstart their fundraising. Since the competition’s inception in 1998, more than 800 founders have received 1,500 practice term sheets from student investment teams.
At the finals, the Berkeley undergraduates performed due diligence on three startups. After writing up term sheets, the team recommended a $5.25 million investment in agriculture technology startup Atira. Atira is developing an indoor system that promises to grow vegetables 40 percent faster without energy waste or pesticides.
“The business has a lot of potential,” said Wu, who took a gap semester off to work at a venture capital firm last year and met her teammates through Berkeley’s Association of Chinese Entrepreneurs (ACE). “They’d already acquired patents and had a strong team. Their product was solid and there’s strong market demand.”
David Wang, BS 22, said he believes that two key factors helped with the win: team dynamics and mentorship. “We purposely looked for folks with diverse functional and industry experience ranging from energy consulting to healthcare investment banking to tech entrepreneurship,” he said.
“We purposely looked for folks with diverse functional and industry experience ranging from energy consulting to healthcare investment banking to tech entrepreneurship.” —David Wang.
Wang also credited Haas MBA alumnus Elan Tye, a principal at JAZZ Venture Partners, and Matt Kirmayer, a partner at law firm Perkins Coie, for spending “countless hours preparing us for the competition…We could not have done it without them,” he said.
Shrader said the team “crushed” its partner meeting round, nailing both the startup valuation and the Q&A session.
“Everybody had a role and everybody spoke at the finals and you could see that their emphasis was on team work,” she said.”This team definitely had confidence without attitude.”
A team of Berkeley Haas MBA students won the 2022 University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School Real Estate Development Challenge for a plan to transform part of an historic Washington D.C. neighborhood.
“It’s great to bring this home for Haas and for Berkeley,” said Timothy Werby, MBA/JD 22, whose teammates included Vicky Li, Alijah Talley, and Santiago Recabarren, all MBA 23. Haas last won the competition in 2011.
The UNC Real Estate Development Challenge,hosted annually by the Leonard W. Wood Center for Real Estate Studies at Kenan-Flagler, convened 12 teams from the country’s top MBA programs on February 18.
This year, the teams had to plan, design, model financials, and create an investor presentation for development of a 9.25-acre site in Washington D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood, south of the U.S. Capitol Building. To be successful, plans had to incorporate “the highest level of sustainability, embrace the surrounding neighborhoods, and deliver attractive risk-adjusted returns to investors.”
Focused on the community
Split across four presentation rooms, each team presented to a group of local real estate experts in 20-minute rounds, followed by five minutes of questions from the judges. Four finalists were then selected to present again in front of all of the judges, UNC students, and other competitors.
The Haas team’s presentation was designed thematically around the Nacotchtank, or Anacostans, an Algonquian-speaking, indigenous people who lived along the southeast side of the Anacostia River. Their design included a circular plaza to host pop-up farmer’s markets, an outdoor event space to be called the Frederick Douglass Pavilion, a new neighborhood grocery store, renovated school space, and a jazz stage that could be used for outdoor block parties and community events.
The team also pushed to include new multi-family housing and additional community spaces in future phases, including 43% more affordable housing units than was required.
“We all had our superpower”
Recabarren said the team excelled in part because it covered the project’s central issues comprehensively.
“We decided to pay more attention to the conceptual aspects of the project, which we defined as the four core values of our development: honoring local culture, health and wellness, sustainability, equity and inclusion,” he said.
The team had just four days to develop the whole project. “We were very fortunate to have Tim, who had a lot of experience in these competitions,” Recabarren said. “He convinced us on where and how we should use our resources.”
Talley said the team’s power was in its diversity, which enabled team members to tap into each of their strengths.
“Each of my teammates have different professional backgrounds, varied levels of real estate experience, and different lived experiences,” he said. “I think that we all had our own superpower and something tangible to bring to the table.”
Finally, Li said that the team was highly motivated to “do what it takes to take home the grand prize.
Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management took second place while Rice University’s Business School and Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business tied for third place.
The cross-school Team 13 won $100,000 for a data-led project that addressed how international trade impacts global plastic pollution. The group included Silantyev, MFE 22; David Buch and Jennifer Kampe, PhD students from Duke University; and undergraduate Julian LaNeve of Southern Methodist University (SMU).
The team presented their project at the end of the week-long global Data Open Championship sponsored by Citadel LLC and Citadel Securities in partnership with Correlation One last December.
At the start of the competition, the team was given a dataset on international trade and asked to assess the impact that trade has on global plastic pollution. They were tasked with coming up with a hypothesis based on the data set.
The team’s winning question: “Should the world ban the global waste trade, and should the U.S. sign on to the Basel Convention, an international treaty designed to reduce the amount of waste shipped between countries?” Their work recommended an introduction of trade restrictions based on specialization in different types of plastic waste treatment to counter the global pollution crisis.
Silantyev said the team benefited from having complementary skills.
“David and Jennifer were the masterminds behind the statistical model we used,” he said. While LaNeve served as the data engineer “capable of testing any hypothesis about the data in minutes.” Silantyev provided case studies to support the team’s narrative.
To work on the project in person with all four team members, Silantyev and LaNeve flew to Durham, NC, renting an Airbnb and working 12-hour days. “While working together online has its benefits, nothing beats working together in person,” Silantyev said. “We could easily bounce ideas off each other.”
The global championship was the culmination of the year-long competition, where over 6,000 students from more than a dozen countries participated in nine regional events. Team 13 was invited to the championship after placing in the top 3 in the Europe Regional Datathon and the East Coast Datathon.
KwikKart, a smart cart that allows customers to scan and purchase items from a smartphone while shopping, took first place; The Blue Box, an at-home urine test that can detect breast cancer, placed second; and PWR WMN, a women’s blazer company, nabbed third. Cleo, a THC and CBD gummy startup, won Audience Choice.
Eight out of the 14 teams that completed the three month accelerator program made it to the finals, where they pitched to VCs and angel investors. LAUNCH, now its 7th year as an accelerator, aims to transform early-stage startups into fundable companies.
Rhonda Shrader, executive director of BHEP, which oversees LAUNCH, said this fall’s cohort was exceptionally diverse, with eight underrepresented founders and 11 women founders. “Every year our cohorts get more diverse and reflect more diverse thinking around solving the world’s biggest challenges,” she said.
KwikKart, co-founded by Aaron Gyure, BS 20, and Sean Houlihan, BS 20 (electrical engineering and computer science), netted $25,000 in prize money; PWR WMN, led by two Texas A&M University grads and Ana Martinez, EWMBA 23, won $10,000; and Cleo, co-founded by Haas students Andrea Berrios and Spencer Perron, both MBA 22, landed $5,000 in prize money. The Blue Box, led by UC Irvine grad Judit Giro, won $15,000.
Each year, more than 200 startup teams, which must include one UC-affiliated member, apply for a coveted spot in the accelerator. During the program, teams get to test their products with customers, connect with industry experts, receive guidance from Haas mentors, and get the chance to pitch to investors on Demo Day.
LAUNCH has helped build more than 150 companies, including Haas’ first unicorn, Xendit, co-founded by Moses Lo, MBA 15. Lo, who joined Demo Day for a Q&A, spoke about his entrepreneurial successes and challenges.
LAUNCH Demo Day is now available to stream via YouTube.
Converting an office building into a life science center to lease to medical and biotech companies landed a team of Berkeley Haas MBA students a first place win at the 2021 UT Austin Real Estate Competition.
The competition was held Thursday, Nov. 18 and hosted by the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business.
Team members include Carson Goldman, Andrew Johnson, Ian MacLean, Alex Dragten, all MBA 22, Fukang Peng, and Travis Kauzer, both EWMBA 22.
Haas bested 19 other teams from top U.S. business schools including Columbia, Yale, Wharton, NYU Stern, and University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and won $10,000 in prize money. This is Haas’ third first place win at this competition in the last four years.
MBA teams were tasked with creating a business plan for a building with a single tenant whose lease was about to expire. They had to consider maximizing risk-adjusted returns and demonstrate an understanding of macroeconomic trends, including the effects of inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Haas MBA team decided to convert the building into a life science center to attract multiple tenants and maximize high returns.
Team lead Carson Goldman credited the team’s win to practicing case presentations every week this semester and to work they did with their faculty advisors.
“Our coaches Bill Falik and Abby Franklin provided constant feedback and guidance and were wholly committed to this competition,” Goldman said. “Our alumni were just as important as they had volunteered weekly to judge our practice cases and offer constructive criticism,” he added.
“It’s very gratifying to see our students progress over the semester and to win first place,” said Haas Lecturer Bill Falik. “We’ve had victories, but to win first place in three out of the four years at this national competition–this has never been done before.”
Three Berkeley Haas startups netted top honors at LAUNCH Demo Day, UC’s accelerator and competition for early-stage startups. The event was held online May 2.
MINWO, an online hub connecting Black entrepreneurs with angel investors and resources tied for third place; Clever.FM, a podcast app that allows users to discover and listen to podcasts and make in-app purchases, won Best Pitch; and EdVisorly, a program that helps community college students transfer to four-year universities, won Audience Choice.
MINWO and EdVisorly netted $5,000 each and Clever.FM landed $2,500 in prize money.
MINWO was founded by Melanie Akwule, EWMBA 19, EdVisorly was co-founded by Manny Smith, MBA 21, and Alyson Isaacs, BS 21, and Clever.FM was founded by Sean Li, EWMBA 20.
Myntor, a test prep software that provides tutoring help and answers using conversational artificial intelligence, placed first and self-biodegradable plastic startup, Intropic Materials, took second, netting a total of $50,000. The winning team included Founder and CEO Nathan Poon, PhD 21 (mechanical engineering), and Product Director Michael Fogarasi, MBA 22.
“Working with Nate and Myntor has been an absolute highlight of my MBA experience,” said Fogarasi. “I came to Haas specifically to help build the next generation of educational technology products and I am so excited that these plans are becoming a reality.”
Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP) said this spring’s LAUNCH cohort was the most diverse since the accelerator’s inception, with eight of 10 UCs represented and 13 founders from underrepresented communities, five of whom identify as Black. The cohort also included seven women founders and two startups led by military veterans.
“All 21 teams that finished the program learned the necessary skills to take their ventures forward and will be supported by the strong bonds they formed with each other over the past three months,” Shrader said.
Ten UC teams pitched to VCs and angel investors on Demo Day, out of a crop of 21 teams that finished the three-month-long accelerator program that aims to transform promising startups into fundable companies.
Startup teams that participate in LAUNCH go through a rigorous curriculum designed to help entrepreneurs refine and test their business model. During the program, teams get to test their product with customers, connect with industry experts, receive guidance from Haas mentors, and pitch to investors on Demo Day.
LAUNCH, which is part of BHEP, has proven to be a boon for early-stage startups in the UC system. More than 150 LAUNCH alumni companies have raised over $200 million in funding.
The competition featured talks from Ryan McDonough, co-founder of Accompany, software that collects and develops profiles about C-suite executives, and Haas alums Richard Din, co-founder of food delivery service Caviar, and Brad Bao, founder of e-bike and scooter rental company, Lime. All three spoke about their entrepreneurial successes and challenges.
Software that can help electricity operators monitor and maintain microgrids located in remote rural communities netted a first place win and $50,000 in funding at the second annual Invest for Impact Competition. The event was held virtually April 23.
The winning student team–Jack Kerby-Miller, Simon Greenberg, both MBA 21, Rachel Stinebaugh, and Michael Calderón, both MBA 22–secured equity investment for early-stage startup 60Hertz.
“I am absolutely thrilled we were able to fund a women-founded startup that is working to support remote communities, many of which are indigenous communities in Alaska,” Calderón said. “I also feel deeply honored to have worked with my teammates who all brought their expertise and experience to deliver a winning pitch.”
Rachel Stinebaugh, MBA 22, who previously worked with microgrid startups in Burundi before coming to Haas, said 60Hertz was a great fit for the Haas Impact Fund and “well-positioned to address rural electrification in Alaska and other remote locations.”
Five student teams consisting of a total of 20 first-and-second-year MBA students pitched ideas ranging from an online childcare marketplace to a fintech app that would help unbanked communities gain access to credit to a bluetooth-enabled sensor to better track packages.
The competition is the culmination of a course called the Haas Impact Fund in which Haas student venture partners find existing social impact startups and help pitch their innovations to secure equity investment. Many of the startups that are selected for the Haas Impact Fund are in housing development, health, renewable energy, sustainable services and supply chain, and financial access industries.
“I’m incredibly proud of all the students who presented,” said Julia Sze who co-led the course with Bulbul Gupta, both of whom are professional faculty members at Haas. “This course provides a real and exciting opportunity for our students to learn how to invest in early-stage companies that are ready to have a big impact on the world.”
Competition attendees also heard from keynote speaker and UC Berkeley alum Kesha Cash, general partner of Impact America Fund, who gave a talk about the importance of investing in social impact companies to create positive, long-lasting change.
Students interested in signing up for the three-hour challenge will receive an introduction to the history, theory, and practice of corporate social responsibility in tech, network with professionals in the field, and design a CSR program for one of the tech companies participating in the challenge.
Challenge organizers include Joseph Zhang, Shotaro Ishizuka, Nicole Austin-Thomas, all MBA 21; Neha Dutta, Melody Liao, Stu Fram, all MBA 22; Scott Blons, EWMBA 23; and Adam Rosenzweig, EMBA 19, a Haas lecturer teaching Introduction to the Case Method and Red Teaming in both the EMBA and Full-time MBA programs.
The challenge came about after club leaders from the Tech and Net Impact clubs–Michelle Poon, Priscilla Luu, and Joseph Zhang, all MBA 21–met with Adam Rosenzweig who spoke about his social impact work at Okta during a Haas career night.
After meeting for several weeks, the group decided to organize a social impact challenge that would focus on the intersection of tech and corporate social responsibility–two of Haas’ strengths.
“Every company is becoming a tech company,” said Rosenzweig. “And Haas students go on to lead companies that aspire to make the world a better place.”
Participants will explore the relationship between businesses and their communities and the ways in which business leaders can create positive social impact that’s aligned with their company’s core strategy.
Joseph Zhang said he hopes students will learn that CSR is a vital and growing career field and that it must be “ingrained within the DNA of an organization if the organization truly wants to be successful.”
Zhang, who previously worked for educational nonprofit iMentor, said the most meaningful corporate partners he worked with weren’t just “check-writers or one-time volunteers, but the companies that pulled resources from across the organization to impact their communities.”
Rosenzweig, a senior manager for product impact at Okta, will facilitate the event and serve as a guest judge. Other judges for the challenge include Cory Boatwright, EMBA 21, head of military and veteran programs at LinkedIn; Lisa Boyd, director of social impact at Lyft; Christina Louie Dyer, head of social impact at Lob; Nora Silver and Cristy Johnston Límon from the Center for Social Sector Leadership at Haas.
If the challenge is a success, Rosenzweig said he hopes it will demonstrate demand to pilot a credit-bearing elective course, adding to the broad list of course offerings dedicated to social impact and sustainability.
About 30 students have registered for the event, which is nearly at capacity, but current students can still register for the Social Impact in Tech Design Challenge here.
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.