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UC Berkeley’s Haas School Pours New Resources into Entrepreneurship

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The Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley, already one of the highest-ranked business schools in the world for entrepreneurship, is doubling down in support of students with the startup itch. Haas Dean Rich Lyons announced yesterday that the school will provide $100,000 in seed funding for Haas student startups this year, part of an umbrella effort designed to enhance offerings for both MBA and undergraduate students interested in entrepreneurship.

“Our student entrepreneurs are already thriving within the Berkeley-Haas and Bay Area startup ecosystem,” Lyons said in a statement. “This new effort will continue to build on and expand that success, creating a new generation of leaders who will be mixing with alumni and giving back to the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

The new Dean’s Startup Seed Fund will provide $5,000 grants to early-stage startups that count Haas students as part of their teams, funds that can be used to develop prototypes and identify customers. The Seed Fund, though, is just one of many resources Haas plans to pool as part of the new Berkeley-Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP), an umbrella organization designed to imbed entrepreneurial thinking across the Haas student experience.

As part of BHEP, the school’s Career Management Group will also have a new industry specialist available to advise students who want to work at startups, and Berkeley will work more closely with UCSF science programs to encourage cross-disciplinary innovation. For example, a pilot project will pair UCSF faculty with Haas MBA students on short projects to develop new business ideas.

Beyond these new initiatives, BHEP will also unite the many entrepreneurship resources Haas is already known for, such as its competitions for later-stage startups (LAUNCH: the Berkeley Startup Competition) and early-stage, social impact ventures (Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC) and its Lean Launchpad innovation training platform, developed by Haas Lecturer Steve Blank.

The Lester Center for Entrepreneurship, launched in 1992 with a $1 million gift from late Williams-Sonoma CEO and Chairman Howard Lester, will become part of BHEP and will focus entirely on student-facing initiatives. In addition to LAUNCH, these include hackathons and experiential learning opportunities like the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) and Big Ideas@Cal, an annual contest supporting the “big ideas” of interdisciplinary teams.

The Lester Center will also manage the Dean’s Startup Seed Fund, and grant winners will be selected by a committee made up of Haas faculty, Institute for Business Innovation leadership, and investors and leaders from the Berkeley entrepreneurship ecosystem. Grant applications are due on December 4, 2015, and teams must include at least one current Haas MBA or undergrad student. Half of the grants will be distributed in December and the remainder in May.

“We’re improving and redefining how we engage with the entrepreneurial needs of our students,” Rhonda Shrader, MBA 96, said in a statement. Shrader will oversee student-related services within BHEP. Professor Toby Stuart will remain as faculty director of the entrepreneurship program, and Andre Marquis, MBA 96, who is currently executive director of the Lester Center, will soon assume a greater role working with large enterprises interested in lean venturing methods, the school reports.

Learn more about the new Berkeley-Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP), including details about the Dean’s Startup Seed Fund.