MBA entrepreneurship thrives in the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program, where students find numerous resources to support their interest, from electives and startup competitions to their well-connected and talented peers.
The result? Startups that offer solutions to everyting from healthy workplace eating to procuring senior housing for loved ones, making virtual reality affordable, and getting even better photos with your phone.
Here is a look at a few recent ventures launched by evening and weekend MBA students, with links to fuller stories on each:
Co-Founder: Megan Mokri
Workplace food has gotten a whole lot healthier and tastier thanks to office vending machines. Yes, you read that right.
Byte, a company founded by 2016 grad Megan Mokri (pictured above), offers fresh salads instead of cheez n' crackers, breakfast burritos instead of breakfast pastries, and Blue Bottle Coffee instead of Coca-Cola.
Megan founded Byte to offer a fresh food solution for the 99 percent of offices that have no fresh food on-site. “It’s like having a little Whole Foods in your office,” she says. At one year old, Byte already counted among its customers Chevron, Bain & Company, Autodesk, Virgin America, and Sephora.
Megan, who co-founded the business with her husband, Lee, says, “Having the resources of Haas when you inevitably hit hard times, not just professors but also fellow students who are starting their own businesses, was incredible. It’s an amazing program.”
Co-founders: Yuriy Pryadko, Tony Sgroi
While pictures and video taken on smartphones are getting better, Yuriy Pryadko thinks they could be better still.
With his 2017 classmate Tony Sgroi, Yuriy co-founded Fishball, a startup developing a dual fish-eye lens you can clip onto a cell phone to take immersive 360-degree photos and video. The attachment works with an app that stitches the image so that it can be viewed using a virtual reality headset, and it also allows users to easily upload their content to social media.
The pair met in the Evening & Weekend MBA Program and developed their idea as a project in their Entrepreneurship class. “We did the market research, finished our user interviews, and decided that this truly is a viable product,” says Yuriy. “Our vision is to help people capture their memories in a way that they were never able to do before.”
Co-founders: Arthur Bretschneider, Sushanth Ramakrishna
Commuting together from San Francisco turned out to be quite productive for 2016 classmates Arthur Bretschneider and Sushanth Ramakrishna. The two evening and weekend MBA students used that time to put their heads together on the challenge of finding and evaluating senior facilities for aging loved ones.
Arthur, whose family had worked in the senior housing business, had seen just how hard this can be. Their solution? Seniorly, a website that streamlines the search for senior communities.
“Senior housing is a highly fragmented industry with a lot of small- and medium-sized businesses that are not yet online,” says Arthur, adding that 70 percent of the businesses lack websites. “Families spend hours and hours searching for the right community—it’s a painful process.”
The co-founders cite their peers as perhaps their most valuable resource. “Berkeley-Haas is filled with smart people who are generous with their time and thoughts,” says Sushanth. "Our peers in the program have helped us many times.”
Co-founders: Shuo Zhang, Fangwei Lee
Shuo Zhang, EWMBA 2016, and Fangwei Lee, a Carnegie Mellon graduate who formerly led a visual effects team at DreamWorks, wanted to bring virtual reality to the masses by building an inexpensive system—and they’ve managed to do it with two humble materials: cardboard and recycled plastic.
The friends teamed up to develop and launch Realiteer, which lets users mount a mobile device into the company's cardboard viewer and use an inexpensive handtracking device made from renewable plastic or cardboard to play downloadable VR games—also offered by Realiteer.
Although the games are designed for kids, they are fun for adults too, says Shuo. “When I see smiles from everyone who tries it, I know that we have something truly special."
Interested in venturing out on your own? Learn more about the part-time MBA program that helped these entrepreneurs launch.