Inside the Relaunch of the Berkeley Entrepreneurship Association
Entrepreneurship at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley is getting an upgrade. Right now the university is working to rebrand and relaunch the Berkeley Entrepreneurship Association (BEA). While the newly updated BEA isn’t available yet, it’s in the works and will have many exciting announcements over the next weeks and months.
We were lucky enough to get an inside look at what’s coming to the BEA in a talk with Luca Cosentino, MBA’19, the President and Co-Chair of the BEA and the man behind the re-launch. Here’s the inside scoop!
MetroMBA: What is the Berkeley Entrepreneurship Association (BEA)?
Luca Cosentino: The Berkeley Entrepreneurship Association is meant to be the one-stop shop for entrepreneurship at Berkeley. Ideally, everything that happens around entrepreneurship should be coordinated or monitored by the BEA. It’s not just for business school, but also for students across the campus. It’s the umbrella under which all entrepreneurship initiatives, partners, mentors, funding, and resources will rest.
The BEA has been at Berkeley for a while as a collaborative effort, and it did a great job before, but we are adding to it. Prior to this relaunch, the BEA focused on one-off events and bringing founders to school. They did a great job regarding inspiring people to entrepreneurship. We want to keep doing what they did—the education side—but add the practical side. In this sense, the innovation is massive.
We are rebranding BEA. We are moving from one-off events to something that the potential to be around for twenty years and could be translated into a core university program matching what the University currently offers on entrepreneurship.
The one thing I want to underline is that is that every university has entrepreneurship programs where you’re matched with other people, but the value here is that we’re connecting people from different schools around the community of entrepreneurship. We are working to build the entrepreneurial community at Berkeley. The value of this community is that it won’t be agnostic to one specific initiative but will serve as an umbrella for all.
MM: Why is the BEA important and what is its goal?
LC: Before getting started with BEA, I spoke to a number of people from different business schools around the country. I wanted to know how each school dealt with entrepreneurship and how it was defined. What I noticed was that there were a bunch of great resources for helping students understand what entrepreneurship is, but it was really hard to find programs that helped students move from zero to one—from a basic idea to “Okay, let me try.” Students have access to many great initiatives where they can brainstorm and talk about their ideas, but to move from an idea to start effectively doing something around that idea is a completely different story.
We believe that if we give business students all the weapons and tools they need to start working from day zero, it’s going to have a massive impact on everyone’s career.
We also noticed that, too often, schools separate skills. For example, the computer science department is separated from the data scientist group and the information group. But we all know that entrepreneurship, great ideas, and great companies come from different skill sets, backgrounds, and diverse teams. We want to encourage that.
A student’s life is busy. Their schedule is packed, so going out and finding people that you like and that you want to work with that are aligned with your ideas is pretty difficult. We want to make this process faster. We believe that this is a great value we’re going to bring to students.
The application of the BEA is very big and far-reaching. There’s a strong impact on entrepreneurship itself, but also for employers and students. We all know that employers are keener to hire people from an entrepreneurial background. There’s a definite advantage for companies who bring on employees who have gone through capitalist discovery, testing, etc. This program really offers 360 degrees of benefits.
CA: What will the BEA offer?
MM: As an organization, we have a few missions starting this year and moving into next year.
Our first mission is to encourage people to start companies. When you think about the typical MBA student who takes two years off to come to school and study, their main goal is to gain more experience and skills. Many MBA students also come to business school because they want to do something different, or possibly, follow their passions. But, when it comes to business school, entrepreneurship, generally, has a less relevant place compared to companies who offer internships or full-time positions. What we’re trying to do is encourage students to start companies and give entrepreneurship a try.
Create Entrepreneurial Collaboration
The main innovation that I’m most excited about and what we’re working hard to start in the fall is a program that connects students and individuals from across different schools and different backgrounds. For the first time in Berkley’s history, it will be an initiative led by students and coordinated across different schools. I believe it will be the largest program ever created at Berkeley connecting technical and business students, student clubs, VCs, mentors, funding sources, and institutions.
The goal of the program is to take great ideas and start them along the process, through customer discovery to business model evaluation. The steps are as follows:
- First, the program will allow people to present their innovative ideas.
- From there, the BEA would match the idea to a team of three or four people with different interests.
- Then, over three to four months, that team would work together to gather every resource they need to transform the idea into a workable concept company.
Currently, the program name has not been announced, but it will be released in a few weeks. For now, everything has already been put in place, and Berkeley is ready to launch their first cycle in Fall 2018.
Connect the Entire Entrepreneurial Community
The next focus for the BEA is to connect students with startups. There are many students and MBAs who are not 100 percent keen to start their own company but are curious about what it’s like. Our goal is to offer them a part-time experience, while in school, that offers them a unique chance to test their skills in a start-up environment.
Part of this focus will also be to connect the startup ecosystem at Berkeley. That means connecting startups, accelerators, VCs, etc. Already, we have collaborations with many different communities including:
- Participating Clubs: Computer Science Undergrad Association (CSUA), Computer Science Graduate Association (CSGSA), FemTech, Mobile Developers at Berkeley, Data Science Society, Upsilon Pi Epsilon Computer Science Honor Society, and many more coming.
- Collaborations: Xoogler community (community of ex-Googlers), Google Launchpad, Startup Grind, Dorm Fund, Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship, SkyDeck Startup Squad, Citris Foundry, Food Club, and more.
Finally, the last thing we’re launching is an educational program that will include courses, a new website, a new blog, and a new podcast (all launching soon) that will include information from entrepreneurs, venture capitalist, product managers, blockchain, and more.
Other educational programs that we will be launching include:
- A cross-schools educational event that we hope will help bridge the cultural gap between students in different schools.
- Life as an Entrepreneur: a seven-week class with a variety of speakers including founders, VCs, etc.
- Educational events around hot technical topics.
Currently, the Berkeley Entrepreneurship Association is still in its early relaunch phase. The newly updated website will be up in the next few weeks so check back on the school website and the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program regularly to catch its launch.