The Berkeley MBA Behind Pokémon Go


Haas alum John Hanke first put the earth in your pocket, then released pocket monsters on planet Earth. Hanke, MBA 96, is CEO of Niantic Labs, the innovator behind Pokémon Go.  

 Haas Alum/Niantic CEO John Hanke pays a surprise visit to a Berkeley Executive Education class

The “augmented reality” game put millions on the hunt for animated Japanese characters—which pop up with the help of location services. The New York Times declared it a moment “when a new technology—in this case, augmented reality or A.R., which fuses digital technology with the physical world—breaks through from a niche toy for early adopters to something much bigger.”

It is not the first time Hanke has taken breakthrough technology mainstream; he co-founded Keyhole, which developed the technology that became Google Earth, Maps, and Street View. After Google acquired Keyhole, Hanke led the “geo division” until 2010, when he launched Niantic Labs inside Google to focus on next-gen games. He spun Niantic out as a separate company in late 2015.

As a Berkeley MBA, Hanke redefines the way we do business by living the Berkeley-Haas Defining Principles. This includes questioning the status quo on a global scale and going beyond himself to serve as a Berkeley-Haas Executive Fellow. In this role, he shares wisdom with students from time to time: he recently  surprised students in an executive education course who were analyzing a new case study on Niantic's spin-off from Google.   

Hanke credits Berkeley-Haas for helping him cultivate not only the skills, but also the mindset to become a professional entrepreneur. For him, the success of Pokémon go is a realization of the vision he came to Haas to achieve.

“My essay to Haas was written about the opportunity in the space of interactive gaming and technology,” Hanke said in 2014 Haas video. “I wanted to build applications that would deepen people’s involvement in their town or community, to encourage people to actually meet up in the real world.”

More About John Hanke


About The Author

Morgan was the Executive Director of Full-time MBA Admissions at Haas from 2016-2019 as well as a graduate of the program. She enjoys making personal connections with prospective students and guiding them through the MBA admission process.