Are You an Aspiring Entrepreneur? Here’s How to Take Advantage of Your Business Major at Haas
We all know that Haas is more than just a degree. However, sometimes it can feel challenging to identify and make the most of all the incredible opportunities at hand.
To fully take on your entrepreneurial journey during your undergraduate years, you’ll need three key components: a tailored course selection, a great network, and support for your startup. Fortunately, Haas has got you covered on all fronts. Let’s delve into each of these components and explore the practical ways that Haas can be a valuable asset for your entrepreneurial goals.
Creating Your Course Load
Beyond the 10 core classes required for all Business majors, Haas offers a variety of undergraduate Entrepreneurship courses:
- UGBAC5 Introduction to Entrepreneurship
- 192E-1. Social Entrepreneurship
- 195A. Entrepreneurship
- 195P. Entrepreneurship: How to Successfully Start a New Business
- 195T. Founder Workshop: Building a Fundable Startup
- 192ID. Impact Startup Disco
Apart from these specialized Entrepreneurship courses, Haas also has many other elective options that delve deep into practical Business knowledge. For example, take Francesca LeBaron’s 192T Equity Fluent Leadership class: a course designed to equip you with the skills and understanding needed to lead with equity in mind, a crucial ability for any startup founder. Speaking from personal experience, I took this class in my Freshman year, and it radically changed my perspective on leadership and team-building. We even got to work with real clients, applying our equity-focused skills to transform their Business models!
Building Your Network
As a startup founder, your co-founders, mentors, and sometimes even investors will likely come from your network. Cultivating a high-quality network is essential for success. To build such a network during your undergraduate years at Haas, there are three key strategies that I’ll go over: meeting people at external events, joining Business organizations, and engaging in Haas’s mentorship program.
Keeping Up With Haas’ External Events
Haas offers a diverse range of events, from speaker panels to networking events to pitch competitions. For instance, Haas hosts an annual Big Ideas contest where selected startups get the chance to pitch to investors/students and network with them afterward. The Richard Newton Lecture Series also features highly successful individuals on a weekly basis who are very often open to chatting over coffee if you approach them afterwards. And more recently, Haas even organized a “mock super day” event with industry professionals to help students prepare for any interviews they may have coming up.
To stay in the loop, make sure to read the Haas newsletter! It might seem like just another email in your inbox, but it’s a goldmine of information about these events. Another way to keep up is by looking at the Haas events calendar; bookmark it on your laptop and check it regularly. You can also follow Haas and Business/Entrepreneurship club Instagram accounts to stay updated on networking events or other events they host. Grab a friend and attend; worst-case scenario, you probably get some free food!
Joining Business Clubs On Campus
When it comes to extracurriculars, Business clubs play a vital role in the undergraduate experience. Generally, there are four types of student organizations to consider:
- Consulting Clubs – These organizations take on client projects each semester, offering opportunities to consult and build relationships while enhancing your resume. For entrepreneurs, focusing on startup-specific consulting clubs can provide exposure to the unique challenges faced by startups.
- Professional Development Clubs/Fraternities – These groups concentrate on preparing you for case interviews and industry recruiting.
- Specialty Clubs – These organizations focus on deepening your knowledge in specific Business areas like Entrepreneurship, Accounting, or Investing.
- Underrepresented Minority Clubs – These clubs aim to build the network and professional skills of specific minority groups, such as the Middle Eastern Business Association or Haas Undergraduate Black Business Association.
All of these organizations offer excellent ways to expand your support network in areas that are most important to you. For Freshmen, they can especially provide mentorship and help you navigate your way into Haas. Additionally, many startups have been founded by club members who teamed up and pursued an idea together.
You can explore a list of Haas-sponsored organizations here! For entrepreneurship specifically, I’d also like to highlight Free Ventures and Innovators@Cal as excellent options. I also recommend considering membership in tech-specific organizations, given the substantial overlap between the tech and startup scenes at Berkeley.
Participating in the Haas Mentorship Program
Through this program, Haas students can schedule a 20-minute coffee chat with some of the most accomplished figures from the Bay Area’s Entrepreneurial, Venture Capital, and Legal sectors. You can even check out the current active list of mentors here. In my opinion, this opportunity is one of the least-known but most valuable parts of being in Haas – the direct connections you can make here are invaluable. To stay in the loop and receive weekly mentorship notifications, be sure to sign up for email announcements here!
Launching Your Startup
Haas has many opportunities not only to teach you about Entrepreneurship, but also to launch your own startup too. The three main ways you can find resources to launch are through competitions, incubators, or funding resources.
The two biggest startup-related competitions on campus are LAUNCH and the Big Ideas Contest. Both competitions offer training, networking, and funding to winning students to support them in their entrepreneurial endeavors.
- LAUNCH – It provides participants with a platform to develop and present their venture ideas. Teams form in the Fall, refine their concepts, and submit executive summaries in January. Those accepted receive mentoring and feedback, culminating in presentations judged by venture capitalists.
- The Big Ideas Contest – It offers an “innovation ecosystem” for UC Berkeley student teams. It begins with a concept submission in the Fall, identifying social issues and creative solutions. In the Spring, selected teams elaborate on their innovative ideas, moving from ideation to implementation-ready strategies.
Incubators at Berkeley also offer a wealth of resources, mentorship, and support. There are many at Cal, but I wanted to highlight three specific ones:
- Free Ventures – If you’re not already applying to help run the club, you can also apply as a founder to be part of their accelerator program! FreeV is a semesterly student-run accelerator program for both undergraduate and graduate students. Participants receive 2 upper-division CS units, need-based funding, industry-specific mentorship, weekly workshops, and workspace. Applications are due at the beginning of each semester.
- Berkeley SkyDeck – Skydeck acts as a collaboration between the College of Engineering, the Haas School of Business, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. During its accelerator program, startups receive workspace, access to speaker series, and mentorship. Applications are due in March and September.
- CITRIS Foundry – This is the leading accelerator for founders who are specifically building deep technology companies. Provides seed funding, access to campus labs, and mentorship during a 12-month program. Applications are due in late November.
You can also directly receive funding for your startup through organizations that specifically have an active presence on Berkeley’s campus.
Some of those funds include:
- The House Fund – To date, this fund has partnered at inception with Berkeley founders that have built 6 unicorns. They typically invest at pre-seed or seed stage.
- The Dorm Room Fund – This fund also seeks to invest at inception, built by students for Berkeley student founders.
- Berkeley SkyDeck Fund – As part of their incubator program, this fund provides an avenue for accelerated startups to find funding.
And as a Haas student, there are even more funding possibilities available:
- Trione Student Venture Fund – Thanks to a generous endowment from Victor Trione, this fund provides $5,000 grants and office space to 20 early-stage student startups annually.
- Sega Sammy Fund for New Media – Endowed by Sega Sammy, this fund focuses on ventures in entertainment, gaming, or new technology. It awards $5,000 to four student startups each year, providing crucial support for innovative ideas.
So What Are You Waiting For?
At Haas, your undergraduate journey is more than just obtaining a degree; it can be a launchpad for entrepreneurial success. By taking full advantage of the courses, events, network, and abundant funding opportunities, Haas will equip you with every tool you need to launch your startup. You worked hard to get here – now make the most of it!