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Haas Startup Squad Connects MBA Students, Entrepreneurs

As the spring 2018 cohort at UC Berkeley’s SkyDeck startup accelerator gets down to work, they have an additional tool at their disposal: the opportunity to collaborate with MBA students at the university’s Haas School of Business.

That’s thanks to the Haas Startup Squad, which has started matching MBA students looking to get involved in startups with startups looking for people with business skills.

The project was started by Ludwig Schoenack, Class of 2019, who arrived on campus with an idea for increasing collaboration between Haas MBA students and SkyDeck startups.

SkyDeck is home to a range of startups founded by UC Berkeley students, alums and faculty members. Each semester, the accelerator selects 16 companies that receive support – including mentoring and funding – from SkyDeck.

When Schoenack showed up at orientation, his plan was to find a way to connect Haas MBA students with SkyDeck startups. His first week on campus, he proposed the idea to SkyDeck’s executive director, Caroline Winnett, who saw the value in it.

Together with three other MBA students – Lucie Bardet, Ryan Crestani and Matt Morrison – Schoenack then set about turning this idea into what is now the Haas Startup Squad.

Earlier this year, the Haas Startup Squad put out a call for MBA students interested in working with SkyDeck startups. From over 30 applicants, the Startup Squad invited 16 finalists to a mixer, where they got to know founders of SkyDeck companies over pizza and beer.

Schoenack says that “People talked and connected with no pressure and no promise of a match.” And as it turned out, that was enough to get things going. According to Schoenack, the process has already led to over a dozen collaborations.

Everyone seems to win from the setup. To Caroline Winnett, SkyDeck’s executive director, the idea for Haas Startup Squad made obvious sense: “It was an idea I’d been thinking about for a while,” she says.

And Lucie Bardet, another of the Haas Startup Squad’s members, agrees that “Ludwig’s intention of increasing collaboration between business students and startups was just perfect.”

Steve Keim is one of the Startup Squad’s successful matches, now collaborating with molecular and cell biology PhD Benjamin Gowen on the SkyDeck startup Peregrine Biotech.

He points out that Haas is perfectly situated for bringing together MBA students and entrepreneurs: “It’s such a unique feature of Berkeley and Silicon Valley and you really have to take advantage of it while you can.”

No doubt Haas is a school worth looking at for those interested in getting involved in the startup world. If that describes you, you might naturally be wondering whether the school’s a good fit for your profile and how you can maximize your chances of communicating your strengths to the adcom.

We can help you figure that out and come up with a strategy for admission – to get started, ask us for a free assessment!