Recent Haas Startups Continue to Thrive
Many of the firms launched by Berkeley MBA students and graduates in recent years have done remarkably well despite the debacle of the dotcom boom. Here is a small sample of the many recent alumni who continue to make their startups thrive and grow.
Tim Albinson, MBA 99, left the finance industry to found a new business, Aravo, with fellow Haas alum Che Mott, MBA 00, in spring 2000, "just before the dotcom bubble burst," says the CEO. The firm, which is located in San Francisco, develops software to help automate and manage supplier relationships and counts among its clients Accenture, the Department of Defense, a tier-one investment bank, and the US Navy. The firm has raised $5 million in financing and expects to reach profitability this year.
Burch LaPrade, MBA 99, is cofounder and CEO of Brightroom, a professional event photography company that enables sports and corporate event participants to view, share, and order high quality pictures. Brightroom is the largest retailer of photographs from road races and triathlons in the world. The company is profitable, with 35 employees and offices in California, Texas, and Washington, DC.
The latest startup to come out of the Berkeley Business Incubator, Dust provides the tiny wireless networks that have made the news lately because of their nearly limitless potential uses. Co-founded in 2003 by electrical engineering professor Kris Pister, now CEO, and Tod Dykstra, MBA 91, vice president of engineering and operations, Dust’s wireless sensor networks can be used for automation, industrial monitoring, and defense applications. Honeywell, for example, has used the technology to monitor energy consumption in a grocery store. Dust employs 25 people.
Two Germans Dirk Freise and Thorsten Rehling, MBAs 99, met in the Berkeley MBA Program where an entrepreneurship class project turned into a startup venture. After a brief stint in the Berkeley Business Incubator, the two moved back to Germany where Handy.de now provides everything consumers need for cell phone service via the Internet. The company is headquartered in Hamburg and has over 3.5 million users.
Inspired by a Haas manufacturing course with senior lecturer Sara Beckman, manufacturing veteran Ron Drabkin, MBA 93, found that existing factory scheduling software was too complicated for manufacturers. Drabkin and his two co-founders thought they could do better and launched JRG Software in 2002. JRG’s product helps consumer goods manufacturers deal with large retailers and initially won over customers before it had investors. Today, the San Mateo-based startup has funding from US Venture Partners and Bay Partners and customers like Ghirardelli Chocolate, Monterey Pasta, and Wise Snacks.
Last spring, the war in Iraq put Keyhole, a startup founded by CEO John Hanke, MBA 96, on the map for its ability to provide fluid 3D digital images of the entire earth, including close-ups of Baghdad, via the Internet. Founded in 2001, Keyhole is located in Mountain View, Calif., and now counts more than 12,000 customers in sectors like real estate, engineering and architecture, media, and government. It has investments from Sony, Nvidia, and In-Q-Tel.
Punita Pandey, MBA 91, has always believed in providing stellar customer service and saw an opportunity in leveraging the Internet to do so. In 1999, she founded netCustomer, where she serves as president and CEO. Since its founding, netCustomer has worked with leading companies such as, PeopleSoft and NetScreen, and their customers around the world. Headquartered in San Jose, Calif., netCustomer operates around the clock with operations near Delhi, India, and is backed by Charles River Ventures.
Chris Barton and Philip Inghelbrecht, MBAs 00, together founded Shazam Entertainment, a London-based company that enables mobile phone users to identify music by playing it into the handset. They have raised $15 million in two rounds of financing. The Shazam service is live in 10 countries worldwide, including the Far East and Australia, and will soon launch in the US.
Nibha Aggarwal, MBA 97, and Anthony Joseph, assistant professor at engineering, founded SkyFlow, winner of the 2000 UC Berkeley Business Plan Competition. SkyFlow provides speech self-service solutions that automate repetitive calls currently handled by human agents. To date, the company has raised $5 million in funding and steadily added customers in both the high-tech and retail arena.
Juan Mini and Scott Kucirek, MBAs 99, launched the first national Internet-enabled full-service real estate agency, zipRealty (www.zipRealty.com). While Mini has returned to his native Guatemala to run his family’s business, Kucirek remains as executive vice president of new market development. zipRealty continues to thrive in Emeryville, Calif., has over 400 agents across the US, and has raised over $48 million in funding.
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