Nathan Leal is a senior transfer majoring in Business Administration. With an early interest in startups, Nathan began his own business in private Speech and Debate coaching, and taught the Venture Capital DeCal in Fall 2022. He currently serves as the President of Berkeley Venture Capital and will be working in public equities post-graduation.

  1. What sparked your passion for business?

    In high school, I found a strong passion for competitive Speech and Debate. I did not have the grades to go to a decent university, but my friends asked if I wanted to get involved in private coaching for Speech and Debate. I entered the market at an opportune time as students and private schools around the Bay Area started becoming more serious about competitive Speech and Debate. My independent practice turned into an LLC. We expanded to 5 locations around the Bay Area and established contracts with private schools like the Khan Lab school in Mountain View.

  2. As a first-generation college student, what other post-high school graduation options did you face, and what eventually led you to choosing Berkeley Haas?

    Before coming to Berkeley, I devoted all of my time into growing my Speech and Debate coaching business. After about 6 years, I decided that I wanted to move beyond the education industry. Community college offered me a second chance at obtaining a college education. I was better equipped this time around due to improved time management skills and a renewed sense of responsibility from operating my business. I knew that I wanted to attend a Business school, but as a first-generation college student I often felt lost when seeking information or the correct pathway to achieve my goals. It was thanks to both my mentors and friends that I discovered and applied to the Haas School of Business. No other institutions’ values resonated with my own and I truly felt that Haas offered a community that both understood my background and wanted to help cultivate diversity.

  3. Can you tell me a little bit about your small business ventures and how that pushed you in the direction of Business?

    My competitive Speech and Debate business started off as simple 1-on-1 coaching/tutoring sessions but quickly grew into classes of 30 or more with a staff of 20+. With absolutely no Business background, there was a significant amount of trial and error in my first few years. I believe that operating a business in an activity that I was passionate about is what allowed me to continue to push forward and keep learning. I recognized that although I knew how to run my business, I still knew very little about what was taught in Business schools. Due to my desire to build out my foundational skills and to pivot into a different industry, I decided to go back to school and pursue a Business degree.

  4. You taught the Venture Capital DeCal last semester – what made you start that and what was the most rewarding about it?

    Even when I was attending community college I was still teaching my Speech and Debate classes. I have always loved giving back and providing the best educational opportunities to those who want it. I firmly believe that my mentors played an instrumental role in allowing me to pursue the opportunities that I have. I hope to be able to help others in the same ways that my mentors have helped me.

  5. What are the next steps in your career and your long-term goals?

    I spent the better part of my first year at Haas figuring out what post-graduation opportunities appealed to me. I initially thought that I was going to pursue consulting, but an internship during the Fall of my first semester convinced me otherwise. Realizing my passion derived from two different events. The first was enrolling in UGBA 131 and meeting Professor Stephen Etter, who both made me realize that I had a significant amount of catching up to do and continuously pushed me to improve. The second was reaching out to the Berkeley Venture Capital (BVC) community. Everyone in this club exhibited the same passion and constant willingness to support each other’s endeavors. I was also fortunate to have the opportunity to get hands-on experience through BVC’s partnership with the Haas MBA VC fund, Courtyard Ventures. Through the club’s mentorship and guidance, I realized that private and public equity investing roles were my calling and this ultimately led to my recruitment at Millennium, a long-short equity hedge fund.

  6. As Business students, we’re faced with so many career options but at times little idea of where to start looking. What is some advice you would give to Business students who are looking for a concentration?

    I have always felt that the Haas community has been extremely welcoming to those seeking guidance. If you do not know where to begin your journey, I highly recommend talking to professors and students that specialize in different Business fields and asking them why they are passionate about the subject and what opportunities exist post-undergrad. The information you take from those conversations can then be used to fine tune your own research that will help guide your path.

Rapid Fire

  • Early bird or night owl?

    • Early Bird. I hate sitting in traffic. Ever since community college I wake up at 5:30 AM to beat it.

  • Favorite song?

    • Fair Trade – Drake, Travis Scott

  • Favorite Berkeley coffee shop?

    • Philz, though I know it’s not that close to campus.

  • Hobbies?

    • PC Gaming

  • Guilty pleasure?

    • Also PC Gaming!

  • Favorite study spot on campus?

    • Haas Library

  • Favorite class?

    • UGBA 131 – Corporate Finance and Financial Statement Analysis

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