Entrepreneurial drive fuels a career pivot

By Susan Petty

Before starting his Berkeley MBA for Executives studies, Reggie Draper, EMBA 23, learned the hard lesson that entrepreneurs can’t go it alone.

He founded Draper Automotive in 2017 with the goal of creating an intensely collaborative community platform for auto trading. Doing that while working as an engineer in the petroleum space in Houston, Texas, was a challenge. Reggie knew he needed to deepen his business knowledge and expand his network.

“There is a real mindset of innovation in the Bay Area. Two of the automotive trading platforms that are out there now were built by Berkeley Haas and Stanford graduates. I figured that I should take advantage of the resources and inspiration they found here,” he said. “I’m getting a top-tier education and access to one of the most talented networks in the world. That, and my own passion for automobiles, will fuel my drive to become a leader in the automotive industry.”

Among those resources are classes like Online Marketplace & Platform Design, taught by Assistant Professor David Holtz, PhD, Entrepreneurial Strategies, and Advanced Innovation. Another class, Startup Disco, taught by Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program, applies the scientific method to business problems. He also benefited from the NSF-I Corps training on transforming innovative technology into a start-up and student-led stEP, which aims to increase collaboration among clubs, schools, alumni, and students at Berkeley. And, with luck, Reggie’s application to Berkeley’s SkyDeck accelerator will keep him and Draper Automotive revving their engines.

“All of these classes and experiences looked at different aspects and principles of entrepreneurism, but they built on each other. I really liked the emphasis on the human element. They taught me the importance of who cares about my product, why do they care, how much do they care?” Reggie said. “The professors brought in the principals of start-ups and other industry-leading speakers. We got to learn from the source and to meet them as people.”

Berkeley Haas has moved me to a more introspective space."

One of the first people Reggie was determined to meet was Tim Draper, founder of the eponymous early-stage venture capital firm, Draper Associates. “I saw him on a documentary about Theranos and knew I had to meet him. After my first block on campus, I drove to San Mateo, went to their office and asked to see him. I don’t know if it was us sharing the same last name or his knowing that I was a Haas student, but he came on out, hugged me, and we had a great talk,” Reggie recalled.

More than talk, Draper Associates hired Reggie as an MBA Venture Analyst. In that role, Reggie analyzed start-ups and assessed how they would fit into the firm’s portfolio. That role called on lessons he learned in his finance classes, as well as New Venture Finance, Micro- and Macroeconomics, and Design Thinking. Reggie has since moved into a product manager role with Draper X Ventures Platforms in the firm’s Draper Decentralized wing. “In my new role, I have more reason to use the soft skills related to leadership and team-building,” he said.

Reggie acknowledges that he is not always the “been the best person in the room at showing empathy. I like to get right to the point and used to assume that everyone else was the same. My classes at Haas reinforced that considering other’s personality traits is a vastly important leadership skill.” His professors and classmates have supported and encouraged Reggie’s efforts to transform his leadership style. “Berkeley Haas has moved me to a more introspective space,” he said. “For all of us, there have been many rounds of reflection about who you are, what your goals are, and why those are your goals."

The work he is doing at Haas to develop his business acumen, his network, and his leadership style, extend to the legacy he is creating for his family. “I was born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana and I love the South. The morals, beliefs, and discipline my parents taught me have structured my journey. As the first person in my family to get a graduate degree, I feel a responsibility to excel at a higher level.”

He grew up in a family with a strong work ethic and he sees echoes of that at Berkeley Haas. “They push you here, and you push yourself,” he said. “There is a scrappiness here, an agreement that we are here to over-achieve.”

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Posted on April 28, 2023
Susan Petty
Susan is Director of Admissions for the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program. She has nearly twenty years of experience in marketing and advertising, having worked in several different industries including technology, travel, healthcare -- and many others from her media planning days at J. Walter Thompson where her clients included Chevron, Kaiser Permanente, Nestle, and Ford. She enjoys advising prospective students and guiding them through their personal MBA experience.