Being a Part of Greatness

Yesterday, the Haas School of Business hosted the annual >Play conference, an event dedicated to digital media and the future of technology. It was the culmination of months of effort put forth by over 100 Haas MBA volunteers. The event included keynotes by industry luminaries Chris Anderson and Dr. Michael Johnson, panels covering every aspect of digital media, and an exhibition featuring many exciting companies. The conference sold out and we had the pleasure of welcoming over 500 people to the business school yesterday.

After the rollercoaster that was yesterday, I can confidently say that >Play was one of my best experiences at Haas. The energy and passion of my classmates created an amazing event that showcased exactly those qualities that Haas embraces. Talking to various attendees and participants showed me just what sort of impact we were making. One woman told me of how she had come to >Play five years in a row to meet the real movers in digital media. She had the option of expensing the trip, but considered it such a personal pleasure that she chose to spend $1,200 out of her own pocket. I was only a small part of the effort to make >Play a reality, but I was a part of something truly great. And that kind of experience lingers and resonates for a long time, changing how we perceive and influence the world.

I’m only a couple of months into my time at Haas, but I can tell already that >Play will not be the only time I will be a part of greatness. I believe that my entire time at Haas will be that kind of special experience, as I spend time with my classmates both inside and outside the classroom. Together we’ll scale mountains over winter break, volunteer on the boards of non-profit companies, start innovative new businesses, and host many other great events at Haas. Even as students, we’ll make a tangible difference through our passion, intensity, and collaboration. The bonds we forge now will last a lifetime. And when it is time for us to split up and re-enter the real world, we’ll leave Haas forever changed by our shared experience.

Brian Guenther also writes at his personal blog,, on topics ranging from technology to marketing. He can also be found on Twitter (@bguenther).

DMEC’s 1st Pre >play VIP Kickoff Event!

The following post was originally authored by David Breger (MBA 2011) and is cross-posted on the Berkeley Digital Media & Entertainment Club blog.
DMEC’s 6th annual >play Conference ( is coming up in only 4 days, and the Bay is buzzing with excitement.  Fantastic speakers, an amazing Expo, exciting Rocket Pitches, and a great Career Fair to come!
However, this year we thought it would be great if >play attendees would have a chance to meet each other before the Conference.  So this year for the first time, we decided to hold a pre >play VIP Kickoff Event to allow for this opportunity.
Yesterday evening, over 150 >play volunteers, DMEC alums, panelists, and Conference attendees descended upon KickLabs, a San Francisco-based technology and online media incubator, to host a one-of-a-kind event to kickoff >play 2010 with a bang.  Product managers, venture capitalists, and CEOs of top digital media firms from around the Bay, along with several Berkeley Haas MBAs, had the chance to interact with one another before the Conference – to eat, drink, and of course talk about the hottest topics in the world of digital media!
This was a first-time event for us, but we really enjoyed ourselves and the chance to talk with many of the >play attendees before the big day on Saturday…and we hope you did too!
Thank you to KickLabs, our >play sponsors, and of course everyone who came out on Saturday!  Only 4 days ‘til it’s time to >play!
David Breger and Vince Huang, DMEC Co-Presidents
Gina Strayer and Dan Parker, >play Conference Co-Chairs


SF Music Tech: The Bits in the Beats

The San Francisco Bay Area is fast becoming the hot-bed of music and technology. Both Pandora and Mog are in Berkeley’s backyard (Oakland and Berkeley, respectively).  The MBA experience at Haas is more than just the curriculum and the community in Haas, but being an MBA provides tons of opportunities to network and make new connections. Brian Zisk, who was a former panelist for the >play conference, organizes a semi-annual conference.

Having attended the SF Music Tech Summit in December, I was thoroughly surprised that a mere six months later, 700+ people would be filling the Kabuki Hotel in Japantown for another pow-wow.

The underlying theme was to recognize the power of proper data analytics and management to empower the music ecosystem.

As the music industry adapts to the digital age, the attendees were stress that there will always be music.  As the industry seeks new business models, it was made clear that many of the companies aren’t re-inventing the way people interact with content and music, but looking towards data analytics as a guiding light to new monetization models.

From Cisco’s Eos’ technology enabling both front-end and more importantly, back-end management Saas solution for enterprises to Pandora conscientiously tracking its users to pair growth with capital investments the tone to both artists and businesses was that in order to succeed, one needs to see the numbers in music.

Know who your audience is and where there are
There is no silver bullet. Gone are the days where listeners flock to the artist. Gone are the days of mono-channel distribution.  While artists and their promoters are in search for a general recommendation, figure out where your listeners are and go to them.

Susan Boyle
Case in Point: Susan Boyle’s CD Sales

Case in Point: Susan Boyle
Simon Cowell saw $$ when she got up on that stage and cleared her windpipes.  The label was clearly shocked when her CD went on sale—91% of recorded sales were from physical DVDs.  Thinking that digital sales were not being accounted for, the label soon learned that Boyle’s audience watched on YouTube, but still purchased plastic CDs.

There were also some great quotes:

  • Monetization through Hypersyndication: Get your data out there, actively send out your info. It’s about distribution, give them the data so that it’s clean, so it doesn’t rely on user submissions. Hypersyndication will enable artists to find new ways to get paid.” Darryl Ballantyne, LyricFind
  • Understanding Your Point on a Growth Curve: “We’ve always been vigorous with our analytics. However, it can be surprising. For the first couple of years, our growth over time was surprisingly linear. When you’re in the early part of the exponential growth curve, it looks very linear.” Tom Conrad, Pandora
  • Comparing Android v. iPhone OS: “You can push faster and iterate to learn with Android. Android is good for acquisition.  For the iPhone, its the opposite. We’ve received pushback from user registration, often a week to two weeks.  But with the iPhone, we get more paid conversions.” Warren Wan, Dada Entertainment
  • On Multitasking Functionality for the Phone: ” When you can run things in the background, companies will be able to use background information to trigger events or discovery.” Reno Marioni, Nokia

It was great to dive into the conference. The greatest value from attending the conference isn’t just the download from the panels, but from the conversations in between the panel.  I was able to meet some amazing minds! From learning about JamLegends, meeting A&R managers, and networking with entrepreneurs to exploring a partnership with the SF Chapter of the Grammy’s I was grateful that the conference was in Japantown—I walked down the block to carbo load at my favorite ramen shop.

Pictures from Flickr:

A variation of the post was taken from the DMEC blog.


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.


Let the Games (Panel) Begin

Prospective students at Haas hear a lot about how the school is highly student-driven, and that there are numerous opportunities to get involved even from day-one. I can now testify first-hand that this is absolutely true.

DMEC & >play
One of the most exciting clubs at Haas is the Digital Media and Entertainment club, which brings together people with passion to technology and specifically its impact on the consumer world through digital media, such as TV & cinema, computer games, web applications, the living room and even your car.

Each year, the club organizes the >play conference, which brings together industry experts from all the areas mentioned above and more, to create an unforgettable annual event. The event provides a unique opportunity to meet both the newest startups in the Media and Entertainment sphere, as well as the latest innovations from the well established players in this market. The main attractions of the event are traditionally its great keynote speakers, the expo that demonstrates the hottest new technologies and the panels who bring in industry leaders to hold fascinating discussions about the latest trends. This year, the >play conference takes place on November 15th.

Getting Involved
When I applied to Haas, I knew I wanted to take an active part in the DMEC activities, I just didn’t realize how fast this would happen. Even before arriving at haas, the >play committee published a message in the new admits Google group, inviting first year students to volunteer in helping organizing the event. Truth is, I assumed that we will get mainly administrative or logistical tasks. Nevertheless, I’ve expressed my interest in helping with the panels. Only a weeks after arriving to Haas, we had a first meeting with the second year student who is responsible for the panels this year, and he told us about opportunities of getting involved with existing panels. However, he strongly encouraged us to come up with ideas for new panels and suggested a few topics that we can follow up on.

Making it happen
One of the topics suggested was a Gaming Panel. I’ve long ago marked the gaming industry as one of the most exciting and innovative ones, and looked for ways to getting involved in it, and this was a great opportunity to do so while also helping >play becoming even better. I joined forces with several classmates, and with the help of many students from both years we gradually started forming the list of participants for our newborn panel.

New business models in gaming
The main theme of the >play conference this year is Disruption, so we examined several ideas for our panel that could fit this theme. We eventually came up with a list of companies who are redefining the ways in which games are delivered to customers – from live online game servers through episodic gaming to user-engagement games, the panel started to include an amazing list of people, and they were all extremely responsive and excited to take part in >play.

I proudly present the >play 2008 gaming panel:

Quite exciting, isn’t it?

—Elad Ganot

The Graduate Business Conference

Today was the first day of this year’s Graduate Business Conference (GBC), an annual gathering of student leaders from MBA programs across the world. For the first time since 1996 the Graduate Business Conference is hosted by Haas this year. Tomorrow will again be packed with activities (and I will host a best-practice workshop session myself tomorrow afternoon) but I can already say that the first day was a great success with workshops directed at facilitating the exchange of best practices between student leaders from different schools and leadership development programs run by respected coaches. After the professional part of the program, a fantastic BBQ in the Haas courtyard provided ample opportunities for networking and if i weren’t still suffering from a cold (the aftermath of late-night sake drinking in Japan) I would now be out with the conference participants.

BTW: If you are a sports fan, you should check out YardBarker, a blog network, news aggregator and community site for all things sports. The company was founded by Jack Kloster and Peter Vlastelica during their time at Haas (both are MBA06 and were also involved in starting up both DMEC and the Play Conference at Haas) and just received second round funding of $6m to expand its operations. Congratulations and Go Bears! (Jack and Peter also frequently come back to school to speak as part of Haas’ entrepreneurship curriculum.)