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    MBA Student Looks to Next Quest: Easter Island by Wheelchair

    April 11th, 2017

    Alvaro Silberstein and his expedition teamPhoto credit: Pedro Paredes-Haz

    By Maya Mirsky

    Álvaro Silberstein, MBA 17, was on top of a mountain in Patagonia in his wheelchair last December, and the cameras were rolling.

    He was fulfilling his dream of making an arduous 50-kilometer trek through the landscape of granite towers and massive blue glaciers of the remote Torres del Paine National Park in his native Chile. Documentary filmmakers, part of his 12-member expedition, had captured dramatic footage along the way.

    Yet the achievement was just the beginning of a new chapter for Silberstein, who is using the trip’s success to fulfill an even greater goal: making more of the world’s most remote places accessible to adventurous tourists who happen to have disabilities.

    Through the Wheel the World nonprofit he formed with sponsor The North Face, Silberstein has now launched a crowdfunding campaign for a November trip to Easter Island. He aims to attract $20,000 to purchase two trekking wheelchairs and two hand bikes to leave behind for future visitors. 

    “Our main goal is not just me doing this adventure but making these adventures possible for more people,” he said.

    He’s already accomplished that in Patagonia. Silberstein raised $8,000 to buy a specialized trekking chair, which helped his team prevail through drenching rain to become the first to complete the tough “W” route at Torres del Paine in a wheelchair in six days. (Read more about the challenges they faced—and see full-sized photos—on UC Berkeley News.)

    “Álvaro is one of the strongest and optimistic people I have ever met,” said Matan Sela, MBA 17, a classmate who accompanied Silberstein to Patagonia. “In his mind, there is nothing he cannot accomplish, no matter how challenging it seems.”

    Alvaro's team pushes and pulls his chair along the narrow trailPhoto credit: Pedro Paredes-Haz

    The all-terrain chair they used has just one wheel for narrow trails and is meant to be both pulled and pushed with a harness and handles, making the trek a truly collaborative effort. It was that idea of collaboration that got Silberstein thinking that if he could figure out how to make the trip work for him, maybe he could help more than one person. 

    “We wanted all of that effort to be useful for other people too,” he said.

    He left the chair in Torres del Paine, along with a guide he and his team created for using it. Three people already have done so—including a 10-year-old boy. Another eight people have reserved it for next season.

    A spinal cord injury from a car accident when he was 18 left Silberstein with full paralysis from the chest down, and partial paralysis in his arms and hands. It changed his life, he said, but in many ways, it didn’t. Always a sports lover who enjoyed socializing and traveling, he still has the same goals and ambitions, from skiing in Tahoe to visiting national parks like Yosemite, where he was inspired by the easy access for disabled visitors.

    Alvaro Silberstein and his expedition team kayaking on a glacial lakePhoto credit: Pedro Paredes-Haz

    After he graduates in May, Silberstein will work on scaling Wheel the World to open more adventures to all people.

    The Patagonia trek has made Silberstein a bit of a folk hero in Chile, where 1,000 people turned out to see the premier of the documentary on his trip. The 15-minute film will be screened at Berkeley-Haas on Monday, April 17, in Andersen Auditorium.

    For some teaser footage, check out this short video on the trip by UC Berkeley Public Affairs (with footage from Wheel the World).

    Video of Trekking Patagonia in a wheelchair



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    Farming & Education Startups Rise to Top at Global Social Venture Competition

    April 11th, 2017

    By Krysten Crawford

    Sixteen teams of young entrepreneurs from around the world gathered at Berkeley-Haas Friday for the Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC)—launched by MBA students in 1999 and now one of the world’s leading contests for advances in social impact innovation.

    Nearly 600 entries from 64 countries had been whittled down to the 16 finalist teams who spent two days showcasing their ideas for changing the world. Haas student Hiroki Koga, MBA 17, and his startup, an indoor vertical farming operation called Oishii Farm, was one of six that made it to the final round Friday afternoon. Other top finalists hailed from Pakistan, Italy, France and elsewhere in the United States.

    The Kheyti teamPhoto by Bruce Cook

    In the end, Kheyti, a nonprofit that aims to lift rural farmers in India and beyond out of poverty via a low-cost “greenhouse-in-a-box” and related support services, took top honors. The team includes Kaushik K, an MBA student at Columbia Business School; Saumya, an MBA student at Kellogg School of Management; and Sathya Raghu V Mokkapati, Ayush Sharma, and Srikar Mokkapati, Sr., professionals based in Hyderabad, India.

    The first runner-up was MindRight, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that leverages text messages to help at-risk youth develop coping skills following a trauma. Third place went to Atlas, an Italian company that has developed a toxin-free biocide to combat the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses.

    1st Runners Up: MindRightPhoto by Bruce Cook

    This year’s competition awarded $80,000 in cash prizes. Most remarkable of all, says GSVC Program Director Jill Erbland, was the reaction from the judges—all social impact experts for at least a decade.

    “They felt that every one of the top finalist teams was very strong and had the capability to succeed as a viable company,” says Erbland, of the Center for Social Sector Leadership.

    Giving entrepreneurs a leg up

    The contest took place concurrently with the first annual Future of Social Ventures Conference, a one-day gathering whose featured speakers included Prof. Laura Tyson, director of the Berkeley-Haas Institute for Business & Social Impact, and His Excellency Amr Al Dabbagh, chairman and CEO of the Al-Dabbagh Group and founding chairman of the Stars Foundation and Philanthropy University.

    Laura Tyson and His Excellency Amr Al DabbaghLaura Tyson interviews His Excellency Amr Al Dabbagh. Photo by Bruce Cook

    The event also included a design workshop with Alisa Ahmadian and Elana Gurney of OpenIDEO, as well as a lunchtime talk by Kim Wright-Volich, managing partner at impact investing consulting firm Tideline.

    “The prize money is great, but ultimately the GSVC is an opportunity for social impact entrepreneurs to hone their pitches and network with potential investors and advisers,” says Erbland, who adds that past teams have secured funding from investors who attended the competition.

    Entry rules require that at least one member of each team be a student or recent graduate of either an undergraduate or graduate academic program.

    Adding new meaning to farm-to-table

    Hiroko KogaAmong the many discoveries Koga made after moving across the Pacific: fruits and vegetables in the U.S. are tasteless compared to those in Japan. “There’s just no comparison,” says Koga (right), who described the core problem as one of distribution. Most fruit and vegetables can’t get from farms to grocery stores when they are at their peak freshness—many crops are designed specifically to be transported long distances, and this has a negative impact on taste. “The global food supply chain is a mess,” says Koga.

    Indoor vertical farming solves the distribution problem by using technology to grow food year-round in stacked layers located in urban warehouses or city highrises, providing consumers with access to high quality, locally grown fresh produce. The social impact component: vertical farming uses significantly less land and water than traditional agriculture, eliminates food waste, and promises safer working conditions for laborers.

    Oishii Farm is unique among indoor vertical farming operations, Koga and his co-founders told a panel of six judges during their final ten-minute pitch. Other vertical farming companies, they said, grow only leafy greens because the high risk of disease and the challenges of pollination in enclosed spaces have so far ruled out fruit crops.

    The company has found a solution to the fruit cultivation problem, which requires more complex processes and technologies than leafy greens. “We are the first company to overcome the technological barriers to growing fruit at commercial scale using vertical indoor techniques,” said Koga in an interview before the GSVC’s final round. (He declined to elaborate on the company’s proprietary technology.)

    Earlier this year, Oishii Farm was one of 11 Haas startups to receive $5,000 each from the Dean’s Seed Fund.

    Reaching the GSVC finals, says Koga, gave Oishii Farm instant credibility. “Receiving tremendously positive feedback from judges and social entrepreneurs validated our social mission and long-term vision to revolutionize agriculture,” says Koga, who will continue to build the for-profit company after graduation.

    Koga was also impressed with his competitors’ commitment to social causes. “The people I met aren’t looking to create the next unicorn and become billionaires,” he says. “They are all so passionate about solving a social issue and changing the world in some way regardless of the impact they ultimately have. I really respect that.”

    GSVC organizersCompetition organizers celebrate after the final round. Photo by Bruce Cook

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    Prof. Ulrike Malmendier Awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

    April 8th, 2017

    Ulrike MalmendierBerkeley-Haas Finance Prof. Ulrike Malmendier, a pioneer in the field of behavioral economics, has been named a 2017 Guggenheim Fellow for her research on financial behavior.

    Malmendier, was among 173 scholars, artists, and scientists chosen from nearly 3,000 applicants for the award, which is given annually by the John Simon Memorial Guggenheim Foundation. The recipients include seven UC Berkeley faculty—more than any other university.

    The fellowships are granted on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise.

    The award money—about $5,000—is tied to a specific project. Malmendier will use the grant to continue her research on the Experience Effect, her theory that financial behavior is influenced by the economic conditions that a person has lived through.

    This year’s other fellows from UC Berkeley are: Wendy Brown (Political Science); Cindy Cox (Music Composition); Tom Griffiths (Psychology); Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann (European & Latin American History); Samuel Otter (American Literature); and Richmond Sarpong (Chemistry).

    Malmendier, who has taught finance at Haas since 2010, is the Edward J. and Mollie Arnold Professor of Finance at Haas and a professor of economics at UC Berkeley, where she is the founding co-chair of the Initiative in Behavioral Finance and Economics.

    She won the prestigious Fischer Black Prize from the American Finance Association in 2013, for the originality and creativity of her research. She was inducted to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016. 

    Malmendier focuses on the intersection of economics and finance, and why and how individuals make decisions. Some of her work includes research on CEO overconfidence, the long-term frugality of “Depression babies,” and the decision-making behind gym membership. Recently, she’s researched the impact of economic shocks, such as high inflation or unemployment, on later economic behavior.


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    Bridge 2017 Berkeley Asia Business Conference

    March 22nd, 2017

    “Unlocking Value and Impact
    Friday, April 14
    1pm to 7pm
    Berkeley-Haas campus

    Buy tickets


    Wednesday, March 22, 2017 – 12:29

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    Africa Business Forum 2017

    March 22nd, 2017

    Saturday, April 29
    Sutardja Dai Hall, UC Berkeley Campus


    Wednesday, March 22, 2017 – 12:37

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    40 Under 40: Panos Patatoukas: UC Berkeley, Haas School of Business

    March 22nd, 2017

    Patatoukas, who is 35, says he wants to make financial information analysis accessible to all by age 40.

    San Francisco Business Times
    Source URL:

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    Berkeley-Haas Master of Financial Engineering Program Graduates 69 Students

    March 21st, 2017

    By Kim Girard

    MFE 2017 commencementPhotos: Bruce Cook

    After an intense program of research projects, global internships, and competitions, 69 students in the Berkeley Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) Program graduated last Friday.

    Graduation speaker Howard Morgan, a renowned venture capitalist, philanthropist, and angel investor, said he was honored to be speaking to such a distinguished and lucky group of graduates.

    “Distinguished in that I think this is best financial engineering program in the nation,” he said during the ceremony at Andersen Auditorium. “And lucky in that you are just at the start of an exciting career at a time when big data, deep learning, and changes in financial regulation that are going to affect the financial world in the next decades.”

    Linda Kreitzman, executive director of the MFE Program, honored many of the students in the Class of 2017 during the ceremony, with both lighthearted recognitions (“Most Innovative Eating” went to Jae Sang Shim, for eating bread with a fork, and “Best Dressed” went to Maite Soubeyran), and more serious awards to three students whom Kreitzman said did not let tremendous personal sorrow impact their success in the program.

    Kreitzman praised the students for “doing all that we asked and beyond,” and noted that the group raised the bar for the incoming class.

    All of the students held internships, from New York to Hong Kong to London during the program, working in hedge funds, investment and commercial banking, asset management, and financial services. The majority will go on to work in the U.S. or London at such firms as Citadel, PIMCO, BlackRock, Squarepoint Capital, and Morgan Stanley.

    Howard Morgan, speakerCommencement speaker Howard Morgan called the grads “distinguished and lucky.”

    “It’s an emotional time for us,” Kreitzman said before the ceremony. “We do bond with our students. It’s a class of 69 and there’s a feeling that they are part of a family. I am always sad to see them leave but at the same time I am excited by what’s awaiting them.”

    Dean Rich Lyons noted how transformative the MFE Program is, building the resilience required to move into an exciting industry that’s continuously changing.

    “You’ve been transformed in many ways,” he said. “People come up to me from this program and say when they got here they were thinking, ‘other people do that’ and now they’re saying ‘I do that, I could do that, I could choose to do that, it is available to me.’ That is an identity change. That is not just more information or knowledge. Those are the things that are so valuable in life.”

    Student speaker Arsh Sood described the phases of the MFE: the first term, where the group bonded; followed by the second “killer term,” where they pushed themselves to the limit.  “The challenges we overcame in that term gave us the confidence and the strength to tackle anything we might face in the future,” he said. During the third term, everyone had the opportunity to prepare to step into the world; in the final term, where they finally relaxed and had a little fun.

    Sood expressed the class’s gratitude to Kreitzman.

    “You left no stone unturned in making us what we are today, and you have always treated us like your children and guided us in the right direction,” he said.

    The graduation ceremony included many honors. Ming Li Chew, Sahil Puri, Arsh Sood, and Adam Wearne won the $5,000 Morgan Stanley Applied Finance project award for “Using Natural Language Processing Techniques for Stock Return Predictions.” This capstone project requires all students to work in groups, and present to the faculty and the MFE steering committee.

    MFE grads 2017

    Other awards presented were:

    Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching: Prof. Martin Lettau, Kruttschnitt Family Chair in Financial Institutions in the Haas Finance Group

    Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor (GSI): Paulo Manoel

    Defining Principles awards: 

    ·         Students Always: Yihui Victoria Li

    ·         Question the Status Quo: Tianyi Frank Xia

    ·         Confidence without Attitude: Krishanu Nandy

    ·         Beyond Yourself: Alexander Olson

    Award for the Embodiment of all Four Defining Principles: Robin Ferret, Adam Plantinga, Sahil Puri

    The MFE Heart Award (for exceptional kindness in interactions with staff, students, and faculty): Kai Liu

    Berkeley-Haas Leadership Award (new award in collaboration with the Office of the Chief Investment Officer at the University of California Office of the President, UCOP): Juan Rassa

    Alumni awards (for outstanding teaching and service to the MFE Program): Craig Dana, MFE 2016 and Emmanuel Vallod, MFE 2011

    The incoming MFE class, which arrived today, includes students from 16 countries, including Italy, Argentina, Colombia, Morocco, the UK, Singapore, India, China, and Mexico. The new group has three years of average work experience, the most (45 percent) in finance, followed by research & development, engineering, and consulting.


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    Hands-on Focus at 3rd Annual Africa Business Forum

    March 21st, 2017

    Africa Business Forum logoThe big-picture theme of 3rd annual Berkeley-Haas Africa Business Forum is how technology is disrupting every industry on the continent.

    But the focus of the event, to be held April 29 at Sutardja Dai Hall on the UC Berkeley Campus, is on interaction, discussion, and building a network.

    “The Berkeley Haas Africa Business Forum seeks to act as a magnet for people with a vested interest in private sector development in Africa, and as a catalyst for action,” said Co-chair Thato Keineetse, MBA 17. “Our goal is to build a diverse network of change agents who are capable and motivated to tackle the complex challenges and vast opportunities present in African economies.”

    Adds Co-chair Hady Barry, MBA 17, “This is not about attending an event and being talked at—we want our guests to be engaged and contribute to the conversation.”

    The forum was established by MBA students three years ago to fill out a line-up of student-led conferences that includes Asian and Latin American business conferences. It was first large-scale event at Berkeley to focus on African business, and has attracted students from throughout campus as well as professionals from throughout the Bay Area and beyond.

    Africa Business Forum 2016Above: Participants at the 2016 Berkeley-Haas Africa Business Forum

    While nearly 200 people registered last year, Barry said organizers are capping attendance at 150 this year to keep it intimate and interactive.

    To that end, the morning will be spent on a case study on the African startup Azuri Technologies, a commercial provider of solar systems to rural off-grid communities. “The case study session will also be an opportunity to showcase the design-thinking approach to problem find and solving we’ve learned at Haas,” Barry said. 

    Following a networking lunch, afternoon panels will feature African tech entrepreneurs, the growth of fintech in Africa, as well as “big tech’s ambitions in Africa.”

    Speakers include Nigerian entrepreneur Olu’Yomi Ojo, who founded branding firm Urbanbaze Advertising and Printivo, a custom printing company for small businesses that is expanding to other African countries; as well as Toro Orero, managing partner of Silicon Valley VC fund DDF Capital, which invests in scalable African startups.

    Find more details and register here.


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    New Certificate Focuses on Multidisciplinary Design & Innovation

    March 21st, 2017

    By Maya Mirsky

    A new certificate program launched this month provides undergraduates with a chance to learn how design and innovation are taught across the UC Berkeley campus.

    The Berkeley Certificate in Design Innovation (BCDI) program is a first-ever collaboration between Berkeley-Haas, the College of Engineering, the College of Environmental Design, and the College of Letters and Science’s Arts & Humanities Division.

    An open house for students to learn more about the program is planned for April 21 at noon at the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation.

    Clark Kellogg teachingWith its focus on problem-solving, dialogue, and “non-linear creativity,” the new certificate will connect design approaches to the disciplines within each school.

    “The problems that need to be solved in the world are more complex than they used to be,” said Senior Lecturer Sara Beckman, the Berkeley-Haas academic advisor for the program and co-instructor of the Collaborative Innovation course. “Design offers a toolkit for framing and solving those bigger kinds of problems.”

    Students who enroll in the BCDI program are required to take a total of four courses: one chosen from a set of foundation courses such as Needfinding in the Wild, taught by Michael Barry of Berkeley-Haas; two courses selected from a wide variety of designated design and innovation skills courses at the different schools—from theater design to solar power use in vehicles; and one course that requires applying design and innovation skills to a project, ideally in a cross-disciplinary setting. Beckman’s Collaborative Innovation course, which is jointly taught across Business, Art Practice, and Theater and Dance Performance Studies, is an example of an applied project course.

    The program will encourage students from different schools to work with and learn from one another about how design is applied within their own fields, said Berkeley-Haas lecturer Clark Kellogg, whose Innovation and Design Thinking in Business course is part of the certificate curriculum.

    Joe Wilson, BS 17, who has taken design courses, said he regrets that he’s graduating too soon to complete the new certificate. “The skills I’ve learned through design have really helped me to be a more big picture thinker,” he said.

    Students may apply to the program on the BCDI website by submitting an Intent to Complete the Certificate form. A certificate from all four BCDI sponsors will be issued to students who complete the requirements. The certificate will not appear on students’ academic transcripts.

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    Bridge 2017 Berkeley Asia Business Conference is Back on Campus

    March 21st, 2017

    For those who seek to gain a competitive edge in the US-Asia connected markets, the 2017 Bridge Berkeley Asia Business Conference will offer a strategic look at the region, open dialogue with world-class executives, and an intimate opportunity to network.

    The 17th annual conference, themed “Unlocking Value and Impact,” will take place on Friday, April 14 from 1 to 7pm on the Berkeley-Haas campus.

    “We chose the theme because we will have specific examples and success stories from our speakers, as well as a special section on impact investing this year,” said Tumy Nguyen, MBA 17, who is co-chairing the conference with Warot Wainiya, MBA 17. “Despite the call for protectionism and de-globalization, there are plenty of opportunities to be unlocked for business, growth and impact between the two most dynamic regions in the world: the US and Asia.”

    A scene from the Bridge 2016 conferenceAbove: A scene from the Bridge 2016 conference

    In his keynote address, Peter Goodson—a Haas finance lecturer and private equity innovator who over the past 50 years has invested in 65 companies worth $100 billion throughout the world—will share a real-life case of an Asian business he helped build into the largest of its kind.

    “What we’ve learned is that Asia is a better opportunity than what we’re presented with in the United States,” said Goodson. “The wonderful thing is that what we’ve learned over the years is so applicable: How do you build a great business? How do you scale a business? How do you help local entrepreneurs—who are frankly smarter than we are but just don’t have the experience—grow those businesses?”

    Video of Peter Goodson, Berkeley Asia Business Conference Keynote Speaker 2017

    The conference also includes:

    • A panel on Asian Markets 2.0, featuring Helen Wang, a strategic consultant, author, and entrepreneur who is an expert on China’s middle class
    • A panel on investment and exit strategies between Silicon Valley and China featuring Kyle Lui, a principal at DCM Ventures, a venture capital firm that has invested in more than 300 technology companies across the US and Asia, and Binh Tran, managing partner for seed-stage investment fund 500 Startups Vietnam.
    • A closing keynote on impact investing in Asia by TedX speaker Beau Seil, co-founder and managing partner of Unitus Impact, a venture capital firm focused on scalable companies that increase incomes for the working poor in Southeast Asia and India. He’ll speak on how underserved markets can become the next mass-market opportunities.

    Early-bird tickets are available through March 27: $15 for students, $30 for alumni, and $45 for professionals.



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