Pitching with purpose: Students imagine future of mobility for automaker

nine people standing on stage holding a check
Pitch winners with judges (left-right) Nick Triantos; Tafflyn Toy; Henry Chung; Victoria Marcus, EWMBA 25; Srivatsa Chakravarthy, EWMBA 25; Oleksandr Krotenko, EMBA 23;  Simeon Ryan, EWMBA 25;  Ju yup Kang; and ChangWoo Kim. Photo: Jim. Block

A student team that imagined a plan for Hyundai Cradle to build an electric-powered mobile medical fleet and market it in North America won the 2023 Haas Purpose-Built Vehicles (PBV) Challenge.

Hyundai Cradle, Hyundai Motor Group’s Mountain View, Calif.-based open innovation and investment arm, sponsored the challenge, which was held April 23 at Berkeley Haas. 

Cradle challenged students to develop novel business models for the company’s future PBV market launch in North America. Hyundai Motor Group is in the final stages of building a flexible automobile base, called a skateboard, that can be used to produce many kinds of PVBs—vehicles ranging from ambulances to passenger shuttles to delivery fleets for small businesses.

The first-place team took home $15,000 for its pitch. Winning team members included Srivatsa Chakravarthy, EWMBA 25; Oleksandr Krotenko, EMBA 23; Victoria Marcus, EWMBA 25; and Simeon Ryan, EWMBA 25.  

The competing teams, composed of graduate students from across all three Haas MBA programs and the UC Berkeley School of Information, participated in a semester-long series of training sessions, focused on the Lean Startup method and customer discovery training. The top three finalist teams were then tasked with finding and validating novel business models for PBVs that they pitched to judges at the end of the program. 

“This was a fantastic way to showcase students from across all three of our MBA programs,” said Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP). “The program also provided a perfect opportunity for our MBA students to work with top graduate students from across the campus.”

Solving real problems

The winning group pitched a fix for emergency medical services that they described as “antiquated, expensive, and ripe for technological disruption.” The team suggested that Cradle partner with industry leader AMR (American Medical Response) to capitalize on the company’s market share and need to contract with an outsourced fleet.

two men and one women pointing, wearing suits speaking at a conference
Victoria Marcus, EWMBA 25, pitches during the 2023 Haas Purpose-Built Vehicles (PBV) Challenge. Photo: Jim Block

Marcus, who works in corporate finance, said she was excited to work on solving a real problem experienced by a company outside of her industry.

“Going through the pitching process with judges was the pinnacle business school experience I’ve always wanted to try since I started my EWMBA,” she said. During Lean Launch, she said her group conducted more than 30 interviews with potential clients. “We had to pivot a couple times from our original idea to make sure we were solving problems for them,” she said. “Ultimately this led us to think hard and adapt so we could develop a detailed business plan that would benefit potential clients.”

During the pitch day, Kia’s vice president of new business planning, Ju yup Kang, a judge for the competition, outlined how KIA is transforming from a car company to a “full mobility solution provider.” Henry Chung, senior vice president and head of Hyundai Cradle, said the students had clearly put in a lot of effort to develop creative solutions to difficult problems. 

Chung; Kang; Changwoo Kim, a chief coordinator at Cradle; Tafflyn Toy, an open innovation project manager at Hyundai Cradle; and Nick Triantos, chief architect, automotive system software at Nvidia, served as the final challenge judges.

Team Ingenium took second place ($10,000) with a pitch for all-in-one fleet management. Members included Reggie Draper, EMBA 23; Michael LaFramboise, MBA/MEng 24; Matthew McGoffin, MBA/MEng 23; and Michael Yang, MIMS (master of information management and systems) 23.

Team Mobility Moguls took third place ($5,000) for a strategy that addressed a mobile future for police & security. Team members included Anmol Aggarwal, EWMBA 24; Suveda Dhoot, MBA 24; Hrishikesh Nagaraju, MIMS 24; Nithin Ravindra, EWMBA 23, MIMS 24; and Lutong Yang.

a group of students holding three large checks
The three prizewinning teams in the Haas Purpose-Built Vehicles (PBV) pitch competition with checks. Photo: Jim Block


New book explores pandemic’s effect on innovation

Jerry Engel
Jerry Engel

When Jerome Engel and colleagues presented a framework to describe innovation communities in 2014, the world was a different place. That book, Global Clusters of Innovation: Entrepreneurial Engines of Economic Growth around the World, explored the explosion and global trendsetting impact of Silicon Valley new venture development business practices. Now Engel has refined and extended that framework with Clusters of Innovation in the Age of Disruption (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2022), a collection of essays from business leaders and teachers worldwide. Berkeley Haas asked Engel, the founding executive director emeritus of the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship (now the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program), about his new findings.

What made you want to revisit your study of clusters of innovation?

In my first book, we outlined and demonstrated how innovative technology companies tend to emerge in clusters in certain regions—and we questioned what drives that process. The world has since entered a period of severe economic, cultural, and environmental disruption due to an ongoing series shocks. We wanted to investigate what was happening in these innovative communities and whether they demonstrate enhanced resilience. We found that the answer was a profound “yes”. Clusters of Innovation demonstrate an entrepreneurial agility that enhances their resilience to external shocks, contributing significant social and economic value to society.

How do they do this? 

Through innovation, which I define as the positive response to change. Trends are obvious, especially technology trends which tend to be of relatively long duration. While a tech trend is not in itself innovation, its adoption into a valuable good or service is. Commercialization of such tech trends is often pursued by venture-capital backed entrepreneurial firms. Their initial market entry strategy is often to approach niche markets that provide a beachhead opportunity because incumbent firms are not serving their needs exactly. So smaller firms gain traction by providing these niche markets with products and services that provide a tight product market fit. Many entrepreneurial firms that blossomed in the midst of the pandemic were prepared for years before the pandemic. Their work in refining their technology and products put them in a position to provide solutions of huge impact quickly when the pandemic hit. This agility enhanced the resiliency, as they were already in the market with a limited but proven track record—so their businesses were positioned to explode into an “overnight success” when the shock occurred.

Can you provide examples of this?

Two clear, and very different, examples are Zoom in telecommunications and mRNA vaccine development in health care. Zoom had an innovative business model and mRNA developers embraced deep technology innovation. Zoom displaced slower- moving Cisco (WebEx), Microsoft (Skype/Teams), and other incumbents in revolutionizing business, personal, and education communication. Zoom became a verb, a place, a way of conducting much of our daily life. Zoom’s quick mass adoption revolved around a subtle business model innovation: Product-Led-Growth [PLG]. PLG is an evolution of the freemium model, where ease of user adoption is emphasized (just click the link, no log-ins, no hassle) and is often free. Traditional marketing is initially de-emphasized and that investment pored back into product development and viral marketing. Revenue evolves eventually from upselling to universities and larger businesses with value-added full-featured SaaS subscriptions. This ease of adoption drove the rapid behavior change that enabled a greater collective agility and a greater resilience.

A different type of innovation-driven agility is demonstrated in mRNA technology, which enabled the creation of vaccines in months rather than many years. Startups commercialized the novel mRNA vaccine technology, based on university research, before the pandemic. While the fundamental technology was revolutionary, its impact on the health of the general population was minimal. But during the pandemic, the benefits of this novel approach and the urgent need for a vaccine made its advantages clear, gaining the full attention major pharmaceutical firms. The rapid development and deployment of the various Covid-19 vaccines often depended on partnerships with major pharmaceutical companies, providing a perfect combination of speed and scale. The smaller firms’ product development speed combined with the larger firms’ capacity to scale trials, manufacture, and distribute.

What’s the takeaway from the book?

Economic regions such as Silicon Valley and other Clusters of Innovation around the world have proven to have enhanced resiliency to economic and environmental shocks. At the heart of such Clusters of Innovation are entrepreneurs, collaborating with venture investors and major corporations. Their constructive interactions build the resiliency required to quickly adapt and rebound from shocks. The process is helped by supportive government, universities, service firms, and other supporting actors in the community.

In ambitious new book, Henry Chesbrough shows how to get results from open innovation

Adj. Prof. Henry ChesbroughWhen Adj. Prof. Henry Chesbrough, PhD 97, was researching open innovation in the pharmaceutical industry, he found one pharma that had 7,000 scientists working on tens of thousands of compounds. But the company only licensed out less than one a year, shelving the others.

Although some of those shelved compounds may have succeeded in the marketplace, companies may fear they’ll look bad if a product they passed on thrives externally—a phenomenon he calls “Fear of Looking Foolish” or FOLF. “Our interview subjects admitted to us that FOLF was a major constraint to overcoming this,” Chesbrough writes.

It’s been 16 years since the publication of Chesbrough’s Open Innovation launched a new paradigm for bringing new technologies to market, spurring companies to embrace the power of collaborative business models.

Open Innovation Results book coverChesbrough is back to close the loop with his most ambitious work to date. Open Innovation Results: Going Beyond the Hype and Getting Down to Business (Nov. 2019, Oxford University Press) offers a clear-eyed view of the challenges that limit organizations’ ability to create and profit from innovation and practical tools for overcoming those challenges.

The book also provides a roadmap to restore productivity and economic growth for society as a whole—in the U.S. and globally.

David Teece, the Thomas W. Tusher Professor in Global Business, says Open Innovation Results breaks new ground. “It links open innovation not only to enterprise performance but to national economic growth as well,” he says. “There are important insights into the difference between ‘open’ and ‘free’ innovation, along with insightful characterizations of China’s use of open innovation practices and policies.”

Open innovation centers on the idea that companies stand more to gain from making use of external ideas and sharing their own innovations through licensing, sales, partnerships, and spinoffs than from trying to do it all themselves. A famous example: IBM’s development of the PC.

“We wanted to do something small and fast…so it was critical to IBM’s success that we partnered with Intel and Microsoft and created the PC industry together,” said Jim Spohrer, Director of Cognitive OpenTech at IBM and a member of the Berkeley Innovation Forum, a group created by Chesbrough to help corporate managers involved in innovation.

Has the promise of innovation been overhyped?

Chesbrough opens the book with an “exponential paradox” that’s at the heart of our current global economic situation: While new technologies are emerging faster and faster—some say exponentially—economic productivity is slowing. Has the promise of innovation been overhyped?

The real problem, Chesbrough argues, is that promoters of innovation too often chase after “bright and shiny objects,” focusing on the initial stage of development and neglecting the rest of the process. Innovation results depend on what you finish, not on what you start, he says.

“In order to advance prosperity, we must not only create new technologies, but we must also disseminate them broadly and absorb them, which means having the knowledge and skills to put them to work in our business,” Chesbrough says. “Only then do we really see the social benefit of these new technologies, and only then will these measures of economic productivity catch up again.”

Chesbrough shapes these three facets of innovation—generation, dissemination, and absorption—into a new paradigm for managing R&D and bringing new technologies to market. Rooted in two decades of extensive field research, the book is packed with real examples of successes and failures from companies such as Procter & Gamble, IBM, Intel, General Electric, Bayer, and Huawei.

Carlos Moedas, the European Union’s Commissioner for Research, Science, and Innovation, says the book’s complex concepts are easily relatable. “[It’s] a must-read for politicians, policy-makers, and business leaders who want to make a difference by designing the right policies that drive not only the generation of new ideas, but…their broad dissemination and adoption by society,” he says.

About Henry Chesbrough

Henry Chesbrough is widely known as “the father of open innovation”. He has built an international reputation for his insights into the innovation process. The author of six books (translated into 12 languages) and numerous articles, he has received 70,000 citations to his work on Google Scholar. He has appointments at both UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and at Esade Business School in Barcelona.

Prof. Chesbrough founded and organizes two external groups of companies that each meet twice a year to discuss challenges in managing innovation: the Berkeley Innovation Forum (32 member companies) and the European Innovation Forum (20 member companies). He has taught at the Haas School of Business for the past 14 years, at Esade Business School for the past 7 years, and taught previously at Harvard Business School for 6 years. He also serves as the Faculty Director of the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation at Berkeley Haas.

Open Innovation Results is available for pre-order on Amazon.

6th World Open Innovation Conference to focus on societal and business challenges

World Open Innnovation Conference 2019 logoHow societal challenges can provide organizations with unexpected growth opportunities will be the theme as innovation leaders gather for the sixth annual World Open Innovation Conference in Rome Dec. 12-13.

Organized by the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation, the conference, with an expected attendance of more than 200, will for the first time be held at Rome’s Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali Guido Carli, or LUISS for short. With the theme “Opening Up for Managing Business and Societal Challenges,” the event will include presentations on topics ranging from conceptualizing an open innovation ecosystem to implementing new ideas.

“Useful knowledge has spread so far so fast that no single organization can or should try to do everything on its own,” says Adj. Prof. Henry Chesbrough, conference chair and author of the new book Open Innovation Results: Going Beyond the Hype and Getting Down to Business (available Nov. 28). “The pace of growth in ideas is accelerating, making it even more imperative to open up to participate effectively in these flows of knowledge,” he says.

Francesco Starace, chief executive of Italian energy company Enel Group, will discuss developments in green and renewable energy as the keynote speaker. Other speakers include University of Toronto Professor Anita McGahan and University of Surrey Professor Annabelle Gawer, as well as other leaders in the energy and technology industries.

Conference activities include presentations of 60 papers, 15 posters, and five industry challenges, in which companies test open innovation’s impacts on real-world problems. A panel of a group of energy firms will discuss the companies’ combined activities and resources to invest in energy-related startup firms.

Chesbrough in the early 2000’s coined the term “open innovation,” which centers on the idea that organizations should open themselves to knowledge flows. Companies that pursue open innovation don’t rely on only their own internal expertise, but buy or license technology and business processes from others. This approach speeds up product cycles, spreads risks and rewards with others, and increases product differentiation, Chesbrough says. At the same time, companies that license or sell inventions that they’re not using can generate additional revenue, spread out fixed costs, and validate ideas and technologies that could have been overlooked, he adds.

Chesbrough’s early research concentrated on the technology sector’s pursuit of open innovation. Since then, other industries, including the automotive, chemical, consumer products, and financial services industries have followed. Similarly, some governments and nonprofits have also benefited from open innovation, finding ideas from collaborative partnerships and crowdsourcing to benefit health-care systems and city planning.

“No one organization has a monopoly on great ideas,” says Chesbrough.

In his new book, Chesbrough examines some of the challenges companies face in seeking innovation from others, including cultural resistance to pursuing ideas invented elsewhere and ingrained businesses practices that discourage collaboration. The book also links innovation at companies to national economic growth. All conference attendees will receive a copy of the book.