Water Entrepreneurs Workshop Impressions

My classmate and friend, Andrew Collier, recently put together an awesome event on entrepreneurship and sustainability issues in the water sector. He kindly agreed to write a few words as a guest blogger:

On Wednesday, September 21st, roughly 60 students gathered together for a Water Entrepreneurs Workshop to explore and discuss business challenges and opportunities in the wastewater sector.  The event was co-hosted by the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative (BERC) and Imagine H2O, and drew on the insights of six terrific panelists including Shilen Patel (Veolia, North America), Chris Morrison (Nalco), Bradley Mart (Fogbusters), Rachel Saperstein (Hydrovolts), Paul Straub (Claremont Creek Ventures), and Rachel Sheinbein (CMEA Capital).

As a first-year Haas student, I was excited to help plan this workshop.  I have an academic background in earth and atmospheric sciences and have been working in sustainability consulting for the past 3.5 years.  I was drawn to Haas because of its strong focus on social and environmental impact (BERC, Net Impact, Center for Responsible Business, Global Social Venture Competition, etc.).

One goal that I have for my time at Haas is to emphasize the importance of water issues within the BERC community by building bridges to outside organizations like Imagine H2O.  Since BERC has a far-reaching network that includes students, alumni, faculty, and industry professionals, it provides a terrific platform to enable this sort of cross-collaboration.  The workshop served as one tool to facilitate knowledge sharing and problem solving amongst students, corporate leaders, entrepreneurs, and investors.

Andrew, this was a great workshop and I learned a lot. Thank you!

Leadership Communication & Ferran Adrià

As most of the other first-years, I’ve been spending the last few days racing against the clock to get some decent studying before Fall A finals. They’ve arrived so quickly, all of a sudden! It’s OK though, I tell myself, they’ll be finished as quick as they came. Hopefully….

In the meantime, I just wanted to write a few quick lines to reflect on two events that have recently taken place in the Andersen Auditorium.

The first one is yet another tribute to a very popular Fall A class: Leadership Communication. We have definitely been put outside our comfort zones in this one, and we’ve learned about public speaking and human relations in a very unique and experiential way. Check out the picture below, for example: during a class, all 60 of us participated in an exercise in order to prove that not only will people treat you differently according to your perceived status within society or your organization, but that you are prone to adapt your own behaviour accordingly. In practice, we held oversized cards on our foreheads representing our position within the hierarchy, although we only got to see the value of the card at the end of the exercise. If it looks like fun it’s because it was…

The second event took place earlier this week. It was the presentation of the “Ideas for Transformation” challenge, by famous Spanish chef Ferran Adrià in partnership with Telefonica.

Adrià wants to transform the relationship between creativity and society through the creation of El Bulli Foundation. He has selected five business schools to participate, Haas being one of them given our strengths in blending innovation and technology.

As a Spaniard myself, I grew up admiring Adrià’s boldness and foresight. Needless to say, I felt honored to share with him a few moments over lunch and during his presentation. This will be a tough challenge though, given how high up the bar is set; in the chef’s words, “if they can understand you when you explain your innovation, it’s not novel enough”.

2 Weeks Of Classes

Fall A classes finally started last week. The actual classroom experience doesn’t take up too much time in the MBA life, but there’s a lot of preparation involved; readings, cases…A very pleasant surprise came in the form of a subject called “Leadership Communication” in which we will be training our soft skills in general, and communication skills in particular, through speeches and improvisation exercises. The first class was a blast.

Club fair was also held this week, over the course of 2 lunchtimes.  It was an opportunity to talk to representatives from all the clubs present at Haas, and to better decide which ones to sign up for. Which, in my case, turned out to be a lot…

The one area I’m mostly focused on is Cleantech, and the Berkeley Energy & Resources Collaborative (BERC, http://berc.berkeley.edu/) is a very active club and spans across many other schools and institutions in campus. They held their Annual Lecture this week, which gave us the opportunity to listen to Samir Kaul (Founding General Partner at Khosla Ventures) and Chris Somerville (UC Berkeley – EBI Director) in conversation about the current clean energy and technology landscape. According to them, Cleantech is one of the best fields in which to invest given its potential, its market size and demand and and the rising issue of energy dependability. Small companies, like the ones Khosla Ventures and many other firms manage and invest on, can also easily have more than one successful technology or idea within a brief period of time, unlike other sectors like Healthcare or IT. Even though infrastructure (scale) and consumer behaviour remain the main hurdles in Cleantech, and will continue to be so for years to come, small companies can innovate, and are innovating , at a very fast pace and will be able to provide the technology to bigger companies which have already got the scale, supply chain…in place. Or as I like to summarize it: Cleantech – it’s bound to happen.

Another culinary note to end this post: some of my recent out-of-class activities have included another great San Francisco’s Mission taco and pub crawl, brunch excursion to Sausalito, soaking in the sun at Russian River and hiking at Briones Reservoir. After the hike, we grabbed a fried chicken sandwich from famous Oakland spot Bakesale Betty’s- delicious!

All settled in!

It’s been 3 weeks since I arrived in Berkeley from Sydney, and it has been an amazingly jam-packed and fun couple of weeks settling in. There is so much to do exploring both Berkeley and the Bay Area in general – I can see now that I am going to be doing a lot of weekend trips to nearby destinations like Napa Valley, Point Reyes, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe and so on in the coming months!

My first 2 weeks involved Math Camp (Accounting and Finance refresher classes to make sure you’re up to speed for the semester) in the morning. I was pleased to discover that the professors for Accounting and Finance were both energetic and made the lectures entertaining – I never thought I’d enjoy learning accounting! :-) My afternoons were spent exploring Berkeley (or San Franciso) – there is so much more to Berkeley than I initially realised. There is the slightly quirky and unique Telegraph Ave area where tie-dye reigns supreme, as well as the cute areas along College Ave in Elmwood and Rockridge, Shattuck Ave in downtown Berkeley with its bars, and of course the Gourmet Ghetto restaurants of north Berkeley. My wife, Jacqueline, and I were happy to find a nice little apartment on College Ave in Rockridge so I’ll be biking to class! In the evening, the socialising with my new classmates really got underway. They are a fun and diverse bunch, and we had a great time trying out the different bars around town, as well as playing some sport in the parks. One afternoon about 40 of us even went on a Taco Pub Crawl around the Mission District of San Francisco, which was a great way to see a cool part of the city. In amongst all of this, we also had the chance to visit Facebook in Palo Alto, and the GooglePlex in Mountain View.

Last weekend was the Outside Lands Music Festival in Golden Gate Park, which quite a few of us went to. Although it is a 3 day event, I only went on the Saturday and it was awesome. There was gourmet food and wine, it was a beautiful sunny day, and we rocked out to Ok-Go, Arctic Monkeys, The Roots, Girl Talk and many more late in to the night!

The past week has been taken up by Orientation Week, and it has been intense! Each day there were presentations on everything from the career search to setting up your computer to scavenger hunts around campus – the list goes on and they kept us busy. We also had talks from Biz Stone of Twitter fame, and Tom Kelley from Ideo, both of whom were very engaging and spoke about there experiences and how they are ‘Students Always’ and ‘Challenge the Status Quo’. Biz has actually just been named Executive Fellow at Haas which is exciting. In addition to the presentations, a couple of highlights from the week were:

  • ‘Cohort Olympics’ which involved the 4 cohorts competing in Olympic sports like cupcake eating and slosh ball;
  • An Eighties themed finale party with more spandex then I’ve ever seen and an amazing cover band; and
  • Tailgating at the Coliseum before watching an Oakland A’s baseball game.
Overall, the past three weeks have been incredible, and I am excited to get into class which starts next week


Ben B.

Learning Outside the Classroom

Like most of you looking to come to Berkeley, I am sure that the location of the school is very attractive. Being close to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, Haas benefits from having alumni, industry experts and thought leaders so close to campus. As a result, the students are able to learn and engage with some of these dynamic individuals frequently throughout the semester.

In the weeks since school has started, I personally have had a chance to listen to the following business professionals:

(1) Tom Kelley, General Manager of product design firm IDEO
(2) Biz Stone, Co-founder and Creative Director of Twitter
(3) Micheal Lewis, influential non-fiction author of best sellers like The Big Short and Moneyball
(4) Anand Iyer, Senior Product Manager on the Windows Phone 7 Team at Microsoft
(5) John Fougner, Manager in Performance Product Marketing for Facebook

Additionally, there are some great opportunities later in the semester as well. I am already planning to see John Chambers (Chairman & CEO of Cisco), Micheal Arrington (Founder of Techcrunch) and Donald Knauss (Chairman & CEO of Clorox) over the next few weeks. I can’t wait to see who else will show up over the next two years!

(Anand Iyer, Senior Product Manager at Microsoft, presenting at the Haas Technology Club Speaker Series)


From Orientation to Finals: Looking Back!

Time sure does fly, especially when you’re having non-stop fun. As first years, we’ve already seen, done, heard, learned, and experienced an incredible amount. And the proof is in the list:

  • Been starstruck by Haas-organized lectures with Tim Brown (CEO, IDEO), Jacqueline Novogratz (CEO, Acumen Fund), Paul Otellini (CEO, Intel), Vinod Khosla (Founder, Khosla Ventures), Mark Hurd (CEO, HP)
  • Learned from the best. (No explanation necessary)
  • Helped with Haas’ flagship digital media conference, >play, which brings together creative professionals, industry leaders, and students to discuss the emergence of the digital lifestyle and the innovative approaches to addressing its implications.
  • Surfed my first ever wave in Pacifica, CA!
  • Spent Labor Day camping in Yosemite with fellow Haas Redwoods Club members.
  • Started brainstorming about a club focused on design-thinking & innovation in business.
  • Seen two concerts at Berkeley’s beautiful Greek Theater.
  • Been blown away by the brilliance of my Haas peers.
  • Not looked back. So, so much to look forward to.
Up next, final exams.