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 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.
A University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business team has taken the Golden Shovel trophy back from Stanford Graduate School of Business with an innovative plan for Bay Area Rapid Transit’s (BART’s) Warm Springs/South Fremont station property.
The Golden Shovel is a semester-long real estate competition between students at Berkeley Haas and Stanford GSB, sponsored by the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP). During the competition, each team is assigned the same project and must propose the best use, design, financing, and marketing of a commercial real estate project.
For the 2018 challenge, the teams were tasked with drafting a plan to convert BART’s 2,000-space parking lot into 1.8 million square feet of mixed-use development while working within Fremont’s zoning rules and BART’s development guidelines. Teams made their final presentations on April 25.
The Haas team included Breck Baird, EWMBA 18, Robert Kelly, EWMBA 20; Matthew Hines, MBA 19; Peter Fritz, EWMBA 19; and Mark Trainer, Master of City Planning (MCP) 19.
Top honors in the friendly competition have gone back and forth since its inception 29 years ago, but Haas has now won 16 times compared to Stanford’s 13 victories. The $2,000 prize goes to charity, but the winner gets bragging rights, always a good thing when Cal meets Stanford, said Fritz, vice president of the Berkeley Real Estate Club.
The winning solution included office development, a parking structure, and facilities for companies conducting research and development, particularly in life sciences and autonomous vehicles. In the center of the development, the team envisioned a community hub that could include space for community and educational services. “We focused on serving the community and attracting startups and entrepreneurs through catalysts, such as a medical device incubator,” Fritz said.
Cliff Nguyen, Fremont’s urban initiatives manager, praised the Haas team’s proposal in a blog post, writing that “Cal’s unique vision for the site and creative financing approach prevailed.”
Finding a way to pay for a parking structure estimated to cost $70 million was one of the project’s tougher challenges. The team’s solution involved the use of two state programs that would allow the city to issue bonds and pay for them with the tax revenue generated by the project, said team member Robert Kelly, EWMBA 20. “The main key is that the financing is entirely generated by the project, and does not require the city or BART to take from their general funds,” he said.
Identifying the market opportunity for development within the site was another difficult problem. The team spoke with more than 60 people, including real estate developers and brokers who specialize in the area, land use attorneys, and community college representatives, said Hines, president of the Berkeley Real Estate Club.
“Having a deep understanding of the market, and going the extra mile to obtain signed letters of interest (from potential catalyst tenants) were keys,” he said.
Development of a valuable chunk of real estate in the heart of a city is serious business, but the team managed to be a bit lighthearted with the tagline for its proposal: “Make Warm Springs hot again!”
Judges at the 2018 UC Berkeley LAUNCH competition last Thursday awarded top honors to a team led by a College of Engineering student with a big data startup.
This year marked the 20th anniversary of LAUNCH, UC Berkeley’s startup accelerator created by and for UC Berkeley founders.
Every year, startups complete three months of mentoring and product development designed to transform early stage startups into fundable companies. The program culminates with a pitch competition.
Judges winnowed this year’s crop of 23 startups to 10 finalists. Their founders had just five minutes each to make a pitch touting their business plans, as the nearly 400 people who filled Andersen Auditorium watched, ate pizza, and cheered on their favorites.
This year’s finalists represented a wide swath of the business world, from farming to medicine and emerging technologies like machine learning. “The best part for me was seeing our founders crush their presentations,” said Christian Keil, MBA 19, the co-chair of LAUNCH. “They’ve come so far in the three months of our program—so many pivots made, interviews completed, storms weathered. To see them shine in front of investors and the general public was amazing” Companies that have completed the intensive LAUNCH program over the last three years have raised more than $36 million in venture funding, Keil said.
LAUNCH teams from Haas and beyond
Haas-founded finalist teams included, Chema González-Garilleti, MBA 19, who leads Collaboratorium, an enterprise decision-making Software-as-a-Service product; Shom Gupta, MBA 19, of NearFarms, which is creating a marketplace linking consumers and local farmers; and Jessica Eting and Pedro Moura, EWMBA 18, who lead Flourish, a personal finance tool that uses games and rewards to help people establish savings habits and achieve financial security.
Data Agora, winner of this year’s $25,000 grand prize, is building a secure, online marketplace for buyers and sellers of big data.
“Acquiring high-quality data is very difficult,” says founder and CEO Ashwinee Panda, a sophomore in the College of Engineering. Unlike data brokers, the usual avenue for the commercial exchange of data, Data Agora’s systems never see the data. Instead the company uses machine learning to facilitate the transaction and avoid the risk of data breaches and the loss of privacy, Panda says.
The $10,000 second-place prize went to Jobwell, a tool that helps organize job searches and provides virtual coaching for users. The company was founded by former LegalZoom employees; May Lu, a Wharton MBA, and Daniel Kent, now a graduate student at UC Berkeley’s School of Information.
Third-place winner of $1,000 was Medinas Health, founded as a market for surplus medical supplies by CEO Chloe Alpert. Medinas Health handles items as small as a box of sutures, worth about $300, or as large as a C-Arm, a $100,000 device that holds medical equipment in place.
The company acts as a broker, and arranges inspections of critical equipment, Alpert says.
The team of five MBA students and one Berkeley Law student now moves on to the April 6-7 VCIC 2018 Global Finals at University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Global VCIC is the world’s largest venture capital competition, with teams competing from the US, India, Asia, and Europe
The winning team includes Andrew Briggs, Alibek Dostiyarov, Max Kubicki, and Matthew Bond, MBA 19, along with Amy Fan, MBA/MPH 19, and Nick Calcaterra, JD 20. “Team Alpha” bested teams from University of Southern California; the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of California, Davis, and University of San Francisco.
The group had already beaten 36 other UC Berkeley graduate-level teams to score a place at the regionals.
Time pressure and short deadlines
The team had a great dynamic, Bond said. “Everyone was able to competently work both independently and together under time pressure with short deadlines. During the due diligence startup meeting and partner meetings, we were all in sync, speaking equally with smooth transitions and allowing different members to answer questions based on their knowledge of the subject matter,” he said.
Bringing a diverse set of experiences and skills to the negotiating table while competing against other California-based teams, Alpha excelled at due diligence, term sheet drafting, and negotiation tactics, said Adeeba Fazil, program manager for the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP). Prepping the team to compete was Terry Kelly of Dorsey & Whitney LLC, who led training workshops for the students prior to the regionals, and mentor Bill Reichert of Garage Technology Ventures.
“The regionals allow students to gain so much valuable experience as VCs for the day, and our team was truly passionate about the company they chose to invest in,” Fazil said. “This competition is intense—it’s back-to-back meetings before the students decide to negotiate with a startup of their choice. Our team stuck to its terms and really worked together to negotiate an agreement.”
A team of first-year Berkeley MBA students took first place at the 13th Annual National Energy Finance Competition (NEFC) last month for their work on a gas production business challenge posed by Chevron.
Students Marie Thompson (team lead), Rahul Bajaj, Ethan Doyle, Pablo Jimenez, and David Navarro, all MBA 19, brought home the win for Berkeley Haas.
The competition, held Oct. 19-20 and hosted by the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, Austin, challenged 16 teams from top MBA programs to address real-world finance issues faced by the energy industry. This year, Chevron asked students to develop a capital expenditure program for an upstream gas production unit in the Marcellus Basin in Appalachia.
To come up with a solution, teams had to develop a long-term market view, assess capital constraints, benchmark operational and financial assumptions, and plan the drilling—all within 72 hours.
“The short turnaround time was certainly a big constraint. It meant that as soon as we got the case we needed to be off and running,” Doyle said. “However, if we had had more time we might not have been as efficient in our decision-making and focused in our approach.”
Strength in the team’s diversity
Industry executives from the country’s top energy companies judged each teams’ financial model and solution, and pitched questions over two rounds of competition. In selecting Haas as the winner, judges cited the team’s understanding of the case, explanations of assumptions and methodology, creativity in solution design, and professionalism during the Q&A.
Thompson said several things set the team apart.
“The first was the diversity of the team,” she said. “We all come from different industries and functions and were able to call on so many different skills and experiences that let us work both quickly and thoughtfully.”
She said the team also approached the case wanting to work hard and learn from each other, which made for a respectful, engaging, and fun atmosphere throughout the entire process.
“This definitely helped us keep our cool through the more stressful parts of the competition,” she said.
A surprise judge
All school names were withheld during the competition, so it wasn’t until the winners were announced that one of the judges introduced himself as the real-life inspiration for the case: Dwight Crabtree, MBA 10, who has been working for Chevron since he graduated.
“It’s always a bit of a surprise to realize that the protagonist of a case is a real person, especially one who remembers what it was like to be directly in your shoes,” Doyle said. “He even competed in the same event during his time as a student. That made the win even more meaningful for us—it felt like our team was doing our small part to uphold the legacy of a much larger community.”
After considering ideas ranging from garden-weeding robots to a new gene therapy for colon cancer, judges named Oishii Farm the winner at the Thursday finals of LAUNCH, UC Berkeley’s startup accelerator and competition.
The team, led by Hiroki Koga, MBA 17, and Brendan Somerville, an MBA student at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, pitched a vertical indoor organic gardening method now in use for strawberry production at a facility in in Japan. The startup was among 19 team that pitched judges before a crowd of more than 300 students, investors, and fellow entrepreneurs at Andersen Auditorium.
Welcoming the students, Berkeley-Haas Dean Rich Lyons said that nothing satisfies him more than seeing students transform their attitudes about starting companies from “they do that” to “I do that.”
A total of $45,000 in cash prizes, as well as a coveted spot in the Plug and Play Accelerator, were awarded to four different startups at the event, which was organized by Berkeley MBA students and sponsored by the Berkeley-Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP). More than 10 of the teams included current or former Berkeley-Haas students.
The evening featured talks by Christine Gulbranson, senior vice president for research innovation and entrepreneurship at the UC Office of the President, and Austin Walker, from the Forbes 30 under 30 list, whose Y Combinator-backed startup InnoVein was a LAUNCH winner last year.
Gulbranson highlighted the new $22 million state-funded Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative that will expand entrepreneurial education, incubators, and accelerators at all 10 UC campuses.
Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley-Haas Entrepreneurship Program, said this year’s LAUNCH teams reflect the breadth and depth of talent and diversity in the UC system, with students and alums competing from UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC San Diego, and UCSF.
Started 19 years ago by Berkeley MBA students, LAUNCH evolved from a business plan competition to today’s startup accelerator model. More than 100 startups applied this year; 21 were selected to participate in the three-month-long accelerator, which pairs students with serial entrepreneur mentors and includes a curriculum taught by well-known Haas instructors. “LAUNCH has again attracted incredibly talented teams,” said LAUNCH student co-chair Sarah Yates, MBA 18. “While these teams come from diverse industries, ranging from education to healthcare to waste management, they share a fierce commitment to developing innovative, scalable businesses supported by Berkeley’s Lean Launchpad methodology.”
Grand Prize ($25,000): Oishii Farm, which launched an indoor vertical farming technology that allows organic fruit to be sustainably produced anywhere in the world. The company said it has worked to solve problems with pollination and disease control that previously limited indoor vertical farming to leafy greens. Oishii is working to produce strawberries at commercial scale using 90 percent less land and 95 percent less water. The startup was a finalist in this year’s Global Social Venture Competition and is among the startups to receive $5,000 from the Dean’s Seed Fund.
Runner Up ($15,000): Mekonos, which is developing a new approach to treating diseases using a silicon nano-robotic chip that delivers biomaterial or molecules into potentially millions of individual cells. The team includes Anil Narasimha, BA 07 (molecular and cellular biology). Mekonos also took second place in the recent Bear Trap pitch competition sponsored by the Berkeley Entrepreneurs Association and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. They are currently participating in the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps’ Bay Area Node, which aims to commercialize university research and foster innovation. The node is run by Berkeley-Haas and the UC Berkeley College of Engineering.
Audience Choice ($5,000): Pop Oats, which produces a crunchy snack made from the hulled kernels of oat grain. Pop oats, which are not cut, ground, or rolled, are high-fiber, protein rich, and GMO and gluten free. The team includes Marc Pfeiffer, BS 10, and Rodger Morris, BS 05.
Plug and Play Award: (This team won placement in the three-month Plug and Play accelerator, with startup services valued at $150,000). Kokko Beauty built a mobile app that offers scientific color accuracy for makeup. The team includes CEO and Co-founder Nina Bhatti, BS 85, (EECS & mathematics) and Co-founder and Scott Trappe, MBA 96, vice president of technology.