Do Good, Together, with Value – Lessons from High School Entrepreneurs

YEAH-groupThe Young Entrepreneurs At Haas (YEAH) program recently concluded its 27th year of service to Bay Area high school students. A key component of the program is business plan presentations done by high school sophomores. The students are given free rein to devise any business they think is needed and could be successful. With ideas in hand, they work with an undergraduate business or MBA student coach to flesh out the business value, structure, financials, supply chain, and marketing. With a clean slate on which to innovate, the talented groups came up with novel product and service ideas. Three themes emerged from this year’s presentations:

  1. Social Entrepreneurship
  2. Collaboration
  3. Consolidation

These themes underscore the evolution of business and the mindset needed from a new generation of business leaders. The teams presented to a panel of judges and deftly defended their ideas during the Q&A sessions.

Berkeley-Haas YEAH presentation

An enthusiastic crowd supports the student presenters.

Social Entrepreneurship
One half of the companies provided a social good of some kind. The teams did not refer to themselves as social entrepreneurs, but the mission focus of their idea and business structure was clear. The presentations made it clear that students did not consider this novel or attention-getting. There is an implicit expectation that successful companies will contribute to the well-being of the community either directly through an offering or through its operations. Many startups consider social impact to be a point of differentiation or even a competitive advantage. These budding leaders signal a soon-to-be future where that it not the case.

Berkeley-Haas YEAH presentations

A student team fields questions from judges.

Collaboration
The business mantra of “leading” and “following” is dissolving. The next generation of leaders doesn’t see a push-pull, us-vs-them environment. Where a traditional business plan would identify competitors, young leaders see only potential partners. With one presentation after another, teams commented that their ideas offered something new, and that incumbents were better off collaborating to stay relevant in the marketplace instead of wasting the time and energy to compete head to head against novel startups. Collaborative networks working to create shared value are not new to the social impact space. Young entrepreneurs see collaboration as a key business tactic for success across sectors.

Consolidation
In terms of the actual ideas, many of them showed a frustration with a fragmented landscape of niche products and services. There is a value in a consolidated, robust product that provides users with a go-to place for what they need. Students identified a complex world where each product or service provides one small remedy to an ongoing pain-point. There was a tenable desire for consolidation of these services. Several teams hinged on this added value as the core proposition for their idea.

The success of the YEAH program is clear, with a 27-year track record and nearly 100% of program graduates going to college. Visit the YEAH program page at Berkeley-Haas for more information.

 

Which of these themes ring true for you?

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Alumni Spotlight – Doug Galen, MBA 88

DougGalen hdshot Galen, BS 84, MBA 88
Co-Founder & CEO of Ripple Works: rippleworks.org
Lecturer at Berkeley-Haas and Stanford GSB

Doug Galen is passionate about building and scaling great companies that disrupt industries and drive innovation. He has had extensive experience in building and scaling startups and currently lectures at Berkeley-Haas and Stanford University. “I’ve learned how to make brutally hard decisions when you don’t have enough resources, and I’ve come to know what it’s like when a product is great vs. mediocre,” said Doug.

He is the founder and CEO of RippleWorks, where he now gets to play a role in helping companies scale as they do everything from solar panels in rural Tanzanian villages to micro-insurance for the poor across Africa and Asia.

The initial question at the core of RippleWorks was “How can we best help millions of people?”  It’s an overly ambitious, daunting quest.  But there already exist great social entrepreneurs well on their way to helping millions get out of poverty. The question then became, “How can we help?”  RippleWorks pairs promising social entrepreneurs around the world with tech and startup experts from Silicon Valley to jointly conquer specific scaling challenges of the social venture.

Impact through RippleWorks

RippleWorks is wrapping up its first cohort of companies that it has helped scale.   They have taken on projects ranging from cloud infrastructure to scaling call centers. The program pairs volunteer experts, who give 1-5 hours per week of their time, with social ventures for a 3-4 month project. Culminating the project, RippleWorks flies the experts to spend a week with their social venture for an immersive work session.

RippleWorks: Mike and Aldi

Mike and Aldi in Indonesia

“We get to bring the best-of-the-best people together to collaborate, which is always special,” Doug said. “We recently had an expert, Mike, go and visit Aldi, his project partner in Jakarta, Indonesia.  Mike felt pure joy because he maximized his volunteer time by providing priceless technology and architecture advice. His input will accelerate Aldi’s growth to help more shop keepers in rural Indonensia.”   Mike also visited Aldi’s home and connected with his son, teaching him how to sing the itsy-bitsy-spider.  Now, Aldi sings the song per his son’s nightly request.

“It wasn’t just about the project,” Doug said. “We get to see personal encounters like Mike and Aldi, the where two people bring the best out of each other, and really see what can happen when you connect two worlds together.”

Advice for current Berkeley-Haas students:

Doug reminds students to appreciate the true melting pot that is Berkeley.  “Haas exposed me to business people from around the world, and Berkeley exposed me to the most diverse group of people.” It offers an opportunity to experience the vast world outside of Silicon Valley.  Also, Doug advises to take advantage of everything Haas offers, particularly beyond curriculum.

  • Attend every event you can – you have the chance to attend more powerful events in your two years at Haas than you can for the rest of your life.
  • Make sure to take the time to understand your passions and values, and use that to discover what opportunities are out there and what goals you want to set for yourself.
  • Appreciate your classmates – you will learn as much from your experiences with them as you will from instructors, homework, or assignments.
  • And have fun along the way. Play intramural sports. Kick some butt at Challenge for Charity, and, if nothing else, beat Stanford.

 

 

Zach Friedman, Director of Vaccination and Immunization at LIGTT

Photo_ZachFriedmanWhen Zach Friedman was hired on as Director of Vaccination and Immunization at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies, his first project was not a small one. He immediately jumped in to developing the “50 Breakthroughs” report. As he described, it the report was “a study that identified high-impact scientific and technological breakthroughs required for global sustainable development.”

“We took a problem-oriented approach,” Zach said, “starting with high level issues like global health and digital inclusion, and unpacked those issues to identify the major underlying drivers and then identify where new breakthroughs were or were not a critical part of the solution.” With the belief that the number of truly transformative technologies is much more than just a handful, the report set about discovering what those were – not just the big, buzzworthy, of-the-moment ideas, but the ones that are game-changing, scalable, and can make a substantial and long-lasting impact in developing countries. Completed in 2014, the full study took over two years to conduct and has since been used by major funding entities like USAID and the Lemelson Foundation to help guide their strategy. Continue reading

Kat Taylor – Lessons in Community Banking

038Event: Kat Taylor Shares Leadership Lessons at Berkeley-Haas
Main Speakers: Kat Taylor and Ben Mangan
Date: Thursday, April 16, 2015

On April 16 Kat Taylor, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Beneficial State Bank, shared her experience and vision as a leader of the social enterprise bank. Beneficial State’s mission is simple – that banking can once again be about people interacting with people for the sake of economic growth and opportunity, in a healthy way.  Under her leadership, Beneficial State is trying to move banking back to main street, for the benefit of all. Some highlights from her comments:

Continue reading

Was the Walmart Pay Raise Real Leadership?

Walmart made waves last week announcing  pay increases for their workers. The Wall Street Journal cast this as a pure labor market move – prompted by an increasingly competitive environment for retail workers. Walmart, of course, promoted this as a double-bottom line move that reflects the needs of their workers as well as something they need to do to remain competitive.

wmt

So, which was it?.

This shift provides an interesting lens through which to explore what leadership really is, and what meets the test for different types of leadership.

What is effective business leadership when you run one of the largest employers of low wage workers in the world and serve primary segments that are low and moderate income?

What is moral leadership in this context?

Can the two intersect when groups of large shareholders might believe a wage hike to be a violation of managers being fiduciaries? (It’s notable that WMT’s share price took a hit right after this was announced).

I actually believe it was an authentic expression of both effective business leadership and moral leadership. Walmart has taken a beating from the left for years because of the way it treats workers – and rightly so. They have traditionally paid very poorly, and have had a business model with incredibly high attrition rates for workers – signalling that they have a view of their workforce as heavily commodified, perhaps at the expense of being as humane as needed.

To me, the pay increase is a signal of an authentic shift. I believe this for three primary reasons: Continue reading

Takeaways from “What Can Business Learn From Social Movements?”


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Event: Impact Speaker Series – What Can Business Learn From Social Movements?

Speakers: Douglas Atkin, Paula Goodman
Date: Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Last week, Douglas Atkin (Global Head of Community at Airbnb) and Paula Goodman (Global Head of Impact Investing at Omidyar Networkgave us their insight on how a business might successfully reach out to and establish a loyal, united, active group of consumers by borrowing fundamental principles of social movements. Here are the some of the takeaways from the event: Continue reading