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).
Haas Voices is a new first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community.
The myth of the “model minority” stereotypes Asian Americans as a polite, law-abiding, hard-working group that’s overcome discrimination to achieve educational and career success through drive and innate talent—typically in math and science.
The myth defies the fact that the Asian American community is diverse socioeconomically and culturally. The perception of the Asian community as a monolith is also the reason why people remain mystified by anti-Asian racism, says UC Berkeley alumna Hua Hsu, who wrote in the New Yorker recently that the “needs and disadvantages of refugee communities and poor Asian Americans have been obscured.”
Recently, several high-profile incidents of violence against Asians have shone a spotlight on long-simmering anti-Asian racism, and also highlighted the way the “model minority” myth has been used as a wedge between Black and Asian communities. We talked to two undergraduate students who are Chinese American, along with a recent undergraduate alumna who is Black, about what the myth means to them and how it impacts their lives.
Mia Character, BS 20, a native of Gretna, Louisiana, grew up in Redlands, Calif. She is now a recruiting coordinator at Robinhood via contract with AppleOne.
When did you first hear the term “model minority?”
Erinn Wong: I first heard the term back in high school. I thought it meant to stereotype Asians as hardworking, good at math and education—that somehow we work hard and we succeed and it was very much aligned with the meritocracy myth. I really bought into that and internalized it growing up, believing that if you work hard, you’ll be successful. It wasn’t until college that I was able to put two and two together and recognize that these stereotypes are rooted in anti-Blackness and white supremacy to show that Asian Americans are the “model minority” and to situate Black Americans as the “problem minority.”
Mia Character: It was probably when I first moved to California from the South that I was first introduced to Asian people and to the stereotypes. I don’t think anyone within my inner circle or family perpetuated these stereotypes, but I did hear them in the media or at school with jokes the kids at school would tell. From early on, I always thought of Asian American students not as competition, but as the ones to emulate because they were really good in their classes and played all these instruments and seem to have it all together. It wasn’t until I got to Cal that I really started paying attention to and listening to other Asian American folks that I learned how dangerous the model minority myth is.
It wasn’t until college that I was able to put two and two together and recognize that these stereotypes are rooted in anti-Blackness and white supremacy to show that Asian Americans are the “model minority” and to situate Black Americans as the “problem minority.” — Erinn Wong, BS 21
Vivian Feng: I’ve been aware of it for so long, but I didn’t really put a name to it. When I first heard it, I just thought of the stereotypical views of how Asians are better at math and internalized the belief that if I worked hard enough, I would be able to achieve success. But I never really talked about it until high school, when I fully embraced my identity.
How did your thoughts about the model minority change once you got to Berkeley?
Mia: I think it wasn’t until I got to Cal that I realized that the model minority myth impacts the Asian-American communities a lot more than just a simple “Oh, you’re good at math.” It’s a socioeconomic issue and it’s very systemic. At Cal, I started listening and paying attention and I was able to learn and grow in my understanding. There are groups within the Asian-American community that are disproportionately impacted by things like colorism that I didn’t know about in high school. Everybody has a different experience in America and all minorities face different stereotypes. I think my time at Cal has made me a lot more comfortable having conversations with my Asian friends and asking how they’re doing and how they have been impacted by racism and the systems of oppression that America is built on.
Vivian: It affected me mentally before even going into Berkeley because I felt like I had to go to Cal to meet expectations. In the end I chose Berkeley because it was the only college that I applied to with a major that lined up with my interests of international development, cross-cultural experiences, and traveling. When I got my acceptance letter, I had some doubts, but I ultimately felt this need to pursue my passion. Being at Haas as a freshman is even more drastically different because most people typically get in their junior year. You have this imposter syndrome. People internalize the model minority myth and say, “You got in, you’re smart. You can get through it, you’ll pass your classes.” But in reality, I don’t feel like that because I am a first-generation college student who went to an under-resourced high school. I do not feel prepared, and I’m literally in a system that wasn’t necessarily designed for me to succeed.
People internalize the model minority myth and say, “You got in, you’re smart. You can get through it, you’ll pass your classes.” But in reality, I don’t feel like that because I am a first-generation college student who went to an under-resourced high school.— Vivian Feng, BS 24
Erinn: Coming to Cal was my first time experiencing being with a larger East Asian population in school. I feel like people lump all Asian Americans together. I went to high school with, and was classmates with, many Hmong students, who are severely underrepresented in higher education and other areas, not to mention Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians. The model minority myth is really destructive. My classmates who were Hmong would either go to community college or work to support their families or go into the military and a few would go to a state college.
I also learned here at Berkeley that the identity and label “Asian American” had radical roots. It was coined by graduate students Yuji Ichioka and Emma Gee, who formed the Asian American Political Alliance in 1968 at UC Berkeley to bring together Chinese, Filipino, and Japanese students to stand in solidarity. They fought for the self determination and collective liberation of Asian Americans and Third World Peoples, and in the Third World Liberation Front strikes, which led to establishing Ethnic Studies majors at colleges across the U.S. Asian American was a radical label then because it brought together a multi-ethnic, multi-class, and multi-generational coalition of Asians and shifted away from the “Oriental” label. To call yourself an Asian American at the time was a political statement. It’s wild now that Asian American has lost its radical, political roots because of the way it has been wielded by the white mainstream and model minority myth, and then internalized by all of us, to homogenize, invalidate, and erase our struggles and solidarity with each other and other communities of color.
How does the model minority myth hurt you personally?
Vivian: I’m told I’m too aggressive, but I don’t like being quiet when I feel the urge to speak up. I wasn’t engaged politically when I was younger because I had this perception that politics was only for white people. It was just ingrained into my life. Growing up, whenever I brought up politics with my mom, my thoughts were dismissed. It felt like I was talking to a wall. Eventually, I realized that my mom’s lack of political engagement is because of her lack of education while being in survival mode. Many East and Southeast Asians in my community have to worry about their basic necessities before even thinking about studying. As I became more knowledgeable about the model minority myth, I was always told that I was “too political” among my peers.
However, this fueled my desire to stop being a bystander and conforming to societal standards. Our reality is that the model minority myth hurts everyone as it perpetuates white supremacy.
Erinn: I got feedback at two tech corporate internships that I needed to be more confident, even though I thought the way I presented myself was fine, despite struggling with imposter syndrome and confidence at times. At the same time, in other spaces I’d get feedback that I was too strong and too aggressive, something East Asian women face. You’re expected to be submissive, not speak up, and just do what you’re expected to do. And when you do speak up and contribute, you’re seen as too strong, aggressive, bossy, a bitch. It’s the long-standing East Asian stereotypes of East Asian women being docile and exotic, while also being the dragon lady or tiger mom. The term also impacts how much space I take up, because as an East Asian woman, I’m expected to not take up space. The model minority myth compounds that by making me think, “Oh, maybe my struggles are not as marginalized as another person of color and I cannot take up as much space.”
You’re expected to be submissive, not speak up, and just do what you’re expected to do. And when you do speak up and contribute, you’re seen as too strong, aggressive, bossy, a bitch. — Erinn Wong
I’ve heard both East and South Asians say ‘we’re not really people of color,’ which is not true. I think it’s the model minority myth that creates this feeling that we’re not “POC enough.” But something that helped was what Haas alumna Michelle Kim said to me: that we need to think of ourselves as co-strugglers with Black people and other people of color, not as perpetual allies because that’s a white model of allyship. And when I really sat with that and made the connections to how the model minority myth makes me feel shame and guilt for “taking up space,” I saw how it’s white supremacy that makes me feel like I can’t take up space alongside other people of color because white supremacy creates and thrives from scarcity, that there is only enough space for one marginalized group to share their struggles and to thrive.
Mia: As a Black person growing up in a state with a fairly large Asian American population, the model minority myth had an adverse impact on me. It was created to pit Asian American and Black people against one another by saying, “if Asian people can thrive in America and be exceptional and thrive in their roles in our capitalistic society, then Black people should have been able to do it, too.” But if you take a step back and look at the different histories, they aren’t comparable. They don’t need to be compared and contrasted because we faced different kinds of oppression that all stem from white supremacy. Growing up and not understanding this, it was easy to feel like you have to be just as “perfect” to be worthy of respect. That you have to get the best grades, be a part of multiple clubs, and go to the best universities to prove that as a Black person you are worthy.
Growing up and not understanding this, it was easy to feel like you have to be just as “perfect” to be worthy of respect. That you have to get the best grades, be a part of multiple clubs, and go to the best universities to prove that as a Black person you are worthy.—Mia Character, BS 20
How do you think that the model minority myth hurts your community?
Erinn: The model minority myth has real impacts on the Asian community. For example, in tech, East and South Asians are overrepresented in certain departments. But as a whole, we don’t hold a lot of power, which is another reminder that under/overrepresentation is different from marginalization. We are least likely to be promoted to management, and there’s still a “bamboo ceiling.” This can be attributed to people internalizing the model minority and stereotypes of how we’re supposed to just shut up and work hard, or that somehow we don’t have “leadership potential and qualities,” communication skills, or “executive presence.” Southeast Asians, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders are severely underrepresented in tech, and data on Asians is rarely disaggregated.
Beyond tech, Southeast Asians are systemically impacted by deportation, ICE raids, and poverty, Chinatown neighborhoods and Asian-owned businesses have been struggling in this pandemic, and Filipino nurses, Pacific-Islanders, and Native Hawaiians have had some of the highest COVID-19 mortality rates. The model minority myth ignores our struggles and our communities lack sufficient resources and attention. And I learned last year that less than 1% of philanthropic funding goes to Asian American Pacific Islander causes, which proves the model minority myth is at work again.
What are your thoughts about how the myth is connected to the recent anti-Asian violence?
Mia: This was happening long before Trump, but violence against Asians is never talked about. In some ways I think that’s also part of the model minority myth. We’re taught that because Asian Americans are the “model minority,” they can’t face racism and the violence that comes with it.
Vivian: It’s nothing new. Historically, many fail to recognize xenophobic practices, such as The Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese internment camps, as well as the murder of Vincent Chin. Asians are never really talked about in our history classes, and if it is, it’s always about East Asians from a divisive Eurocentric perspective. Now, the main difference is that anti-Asian violence is captured on camera and that more people are open to talking about it in the younger generation. Social media has changed everything in the way we approach politics. The elderly, especially Asians, are either scared or there’s a language barrier and they won’t report the incidents. And at least in Oakland, the violence has happened for as long as I can remember. I know so many people who have been affected by the violence before the pandemic and it’s a shame that it wasn’t recognized until now.
Adair Morse, an associate professor of finance at the Haas School of Business, has been named to the Biden Administration’s treasury department as deputy assistant secretary of capital access in the Office of Domestic Finance.
“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to serve in the Biden Administration and to join the team at treasury, serving the people of this great country,” said Morse, the Soloman P. Lee Chair in Business Ethics, who is taking a leave from the Haas Finance Group to commit to her new role.
“We will miss Adair at Haas, where she has conducted groundbreaking finance research and launched the Sustainable and Impact Finance (SAIF) initiative with (former Haas Dean) Laura Tyson to train many new leaders in the field,” said Dean Ann Harrison. “She has already made an impact in helping small businesses in California through her work on the California Rebuilding Fund. I have no doubt she will have an even greater impact on a national scale.”
The Office of Domestic Finance develops policies and guidance in the areas of financial institutions, regulation, capital markets, and federal debt finance. Its community and economic development division coordinates small business finance and development, housing policy, capital access, and issues related to underserved communities.
Morse, who holds a PhD in finance from the University of Michigan’s Ross School and two master’s degrees from Purdue University, joined Haas in 2012 from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Her research interests include equity issues in financial services and algorithms, small business survival, sustainable investing, discrimination and corruption, venture capital, and pension management. The unifying theme in her work, she has said, is “leveling economic playing fields.”
“Adair’s groundbreaking research has looked at important issues, like small business survival in the city of Oakland, consumer lending discrimation in fintech, and the pervasiveness of corporate fraud,” said Prof. Catherine Wolfram, associate dean for Academic Affairs and chair of the faculty. “As a pioneering, creative thinker in so many areas, she will have plenty of opportunity to bring her financial and social impact leadership to the table.”
As a pioneering, creative thinker in so many areas, she will have plenty of opportunity to bring her financial and social impact leadership to the table. —Prof. Catherine Wolfram, chair of the faculty
Morse has spent much of the pandemic using her finance expertise to try to help small businesses. Last spring, Morse and Tyson began working on a strategy to use public capital to attract private lenders to provide low-interest credit to help vulnerable small businesses get through the crisis. They first helped develop a program with the City of Berkeley, and then worked with others—including Yellen, who was then on Gov. Newsom’s Task Force on Jobs and Competitiveness—to implement an innovative public-private loan structure at the state level. Their work helped launch the California Rebuilding Fund, run by the Governors’ Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) and aimed at some of the state’s smallest businesses in under-resourced communities.
At Berkeley Haas, Morse also ran the Haas Impact Fund and Sustainable Investment Fund curriculum, managing two endowment funds with Haas students. The Sustainable Investment Fund is the first and largest student-led Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) fund within a leading business school.Until recently, Morse served on the Governance and Allocations Committee of the California Rebuilding Fund, as well as on the expert panel for the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, advising on issues of sustainability and innovation.
Haas Voices is a new first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community. Our first perspective is by “double Bear” Luis Alejandro Liang, BS 12, EWMBA 23, who is among the approximately 644,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients granted special immigration status because they were brought to the U.S. as children. Liang’s path to Berkeley was challenging—he’s been accepted three times. He shares his story below.
Many times over these past four years, I’ve woken up in fear. Fear of deportation. Fear about what was going to happen to our community. Fear that ICE could knock on my door and take me away.
I grew up in Sinaloa on the Pacific coast of Mexico. I’m half Chinese, half Mexican. I grew up multicultural—going to Catholic church on Sundays but celebrating Chinese New Year. I started helping my family in their Chinese restaurant when I was six years old. I was surrounded by entrepreneurs.
When I was 14, my mom moved me and my three little sisters to Orange County because she wanted to provide us with better chances. I entered high school as a sophomore without knowing any English. It was a culture shock, but I wanted to honor my mom’s sacrifices by excelling academically. I was put back in algebra, even though I was taking calculus when we left Mexico. As a senior, I got into a couple of UCs, but my first scholarship was taken away because I didn’t have a social security number.
So I decided to go to Fullerton College. In high school, I had been really shy because I was new, so I didn’t know anything about things like AP classes or honor society. When I got to community college, I decided to get involved. I joined the Puente Program, which is mostly for Latino students to help get us into four-year colleges. I was really active, working long days because I was also a tutor. The Puente Program gave us a tour of all the UCs. That was the first time that I actually went to visit the campuses.
When I visited Berkeley I fell in love. I remember the Campanile, Sather Gate and thought of all the famous people who went there, including Mexican presidents.
I knew that I wanted to study business. I also knew that I was gay by that time too, and that San Francisco was LGBTQ friendly. I knew I could be myself at Berkeley.
My dream came true when I got accepted to Haas as a junior and received the prestigious Regents’ and Chancellors’ Scholarship, given to the top 2% of students. But when I went to the financial aid office, they again took away my scholarship because I still didn’t have a social security number. I was crying, and the woman who broke the news to me was crying too.
They again took away my scholarship because I still didn’t have a social security number. I was crying, and the woman who broke the news to me was crying too.
I remember seeing the César E. Chávez Student Center in front of me and I just went in and I started walking around. I thought, “If this is César Chávez’s building, there’s going to be a Latino person here who can help me.” I ended up meeting Lupe Gallegos-Diaz, director of the Chicano Department at Berkeley. Lupe became a support for me when I returned to community college more determined to achieve my dreams.
I became more politically active, creating the Fullerton College Dream Team to support undocumented students. In 2010, I got into Berkeley Haas for the 2nd time, having raised $70,000 to cover my tuition.
When I graduated, I was a first-generation Berkeley Haas grad deemed ineligible to work in the U.S. I felt lost, but by then I knew I wasn’t alone. My life took a turn when President Obama passed DACA in 2012, extending opportunities previously unavailable to those of us brought to the U.S. as children. A door of possibilities opened up and led me to a job at Salesforce, helping non-profit organizations leverage technology to amplify their impact.
My life took a turn when President Obama passed DACA in 2012.
Being the first DACA employee at Salesforce motivated me to use my voice in a space where underrepresented groups lack a sense of inclusion. I worked with the chief equality officer on a podcast about diversity and inclusion, served on the leadership board of multiple employee resource groups, and came out of the shadows by sharing my story on a video called “Proudly Me.”
In 2013, another dream came true when I traveled to the White House and met President Obama after I received the LGBT DREAMers Courage Award, which honors individuals who have shown courage and perseverance in the face of injustice.
Still focused on social impact at my current job at Twilio, I decided it was time to go back to school for an MBA. I applied to the Berkeley Haas Evening and Weekend MBA program and got into my dream university for the third time, starting last fall. My focus is to become a chief social impact officer and a social leader at a company. In my classes, surrounded by fellow Type As, I’m learning things that I put into practice at my job. I love the community and I can’t wait to get back to campus.
Growing up, I thought that life would change the day I could finally get my residency—that something would change inside of me and that things were going to be better. But as the years passed, thinking that way made me believe that I was incomplete and something was missing. But being paperless doesn’t make us powerless. We have purpose and an eagerness to give back, by creating communities, by finding the power in helping people. I now find so much joy in helping other “Dreamers” get into school and finding their dream jobs.
But being paperless doesn’t make us powerless. We have purpose and an eagerness to give back, by creating communities, by finding the power in helping people.
There are 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., not by choice, but because we needed to survive. I hope to highlight the narrative of joy, love, and pride that comes from living a life dedicated to serving our families’ and communities’ dreams.”
Luis Liang, an account manager in social impact at communications company Twilio, is passionate about advocating for human rights and supporting Latinx, LGBTQ, and undocumented immigrant communities. Liang has served as a board member for the Association of Latino Professionals for America, The Greenlining Institute Alumni Association, and on several corporate Employee Resources Groups.
Berkeley Haas is expanding its Accelerated Access program, allowing all undergraduate seniors or final-year graduate students to apply for deferred admittance to the full-time MBA program.
Haas first piloted the Accelerated Access program in January 2020, limiting it to UC Berkeley students. The pilot’s success led to an expansion of the program to a wider variety of applicants, said Eric Askins, executive director of full-time MBA admissions.
“We wanted to provide a new opportunity for young professionals who are planning to make an impact earlier in their careers through earning an MBA,” Askins said. “Deferred admission is the perfect option for many of these students, and we’re looking forward to meeting them.”
Under the program, undergraduate and master’s students apply to the MBA program during their final year. Successful applicants gain conditional admission, and can then enroll after a flexible two-to-five-year deferment period during which they gain professional experience, which is typically required for all traditional MBA candidates.
The program allows students to “do work that aligns with their passions with the reassurance that they will be able to return to a top-ranked MBA program within a few years,” Askins said.
The program is expected to increase the diversity of the class, he said, encouraging more international students and students from a wide variety of academic disciplines to consider an MBA—from graduate students in environmental science who want to pursue careers in sustainability to engineering students who want to complement their technical skills with a business foundation.
Askins added that the program enables the admissions office to get to know potential applicants earlier in the process, when they are planning their careers, deepening their academic passions, and considering an MBA.
Admitted applicants can join a Slack community, to meet other deferring students who want to stay on top of the admission process and connect with future peers.
Students will check in annually during the deferral period with admissions to make sure that they are on track and supported, Askins said.
The first deadline for applicants is April 5. The application process is similar to that of the full-time MBA program, with requirements that include a resume, two letters of recommendation, two short essays, undergraduate transcripts, and either the GMAT or GRE standardized test. An interview will be required for admission.
While these applicants will not be able to tap into work experience on their applications, they have much to offer, Askins said. “We’re looking for strong academic indicators paired with clarity of purpose. If you know an MBA will be useful in your future goals, it means you’ve thought about a plan. We are looking for clarity on that plan.”
If ever there was a year that called on all of us to embody the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles, it was 2020. It so happened that this tumultuous year also marked the 10th anniversary of codifying these principles, which have become deeply embedded throughout our school over the past decade.
This year, many in our community went beyond themselves to help those struggling with pandemic impacts, while others questioned the status quo, speaking out against racial inequities and violence against Blacks and African Americans. Others showed confidence without attitude in sharing expertise and skills to help small businesses or solve other problems related to the pandemic. And we were all reminded to be students always as we adapted to life online.
While 2020 challenged us in many ways, it also taught us that a global pandemic can bring out the best in ourselves and our community, and there is a lot worth recognizing—and even celebrating—as the year comes to a close. Here’s what we’ll remember.
Black Lives Matter
As waves of protests swept the country in response to the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, Haas community members spoke out publicly about violence against Blacks and African Americans, sharing deeply personal narratives of anguish, frustration, and devastation. “If you read no further, understand this,” wrote Marco T. Lindsey, associate director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Berkeley Haas, in a widely shared letter to the community. ”Black Lives Matter = if anyone kills a Black person, their punishment should be the same as if they killed someone from any other race.” Responding to BLM, students, faculty, and staff rallied together, leaning on each other for support. They raised funds to rebuild damaged Black-owned businesses and for racial equity organizations, and embarked on personal journeys toward allyship through campus study groups, anti-racist challenges for students and staff, and “Ask Me Anything” sessions.
Students stepping up
Among the notable 2020 projects were the Berkeley Community Business Partnership, led by Lokilani Hunt, MBA 22. As president of the group, Hunt led 60 MBA students who worked with local community groups to offer consulting support to small Bay Area businesses. Their work ranged from organizing a worker-owned cooperative for struggling restaurants to developing new financing pipelines for women-owned businesses to helping small grocers build their online presence and upgrade their payment systems. The effort builds on a project launched last spring by theSustainable and Impact Finance (SAIF) initiative at Berkeley Haas. Meanwhile, Peter Gallager, EWMBA 22, a member of the University Development & Alumni Relations fundraising team, helped raise $10 million in three weeks for a pop-up coronavirus testing lab at the Innovative Genomics Institute. Raising that kind of capital can take months or even years to accomplish in normal times. “I’ve never experienced anything like that, but these are unprecedented times and people are responding in unprecedented ways,” he said.
Janet Yellen nominated for Treasury Secretary
Berkeley Haas Prof. Emeritus Janet Yellen’s career has been brilliant, groundbreaking, and defined by a commitment to public service. Among her many accomplishments: She was the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, she chaired the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, and she taught thousands of Berkeley Haas MBA and undergraduate students from 1980 to 2006. Now poised to become President-elect Biden’s lead economic advisor at one the nation’s most challenging periods, Yellen is expected to be a champion for all those facing the economic devastation of the pandemic.
Former Dean Laura Tyson, professor of the graduate school and her longtime close colleague, told the Financial Times that Yellen is driven by neither the “power” nor the “kudos” of the position. “She is doing it to serve the public, through the tools she has to understand economic issues.”
The passing of faculty greats
Nobel laureate Oliver Williamson, a pioneer of organizational economics, passed away on May 21 at age 87. Williamson, known to friends and colleagues as Olly, shared the 2009 prize in economics with political scientist Elinor Ostrom of Indiana University for his insight on the “make-or-buy”decision—the process by which businesses choose whether to outsource a process, service, or manufacturing function. “Williamson’s work permanently changed how economists view organizations,” said Prof. Rich Lyons, who was dean when Williamson won the Nobel. “Yet for all of his intellectual creativity, I most often think of Olly as a person who lifts others.”
Last month we also lost Prof. Emeritus George Strauss, who passed away Nov. 27 at age 97. An icon in the field of industrial relations who served as a professor from 1960 until 1991, Strauss helped establish Haas as an organizational theory powerhouse starting in the 1960s. He was a prolific researcher and top scholar of organizational behavior, unions, workplace participation, and comparative industrial relations.
The scramble to move online
On March 9, it was all-hands-on-deck after Chancellor Carol Christ announced the campus would suspend in-person classes to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. Haas had to move 270 classes online virtually overnight. Faculty members scrambled to adapt, with Haas Digital, graduate student instructors, and other staff working overtime to support them. Those with more experience online stepped up to help colleagues. The work continued all summer, as faculty and staff worked to re-imagine classes, learn online pedagogy, and pre-record asynchronous material, while Haas invested in new technology. Dean Ann Harrison commended the efforts. “After watching our faculty and staff move within 36 hours to online teaching when the coronavirus broke out, I believe there’s little that we can’t do virtually going forward.”
Financial creativity to save small businesses
The Haas School of Business and Berkeley Law came together to play a critical role in developing the State of California’s new fund to support small businesses devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. The California Rebuilding Fund, a new public-private partnership operated by the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), uses government capital to attract private lenders to offer low-interest loans to small businesses—particularly the smallest firms and entrepreneurs from communities that have been historically disenfranchised. Professors Laura Tyson and Adair Morse contributed their finance and policy expertise to the innovative design of the fund. “The state put many groups together to try to get the best of the best ideas,” said Morse, the Soloman P. Lee Chair in Business Ethics. “We all came together to try to optimize a plan for the people of California.”
Haas had a banner year for welcoming new leaders to the Dean’s suite, including Loretta Ezeife, chief financial officer; Howie Avery, assistant dean for Development & Alumni Relations; Michele de Nevers, in the newly-created position of executive director of sustainability programs, and Michelle Marquez, assistant dean of Human Resources. On the faculty side, nine new professors, including five women, joined Haas. The diverse, international group hails from Italy, Argentina, France, China, Canada, and California.
Pride in our big wins
Alum Collin Morikawa, BS 19, stunned the golf world last August by winning the PGA Championship, making history as one of the tournament’s youngest winners. Highlights from our many student competitions this year include a FTMBA team win at the Berkeley Haas Spring 2020 Tech Challenge, and a first-place FTMBA finish at the inauguralOxford Global Private Equity Challenge in March. Yashoraj Tyagi and Akshay Gupta, both MFE 20, took first-place wins in the Moody’s Analytics competition. And another team of MFE students won first place in theCitadel West Coast Datathon. Eugene Kim, Zhuoran Li, Zixuan Chen, and Chen Su, all EWMBA 23, won the inaugural John E. Martin Healthcare Tech Challenge.
The Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA Class of 2020 overcame a challenging job market this year, with most graduates landing jobs three months post-graduation with salaries and bonuses that held steady over 2019.
“The value of the Berkeley MBA has held strong in the market despite the pandemic and great economic uncertainty,” said Abby Scott, assistant dean of Career Management & Corporate Relations. “We’re so pleased with the flexibility, persistence, and resilience of our grads and are thankful to our alumni, who stepped up, going beyond themselves to help this class secure positions.”
Of the total class of 291 students, 238 students were seeking jobs, and 212 of them—or 89%— received offers within three months of graduation. About 87% had accepted an offer within three months after graduation, down slightly from 91% for the class of 2019.
In addition to a mean annual base salary of just over $139,000, 73% of the graduates received signing bonuses that averaged over $31,000, and 43% received stock options or grants.
“The value of the Berkeley MBA has held strong in the market despite the pandemic and great economic uncertainty.” —Assistant Dean Abby Scott
More than a quarter of the class accepted consulting roles at firms, at an average salary of $147,000. About 18% of the class accepted business development and strategy roles that pay an average of $140,000 annually. Grads working in finance roles (17.4% of the class) received $142,480.
Top employers of Haas graduates, or companies that hired three or more students this year, included Adobe, Amazon, Bain, Ernst & Young (including Parthenon), Boston Consulting Group, Cisco, Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, Google, LEK, McKinsey & Co., Genentech, and Visa.
Tech, consulting again top sectors
Technology and consulting were again the most popular sector for Berkeley MBAs, pulling in 32.4% and 25.1% of those seeking work. But many graduates had to be flexible and pivot quickly in an uncertain economy. Some students accepted later start dates with consultancies, while others had to completely reassess their job searches. Many relied on the help of Haas alumni more than ever this year.
Ije Durga, MBA 20, accepted a job with Amazon in Seattle after an offer from a hedge fund where she had interned was rescinded. In May, Durga decided to pivot to interview for jobs in the technology sector. She reached out to Trisha Mittal, MBA 19, who had started a job at Amazon. “She sent me open jobs and said ‘Hey, write me back on Monday with five roles you want to apply for,’ and when she didn’t hear from me she’d email me. She was pushing me. She literally went above and beyond.”
An opening in Amazon’s risk-management group, which entailed keeping dangerous, unsafe, or illegal products off Amazon websites, appealed to Durga because she had done similar work in India before applying to Haas. “I found a great job,” she said. “This is a dream job, everything about it has just been perfection.”
A pivot from consulting
Healthcare, which includes digital health, biotech and pharmaceutical companies, was also a strong sector for grads this year, employing 11.6% of the class.
Marion Robine, an associate with Genentech’s three-year Commercial Rotational Development Program, landed her job through her summer 2019 internship at the company. Robine, a consultant before she came to Haas, said she worked with Hoyt Ng of the Haas Career Management Group to figure out if she was ready to leave consulting. “The (Genentech) internship was the test for me.” After she decided to take a job there, she didn’t look back.
“The internship was the test for me.”— Marion Robine, MBA 2020
About 15% of students accepted roles in financial services, including fintech companies.
Matthias Froehlich accepted a job as an investment banking associate at JP Morgan Chase & Co. in San Francisco, where he interned during the summer of 2019. Froehlich, who works in technology coverage, said he was relieved when he received the offer after interviewing the entire first semester with many firms. “It’s definitely stressful when you’re recruiting,” he said. “I really loved the (JP Morgan) internship and working with big clients and I enjoyed the culture,” so it was a relief to get the offer letter, he said.
For Hilary Platt, an account manager at payment technology company Stripe, a post-graduate job meant changing industries. Prior to Haas, Platt had worked in the clean energy sector. After graduation, she became interested in pursuing a job in sales. So Doug Massa of the Berkeley Haas Career Management Group connected her to James Vessa, MBA 19, who worked as an account manager at Stripe. Vessa put in a referral for her. “I had not been explicitly targeting the fintech space, but the more I learned about Stripe and their mission and their goals I became increasingly excited about the company,” Platt said.
Startup life: “You need the scrappiness”
About 14% of grads went to work for startups, including Sid Mullick, who accepted a job as a senior manager at electric adventure vehicle company Rivian, where he works on capital projects. Mullick said the experience he gained at Haas co-founding electric scooter charger startup Grido, along with his pre-MBA engineering and project management experience, made him a good candidate to work at Rivian.
“They were excited to have someone with my mix of background who could project a solid engineering mindset with a nimble acceptance of the startup ecosystem,” he said. “You need the scrappiness, but to also balance it with good engineering judgement.”
Of the remaining 2020 graduates, 5.4% took jobs at consumer packaged goods/retail companies, 3% joined nonprofits or the public sector, 2.5% accepted real estate jobs, and 2.4% took jobs in energy.
While working as a senior consultant at Deloitte, Stephanie Wenclawski, MBA 22, noticed that many of her clients lacked access to digital tools that could help them efficiently manage their finances. Employees at one women’s empowerment organization, for example, spent hours manually uploading travel receipts to an outdated accounts payable system. “It was time they could have spent focusing on their mission,” she said.
Now, as one of 13 full-time MBA students named among this year’s Berkeley Haas Finance Fellows, Wenclawski said she wants to tap what she’s learned in previous roles to develop fintech products that will help women better manage their money.
Haas grants finance fellowships annually to full-time MBA students. Fellows receive a $5,000 scholarship, priority enrollment for elective classes, and a mentor in their field of interest, usually a Haas alum who provides career guidance and support. Fellows are evaluated and selected based on work experience in their chosen field, career goals, and interviews.
Fellows receive a $5,000 scholarship, priority enrollment for elective classes, and a mentor in their field of interest.
The Finance Fellowship Program, now in its 15th year, has doubled in size and expanded its scope as student interests have evolved over time, said William Rindfuss, executive director of strategic programs for the Haas Finance Group. In addition to investment banking fellowships, the program now offers fellowships to students interested in private equity, venture capital, impact investing, public-markets investing, and fintech.
This year’s fellows are:
Investment Management: Ray Xu, Sarah Beauge, Cyrus Aga
Entrepreneurial Finance: Chris Quaidoo, Stuart Fram, Stephanie Wenclawski
Investment Banking: Ian MacLean, Adhithya Ravi, Alex Wong, Rita Wiley
C&J White Finance Fellows (selected last spring): Jimmy Yang, Eric Edelstein, Bryan Locascio
Before coming to Haas, Chris Quaidoo, MBA 22, worked as a research analyst at Snow Capital Management, picking technology stocks. Now, he’s shifting gears, setting his sights on becoming a partner at a venture capital firm. Moving toward that goal, he’s already secured an associate position at venture capital and private equity firm Griffin Gaming Partners.
Quaidoo, the son of Ghanaian and Jamaican parents, said one of his goals is to create more diversity in the venture capital industry and a pathway for more people of color to follow in his footsteps.
“If you don’t have a seat at the table, you can’t truly create change,” he said. “I want to create an industry that includes more people who have backgrounds like mine.”
“If you don’t have a seat at the table, you can’t truly create change,” — Chris Quaidoo, MBA 22.
Rita Wiley, MBA 22, said she’s looking forward to tapping her undergraduate life sciences degree with her MBA to launch a career in healthcare investment banking. Wiley, a former U.S. Army military police officer, is already reaping the benefits of her fellowship.
“I just accepted an early offer for a summer internship with Piper Sandler’s healthcare team, so I’m pretty excited about that,” she said. “They’re definitely one of the top companies I’d like to work for after graduation.”
Lokilani Hunt, MBA 22, watched her partner battle the coronavirus and friends lose jobs and businesses due to the pandemic. So for Hunt, becoming president of the Berkeley Community Business Partnership was deeply personal.
“I jumped right in and said, ‘I don’t care what it takes,'”said Hunt, who oversees a group of 60 MBA students who came together this fall to consult on volunteer projects that support small businesses.
The consulting work, which ranges from organizing a worker-owned cooperative for struggling restaurants to developing new financing pipelines for women-owned businesses, builds on a project launched last spring by the Sustainable and Impact Finance (SAIF) initiative at Berkeley Haas. That program aimed to assist hundreds of small business owners in Oakland who face language, technology, or income barriers, to help them access federal relief funds including Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program, and unemployment insurance.
Over the summer, Katherine Baird, SAIF’s program director, worked to expand the program within Oakland—and beyond.
Baird put together a leadership team of first-year MBA students including Hunt, Crystal Ang, Drew Schneider, Stuart Fram, and Colin Ridlon, who reached out to 19 organizations that are supporting small businesses across the Bay Area and the Central Valley.
That included surveying the needs of city economic development teams from Daly City to San Leandro and business associations like the Black Cultural Zone in East Oakland, the Fresno Hispanic Foundation, and the Chambers of Commerce for both Berkeley and Chinatown, among others.
“We are at risk of losing 30% of our small businesses, and all of these projects are designed to help support small businesses during this critical time,” Baird said. “Our program is also asking students to go beyond themselves, engaging support for low-income and marginalized communities that have been even more hard-hit than most.”
“We are at risk of losing 30 percent of our small businesses and all of these projects are designed to help support small businesses during this critical time.”
Under the new program, teams of MBA students are matched with one of the organizations for two months to tackle a project that supports areas of need identified by small businesses.
Ang, MBA 22, is helping the nonprofit Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center develop a step-by-step guide for digital marketing for businesses in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood. “Equity in economic opportunity is something that I’m so passionate about,” said Ang, who worked at an economic development agency in Singapore before coming to Haas. She’s working with two other MBA students, Alyssa Zhu, MBA 21, and Juliana Rivera, MBA 22, on a toolkit, which covers everything from helping businesses take more eye-catching photos of their products for social media posts to helping businesses navigate Facebook Marketplace and Instagram Shopping.
“Working with small businesses has been incredibly humbling,” Ang said. “A number of the businesses we’re working with were very successful before the pandemic, and built that success through hosting in-person events and trade shows. All of that is off the table now so we’re working with them to develop a social media and a digital marketing strategy.”
Schneider, who formerly worked at a startup that provided loans to small businesses, is working with the nonprofit Pacific Community Ventures in San Francisco. He and teammates Vishal Desai and Lifan Wang are creating a series of webinars and workshops focused on digital marketing and pivoting a business.
As president of the partnership program, Hunt oversees the progress of the student teams, keeping them on track with nonprofit clients. Hunt said the program has received a great response so far from MBA student volunteers, though at times it’s been frustrating to reach some of the struggling small business owners. “The virtual environment is limiting and has proposed unique challenges,” she said. “One team servicing Oakland expressed frustration with the barriers owners are experiencing that they’ve never experienced before.”
After conducting a midpoint survey of what teams have accomplished to date, Hunt said they’re planning a Nov. 20 virtual event to showcase all that they’ve accomplished.
“We’re still a long way from full economic recovery, but by dedicating over two months of their time, our MBA students are having an incredible, tangible impact right now on small businesses in our communities,” Baird said.
Founders: John Melizanis, BS 20, Joseph Lorenzo, a University of Tampa graduate, and Jake Lourenco, BA 20 (political science)
What does Newmen do (in 20 words or less)?
We’re a men’s grooming brand that helps hard-working men look good, feel good, and smell good.
How did you come up with the idea?
Joseph, my co-founder and best friend since fourth grade, had the biggest beard and didn’t like the grooming options that were out there. With that in mind, we both said, ‘Let’s make something happen.’ It’s the second company we’ve started together.
What problem does Newmen solve?
There’s an under-served demographic when it comes to men’s grooming needs. The men who come to our site are often buying products for the first time. We’re building a community around this group, offering products like scented beard oils, a beard straightener, and a protective heat spray for beards.
You participated in the UC LAUNCH accelerator with a different startup. What did you learn that you apply now?
LAUNCH taught us how to test products quickly. We did a lot of research on our Newmen oils, which are made by a small mom and pop shop in Detroit. We wanted to figure out what scents men liked and what’s good for the skin, so we looked at what a lot of women’s skin-care companies were selling.
We tested our products on hundreds of men super quickly, asking them how their faces felt after using our products for a week. We’re super close to our customers and we have early evangelists, people whom we text and email all the time. These people aren’t necessarily spending the most time on our website, but have been crucial in the development of Newmen. They might spend $40, but they’re giving us feedback all the time, telling their friends what they just bought and why.
Has anyone from Haas helped you with your startup?
Of course! Assoc. Prof. Panos Patatoukas has been super helpful. I met Panos before I came to Cal and he was extremely supportive throughout my undergraduate years. I’d be working on something and I’d ask him, ‘What do you think?’ He was a great sounding board and a supportive mentor. Additionally, Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program, has been the best, along with Aaron McDaniel, a professional faculty member at Haas, and Darren Cooke, a LAUNCH advisor.
I met Panos before I came to Cal and he was extremely supportive throughout my undergraduate years. I’d be working on something and I’d ask him, ‘What do you think?’ He was a great sounding board and a supportive mentor.
What are your goals for the next six to 12 months?
We’re selling only on our website right now. We’ve been making a profit so we haven’t thought about raising money yet. I don’t think much about the competition, I focus on what we’re selling. We’re thinking about new products and planning to sell a line of skincare, body wash, and shampoo in the future. As we continue to grow, we’re looking to sell into different channels, including regional and national retailers and barbershops around the country. We’re constantly focused on building relationships that can help us put our products in our customers’ hands wherever they might be in their grooming journey.
A lot of guys are telling us that they’re so proud of their beards now. They’re talking about their morning routines. It’s crazy to think we’re helping people with that!
Aila Health is a data-driven, remote-care platform for patients with chronic illness.
How did you come up with the idea?
My cousin has what you would call an invisible illness, meaning she looks healthy on the outside, but is actually managing multiple chronic conditions. After watching her bounce between specialists for years before getting a diagnosis and seeing the lack of communication between her different doctors, I thought there had to be a better way for doctors to deliver personalized care to patients with chronic illness.
What problem does Aila solve?
There are nearly 50 million Americans living with chronic autoimmune conditions today. That’s more than diabetes and cancer combined. Despite the fact that these conditions cost the health system billions each year, they are not well understood or managed. We aim to change that.
There are nearly 50 million Americans living with chronic autoimmune conditions today. That’s more than diabetes and cancer combined.
How doe Aila work and how do teams use it?
Aila Health is a chronic care management platform that offers personalized remote care at scale. It enables patients with chronic illness to sync all of their health information in one place and quantify disease progression over time. It similarly gives their healthcare providers a holistic view of a patient’s health so they can track symptoms in real-time and deliver the right care with the right provider at the right time.
What’s been the biggest challenge for you as a founder so far?
There are so many inefficiencies in the U.S. healthcare system that Aila’s solution can help with. One of the biggest challenges for us was determining which problem to solve first. During our customer interviews, we learned that the COVID-19 pandemic had drastically shifted priorities for healthcare organizations. There is a need for new technical infrastructure to deliver value-based care and personalized remote care at scale.
Has anyone from Haas helped you on your startup journey?
Haas gave me a great community of classmates and mentors who have helped us along our journey. Rhonda Shrader (executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program), in particular, has been an amazing mentor and advocate for me. From cheerleading during some difficult transition periods to supporting our team’s application for the National Science Foundation’s I-CORPS Program, I really appreciate having her in my corner. Dan Cloutier, EWMBA 21, was also a wonderful health industry mentor for our I-CORPS team.
What are your goals for the next six months?
We are kicking off our first couple of pilots now. We want to execute these really well and validate our solution with an improved provider experience and patient outcome. In the next six months, we aim to bring more health systems onto the platform and raise an initial round of financing.
Seren creates serendipity online by nudging people into instant and personalized water cooler calls—using AI to preserve relationships and collaboration.
How did you come up with the idea?
When COVID hit in March, I started looking for opportunities in the chaos. I looked for areas undergoing massive change and picked remote work because I had experienced it and understood its shortcomings.
As I spoke to my classmates about our challenges with remote schooling, I noticed a pattern. Without chance meetings in the Haas courtyard or around campus, my peers were finding it harder to stay connected. We were being told to “be intentional” but it felt like a ton of work, and our social interactions and circles were shrinking. I came to Haas for the culture, and I loved interacting with my friends and classmates, but I was beginning to feel isolated. Then I interned as a product manager at Cisco, where I saw first-hand how the problem of not having informal interactions could affect business. When informal connections are disrupted, employees find it harder to maintain a sense of belonging, and scientific research suggested this could impact culture and innovation.
What problem does Seren solve?
Seren solves the problem of staying in touch online by helping people to “bump into” other virtually, so that brief and informal conversations can happen.
We are making water cooler chats better in some ways than in-person, even though we can’t quite replace face-to-face conversations…yet. With this technology, we can customize water cooler chats for individual preferences around how people like to engage, who they want to talk to, how long they want to talk, and what they want to talk about. We want to help people have better informal conversations over audio/video with colleagues, on any platform, whether that’s Slack, Teams, Zoom or the web.
With this technology, we can customize water cooler chats for individual preferences around how people like to engage, who they want to talk to, how long they want to talk, and what they want to talk about.
What’s been the biggest challenge so far?
My biggest challenge has been finding software engineering and machine learning talent to join our team. We have used BearX, Handshake, and LinkedIn and are really keen to find more people who are excited about impactful startups.
So far, I have been working with an amazing team of Berkeley undergrads and alumni—Leonor Alcaraz-Guzman, Helen Xu, and Patrick Zhu. In my Product Management class, I am on a diverse team with grad students from the School of Information, Fung Institute, and Haas, and we are learning so much.
Has anyone from Haas helped you with your startup?
I’ve had lots of help from faculty and staff. Early on, I took the NSF Bay Area I-CORPS course, which helped me learn how to do customer discovery. Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program, has been consistent in pointing us towards potential partners, competitions, mentors, and opportunities.
Vince Law, a professional faculty member, has reviewed more than one version of our early prototypes, and given critical feedback. In Jeff Eyet’s class on design thinking, he shared great advice on trying to understand users’ emotions and motivations for using our solution. Greg La Blanc, another professional faculty member, helped me think strategically about whether to even pursue this idea or space of remote work.
What are your goals for the next six months?
Our top goal is to get a strong sense of whether our product is exceptional at solving the challenge of creating serendipity for our users or not. We will need to launch and get lots of user feedback to answer that question. When you think about it, these are unique times with millions of people stuck at home, so if they want this, we should be able to quickly determine whether we can satisfy that need, and build a business out of it.
Another key goal is to clearly show a path to defeating our competition. I joke with my teammates that every week someone else has launched a new product to solve the same problem. Currently, we segment our competition in these categories: bots offering instant water cooler calls, standalone virtual office applications, and platforms that match people for conversations based on interests. We understand the competition and have a distinct path toward differentiating ourselves.
As a former banker, business school fundraiser, and veteran admissions expert, Eric Askins’ varied career helped shape him as a nimble and creative team builder. He was recently named executive director of admissions for the Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA program.
We talked to Askins recently about his New York roots, his varied career path in education, and his goals as new admissions director.
Tell us a little about your background and where you grew up?
I’m originally from New York and grew up with two sisters in an incredibly diverse neighborhood in Queens. I’ve always been incredibly proud of how my mother brought us up. An immigrant from the Dominican Republic, my mother cleaned houses and took care of other people’s kids to ensure we had what we needed. I know she was excited to see me accepted into the Bronx High School of Science, a specialized public school. I went to Hunter College, a school in the CUNY system, where I worked during the day and studied political science and sociology in the evenings. I learned to appreciate the way a community can support people through school, as I wasn’t the only first-generation Latinx college student working their way through at night.
What are a few of your first goals as admissions chief?
The primary role of any admissions head is to support the team of admissions professionals who work tirelessly to engage with the amazing applicants to our program. That will continue to be my number one priority. Externally, I’m focused on maintaining the academic standards of our program and broadening our outreach strategy.
Specifically, we will focus some of our efforts on increasing the percentage of women applicants to our program. Berkeley Haas was among the first business schools to cross the 40% women threshold. My goal is to consistently hold that figure. In order to move towards closing the gender divide, we are working to better highlight our programs like Women in Leadership and the work of our Gender Equity Initiative and our programs that develop leaders equipped to manage diverse and inclusive work environments. We also need to think about how we are reaching out to all women: women of color, international students, women from different academic backgrounds, and students with non-binary identities.
Berkeley Haas was among the first business schools to cross the 40% women threshold. My goal is to consistently hold that figure.
What was your first job after graduating from college?
I started my professional career in banking, in a process-oriented role at Sterling National Bank, shifting into commercial loan workout, and then to small business lending. I worked with small business owners, individuals whose entire lives were tied to the businesses. These were often immigrants, first-generation business owners opening restaurants, franchises, and dry cleaners.
I began my admissions career in 2010 at Fordham University in New York as an assistant director of admissions for the law school. In that role, I traveled the country and developed a deep interest in the pathways to graduate-level education. After a number of years, I decided to broaden my experience and take on a new challenge with Fordham Business School’s fundraising arm. I worked closely with the school’s alumni to help chart avenues for growth for the school. Among our successes was a partnership with the NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center here in the Bay Area. I was amazed at the impact business school alumni could make on the community. I think it’s safe to say that that experience planted the seed that would eventually bring me to Haas.
Can you talk about how you diversified your experiences by working at The New School in New York, which has a design school, liberal arts college, and a performing arts college?
I was director of strategic initiatives and planning, managing net tuition revenue for an institution that was constantly looking for ways to shift, be nimble, and be dynamic. The New School was a collection of various different types of colleges and it’s connective tissue was cultural not structural. The New School provided a number of very unique challenges that engaged me intellectually. I worked directly with the college’s deans, doing scholarship modeling, developing enrollment strategies, building our strategic partnerships globally. But in this role I was no longer participating in the candidate’s journey, something that I enjoyed and have returned to at Haas.
What brought you to the West Coast?
I’ve been lucky enough to be with my partner for nearly 20 years. In that short amount of time we’ve had a number of different adventures, not the least of which has been our two children. Though we’ve both traveled significantly for work, neither of us had ever lived outside of New York City. So when she was offered an amazing professional opportunity here in the Bay Area it felt like the perfect time to start a new adventure.
I’ve always been aware of Berkeley and its reputation as a culture-forward institution. When we moved here we rented a house within walking distance of campus. I knew I wanted to work at one of the graduate schools and I loved the idea of the Haas MBA. It’s the least narrow degree providing the most opportunity to make a change. Through the Defining Leadership Principles, I had a very clear understanding of the school’s values and they closely reflect my own personal values.
Every person matriculating through Haas is going to make an impact, whether it’s in impact investing, tech, transportation, sustainability, or consulting. This is where I want to be, participating in some small part on that journey.
Every person matriculating through Haas is going to make an impact.
What’s your favorite DLP?
I most closely align with Confidence without Attitude. It prompts me to reflect not only on what I can contribute, but also calls on me to recognize where I need to grow. When I practice this DLP, I’m an active listener and I engage meaningfully with my partners and peers, so that I can learn from them and build with them. I’m excited to see what we build together in the coming years.
David Teece was inducted into the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame today, joining management greats Peter Drucker, Clay Christenson, Michael Porter, and his long-time collaborator Ikujiro Nonaka, PhD 82.
London-based Thinkers50 recognizes distinguished thinkers who have made outstanding contributions to the knowledge of management. Teece will be recognized during a virtual induction event on September 18, 2020.
Teece, the Thomas W. Tusher Professor in Global Business and Faculty Director of the Tusher Center for The Management of Intellectual Capital, focuses on how firms innovate in the global marketplace and how they need to be managed in order to survive in rapidly changing business contexts.
Teece is considered an authority on the theory of firm and strategic management. He coined the term “dynamic capabilities” to describe a business enterprise’s ability to mold assets to respond to changing technologies and markets. His research also spans the economics of technological change, knowledge management, technology transfer, antitrust economics, and innovation.
During the event, Teece described the golden thread throughout his work as a form of entrepreneurial thinking, a mindset of the need to embrace opportunity while being able to manage in a world of deep uncertainty in which you can’t plan the future. “You have to adapt to it and shape it,” he said.
“There is a big school about adaptation and a big school about entrepreneurship, but no one had brought really these two sets of ideas together, and that’s what led to my concept of dynamic capabilities,” he added. Going forward he seeks to bring this thinking to public policy and international development.
In addition to his scholarly work, Teece is the co-founder of the Berkeley Research Group, a global strategic advisory and expert consulting firm with 40 offices and over 1000 employees worldwide.
A record-sized Berkeley Haas undergraduate class came together online this week, attending orientation sessions on everything from the keys to succeeding in the rigorous program to creating a climate of inclusion and belonging to navigating internship recruiting.
Students logged on Monday morning from housing on or off campus, where they were greeted by Erika Walker, assistant dean of the undergraduate program.
Dean Ann Harrison, who attended UC Berkeley as an undergraduate, studying economics and history, welcomed the group to Haas, and congratulated them for getting into the program. Not only is the program one of the most academically rigorous, she said, it’s also defined by its culture, anchored by the four Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself.
“The culture at Haas lets us develop the kinds of business leaders that we want to see more of in the business world,” she said, pointing to entrepreneur Kevin Chou, BS 02, as an example of Beyond Yourself. Chou’s $15 million pledge to Haas, the largest ever by an alum under age 40, helped build Chou Hall on the Haas campus.
Of the incoming 440 undergraduate students, 236 are continuing UC Berkeley students and 99 transferred into the program as juniors. Continuing students held an average GPA of 3.76 and transfer students’ GPA averages 3.91.
Todd Fitch, a member of the professional faculty who teaches economic analysis and policy, offered students advice for continuing their academic success in the competitive program, touching on in-class Zoom etiquette, the importance of helping fellow students and working collaboratively, and the need to ask for help when needed and accept feedback when it’s given.
“We’re going to push you very hard, we’re going to push you to your limits,” said Fitch, who wore his trademark bow tie. “It’s extremely rigorous so be prepared for a lot of hard work. You are at the best business school in the world and we’re trying to prepare you for the future when things are constantly changing.”
The undergraduate program has expanded in recent years, adding three multidisciplinary programs outside of the core program.
The newly-launched Biology+Business program, a joint venture between the Department of Molecular Cell Biology and Haas, enrolled 13 juniors in its inaugural class. The program allows students to earn a bachelor of science degree in business administration and a bachelor of arts degree in molecular and cell biology in the emphasis of their choice.
Students who enter UC Berkeley as freshmen apply to the program, and complete all prerequisite requirements for Haas and molecular cellular biology before entering as juniors. Saloni Patel, who is among the school’s 13 BioBiz students, said the program combined the two majors she’s always wanted. “It was the perfect combo,” she said. “We’ve had great access to Program Director Sarah (Maslov), who’s an amazing advisor…and it’s a nurturing cohort that’s very specialized. We’re developing as a group and it’s a smaller community of people with specialized interests.”
A love of the mathematics behind medical imaging led Emma Caress to the program. Medical imaging is used for practically everything in the field of medicine and makes up a vast majority of the information coming out of the healthcare system, she said. “Today’s hospitals store hundreds of millions of digital images, with their numbers only increasing as MRIs and CTs become better at capturing thinner and thinner slices of the body,” she said. “After talking to every person I could find involved in healthcare start-ups and the medical device and pharma industries, I realized my real passion lies at the intersection between business and biology.”
Meantime, the Global Management Program, a four-year international Berkeley Haas program that launched in 2018, enrolled 31 new students. On top of an already demanding undergraduate curriculum, students in the GMP program must fulfill a language requirement, study abroad their first semester, and take specialized global business courses.
The incoming class includes includes artists and world travelers, budding entrepreneurs and financiers, and a group of outstanding student athletes, including a few “future Olympians,” said Steve Etter, who teaches finance in the undergraduate program and mentors student athletes. There’s Cal swimmer Alicia Wilson, from the UK, who the gold medal at the 2019 University Games in Naples in the 200 the individual medley. Reece Whitley swims breast stroke for Cal and was named 2019 Pac-12 Men’s Swimming Freshman of the Year. The group also includes Cal gymnast Maya Bordas and Cal Football offensive lineman Matthew Cindric.
Whitley said the mindset necessary for success in sports and business is quite similar. “I’ve always believed that Haas would guide me to successfully translate the team working skills I’ve developed from the swim team into work life,” he said.
Kevin Truong, BS 22, who said he’s wearing a mask in the common areas of his Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house, said it’s been a goal to study business at Haas since he entered Berkeley as a freshman.
“I thought I might be a computer science major but my econ class in high school opened me to the business world and the stock market,” he said. “I chose Berkeley because I knew how great Haas was.”
Truong said he found the creating a climate of inclusion and belonging session led by Élida Bautista, Haas’ director of inclusion & diversity, particularly useful during orientation. A breakout session allowed the students to role play, giving people a chance to interact, Truong said.
Unlike Troung, Donna Kharrazi, BS 22, said she had no idea what she wanted to major in when she arrived at Berkeley. She said she was drawn to apply to study business for the different career directions that seemed possible, including marketing and advertising.
Kharrazi, who is considering minoring in data science because she loves to code, said she’s excited to be enrolled in smaller classes at Haas this year, where there are opportunities to connect with teachers. So far, she’s enjoying the breakout rooms during orientation with her cohort. “There was a little awkwardness in the beginning, but the level of conversation was great,” she said.
Bandile Mbele landed at San Francisco Airport from South Africa in early March, just before the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a pandemic.
“Everything was just weird,” said Mbele, who had traveled outside of South Africa for the first time in order to join 95 students in the 2021 Master of Financial Engineering Program class at Berkeley Haas. “I just sat for an hour at the airport and took it all in.”
For the 25-year-old, who had grown up in a township in Newcastle, South Africa, coronavirus was just another challenge. When the pandemic continued longer than he ever expected, Mbele relied on the same resilience that led him to the top-ranked Berkeley MFE program.
It’s not been easy for Mbele (pronounced “M-bay-lay”). For the first three weeks he struggled to catch up with online coursework and prepare for internship interviews. “I was learning the material but it wasn’t sticking in my head,” he said. But by April 15—he remembers the exact date—there was a shift. “I woke up and everything started clicking. Things were much more calm.” More relief came when he landed a coveted 12-week internship with Morgan Stanley, which starts in October.
The journey to Berkeley Haas
Mbele attended the University of Cape Town, where he earned both an undergraduate degree in actuarial science and a master’s degree in mathematical finance. Yet he might not have continued his studies at Haas if not for his former undergraduate classmate, Gary Finkelstein, MFE 20.
Chatting one day, Finkelstein told MFE program Executive Director Linda Kreitzman about Mbele, whom he considered a perfect MFE applicant. “I asked him, ‘Is he as good as you?’” Kreitzman said. “Gary said, ‘He’s even better than me at math.’”
Always searching for students who can meet the program’s rigorous quantitative requirements, Kreitzman made it her mission to bring Mbele to Haas. She asked Finkelstein, now an energy trader in London, to help.
One June night, Finkelstein called Mbele, who was playing PlayStation after a day of work at his job at insurance company Old Mutual. The two chatted, and then the conversation got more serious. Would he be interested in applying to the MFE? Finkelstein mentioned the possibility of a scholarship that Kreitzman had established through the family of Kyle Carlston, MFE 06.
Suddenly, the idea of coming to Berkeley became real.
“Numbers since the day I was born”
Before Mbele could accept a place in the MFE program, he had to convince his mother, Patricia, a teacher in a juvenile detention center in Durban, South Africa, that he’d be okay in America. From the start, his mother had played a role in nurturing his love of math, hanging the numbers 1 to 100 in different colors in his room when he was a baby, Mbele said adding “All of my toys had numbers on them.”
His mother helped him move from Newcastle, where he lived alone for a time with his older brother, to Durban, where he could attend good public schools.
In 7th grade, math became a more serious pursuit for Mbele, who was honored as the class’ top-ranked math student, “a game changer that made me realize I had potential,” he said. Later, at Westville Boys’ High School in Durban, he continued to excel academically, which led him to the University of Cape Town. There, he became the top undergraduate math student in a class of 400. “I’m just so passionate about math,” said Mbele, who has tutored students in math for years. “I think I love abstract thinking and the power that comes with that level of thought. I feel like I can understand almost anything.”
I’m just so passionate about math. I think I love abstract thinking and the power that comes with that level of thought.
Mbele finally convinced his mother that the MFE opportunity was too good to pass up—with the help of Kreitzman, who told him that she planned to meet his mom at Mbele’s graduation, if she’s able to attend.
“I was lucky to work with him.”
In the MFE program, Mbele joins students from around the world who are just as passionate about financial skills as he is, coming together for an intense year-long program of quantitative finance and data science coursework and industry projects that will lead many of them to top quant jobs at Wall Street banks and investment firms. (Impressively, about a third of the class, including Mbele, already earned a master’s degree before arriving at Haas.)
Aside from academics, making friends in the program has proven challenging for some of the students without the usual in-person parties and study groups. “The most difficult part was getting to know people over Zoom, especially on a deeper level,” said Mbele’s classmate Renee Reynolds, who added that one-on-one meetings that the students do on the Donut Slack app are helping.
The most difficult part was getting to know people over Zoom, especially on a deeper level. — Mbele’s classmate Renee Reynolds, MFE 21
Mbele and classmate Shamai Zhang got to know each other through lengthy study sessions during the summer semester, typically the MFE’s most difficult due to the daunting Derivatives: Quantitative Methods course. “I was lucky to work with him on that course because he was responsible and effective,” she said. “When I took a look at his work it was so nice, the format, the code, the solutions, and interpretations.”
“A humility and depth of character”
While it’s sad that students can’t all be together in person, Kreitzman said she tries to unite them with riddles, puns, and games for prizes, and phone calls to check on how they are coping. The students planned weekly online poker games during spring semester, which fell off as the course load got heavier in summer.
Kreitzman said she has no regrets about bringing Mbele to Haas, noting the doors that will open for him with his MFE degree.
“Bandile is a very special young man,” Kreitzman said. “He has great humility and depth of character that I haven’t often seen in my life. He is pure kindness and truly embodies our four Haas Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself.”
Mbele said he’s always been grateful for what he has—adding Kreitzman to that list now. “She’s like my mom who has a lot of kids that she takes care of,” he said.
After graduating, Mbele said he’s hoping to stay in the U.S., depending on his visa situation, to work for a few years, meet people, and embrace different cultures.
The Berkeley Haas Full-time MBA class came together for a virtual orientation Monday, participating in networking sessions, meeting study team members, as well as joining academic and diversity, equity and inclusion workshops designed to prepare them for a successful two years at Haas.
With 331 students, the largest-ever FTMBA Class of 2022 attended the Week Zero orientation held from Aug. 17 to 21.
In her welcome, Dean Harrison commended students for attending business school at this unprecedented time of uncertainty. “This couldn’t be a better time to go to business school, especially at a place like Berkeley, as this school has always been at the forefront of massive changes and movement,” she said. “This crazy time also requires you to be leaders yourselves. One of the most difficult things to learn is how to live with this uncertainty.”
The incoming MBA class is comprised of 39% women, an increase of two percentage points compared to last year. Underrepresented minorities represent 17% of the class, up from 14%. International students make up 21% and hail from 37 countries. Students have an average of five years work experience and majored in economics, engineering, business commerce, and the social sciences.
Each day of orientation features a surprise guest speaker. So far, that’s included rapper Ace “Call Me Ace” Patterson, MBA 16, and Aubrey Blanche, director of equitable design and impact at Culture Amp.
Patterson shared his story of humble beginnings in Bridgeport, Conn., getting accepted to Columbia University, and later to Haas. “My family wasn’t poor, we were just broke,” said Patterson. “So what I lacked in resources, I had to gain in creativity and ingenuity.” Patterson also talked about experiencing so-called “imposter syndrome” as one of the youngest students in his FTMBA program, but eventually he convinced himself that he belonged.
Blanche led Tuesday’s discussion on shifting focus away from terms like “diversity and inclusion” and instead embracing “equity and belonging” to activate allies and build equity in the world. “By focusing on equity and belonging, we can actually get to the goals—diversity and equality—that I think we probably all share.”
Students said they’ve enjoyed the week so far.
“It’s been super exciting to meet all of my classmates for the first time,” said Torrey Mayes, a former manager of financial planning and analysis for Palm Casino Resort. Mayes said his favorite part of orientation has been the networking sessions. “We’ve had the opportunity to meet every single person in our class since everyone is online.”
Week Zero Co-Chair Dominic Masuda, MBA 21, agreed. “I’m amazed and thrilled to see how creative and flexible the new class has been with engaging and meeting each other,” he said. “I think we’ve proven that virtual events can be incredibly engaging when structured and built thoughtfully.”
Many students said they’re getting an MBA to build their business acumen, develop leadership and entrepreneurial skills, or transition to a completely new field.
Christine Yee, a student in the new MBA/Master of Engineering (MBA/MEng) program, said she wants to learn how to “democratize technology” to help entrepreneurs with little to no financial means access the digital economy. Yee, who co-founded Paysa, a startup that allows people in rural India make mobile payments using fingerprint authentication, said she is looking forward to taking courses that will take her skills to the next level.
Members of the Class of 2022 have gone above and beyond to connect with each other.
Each day culminates with a trivia game night or Zoom happy hour organized by second-year students.
Amanda Wonnell, a former project manager at Shell, said her classmates have created Slack channels based on interests and organized Zoom happy hours. She added that classmate Chris Quaidoo has organized virtual coffee chats, randomly pairing two students for weekly chats.
As for Mayes, he’s thankful to be living with three classmates with whom he can experience the FTMBA program and weather the pandemic.
Mayes said he’s been doing a mix of online and physically-distanced gatherings with classmates. On Monday night, he and five other students set up a TV outside and watched cohort members battle each other in Family Feud. “The Gold cohort won, but we were a close second,” said Mayes, a member of the Oski cohort.
Collin Morikawa, BS 19, stunned the golf world Sunday, making history as one of the youngest PGA Golf Championship winners.
With the 2020 championship win, the Berkeley Haas alum joins an elite group of golfers, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIllory, and Jack Nicklaus, who all won the PGA Championship at age 23.
Morikawa, who held the Wanamaker Trophy high after his win on Sunday at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, is the first Cal athlete to win a major golf championship. “The California Kid is the new star in the game of golf,” CBS announcer Jim Nantz said after the tournament ended.
“I’m on cloud nine,” Morikawa, a Los Angeles-area native, said during a post-PGA Championship press interview. “I’ve believed in myself since day one and I haven’t let up from that. I feel very comfortable in this position, but it was going to take a very good round today.”
I’ve believed in myself since day one and I haven’t let up from that.
Members of the Haas community who’ve been tracking Morikawa’s golf career successes lit up social media with congratulations after his championship win.
“I’m so proud of Collin,” said Haas Dean Ann Harrison. “Collin has always been a standout student and athlete. I’m sure this championship win will be one of many in his golf career.”
“Collin’s success on the PGA Tour was not a surprise to me based on the intelligence, attention to detail, and work ethic he showed in the classroom,” said Finance Lecturer Stephen Etter. “However, his winnings to date far exceed the modeling we did in (the class) Finance for Future Professional Athletes. He is a humble young man who has confidence without attitude. It will be wonderful for all Cal alumni to watch his success on Sundays for many years to come.”
This isn’t the first time that Morikawa has made big waves. Since turning pro in June 2019, he’s won two PGA titles, including the 2019 Barracuda Championship and the 2020 Workday Charity Open.
While a student at Berkeley, Morikawa played for the Men’s Golf Team all four seasons and was named the Pac-12 Men’s Golfer of the Year in 2019. He’s also the only athlete to be named a four-time All-American and three-time first-team All-American in Berkeley history.
The Haas program got the top rating in career development. According to EMBA students and alumni, the program excels at meeting their pre-EMBA career goals. The program was also rated highly for alumni career progression and salaries, as well as for the strength of its alumni network. Additional highlights include the program’s and students’ culture and the quality of students and of faculty teaching in the program.
The Economist gathered data from participating schools and surveyed their current students and alumni who completed their EMBA course between July 2016 and June 2019. The ranking gives equal weight to Personal Development and Educational Experience, which includes quality of the students, faculty, and program as well as student diversity, and to Career Development, which encompasses career progression, salary, and networking. The Berkeley Haas program topped in this ranking, which focuses on two broad measures: personal development/educational experience and career development.
In 2018, the Berkeley MBA for Executives ranked #4 in the world. That was the first year the Berkeley Haas program was eligible to be ranked since it founded its stand-alone program in 2013.
With a nod to Dr. Seuss, Haas Business Student Association (HBSA) President Shun Lei Sin told the undergraduate Class of 2020 that they’re off to great places.
“Today is your day,” she said in a video prepared to celebrate the day. “So take pride in how you’ve far come and have faith in how far you can go—and of course keep in mind our four core (Defining Leadership Principles) that define the Berkeley Haas culture.”
Dean Ann Harrison noted their remarkable journey. “You have achieved so much,” she said. “However you’ve applied yourselves, you’ve learned important lessons about collaboration, about failing and trying again, and about making an impact. In short, about leadership.”
However you’ve applied yourselves, you’ve learned important lessons about collaboration, about failing and trying again, and about making an impact.
Undergraduate Defining Leadership Principles Award Winners
Graduate Student Instructor of the Year: Rohi Rana, the GSI for Financial Accounting and Managerial Accounting.
Mia Character, BS 20, DLP winner for Students Always
A team of HBSA members interviewed Haas faculty and staff, who offered advice and well wishes to grads in this video.
The undergraduate class of 2020 has been through a lot together over the past four years: a controversial presidential election, political protests that rocked campus, wildfires that led to canceled classes, and the outbreak of COVID-19, which made final days at Cal “quite a whirlwind,” said graduation speaker Diane Dwyer, BS 87.
“You’ve been tested not just once but many times,” said Dwyer, a Haas professional faculty member and a former broadcast journalist. “Part of what college is supposed to do is prepare you for the rest of your life and I can’t imagine a group that’s more prepared than you.”
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Berkeley Haas Assoc. Prof. Adair Morse and Prof. Laura Tyson immediately began thinking about ways to make it possible for cities to attract private and institutional capital to help small businesses make it through the crisis.
Their idea has now taken root locally, with a new partnership between Berkeley Haas and the City of Berkeley’s Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Vice Mayor Sophie Hahn to pool private and public money into a small business loan fund.
Last week, the Berkeley City Council approved creation of the Save our Small (SOS) Business Recovery Loan Fund, to support businesses with fewer than 50 employees that have already felt the severe impact of the economic shutdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The news comes as the $349 billion federal government program meant to keep small businesses afloat during the pandemic ran out of money last Thursday, just two weeks in.
Small business loan and grant programs by the federal, state, and local governments have been keeping the lights on, but when shelter-in-place ends, small businesses need working capital to restock, pay employees, and catch up on credit and rent, said Morse, who proposed the loan program to the Berkeley Mayor’s office with Tyson, Distinguished Professor of the Graduate School.
Both are founders of The Sustainable and Impact Finance (SAIF) initiative at Berkeley Haas, a program founded last year to use impact investing and sustainable finance to drive positive change and opportunities. Helping Berkeley’s small business community to rebound is perfectly aligned with SAIF’s mission, Morse said.
“Many municipal programs are already helping small businesses to keep the lights on, but in the medium term, small business survival will require more capital,” Morse said.
One key SOS loan fund supporter is Kirsten MacDonald, CEO of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, who says about 98% of local businesses are considered small businesses.
There’s a lot at stake with the recovery and a lot of anxiety coming from local business owners ranging from hairdressers to small nurseries and retailers, she said. “I don’t think anybody knows what the aftermath of this is going to be like (for business),” said MacDonald, who wrote a statement of support to the city for the SOS Fund. “The city should be looking at any and all ways to provide financing at a low rate to small businesses,” she said.
Many municipal programs are already helping small businesses to keep the lights on, but in the medium term, small business survival will require more capital.
More federal and state money may come, but the goal of the SOS fund is to support businesses that were healthy and viable before the pandemic and help them weather the crisis. “It’s imperative to support viable, forward-looking businesses that can, in turn, support our economy through owner successes, employee wages, and return on property,” Morse said.
Mayor Arreguín called the program “a creative way for the city, campus, and community to come together to support one of Berkeley’s most important resources, our small businesses, in this time of unprecedented need.”
“We want all ideas and support on the table for our business community,” he said.
While the City of Berkeley will manage the program’s loans, Morse and Tyson are working with the SAIF team to design the loan terms and to build the model used to make the loan decisions.
“This program is so well-structured,” said Ben Mangan, executive director of the Center for Social Sector Leadership at Haas, who will help the SAIF team with outreach in the investing community. “Once we have a few leaders who take the plunge and invest I think we’ll see a quick uptick in participation.”
The Berkeley Mayor’s office is looking for a financial institution to partner with on distributing the five-year loans. The financial institution will offer private investors a fixed-income product, something like a WWI Liberty Bond for COVID-19, that will yield a 1% to 2% return, Morse says. The rest of the funding to back the loans will be provided by local government and philanthropy.
While the City of Berkeley will market and manage the fund, Morse said Haas will help get the word out to private wealth and asset managers through its network.
“We hope to have this done and ready when businesses are allowed to open again,” Morse said. She added that she hopes the fund will become a model for other communities.
Note: Haas News is following two of this year’s teams participating inLAUNCH, an accelerator for University of California startup founders that has helped create more than 200 companies since 1999. The teams are gearing up for the Demo Day final on May 1, when they’ll pitch their ideas to VCs and angel investors and compete for $25,000 in funding. This year the teams face an extra challenge: launching a startup at a time when the world has been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic.
If there’s one thing this year’s LAUNCH teams have had to learn overnight, it’s the value of flexibility.
Leading the LAUNCH teams through all of the ongoing uncertainty is Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program, who quickly shifted LAUNCH online, where the teams met on Zoom last Wednesday to share updates at the last webinar before the semifinals.
Dispatch Goods, for one, detailed its pivot from a reusable food container business for restaurants to a zero-waste co-op called Project Clean that fills recycled plastic bottles with hand sanitizer made by San Francisco-based distillery Seven Stills.
Dispatch CEO Lindsey Hoell, MBA 21, said the team’s shift to provide free hand sanitizer to homeless shelters, nursing homes, and low-income communities, has proven “a big saving grace.” “This has given us a reason to keep moving after a horrible disruption to our business model,” she said. “Sometimes you just have to keep active, engaged, and on the mission, so you can weather the storm.”
SuperPetFoods and BumpR, teams Haas News has followed since the start of LAUNCH in March, shared their own COVID-19 challenges on the call as they continue on their startup journeys.
Sticking to the plan: Since their last meeting, the team—María (Mar) del Mar Londoño, MBA 21, Thais Esteves, MBA 21, and Gina Myers, MS 20 (bioengineering), who is also a chef—finalized their recipe for dehydrated pet food. The food is made from black soldier flies (Hermetia Illucens) and Mar plans to produce it in Colombia, where her family has a farm in the coffee-growing region (and she’s surrounded by more than 15 dogs). The black soldier fly is capable of converting food waste into high-quality protein and fat with incredible efficiency, with an undetectable carbon footprint, she said. Now, they are looking closely at how to cut the cost of production, which is high, and studying their potential profit margins by benchmarking against market competitors.
Eye-opening data: Mar, who represented the team on the webinar Wednesday, said COVID-19 dashed her plan to do many customer interviews in person. So she shifted online, surveying 300 people on Reddit. About 41% responded positively to the idea of using insects as pet food (73 percent were either positive or neutral). Mar also discovered that vegans are a possible niche market, as they were open to the idea of feeding insects to their pets.
Her initial fear that people would prefer dog food made in the U.S., sourced locally, instead of in Colombia, turned out to be unfounded, which was a relief. “I have the contacts there, the knowledge of how to run a business there and the manufacturing costs are way, way lower,” she said. From 11 interviews, the team discovered that they needed to do more to convince and educate pet owners of the safety and nutrition level of pet food made from insects.
Seed funding challenges: Mar applied for a grant from Arrow Capital, the student-run investment fund, but the fund recently announced it was shutting. “We’ll have to look for more alternatives,” she said. She’ll be soon competing as a finalist for the 2020 Rabobank-MIT Food and Agribusiness Innovation Prize, as well as in the LAUNCH final, which could net the startup $25,000. Mar asked Rhonda for advice about presenting the company to judges. She advised against a graphics-heavy presentation. “One trend I have hated over the past couple of years is “entrepreneur-tainment,” Rhonda said. “Images are not what LAUNCH is about.” Judges want to look under the hood, she said, so weave metrics into the company’s story and make sure to present a strong narrative.
Challenges for BumpR: Responding to new campus COVID-19 rules, the undergraduate founders of BumpR —Armaan Goel, Aishwarya (Ash) Mahesh, Shreya Shekhar, all M.E.T. 23 (Management, Entrepreneurship & Technology); and Justin Quan, BS 23 (Electrical Engineering & Computer Science), — scrambled to move out of their dorms. Their move came at the same time as LAUNCHathon, a part of LAUNCH when participants across campus volunteer their skills to help other teams fulfill one item on their wish list. At the same time, the team decided to shift their business model. “Powered by instant ramen, we completed the move out from our dorms as well as our pivot,” Justin said.
The pivot: BumpR started out building a cloud-based back end for targeted advertising displays. The team decided that an ad tech company wouldn’t work, so they abandoned the original mission and started building a Smart Cities plan to help governments collect data more efficiently. In recent days, Justin and Ash started reaching out to city and public safety officials to collect data. Justin interviewed officials in Saratoga and Los Gatos by phone, while Ash scheduled phone calls with city officials in L.A. county, where she lives. They found that cities often hire traffic engineers to collect data before building structures like parking garages and public transit stations, which is an expensive and tedious process, or they rely on published general traffic data, which isn’t always accurate nor specific to individual cities. Both saw a problem that team BumpR can solve.
Validating the idea: Justin, who had just finished a computer science midterm moments before, and Ash asked for feedback from their instructor Rhonda. Their new business model centers on producing an inexpensive Internet of Things (IoT) device, similar to a city-registered electronic carpool sticker, that rideshare drivers mount on their cars to easily collect data over geographic areas. Revenue would come from payments for access to
datasets. The team said the devices could be used by planning departments, law enforcement, and fire departments.
Sharpening the focus: Rhonda asked team members to better define the key benefits to customers. Does BumpR help cities save money? Does it save time or improve quality of life? The team needs to figure out how much that savings would need to be to make the offering a priority for cities, she said. She also told them to not overlook the social part of their offering: the idea of making people look good to their bosses. “Test that with them. Ask them: how would this change your life if you had more accurate data that costs less? Think about that as you go out to do interviews,” she said.