BWIB’s Entrepreneurship Panel

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Berkeley Women in Business (BWIB) currently has a diverse group of over 200 members, and a percentage of the organization expressed interest in gaining insight into the field of entrepreneurship, specifically in startups.

(L-R) mounza, one, MOXTRA, and Spondevu
(L-R) mounza, one, MOXTRA, and Spondevu

In response BWIB’s execs coordinated an Entrepreneurship Panel consisting of local, Californian startups to shed light on the struggles and rewards of being an entrepreneur, namely  MOXTRA represented by their VP of Business Development Jay Shah, one by CEO Michael Callahan, mounza by co-founder Sharran Deora, and Spondevu by current UC Berkeley student and startup co-founder, Brian Wong. The panel was moderated by BWIB’s VP of External Affairs, Diana Wei.

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The panelists were asked the following questions regarding the following topics as these were some of the main concerns BWIB members had about Entrepreneurship:

1. What are important traits to be successful in the Start Up industry?

mounza‘s Deora:

  • Team player & have the ability to be creative and think outside the box

one’s Callahan:

  • Be a prodigy! Someone who far exceeds anyone who possess the necessary technical skills at a significantly younger age
  • Be insanely smart while having intense drive and passion for the field you are playing in

MOXTRA‘s Shah:

  • No one is a prodigy
  • They look for someone who is passionate about the industry they are in
  • One does not necessarily have to be extremely trained technical-wise, but on needs to have an strong initiative to learn

Spondevu‘s Wong:

  • An entrepreneur needs to be able to wear many hats
  • Everyone has to code to some degree, while most should be able to do so exceptionally
  • Have the ability to do many things great, and certain tasks exceptionally!
BWIB members listen intently to the panelists' advice
BWIB members listen intently to the panelists’ words of advice

2. How does an entrepreneur obtain funding?

mounza‘s Deora:

  • Majority of people do not get funding. You have to be extremely patient.
  • It is a long process, and highly involves relationship building
  • Angel investors and venture capitalists will want to meet entrepreneurs over 10-20 times before discussing the technicalities. They want to see how big the market for your product is, know the insides and outsides of your idea
  • It is important to believe in your idea, long enough so that others will also believe in you!

one’s Callahan:

  • The further you overshoot, the easier things will become or easier to get funding
  • Three important factors: have a good team, attraction, great product – make it competitive and nice
  • Be willing to drop out of school
  • Make sure your product is in a hot space – not to say that an entrepreneur should be trendy, one can always work on an idea long enough until an industry becomes popular
  • A laptop is all one needs to start a company

MOXTRA‘s Shah:

  • Everyone has to believe in each other
  • Create milestones to track progress
  • Know what you want to do with the funding
  • Hold off until you raise the money

Spondevu‘s Wong:

  • Only raise money when you need the money
  • The moment you need funding also dictates the moment you are ready to give away your company
  • There are incubators that provide small amounts of funding wherein you only have to share a small portion of your company – SkyDeck on campus as an example resource

3. Do your firms have internship opportunities for current students?

mounza‘s Deora:

  • They are looking for marketing focused interns
  • Hiring Computer Science majors for further application development
  • They also need a product/project manager to assist in overseeing business operations

one’s Callahan:

  • Interns who are interested in marketing or startups and are willing to work with celebrities around concerts (i.e. Adam Levine and Justin Timberlake events)
  • Campus ambassadors to promote events and the one mobile application
  • Internship roles will be tunable – and based on an intern’s interests

MOXTRA‘s Shah:

  • Campus ambassadors
  • Internship timing is flexible, whether it be in the summer, during the Fall semester, or whenever the intern is available

Where do you see your company going after graduation?

Spondevu‘s Wong:

  • Graduation as not a point of ending, nor a milestone. Team members will simply continue working on and developing the company.
BWIB members take careful notes!
BWIB members take careful notes!

4. How important is education in entrepreneurship?

mounza‘s Deora:

  • Deora believes in learning as you go. He initially started with a vision, but had to tweak it based on the users’ needs. You grow only once you have learned from your experiences; that is when you succeed as an entrepreneur.

one’s Callahan:

  • Callahan graduated twice
  • However, he says to list the college drop outs who are now leading the world
  • School is the path majority of people went. However, to be exceptional, at some point in your life, you will have to divert from the majority of choices that people take.

MOXTRA‘s Shah:

  • Drop out if you want to be an entrepreneur, but get a degree in order to take the corporate path

Spondevu‘s Wong:

  • It is difficult to go without schooling. While there are a list of successful drop outs, these successful individual are an exception.
  • Wong advises to continue along the education route, but delve into your entrepreneurship pursuits on the side as well. Nonetheless, you might need to drop out for a couple of semesters every now and then to ensure the development of your products.

Ultimately, it is evident that entrepreneurship requires investment – emotionally, monetary wise, time, etc. Therefore, it is important to be extremely passionate about the start up industry that one wants to venture into in order to become successful in the field. I did not summarize the comments into general tips as I believe the above advice provide a diverse range of views that could prove helpful to the Haas Undergrad Blog subscribers that are interested in learning more about Entrepreneurship as a whole.

Photos taken by: CJ Van
Blog post by: Denice Sy

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