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New Startup Marketplace Matches Haas MBA Students, Scientists Via Speed Dates

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MBA students at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business have been taking part in speed dating of sorts with faculty and scientists at the University of California San Francisco’s School of Pharmacy. Have no fear—this is not a story about anti-fraternization policy violations or scandal. Instead, it’s a tale of creative matchmaking that gives Haas students valuable experience with early-stage science startups that need their business know-how.

The idea was born out of a conversation last year between Haas Dean Rich Lyons and UCSF School of Pharmacy Dean Joseph Guglielmo. Abby Scott, associate director of Emerging Initiatives at Haas, took the idea and ran with it—developing it into the pilot Startup Marketplace, which launched in September 2015.

The Startup Marketplace brings interested MBA students together with UCSF faculty and scientists for a live online session in which each side delivers a brief elevator pitch to the other. After a series of online “speed dates,” parties on both sides rank their top choices and matches are made.

Startup Marketplace
Anita Lal, Haas FWMBA 17

The Haas students devote between 10 and 20 hours during the semester consulting with the science startups. In the fall semester, seven MBA students took part, many of them from Haas’s Evening & Weekend MBA program. Anita Lal, EWMBA ’17, helped develop a roadmap charting potential business paths for Alaunus Biosciences, a startup that has developed a profiling technology to identify new drug targets and diagnostic biomarkers. Alaunus was co-founded by UCSF pharmaceutical chemistry professor Charles Craik.

It’s perhaps no surprise that Craik saw something in Lal as part of the speed dating process. In addition to work experience as a program manager at Siemens Healthcare and the business knowledge she’s gained as a Haas MBA student, Lal also happens to hold a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology. But the relationship has equally worthwhile for Lal. “For me, it’s just exciting to see how a startup evolves and the hurdles that it faces,” she said as part of the Haas article.

Mentors provided by Haas offer support to the MBA students participating in the Startup Marketplace program. Participating mentors have included startup advisor Deepak Gupta of the Berkeley-Haas Career Management Group (CMG) and Rhonda Shrader, who directs the Berkeley-Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP).

With positive feedback from both parties in many of the matches made last fall, Haas is expanding the pilot program with a new crop of participating students and startups this year.

“We’d like to see where we can take this next,” said Scott. “In the future, we can bring together students with partners developing all kinds of different technologies. I can imagine us going to other departments, perhaps even working with incubators directly, or even moving it beyond just Berkeley.”

Read the full story on the Haas website.