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.”
The Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA Program will host a kickoff event Nov. 9 for a new fellowship program aimed at increasing access to business leadership and scholarships for historically underrepresented groups.
The program, launched through a partnership between Haas and the SF/Bay Area chapter of the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA), includes networking and mentorship, as well as the opportunity to be selected for a $50,000 scholarship. The scholarship award is more than 50% higher than most scholarship awards to students in part-time MBA programs.
The kickoff event, to be held in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum from 6-8 p.m., will feature guest speakers Joe Handy, president of the National Black MBA Association; Myisha Robertson, president and CEO of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the National Black MBA Association; and Élida Bautista, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer at Haas. A panel discussion with Berkeley Haas alumni and members of the SF Black MBA Association will follow.
“We’re so excited to be partnering with the local chapter of the NBMBAA,” said Jenny Clare, senior associate director of admissions for the Berkeley Haas EWMBA Program. “The Berkeley Haas Equity scholarship will help us to continue to increase the diversity of the applicant pool, and, as a result, increase the diversity of student enrollment in our program.”
As an SF Black MBA Fellow, students will:
Become a member of the SF Bay Area Chapter of the NBMBAA and be assigned a mentor who will provide counsel, connections, and guidance throughout their MBA study.
Join a cohort and community of other fellowship recipients and their mentors in the inaugural class of SF Black MBA Fellows, which will begin in Fall 2022 and extend through their time in the Berkeley Haas EWMBA program and beyond.
Meet regularly with other SF Black MBA Fellows and mentors, network with the SF chapter and Haas leadership, and have exclusive opportunities to connect with Bay Area business leaders.
Be considered for one of the $50,000 Berkeley Haas Equity Scholarships, which will be awarded to SF Black MBA Fellows who exemplify commitment to increasing opportunities and access for underrepresented groups. The number of awards will depend on the applicant pool, and is estimated at two-to-four scholarships of $50,000 each, distributed over three years.
Funding for the new scholarships was provided by Jamie Breen, assistant dean of the school’s MBA Programs for Working Professionals.
“We’ve been thinking about scholarship support to increase the diversity of our working-professional student population for a while, but it’s hard to get these things started,” she said. “I have the capability to do it, so this seemed like a great place to use my philanthropy.”
Interested new applicants should apply for the fellowship at the time they apply to Berkeley Haas, well before the final deadline of May 2, 2022, as fellowships are awarded throughout the admissions cycle, Clare said. (The scholarships are not open to current EWMBA students)
Applicants commuting to campus from outside the Bay Area, or who join the Flex EWMBA cohort, are also welcome to apply to be a SF National Black Fellow.
The fellowship application includes a 250-word essay about how an applicant demonstrated anongoing commitment to increasing opportunity and access to people from racial/ethnic groups who are historically underrepresented in business (specifically Black/African-American, LatinX, and Native/Indigenous communities).
Berkeley Haas has long been an NBMBAA educational partner, and sought to further this relationship with the local chapter, where some Haas alumni are already active.
Donned in full regalia, graduates of both the Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend and Executive MBA classes of 2020 and 2021 reunited on campus last weekend for in-person commencements.
The graduates crossed the stage, collected diplomas, and celebrated in the sunshine with classmates, family, and friends. (The EWMBA ceremony was held at Zellerbach Hall, while the EMBA ceremony was held at Hertz Hall.) The in-person events followed separate virtual commencement ceremonies held in May 2020 & 2021.
Here are a few highlights from Saturday’s ceremonies:
Haas Voices is a first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community. In honor of Latinx Heritage Month, we spoke with Adilene Dominguez, EWMBA 24, who’s determined to create a new business model that will provide equitable health care to everyone, regardless of economic status. She shares her story below.
Growing up in Waukegan, Illinois, a suburb north of Chicago, I lived in a world with many blessings. My parents weren’t millionaires, they were migrant workers who worked 80 hours a week. But the opportunities afforded to us–access to public schools, tutors, health insurance, the ability to find work–were privileges that many Latinos in my community, including my extended family members, did not have.
I began to notice inequities, specifically in healthcare, when I was about five years old. I often accompanied friends and family whenever they needed to see the doctor. They spoke little English, so I translated on their behalf. I noticed that they’d have to stand in line for hours at the local clinic to get medical treatment, whereas if I needed medical care, my parents would take me to a hospital because I had health insurance. It just didn’t seem fair to me that our friends and family couldn’t get the same quality health care as I did.
Observing those disparities early on, coupled with a natural aptitude for science and math, led me to Beloit College where I joined the pre-med program. As a pre-med student, I interned with doctors and volunteered at hospitals, but quickly realized that I didn’t want to be a doctor. I thought that I’d have a greater impact if I could find a way to bring equitable health care to my community.
After college, I landed at Becton Dickinson (BD), a medical device company, working as a research and development (R&D) technician. I moved up the ranks from a technician to a scientist and eventually transitioned from R&D to global marketing and strategy.
I also lead the Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Advancement (HOLA) at BD. Through my work with HOLA, I help raise awareness within my industry about health disparities that impact the Latino community. When the pandemic hit, access to testing was limited, especially in Latino communities in California, Arizona, and Texas. I, along with marketers across eight HOLA chapters, decided to advocate for the distribution of Veritor, a rapid antigen test that can detect the COVID-19 virus, to health clinics servicing Latino communities. Through our efforts, we helped the Family Health Center of San Diego, which provides care to more than 215,000 patients a year, 91% of whom are considered low-income and 29% are uninsured.
It’s been gratifying to help my Latino community as it’s been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. But I need to do more. The pandemic magnified health disparities that have long existed in Black and Brown communities. Whenever there’s a hurricane, earthquake, or any natural disaster, health care seems to be the primary resource that’s out of reach for these communities.
The pandemic magnified health disparities that have long existed in Black and Brown communities.
That’s why I’m at Haas. I want to acquire the skills needed to disrupt the healthcare system in the U.S. I want to design a profitable business model that will provide equitable health care for everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status.
What does disruption look like? It’s putting the patient first and profit last. Currently, the way healthcare works in the U.S. is that whoever or whichever entity has the most influence or paying power gets access to the best medical supplies. Typically government contracts are fulfilled first. Thereafter, private institutions and public institutions get priority, and community health centers are served last.
But what if we flipped the funnel? If we help community clinics first, which serve people like farmers and hourly-wage workers–the people who are growing our food and working at grocery stores and other service industries–we can prevent the spread of any disease.
For too long, our approach to providing health care has come from the top down, when we really need to flip the funnel and think about the process much differently. We can’t keep doing business as usual when there are hundreds of people filling up the emergency room because they don’t have access to COVID-19 testing or vaccines.
Creating a new business model for the healthcare system is a lofty goal. But someone has to do it, so why not me?
Creating a new business model for the healthcare system is a lofty goal. But someone has to do it, so why not me?
I know that I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself, but it’s my responsibility to help my community. That philosophy has been ingrained in me since I was a little girl. My family, who migrated from Tonatico, Mexico, made enormous sacrifices so that my siblings and I could have a better life. So I must move forward and be a role model for younger generations. If I don’t help my community, who will?
Rita Wiley, MBA 22, spent last summer interning at Piper Sandler’s San Francisco offices, taking in sweeping waterfront views from the 31st floor as she worked on healthcare investment deals with her team.
“On the first day, my managing director threw me into a live deal,” said Wiley, who spent a decade in project management with the U.S. Army before coming to Haas, where she was drawn to the work ethic and quick skill-building that investment banking demands. “I was given responsibility to run with projects.”
With that internship, Wiley joined a group of 14 Haas MBA students who worked as 2021 Summer Associate interns at Bay Area offices of investment banks. Now the top go-to business school for such hires, Haas typically nabs the largest—or over a 20%—share of the some-65 available IB Summer Associate slots each year. Internships, which are largely in either technology or healthcare investment banking, are critical because they lead to full-time positions at graduation with a very high return-offer rate relative to other industries.
“Haas produces world-class talent right here locally for the sought-after Bay Area offices, which focus largely on high-growth tech clients, and we perennially have the largest share of associates here at the global intersection of tech and finance,” said William Rindfuss, a member of the continuing professional faculty in finance who also manages financial services recruiting at Haas.
“Haas produces world-class talent right here locally for the sought-after Bay Area offices,” —William Rindfuss, who manages financial services recruiting at Haas.
Haas’ influence in investment banking grew for many reasons, including a strong finance faculty and curriculum, a Career Management Group (CMG) that’s well-connected to the top banks and supports students through the often intense recruiting process, and a powerful alumni network, Rindfuss said.
Importantly, those alumni show up for popular events like firm networking nights and the Investment Banking Speaker Series course, which recently featured Kate Claassen, MBA 07, head of West Coast Technology Investment Banking at Morgan Stanley, and will feature Nils Hellmer, MBA 15, an Executive Director at Goldman Sachs.
“Our alumni are so supportive and inspiring to the students,” said Rindfuss, a former J.P. Morgan banker, who has been at Haas since 2008. “You’ll find Haasies at all the top investment banks and we’re so grateful that they take the time to give back to the school and our students—while at the same time seeking new talent.”
Berkeley Haas’ investment banking network has grown over the decades, said Steve Etter, who teaches finance at Haas and is a founding partner at Greyrock Capital Group. Cal alumni helped build big investment banks of the 1970s and 1980s—banks like Montgomery Securities, Hambrecht & Quist, and Robertson Stephens, where alumni flocked. “Cal alumni helped build this West Coast community,” Etter said. “Then the Morgans and Goldmans started to build bigger West Coast presences. We now have senior (Cal) people across all the banks.”
Recruiting help from campus
Berkeley Haas MBA students coveting jobs in investment banking compete with students from top programs including Wharton, Booth, and Columbia. The jobs are in demand because investment banking pays very well, with a standard $175,000 salary, a typical $50,000+ signing bonus, and year-end performance-based bonuses—all very strong compared to the average MBA graduate compensation, said Abby Scott, assistant dean of MBA Career Management and Corporate Partnerships.
“But the jobs not only pay well, they offer recent MBA hires some pretty amazing opportunities,” Scott said. “New MBA associates often become part of live deal teams working with high-profile clients in tech, healthcare, and other high-growth sectors.”
“But the jobs not only pay well, they offer recent MBA hires some pretty amazing opportunities,” —Asst. Dean Abby Scott.
MBAs typically commit to investment banking quickly as they have to start preparing for internship recruiting early. “For investment banking you have to know early on if you want to do it because an IB internship is pretty much a requirement for a full time offer,” said Wiley, who was among 13 finance students chosen as 2020 Finance Fellows, receiving partial scholarships, priority registration for finance courses, and mentorship.
Andrew Elliott, MBA 22, said he was “95% committed” to investment banking when he arrived at Haas after working in strategy and business development at Boeing. Elliott worked for six months with Abby Franklin, an investment banking industry specialist with the Haas Career Management Group (CMG), to better understand both the career progression and work-hour demands.
He applied to multiple firms, a few on his own and most through CMG. CMG’s on-campus recruiting resources—that covered everything from resume design to networking events and interviews—helped Elliott land a summer internship at Citi, where he had already connected with his peer advisor, Ryan Alders, MBA 20, an associate in technology investment banking at Citi. “When I first saw CMG’s requirements I was a little scared because they seemed so specific, but in the end, the process protected me because I ended up with a solid job offer,” said Elliott, who will start a full-time job at Citi this spring, after graduating early.
Christine Jan, who also worked closely with CMG, said she spent hours talking to Haas alumni at different investment banks about everything from deals to the nuts and bolts of jobs to personal life management advice before landing an offer.
With Franklin’s guidance, Jan reached out to Shilpi Saran, MBA 13, a vice president in technology investment banking at Morgan Stanley. “Shilpi got me interested,” said Jan, who grew up in Taiwan and worked in wealth management at UBS in Hong Kong before coming to Haas. “It’s a process. We have alumni who are performing exceptionally well and they draw us in.”
During recruitment, Jan also met UC Berkeley alumnus Michael Grimes, head of Global Technology Investment Banking for Morgan Stanley, who also founded Berkeley’s M.E.T. program, an undergraduate dual-degree program in business and engineering, and Michael Bausback, MBA 19, an associate in global tech investment banking. Jan committed to a summer internship in tech investment banking with them that led to a full-time job offer. (Jan will join Adhithya Ravi and Alex Wong, both MBA 22, who are also heading to Morgan Stanley Bay Area investment banking offices).
“I loved (the internship),” she said. “It was a deep dive into investment banking. I got to realize what it was and connect the dots to what I’ve done before, connecting my work in Asia and here. It was a great, overwhelming, inspiring experience.”
The boutique path
While bigger firms like Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, and Goldman Sachs draw Haas students each year, a smaller firm like Moelis or Evercore can be a better fit for other students—many who say culture, regardless of size, influences where they end up.
Rawool Sahu, MBA 22, who shifted from a career in corporate financial planning and analysis to investment banking through Haas, will join Moelis, a boutique investment bank, in its thriving San Francisco office next July. (Moelis’ founder and CEO Ken Moelis just announced that the firm had raised pay for first-year analysts because “business is booming” and deal flow is rising.)
Sahu said there are benefits to joining a smaller firm. “Moelis has a smaller office on the West Coast and you get more time with the senior bankers here. At banks on the East Coast, that’s harder.” In a smaller office, he said, work also feels more focused. “Managing directors communicate more directly about what they want, so we don’t waste time. It makes things more efficient.”
At Moelis, Sahu joins a group of Haas alumni, including Adam Burgess, an investment banking associate from the class of 2020, “who helped me to make inroads in the West Coast office,” Sahu said.
“You can do this”
With the 2023 MBA class now on campus, finance students are attending the Investment Banking Speaker Series—along with three networking events each week that connect them with bankers—and preparing for investment banking internship recruiting.
Ravi, who is co-president of the Haas Finance Club, said recruiting with investment banks was one of the most difficult experiences that he has gone through in his life, which is why he’s helping first-year students as one of three peer advisors.
This year, he said the Finance Club rolled out a new guide to everything a recruit will need to succeed, including a networking primer, study schedules, interview prep, and advice for findinga bank that’s a good internship fit. “I’m constantly reminding recruits to leverage those around them and support one another,” Ravi said. “Having a support group and people to prep with helped so much,” he said.
To prospective Haas investment banking students, Wiley offered encouragement. “I had an interest in finance on the personal side but never thought I would make a career out of it,” said Wiley, who accepted a job with Piper Sandler after graduation. “I’m a prime example that you can do this.”
The Berkeley Haas community gathered yesterday to celebrate the grand opening of the Shneyder & Kirk MBA Commons, a larger, brighter space for MBA students to study and collaborate.
The MBA Commons is named for Mikhail Shneyder, EWMBA 08, and his husband, Jim Kirk, in recognition of their generous $1 million gift to the school.
The 2,300 square feet of space, which previously housed the FIFO Café, has been in the works since 2019. The opening of Chou Hall and Café Think provided an opportunity to reconsider the use of the space, Dean Ann Harrison said at the grand opening.
Haas student leaders, who worked on focus groups to develop the plans, asked for a lounge that was bigger, updated, and more inviting.
“We heard you,” Harrison said. The new space offers multiple seating areas, varied furniture options, a kitchenette, private phone booths, contemporary fixtures, portable charging stations, and even a digital trophy wall where MBA student achievements and awards will be showcased.
Previously, MBA students met outside of class in a room off the upper Bank of America Forum, which seats about 20 people. The Shneyder & Kirk MBA Commons is three times the size of that space.
“Thrilled to give back”
Harrison said Shneyder, who immigrated to the United States from Belarus at 19 after earning a nursing degree, speaking no English, is “the archetype of our Defining Leadership Principles.”
After pursuing business classes as an undergraduate and, later, an MBA at Haas, he became CEO and president of Nightingale College, a nursing school headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Shneyder said Nightingale’s success was born “in Haas classes and in our group work.”
“We generated all these ideas that we are implementing day and day out,” he said. “My hope is that that you will generate so many new ideas that will continue to question the status quo and build the future that is equitable and accessible and good for everybody.”
Harrison lauded Shneyder’s goal to change the world “by improving health and revolutionizing access to quality education for health care professionals from varied socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds”—and for giving back to Haas.
“Mikhail, Jim, we are beyond thrilled to be the beneficiary of your success and generosity,” Harrison said. “We thank you for holding a special place in your heart for this Haas community.”
Berkeley, Calif. — UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business announced a new flexible online option for its top-ranked, part-time Evening & Weekend MBA Program. The new Flex option offers the same curriculum and faculty and the same Berkeley Haas MBA degree in a highly customized and flexible online and on-campus format.
Students enrolled in the Flex option will take their core MBA courses online. After completing their first three semesters of the core curriculum, students can take their elective courses either in person on the Berkeley Haas campus or online.
Applications for the Flex option will open on August 17 through the Evening & Weekend MBA Program (EWMBA). The first group of about 60 Flex students will enroll in July of 2022.
The Flex option will be part of the Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA Program, which is ranked #2 among part-time MBA programs by U.S. News. The program typically takes three years to complete, with some students completing their degree in just 2.5 years.
“Students in the Flex cohort can get a top-ranked Berkeley Haas MBA from anywhere, without the commute to campus every week,” said Dean Ann E. Harrison. “They will have flexibility in how they complete their MBA program. Yet they can also enjoy the in-person and campus experience, giving them the ability to access the extracurricular experiences Berkeley and Haas have to offer.”
The Flex option is designed for high-achieving and ambitious professionals with five or more years of professional work experience who seek additional skills to advance in their careers or to change jobs. They will join a network of 41,000 Haas alumni around the world.
In the Flex option, 40% to 60% of the online core courses will be delivered synchronously to create a robust, cohort-based learning experience. The significant percentage of synchronous content ensures that Flex students have the same opportunity for discussion and feedback as students in on-campus courses. Students will be assigned to study teams that are carefully selected for diverse skills and backgrounds, ensuring that students learn as much from each other as they do in the classroom.
Given the importance of community in our EWMBA program, the Flex option also includes five in-person events:
WE Launch, the required orientation over a long weekend (Friday through Sunday) in late July on the Berkeley Haas campus.
Leadership Communication, a required course taught on the Berkeley Haas campus as a weekend immersion (Friday through Sunday) in the second half of the second semester.
RE Launch, an optional weekend immersion on the Berkeley Haas campus in October of the third semester.
Business Communications in Diverse Environments, a required weekend immersion (Friday through Sunday), taught typically at a resort site in Napa Valley on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend in January of the fourth semester.
WE Lead, an optional weekend celebration and reflection on the MBA experience held in May of the graduation year.
“In this fast-changing environment, our MBA experience provides professionals not only with a rigorous management education but also with an understanding of how innovation, inclusion, and sustainability will shape the future of business,” said Dean Harrison. “Our innovative courses will help prepare our students for what’s next, addressing a wide range of workplace challenges—from questioning the ethics of artificial intelligence to recognizing how unconscious bias impacts management decisions.”
In 2022, Haas will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its part-time MBA program. “We think the creation of this new Flex cohort reflects our commitment to innovation and UC Berkeley’s mission,” said Jamie Breen, Assistant Dean, MBA Programs for Working Professionals, who oversees the new Flex option.
As the second-oldest business school in the United States, Berkeley Haas has been questioning the status quo since its founding in 1898. It provides research, thought leadership, and talent development to lead the way to a more inclusive and sustainable future.
These working professional students, along with Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) students who returned in June, are the first cohorts in 16 months to kick off the semester on campus.
Executive MBA (EMBA) Program
During orientation, held July 16-18 in Spieker Forum, a total of 71 EMBA students participated in bonding activities and workshops, including a scavenger hunt, a diversity and equity session led by Kellie McElhaney, executive director of the Center for Equity, Gender & Leadership, and a condensed version of a popular MBA class called The Science of Productivity and Performance, which focuses on strategies to yield high-performance at work and school.
Women make up 30% of the class and 17% have either served or are currently serving in the U.S. military. Members of the class represent 64 companies including Google, Facebook, Deloitte, Chevron, and Oracle and have an average of 13 years of work experience.
Emma Daftary, executive director of the 22-month EMBA program, praised students for choosing Haas and reassured them that they have what it takes to successfully complete the program.
“If you hear a little voice called imposter syndrome, tell it to be quiet because you belong here,” Daftary said. “You’re here with people who are going to push you to be your best selves and we’re here to support you every step of the way.”
Susan Petty, director of EMBA admissions, noted that this class was the most geographically diverse cohort in the program’s history. Sixty-five percent of students live outside of the Bay Area, including Hawaii, New Mexico, Washington, D.C., and Brazil, and about a third of the class were born outside of the United States, hailing from Ukraine, China, India, Japan, Uzbekistan, and Taiwan.
Why an MBA?
When Cassie Dickerson, EMBA 23, was applying to b-schools, a friend from her undergraduate days at Ohio State, Isaiah Samuel, EMBA 20, suggested she add Berkeley to her list. Dickerson attended a diversity event at Haas last fall and fell in love with the people and culture.
“Everyone I met exemplified Haas’ DLPs,” Dickerson said, a technology business strategist for GoHealth. “People showed up as their authentic selves and that deeply resonated with me.”
Naveena Gopinath, an IT database consultant at OptumServe, said it was her father’s entrepreneurial spirit that inspired her to pursue an MBA.
“My dad was an entrepreneur who owned many businesses, including a real estate and an exporting business in India,” said Gopinath, EMBA 23. “Seeing him pursue his passions pushed me to pursue mine.”
Gopinath had her choice of top business schools, but ultimately decided to attend Haas because of the people she met and the school’s Defining Leadership Principles (DLPs). She had worked in a mission-driven workplace before and wanted a similar MBA experience. Now that she’s at Haas, she can only imagine how the DLPs will transform her, she says.
Johnny Zaragoza, EMBA 23, was accepted to Haas last year, but decided to defer for a year to take care of his family during the pandemic.
Zaragoza, a controller at San Francisco-based management firm White Oak Global Advisors, said he chose Haas because he had a transformational experience during Block Zero. “The support you get from the program office, career management group (CMG), and your peers, is bar none.”
Evening & Weekend MBA Program (EWMBA)
Berkeley Haas’ newest EWMBA class also arrived on campus for WE Launch orientation July 23-26.
Collectively, the 283 students have an average of eight years of work experience and represent 213 leading global companies, including Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, LinkedIn, Uber, Microsoft, and Chevron. Women make up 40% of the class, a record high.
The class of 2024 is also geographically and internationally diverse. Forty-three percent were born outside the U.S. and speak 17 different languages. Almost a third of the class reside outside of the Bay Area, hailing from Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Japan, and Singapore.
During orientation, students participated in workshops focused on leadership communications, inclusive leadership, and case-study methods. They also heard from Career Management Group (CMG) staff and received an introduction to Teams@Haas, an academic program designed to build stronger team outcomes.
In his welcome speech, Prof. Don Moore, the associate dean of Academic Affairs, commended students for pursuing an MBA at a time when society is grappling with so many global challenges.
“There is no better place to be than a dynamic university like Berkeley that has always been on the forefront of scientific and social progress,” he said.
Moore added that Haas’ culture helps develop business leaders that the world could benefit from—leaders who question the status quo, who have confidence to create change but do it without attitude, who go beyond themselves by taking the long view in their decisions, and are students always.
“We have such a diverse and accomplished class this year,” said Jamie Breen, assistant dean of the MBA Programs for Working Professionals. “And it is so great to have our second year students on campus for the first time as well. These are the leaders that business and society need.”
Culture plays big role
After listening to the Haas podcasts, attending a diversity event last fall, and speaking with students and alumni, Dominic Williams, EWMBA 24, said he was “all in” and applied only to Haas.
“The school’s DLPs and its focus on inclusion resonated with me,” said Williams, a program manager for consumer goods at Google. “Now that I’m here, I feel compelled to share my perspective to advance the Haas community. I don’t think I would feel this way anywhere else.”
The school’s culture was also a big draw for Christy Tormey, EWMBA 24, who works as a lead strategic planning analyst at Chevron.
“Question the status quo deeply resonates with me. As a woman mechanical engineer who works in an oil refinery, I challenge the status quo every day,” she said. “I’ve worked hard to gain a seat at the table and even harder to keep that seat. I hope to encourage and inspire all women to do the same, no matter what field of study or industry.”
Berkeley Haas is rolling out core curriculum changes designed to prepare MBA students for a fast-changing workplace by equipping them with enhanced communication skills and deeper data knowledge.
The refreshed curriculum includes additional training in business communications and persuasion skills, doubles coursework in statistics and data analytics, and creates a new course, perhaps the first required core business class in the U.S., on leading diverse teams. The new courses will be rolled out in the full-time MBA program during the 2021-22 academic year.
An eight-member faculty task force worked throughout the pandemic to rethink the MBA core experience. The faculty in April unanimously approved the task force’s recommendations.
“I am so proud of the hard work that our faculty-led team put into these transformative core curriculum changes,” said Dean Ann Harrison, who created the core committee, which was led by co-chairs Prof. Ross Levine and Assoc. Prof. Dana R.Carney. “We are rolling out innovative courses that will help prepare our students for what’s next, addressing a wide range of workplace challenges—from questioning the ethics of artificial intelligence to recognizing how unconscious bias impacts management decisions.”
Three new courses
The MBA core consists of 14 required courses that form the fundamental building blocks of a general management education. The classes are designed to build on each other, providing students with the analytical tools and knowledge required to manage complex managerial problems–skills every employer expects from an MBA.
The MBA core consists of 14 required courses that form the fundamental building blocks of a general management education.
The three courses added to the core include:
Data Analytics will provide more extensive training in data analytics, artificial intelligence, and related approaches to using big data for decision making. The course is a companion to the existing Data and Decisionsstatistical analysis course.
Data-Driven Presentations: Making the Business Case will better prepare students to make persuasive arguments using data and narrative. It builds on the knowledge and experience developed in the courses Data and Decisions and Leadership Communication.
Business Communication in Diverse Work Environments will help students navigate diverse settings more effectively to improve their ability to create, work within, and lead diverse teams and global organizations. It also develops critical thinking on topics such as identity, relationships across differences, bias, and equality of opportunity in organizations.
Levine said he was proud of the group’s camaraderie and collaboration and the transparency of the process.
“It’s very important for any type of program to re-evaluate, reassess, renew, modernize, and make things as relevant and useful for students as possible,” said Levine, the Willis H. Booth Chair in Banking and Finance. “We worked very hard to make some changes that would help our students achieve their professional ambitions.”
Jay Stowsky, who served as Senior Assistant Dean of Instruction for the past 13 years, added that the curriculum changes will make it easier for faculty “to address, with relevance to each of their courses and academic disciplines, the broader social impacts of business.”
Copious research enabled the task force to have full confidence in the proposed core changes, said Carney, a psychologist who studies racial bias and is the director of the Institute of Personality and Social Research at UC Berkeley. “We knew that we had to have a lot of data to guide and substantiate the changes the data suggested we make; we made sure the data we collectedwere unimpeachable,” she said.
As part of this research, the task force members sought extensive feedback from different groups before making its recommendations. They met with tenure-track and teaching faculty and current students and separately with MBA students active in the Race Inclusion Initiative (RII) and the Gender Equity Initiative (GEI) at Haas.
“We knew that we had to have a lot of data to guide and substantiate the changes the data suggested we make.” – Assoc. Prof. Dana Carney.
The task force also worked closely with the Haas Board and the Career Management Group (CMG), which developed a survey of recent alumni and collected data from corporate recruiters on the skills they seek when hiring. Early in the process, two clear areas in the existing curriculum emerged that would need a fresh and upgraded experience—interacting with people and interacting with data, Carney said.
Jenn Bridge, senior director of employer engagement & industry readiness at Haas, said her team’s interviews with recruiters and alumni surveys aligned with findings in the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, confirming the demand for strong data and people-centered skills.
“Being nimble as a leader and managing people through change are skills that are highly desired,” she said. “The pandemic has accelerated all of this.”
Learn by doing
One of the ways the task force made room in students’ schedules for the new core courses was to to shift the decade-old Fundamentals of Design Thinking course from the core to an elective.
Haas pioneered teaching design thinking as part of an MBA core refresh in 2010. Since then, design thinking has become a standard approach to problem solving, woven throughout the curriculum, especially in the required project-based Applied Innovation electives. MBA students will continue to “learn by doing” through design thinking and other decision-making approaches, Stowsky said.
The part-time MBA programs are considering the core refresh in light of the needs of their students. In the Evening & Weekend MBA program, the Business Communications in Diverse Environments core course will be added to the core and become the capstone course, while the two new data-focused courses will offered as electives. Implementation in the MBA for Executives program is under discussion with the EMBA Academic Program Committee.
Hannah Greenberg and Alex Lopez, both EMBA 20, are best friends who hope to add “chief executive” to their resumes.
The pair are looking to buy a software as a service (SaaS) company in the hospitality or financial services industry through their new search fund Ven Capital Partners. They scour markets for a perfect match, typically a successful 60-something owner who is about to retire. ”A lot of family businesses don’t think about succession and they don’t have a plan of what’s next for them when they retire,” Lopez said. “That’s where we come in.”
Greenberg and Lopez are known as “searchers” in the finance world, joining a growing tribe of MBAs who, lacking a pool of their own capital, use an established investment vehicle called a search fund to acquire a single, privately-held firm.The group includes pioneers like Mahesh Rajasekharan, MBA 09, and Sumit Garg, MBA 08, who co-founded search fund Globe Equity Partners in 2010. Two years later, the pair bought Cleo Communications, where Rajasekharan remains CEO.
More recently, Jeff Oldenburg, MBA 18, co-founder of the Tusker Fund, acquired Echosec, a Canadian cybersecurity company. Lance Barnard, MBA 21, founder of LML Capital, last month acquired and became CEO of Ward Pharmacy in Denver, Co.
“A very young CEO”
The search fund model isn’t new, but it’s growing fast at business schools. More than 400 search funds have been raised since 1984, according to a 2020 Stanford Business School Search Funds study, half of them within the past several years. From 1984 through 2019, investors put $1.4 billion of equity capital into traditional search funds and acquired companies.
“Search is really taking off,” said Jan Simon, a former Goldman Sachs executive who teaches the popular Search Funds course at Haas and is a managing partner at Vonzeo Capital Partners, typically investing in up to 25 search funds per year. For MBAs who want to partly own a firm and serve as CEO, “it doesn’t get better than the search fund model,” said Simon, who also teaches at Barcelona’s IESE business school. “The average person who does this is 32 years old, a very young CEO,” he said. A typical search fund entrepreneur can land 25% to 35% ownership in a company (30% in the case of a team) over several years.
“Search is really taking off,” said Jan Simon, a former Goldman Sachs executive who teaches the popular Search Funds course at Haas.
Bill Rindfuss, executive director of strategic programs for the Haas Finance Group, pitched Search Funds as a new Berkeley Haas finance course in 2019, inviting Simon to teach it as an extracurricular. “It was well-attended and got great student evaluations, which helped greatly in getting it approved as a new course,” Rindfuss said.
While other courses, including New Venture Finance taught by Maura O’Neill and M&A courses taught by Peter Goodson, help prepare students to launch their own funds, the Search Funds class is the headliner for students focused on search.
The course teaches MBA students with little to no CEO experience how to raise money—usually between $500,000 to $800,000—from a group of a dozen or so individual investors. The class also walks students through the complexities of the search and acquisition process. Searchers typically hold the companies they buy for six to 10 years.
Startup vs search
The model isn’t for everyone, though, as there’s risk. About a third of all searches end without an acquisition. Search also might not be the right fit for students with true startup aspirations. “I ask students, ‘What appeals to you?’” Simon said. “Do you like to go from 0 to 10 in starting a company? A lot of people want to be in the middle—from 100 to 1,000. It’s that type of entrepreneur we’re looking for, someone who is taking an existing business and growing it.”
For Lopez, a former U.S. Marine with an investment banking background, and Greenberg, who has a private equity background, a search fund is the perfect middle ground, as both are entrepreneurial but had no interest in building a startup from scratch. While their total fund amount is undisclosed, their lead investor is Pacific Lake Partners, and they’ve also drawn a few investors in the Haas community.
They’re now looking to buy a company with a minimum of $1.5 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) on revenue up to $50 million, and a clear path of repetitive business from existing customers. “Our job is to find companies that aren’t actively for sale and figure out where they are financially before it gets to the point where they want to be more formal,” Greenberg said.
Lopez, whose family is from Mexico, said he and Hannah add to the diversity of an industry that is lacking Latinx and female representation. Women account for just 7% of searchers, according to the Stanford Business School study. No data in the study tracked ethnicity.
“Women and Latinx entrepreneurs are slowly getting more opportunities in the space, but Hannah and I would love to pave the way for many more,” said Lopez.
A roller coaster at times
There are also relatively few MBAs with families in the search fund space, which demands that searchers move to wherever they buy a company. Jess Patterson and Joe Odell, both EMBA 20, are an exception, starting search fund Steadfast Horizon last year.
By March, they’d raised $800,000, on the high end for a search fund, from 24 investors.
They’re unique in search in that they both have families—yet are willing to relocate to where a deal takes them. “Traditional search skews toward a different profile than our own,” Patterson said. “But our families are all in and ready to move.”
Odell said the process has been an emotional roller coaster at times, but fun.
“I didn’t feel like we were going to make it a few times during fundraising,” he said, adding that the “searcher” community has supported them along the way. “Search is incredible opportunity-wise and it’s not cutthroat. Each one of us is trying to build a new future for ourselves and those we love.”
Commencement speaker Soyeon Yi, MBA 14, South Korea’s first astronaut, congratulated the Berkeley Haas Full-time and Evening & Weekend classes last Friday for making it to the finish line, sharing her own challenge in space that almost took her life.
Yi, who survived a near-fatal landing in 2008 after her spacecraft flipped upside down upon reentry to earth, urged the students to learn from their experiences during the pandemic.
“Like my landing, you’re passing one big challenge now,” Yi said. “There will be many more challenges ahead of you, even if we face the most unluckiest situation again. The most important thing we should do is ask how we can go through it and what we can learn from it.”
A total of 276 Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA students and 167 Evening & Weekend MBA students graduated last Friday with virtual ceremonies that included congratulatory videos from Dean Ann Harrison, student speakers, and alumni. (Watch the FTMBA video hereand the EWMBA video here.)
Harrison praised the graduates for their academic achievements, along with their empathy, and leadership. The students not only continued to pour energy into clubs and conferences held online during the pandemic, but also called attention to racial injustices and helped small businesses stay afloat through many volunteer efforts, she said.
“This required more thought, more ingenuity, more dedication than in any prior year,” Harrison said. ”But you persevered and you became stronger leaders for it.”
‘This is our unique story’
Peter Johnson, assistant dean of the Full-time MBA program, commended the class for its accomplishments inside and outside of the classroom.
“I’m honored to play a role in celebrating everyone’s success today, including the family and friends of these graduates,” Johnson said. “This is your celebration too.”
Fede Pacheco, the full-time MBA commencement student speaker, talked about one of the darkest days of the pandemic, when wildfires brought an apocalyptic orange sky to the Bay Area, and the photos he took to mark that day.
Pacheco urged students to savor the good times and reflect on the moments when they found creative ways to lean on each other, in spite of the unprecedented year they all endured.
“This is not a beautiful story, but it’s our unique story. We are our unique story,” he said. “We found each other, we have each other. We have to hold onto each other.”
‘Become more than you can even imagine’
Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA Programs for Working Professionals, said that the students in the EWMBA program continued to balance school, work and their personal lives with “grit, grace, and energy,” during the pandemic.
Commencement student speaker Kate Hughes, EWMBA 21, noted that members of her class arrived at Haas with a unique set of “brands” or labels that influenced their identities such as gender, family status, and lived experiences. They are leaving the school as Haas graduates, another distinctive brand, she said.
“We’ve been pushed to lead with authenticity, harnessing our backgrounds to foster a different way of creative thinking,” she said. “As we step into this new chapter of our lives, I challenge you to become more than you can even imagine. I challenge you to embrace everything that we’ve learned at Haas to create a new brand of leader. One that can make a profound impact at a time when our country and planet need it the most.”
Haas alumni, who ranged from recent grads to veteran business leaders, also sent their well wishes and encouraged grads to tap into their network regularly.
Among those alumni were Shantanu Narayen, MBA 93, chairman, president, and CEO of Adobe; Scott Galloway, MBA 92, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business; and TubeMogul founder Brett Wilson, MBA 07; Abhishek Sharma, MBA 16, founder and CEO of Shake the Cosmos; Bree Jenkins, MBA 19, a leadership development associate at Pixar; Jessie Tang, MBA 20, principal and head of strategic initiatives at Gratitude Railroad; and Liz Rockett, MBA/MPH 10, director of Kaiser Permanente Ventures.
Haas faculty also bid farewell to graduates and told them to stay in touch as they start the next chapters of their lives. Among those faculty were Prof. Ross Levine, Assoc. Prof. Yaniv Konchitchki, Assoc. Prof. Panos Patatoukas, Rebecca Portnoy, a professional faculty member, and Mark Rittenberg, a continuing professional faculty member
Award winners for the full-time MBA class of 2021:
Achievement Award: Devan Courtois
Student always: José Ramón Avellana
Beyond yourself:Kendall Bills
Question the status quo:Fayzan Gowani
Confidence without attitude:Fede Pacheco
Cheit award for Graduate Student Instructor: Devan Courtois
Haas lecturer Jenny Herbert Creek, who teaches finance, won the Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching. Students in each degree program choose faculty each year to receive the award, the top teaching honor at Berkeley Haas.
Award winners for the evening & weekend MBA class of 2021:
Achievement Award: George Pradhan
Student Always: Lindsey Hoell
Beyond Yourself: Kyle Cook
Question the Status Quo: Alyssa Farrelly
Confidence without Attitude: Kate Hughes
Berkeley Leader Award Winner: Anna Lee
Cheit Award for Graduate Student Instructor:Atusa Sadeghi
Prof. Panos Patatoukas, who teaches financial information analysis, won the Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching in the evening cohort and Prof. Ross Levine, who teaches macroeconomics, won the Cheit Award in the weekend cohort.
South Korea’s first astronaut, Soyeon Yi, MBA 14, and Emmy award winning former broadcast journalist Diane Dwyer, BS 87, will serve as commencement speakers this May.
Yi will speak at the Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA commencements and Dwyer will speak at undergraduate commencement.
This year, commencement celebrations will be held virtually. The MBA commencement will take place Friday, May 21, 2021 and the undergraduate commencement will take place Saturday, May 15, 2021. Commencement celebration videos for undergraduate, Evening & Weekend, and Full-time MBA celebrations can be viewed online via Marching Order, an online platform used to host UC Berkeley’s virtual graduations.
“We’re so pleased to welcome two inspiring alumnae to address our soon-to-be graduates,” said Haas Dean Ann Harrison. “Soyeon and Diane reflect the very best of Haas and truly embody our Defining Leadership Principles.”
Before coming to Berkeley, Yi spent 10 days at the International Space Station in 2008, making her South Korea’s first astronaut.
Six years after her space mission, Yi decided to add a Berkeley MBA to her PhD in biosystems. Currently, she leads customer engagement at startup ProtoPie and works with Silicon Valley satellite startup Loft Orbital Solutions.
Yi has lectured at the University of Washington and was recently selected to join the Karman Project 2021 Fellowship Program, which aims to foster trust and encourage collaboration among global leaders who want to positively impact space-related initiatives.
Dwyer worked as a broadcast journalist for 25 years, reporting important stories that range from the inauguration of President Bill Clinton to the Oakland Hills Firestorm.
She started her career as an anchor and reporter at KXLF in Butte, Mont. in 1988. She joined the KTVU-Channel 2 newsroom two years later, where she launched and co-hosted the Morning Show with Ross McGowan for several years.
Thereafter, she became the solo weekend news anchor for NBC Bay Area. Her reporting won her two Emmy awards and prestigious awards from the Associated Press and the National Academy of Radio and Television Artists.
Dwyer is a professional faculty member at Haas who teaches a course called Innovations in Communications and Public Relations and currently runs her own consulting business, Dwyer Media Consulting.
As commencement approaches, we’re interviewing grads from different Berkeley Haas programs about their experiences and future plans.
Today we feature Kyle Cook, EWMBA 21, a data analyst at Vanguard who served as Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA academic cohort representative, VP of social impact for his class, executive VP of the EWMBA Association, and a Berkeley Haas admissions ambassador. Cook lives in Phoenix, Ariz., with his wife, Jayanthi, and two rescue dogs Limerick and Chewbacca Pickles. To hear more from Cook, listen to his 2020 Haas Podcast interview.
You’ve been at Vanguard almost 11 years, a long time considering how often people job hop these days. What’s kept you there—even as you’ve completed your MBA?
What appeals to me about Vanguard is its mission: To take a stand for all investors, to treat them fairly, and to give them the best chance for investment success. We’re not putting retired peoples’ money into really risky things, and we want to be as low-cost as possible and return those savings to the consumer.
I’ve had multiple opportunities for advancement there, rotating to four or five positions, taking on new and challenging opportunities. In my current role, I’m responsible for sourcing, storing, validating, and distributing investment data. At Haas I’ve been able to update my job skills, including learning Python (the programming language) in my marketing and people analytics class.
What do you think helped bring your class together during the pandemic?
We’ve done a lot of different things to keep the unity of the EWMBA program. I will say it was definitely very challenging. The students really valued informal networking and that isn’t as easy to replicate on Zoom.
Despite the challenges, one really cool thing that came out of the pandemic was Haas Hearts, a consulting and project implementation initiative driven by MBA students to address challenges nonprofits faced due to COVID. I worked with the program office and Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA Programs for Working Professionals, to set up the program. Students stepped up and gave up their free time and we opened the program to incoming MBA students who delivered valuable services at a time when all businesses were suffering. Every team had a faculty advisor and the teams reached out to nonprofits, offering help with everything from volunteer planning to fundraising to strategy implementation to scaling and digitization.
Did you have a favorite course or professor at Haas?
I took two classes with Peter Goodson: Turnarounds and Private Equity. Turnarounds is a really unique course. We had to finish 16 cases before class even started. We got barraged with questions from 9 to 5 and worked on our slides until 10 pm each night. Goodson has the energy of a 20-year-old, and people like that he’s extremely candid with his feedback. If you give an answer that’s not good, he lets you know. You get muted if you go off topic and he has his GSI mute him if he goes off topic too. At one of our finals, we were asked to present to a board of directors.
Goodson took previous feedback he’d gathered that Haas students weren’t good on their feet or strong with presentations and he made us focus on those two things. In one role-playing assignment in class he’d say, “This is the role I want you to play,” and he’d tell you what the expectations were and when you were up, everyone had to present. I had a classmate who didn’t contribute much in core courses, but because he was forced to participate in Goodson’s class he opened up a lot more. He had so many insights that he wasn’t sharing before that enriched the class’s learning.
You’ve been involved with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program in Phoenix to help the underserved with their taxes. What inspired you?
Vanguard partnered with the City of Phoenix to run a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site at the nearby community college. I started volunteering as a tax preparer in 2013 after some of my friends who were doing it suggested that I do it as well. It was a learning opportunity for me. During the program, you meet with clients and often their families. Their income was between $12,000 to $20,000, so getting every penny back for them was a critical thing. The year before I got into Haas I signed up to be the site lead. We took time to get everything right and we generated $1 million in returns from a total of 120 returns for people. Our work was so important and it helped generate a lot of empathy.
What did you take away from doing the MBA program during a pandemic and what’s next for you?
I think that you learn more when times are more challenging. A lot of successful companies were founded post-Great Depression, after wars. There are a ton of startups launching this year. People are innovating and finding new ways for the world to work. It wasn’t ideal but this is preparing people for the new economy, which will be remote-friendly.
Next up, I’m hoping to become a product manager. The longer term goal would be to eventually launch a social impact incubator at Berkeley and recruit business students to give more back to society.
I want to thank my wife a lot for her support. Before the pandemic lockdown, she would drop me at the airport and make me something to eat for my trip. I was a commuter from Phoenix so I would leave at 4 a.m. and get back the next day or night. She took care of our dogs and supported me through the devastation of a bad test. I couldn’t have done the program without her and I am excited to have more time to spend with her now.
A sustainable, space-saving vertical strawberry farm that produces ultra-sweet berries without pesticides and an online bank for “free thinkers, rebels, and entrepreneurs” were among the new companies that propelled Berkeley Haas to No. 4 for fundraising on the Poets & Quants Top 100 MBA startups list this year.
Annually, Poets & Quants ranks b-school startups with at least $5.5 million or more in funding. To be considered, founders must have launched their startups within the five prior years (2015-2020) and have at least one founder enrolled in an MBA program within that time frame.
This year, five Haas companies founded in that period raised a record total of $125 million. Two Haas startups made it into the Top 20, including Oishii, founded by Hiroki Koga, MBA 17, ($50 million) and Oxygen, founded by Hussein Ahmed, EMBA 18, ($33 million).
Also on the list were Kyte, a car-sharing startup co-founded by Ludwig Schoenack, MBA 19, ($18 million); Time by Ping, a timekeeping automation company co-founded by Kourosh Zamanizadeh, EWMBA 18, ($17.3 million); and healthcare startup Twentyeight Health, cofounded by Amy Fan, MBA/MPH 19, ($6.08 million). Twentyeight Health also made Poets & Quants’ 2020 “Most Disruptive Startups” list.
Stanford, Harvard, and Columbia Business School had seven startups on the 2021 list, while Haas, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and France’s INSEAD all had five.
“We’re so proud of what these startup founders have accomplished,” said Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program, noting that founders from four MBA degree programs–full-time MBA, evening & weekend MBA, MBA/MPH, and executive MBA—are represented on the P&Q list. “Their ongoing success is proof of the depth and breadth of our entrepreneurship programs across campus, and a testament to the drive that so many of our students have to build world-changing startups.”
More proof of that drive came this week as Ryan McQuaid, MBA 08, announced that he’d sold his startup, virtual primary care platform Plushcare, to Accolade for $450 million. McQuaid, who started Plushcare at Haas, made previous Poets & Quants Top MBA startup lists.
Entrepreneurship is one of Dean Ann Harrison’s top three priorities for the school, and Haas continues to invest in new resources, recently announcing three new professors in its Entrepreneurship & Innovation group and a plan to build a new entrepreneurship hub on campus. “It’s gratifying to see so many Haas founders on this list who are solving important problems that impact everything from the environment to healthcare,” Harrison said.
Validating the business model
Jersey City-based Oishii, ranked No. 14 on the list, runs a vertical farming operation, raising top-quality strawberries that are tested to ensure two to three times the sweetness of conventional berries.
Founder Koga arrived at Haas in 2015 after working as a consultant in the vertical farm industry in Japan. Realizing that agriculture was no longer sustainable, he decided to tackle the problem by growing crops indoors, which allowed him to use 90% less land and water, eliminate the use of pesticides, and cut down on food transportation distances.
The MBA program provided two years to assess his hypothesis and validate the business model in the U.S., something he said he could never have done from Japan. During Koga’s second year, he entered the LAUNCH accelerator program—and won the competition, “which gave us more credibility and recognition as we were raising our seed round.”
Oishii’s strawberries, coveted by chefs, sold out pre-pandemic, Koga said. But as more people started cooking at home over the past year, they became increasingly aware of what they were eating and more willing to pay for higher-quality produce. As a result, many vertical farm companies have grown quickly and experienced a significant increase in revenue and funding, Koga said.
Filling in missing pieces
Startup Oxygen, No. 19 on the P&Q list, offers banking to freelancers, consumers, and small businesses, with no monthly fees, marketing itself as a new kind of bank account for “free thinkers, rebels, and entrepreneurs.”
Ahmed said he founded Oxygen out of personal experiences with banks. “Living for a big part of my life as a “solopreneur,” consultant, and business owner, it was always a struggle to work with banks and financial institutions because I didn’t fit the typical molds they have—either a 9-to-5 full-time employee or a corporation—nothing in between,” he said.
The pandemic, while horrible, was “a blessing in disguise” for Oxygen, he said. With stay-at-home orders, digital banking suddenly became the only way to bank “without having to drive down to a branch and wait in line masked up,” he said. There was also a massive boom in new business formations in the U.S., which significantly accelerated Oxygen’s small-business banking growth.
Ahmed, who has an engineering background and started companies before he arrived at Haas, said the MBA program helped fill in missing pieces.
“With an engineering background and product focus, along with scars and wins and street smarts, I was still missing the academics and business tactics from economics, finance, and accounting,” he said. “Having those subjects, great professors, and class discussions gives a lot of perspective on how to think about all those different angles and perspectives—while being at the helm dealing with everything on a day-to-day basis.”
As CEO of Poshmark, Manish Chandra, EWMBA 95, constantly questions how and why people shop, and the journey clothing takes from the supply chain to closets to resale.
A decade after he graduated from the evening & weekend MBA program, he started the pioneering social shopping platform Kaboodle, which he sold to Hearst two years later in 2007. Poshmark, a social marketplace for new and used clothing and accessories that he founded in 2011, focuses largely on extending the life cycle of clothing.
In a Dean’s Speaker Series event on April 9, MBA students and Robert Strand, executive director of the Center for Responsible Business at Haas, interviewed Chandra about how he embeds sustainability into the core of his business, his journey as a leader, and his vision for the future of capitalism.
Here are a few highlights from the interview.
On the meaning of clothing: “Clothing really binds people together. It brings a sense of community, it empowers people, it makes people feel good, proud. It can uplift people.”
On Poshmark’s rise in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic: “Covid 19 was a seismic shock and a very sad shock for all of us. We’re still reeling from it. We’re isolated and we’re not physically connected. The circular economy and the resale really was in many ways a connector. When you bought and sold things from each other it connected you to another human being. It gave you something that was very powerful, that took energy to do. We saw the rise of second hand.”
On capitalism in the post-pandemic world: “We’re at a very powerful moment in our history…As we come out of hiding places and the world reintegrates over the next few months, I feel like everyone is looking at their life and looking at their values in a very different way. And as we go out and truly experience both the wonder of human connection and the misery that people have had, it’s a really important time to transform how we feel about consumption, how we feel about capitalism, and how we feel about sustainability. I think all three things can exist in a meaningful way.”
On getting an MBA: “Haas is, for me, one of the most transformational experiences, particularly because it happened after I’d worked for a few years and I was looking at finding that next level of growth for me.”
The full-time MBA rankings are based on data provided by participating U.S. schools and on polls of business school deans and directors of accredited MBA programs, as well as surveys of corporate recruiters and company contacts. The score is calculated from placement success and starting salary (35%), student selectivity (25%), a peer poll (25%), and the average of the last three years of recruiter polls (15%).
Part-time MBA rankings are based on data from participating schools and on polls of business school deans and directors of accredited part-time programs. The score is calculated from the peer polls (50%), student selectivity (27.5%), work experience (10%), and percent of MBA students who are enrolled part-time (12.5.).
The specialty and the executive MBA rankings are based entirely on polls of business school deans and directors of accredited MBA programs.
The EWMBA ranked #2 for the third year in a row. The Full-time MBA ranked #7 for 13 of the last 14 years. The Berkeley MBA for Executives ranked #7 for the last two years.
View the full report here. (log-in may be required).