Changing the World 

In the 20th century if you wanted to change the world you studied law. In the 21st century if you want to change the world, study business. 

I first heard this advice when given to a group of law students. Ironic, right? For them, it was the start of a cautionary tale to go beyond the study of law, but for me, an unintended listener, this was a new understanding of global dynamics. Despite the sudden, recent focus on government and lawmakers, our society is profoundly influenced by the scope and power of business. For better or for worse, through financial markets or revolutionary high-tech innovation and product, our lives and futures are shaped by businesses.

As Haas students, we are being armed with the necessary tools to make an impact- an impact even larger than we ever imagined. We have likely established a deep conviction in the merit of our Haas defining principles. We will always be students, always learning. We will go beyond ourselves, without self-imposed limits. We will be confident but with humility. And, perhaps most importantly, we will question the status quo. The experience of studying, working, and problem solving with our extraordinary classmates has revealed a fifth defining principle. As we achieve, acquire, and succeed, it’s important that we also find a way to serve.

Past Haas-student-CEOs profiled in the Undergraduate blog exemplify all ‘Five’ Defining Principles.

Pedro Espinoza, founder and CEO of SmileyGo, created a connection between the nation’s largest businesses and millions of charitable organizations. Espinoza, inspired by his Haas coursework, used the power of business to do something good for everyone. His philanthropic platform is helping change the way businesses interact with communities. Within his own company, he has established clear philanthropic initiatives and together, with his employees, volunteered over 300 hours in the bay area during the past year. With enthusiasm and determination, Espinoza and his team are committed to change the way businesses do business.

Noor Gaith, founder and CEO of Nuurglass, transformed bonding activity with his father into a booming new company that saves lives, one iPhone at a time. His Uber-like, on demand phone and computer repair service, will bring your device ‘back to life’ quickly and cost-effectively while reducing e-waste. Gaith is determined to keep his business for and by students. He team of technicians are young Berkeley undergraduates, learning valuable business and technical skills that will eventually make them ambassadors for the company as Gaith expands to other UC campuses.

Alfredo Figueroa, founder and CEO of Canaan Express, makes financial services and package delivery possible for the Bay Area’s immigrant community. Influenced by his own childhood struggles and his parents’ determination and resilience, Figueroa has created a safe, reliable, and vital neighborhood service at his various locations. He is determined to make decisions that will benefit the greatest number of people, and has used that passion and commitment to drive his enterprising spirit. Threats of crime, corruption, and lack of protected postal service create substantial challenges for Hispanic immigrants who want to send help to their families back home. Despite the obstacles, Canaan Express is open every day, helping families maintain global connections.

Sebastien Werz (CEO) and Chai Mishra (CPO), Co-Founders of Movebutter, have created a better, healthier, and smarter food delivery service. Playfully calling themselves the ‘Milkmen of the Future’, Werz and Mishra bring customized, high quality produce direct from local farms to your front door. Determined to transform all things food, this duo is trying to improve the multi-trillion dollar US food market by establishing excellent quality and experience as standards. Movebutter will fix the broken food system by pairing real, fresh, wholesome ingredients and produce with today’s technological innovations for ordering and delivery. By cutting out the supermarket middleman, Werz and Mishra are giving customers a healthier, personalized, and more convenient grocery experience.

These CEOs are just some of the creative minds and eager innovators in the Haas undergraduate campus. Although they may have been some of our first success stories they are certainly not our last. Haas has given us the tools, training, experience, connections, and opportunities to succeed. Now it’s up to us to take those four (arguably five) defining principles and do something great with them.

So who’s with me?

On a personal note-

I want to take advantage of my last blog to tip my cap and tassel to my accomplished and remarkable Haas School of Business Undergraduates Classmates. To our esteemed and talented faculty, thank you for your support, enthusiasm, and expertise. It’s been a privilege to study and work with you.

Now, we scatter to the four corners of the earth. I know many of our paths will cross (I hope so). I look forward to sharing our progress, successes, and the use we’ve made of the defining principles learned here. “In the 21st century, if you want to change the world study business.” There is no better place to begin that endeavor than Haas.


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Something to Smile About: SmileyGo Facilitates Corporate Philanthropy 

SmileyGo CEO and Founder Pedro Espinoza on Capitol Hill with other inspiring CEOs

“I don’t eat dessert,” Pedro Espinoza joked, explaining his success. Kidding aside, Espinoza runs SkyDeck’s newest and most promising start-up: SmileyGo. Described as a ‘Yelp meets Salesforce’ data platform, SmileyGo is a desktop analytics tool for corporations to find, partner with, and fund nonprofit organizations. Its index of over 1.7 million tax exempt entities allows businesses to focus on their specific philanthropic interests. Espinoza wants to use the digital world to help millions of people through connections that lead to new laws, programs, and partnerships.By eschewing on dessert, Espinoza successfully juggles finishing his Haas degree, traveling to Chamber of Commerce meetings, presenting as a keynote speaker, working with Congress to change business, leading/pitching/and growing SmileyGo, golf and tennis meetings, and somehow getting nine to ten hours of sleep every night. All of this was sparked in 2014 by Professor Ross’ business-ethics description of the back and forth between Congress and top corporations. Espinoza was inspired and saw an opportunity to use corporate social responsibility, lobbying, and politics to support philanthropic partnerships, laws, and regulations.

Now Espinoza has been successfully funded by SharkTank investors, established offices at SkyDeck, hired a new team of technical operators, and is this year’s UC Berkeley winner of the statewide ‘I am a UC Entrepreneur’ competition. The young CEO spoke at Berkeley’s Post-Doctoral Entrepreneurial Program this past Wednesday and will be flying to Peru later in the month to address executives at Toyota Latin America. Big accomplishments perfect for someone motivated to help take on life’s biggest challenges.

Espinoza emphasizes the importance of young entrepreneurs pursuing professional endeavors that help solve national or global problems. He hopes fellow future leaders are ready to take on issues are pertinent as cyber security, infrastructure, preservation of democracy, and pure water accessibility. By tackling these problems step by step, Espinoza is confident our generation has what it takes to create big solutions.

Perseverance, positivity and realism are key for Espinoza. SmileyGo applied for funding and incubation at Citris Foundry, one of the Bay Area’s largest accelerators, earlier this year. When it wasn’t able to secure a spot, Espinoza, undeterred, met with the founder (and UC Berkeley Alum) Patrick Scaglia for guidance. Espinoza’s enthusiasm, determination, and unique business platform set a series of fortunate events in motion for SmileyGo. Scaglia’s mentorship and advice led to a spot in SkyDeck which introduced SmileyGo and Espinoza to the UC’s entrepreneur competition, gaining Congressional recognition, and now showing promise of becoming a leader in facilitating corporate social responsibility. Despite his early success, awards, and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, Espinoza stays modest, happy, and grateful for his opportunities at Haas and the inspiration, guidance, and love his family has given him.

SmileyGo strives to build value in communities. Espinoza and his team lead by example. Together with CTO Joseph Pereria, SmileyGo employees volunteered over for 300 hours in the bay area last year. The company and its people want to serve something great: inspire millions of companies to fund millions of non-profits to help millions of people. It’s no small task but Espinoza’s big family, global upbringing, and earnest yet joyful and loving personality combine to make the dynamic force that drives SmileyGo.

With all he has on his plate, it’s no wonder Espinoza has no time for dessert.

Who You Gonna Call? Noor Gaith: The iPhone Guy

From Center: Nuurglass founder and CEO Noor Gaith surrounded by his team of expert technicians.

 ​“I became the Napa Valley iPhone guy,” joked Noor Gaith as he told me about his path to becoming an expert tech and go-to electronic wizard on the UC Berkeley campus. Gaith’s company, Nuurglass, offers uber-like on demand, cost-effective, and student-run cell phone and computer repair. His eager, helpful, can-do attitude is part of the company culture and extends to his technicians whose efficiency and friendliness virtually erase the angst, stress, and disaster of damaging one of your electronics.

​Nuurglass, which began as father-son bonding back in 2007, inspired in part by his father’s Mechanical Engineering background, nurtured into Gaith’s electronic and entrepreneurial expertise. After successfully repairing his brother’s iPhone, he became Napa student’s go-to for tech. Encouraged by promotion from his brother and his father’s enthusiasm for hands-on learning, Nuurglass took off. While in community College, Gaith balanced 20 unit course loads, daily repairs, building his business and technical skills, and preparing his transfer application to Haas. UC Berkeley and Haas provides the education and student base necessary to grow his company.

​Gaith is grateful for the support, confidence, and ‘push’ his family gave him to pursue expanding his hobby into a company. He realized the necessity to take smart risks when the correct opportunities presented themselves. At Haas, Gaith was inspired to grow his company from a solo-operation to a multi-employee and platform endeavor. With a team of student-professional technicians available, on-demand, Gaith is making a name for himself at Cal. The Nuurglass facebook page (see link at the end of this article), where services can be ordered and paid for, is filled with positive student and faculty reviews praising the price, efficiency, high quality parts, and helpfulness of Gaith’s service.

Healing Tools: The parts that bring your iPhone back to life

​His drive to expand Nuurglass was reenergized in Kurt Beyer’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation course which acted as an incubation space for students to work on their startups. The course’s encouragement and lessons helped Gaith get past the business school’s sometimes consuming competitive spirit. Rather than getting “overworked and worked up”, as Gaith has noticed some students do, he allowed the competitive energy to “drive him”. Gaith reminds himself and his peers interested in entrepreneurial career pursuits that, “college is a microcosm of the world…now is the time to give something a shot,” because while it might be “scary, it’s [also] very exciting”. His passion and positive attitude have helped Gaith push through setbacks and continue building his company and team.
​His enterprise faces competition from larger companies but what makes Nuurglass unique is its place on the Cal campus and its creation, maintenance, and employment of Cal students. While the app is in beta, at launch, it will further expedite the already efficient and convenient on-demand process. Gaith has selected employees carefully considering not only their advanced mechanical, technical skills, but also their ability to immediately inspire trust between strangers. Gaith hopes to expand Nuurglass to the other UC campuses within the next five years. He’s a perfectionist, committed to ensuring all technicians and future college ambassadors operations are streamlined and error-free, creating the same trust and student connection he created on the Cal campus.

​In addition to campus expansion, Gaith wants to make a dent in e-waste. His research and training taught him that roughly “70% of a phone can be recycled” but the industry typically recycles “only about 14%” is. Gaith repairs electronics more efficiently. Nuurglass will help reduce e-waste, solve your tech emergencies, and provide mechanical training and employment to undergraduate students. It’s a classic Berkeley entrepreneurial story- improving life for customers, helping the planet, and achieving economic and personal success. The next time you have an incident with one of your smart devices, don’t stress. Let a Nuurglass technician come to you and bring your device “back to life”.

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Canaan Express: The Land of Milk and Honey…Check Cashing, Wire Transfers, and International Shipping to Mexico and South America


Featured Above: Founder and CEO Alfredo Figueroa (left) and employee Maria Bastidas (right) in the San Mateo store.

Perseverance, equality, and understanding are key tenets of Alfredo Figueroa’s personal life, serving as business models for Canaan Express, a money services/shipping business that connects immigrants with friends and family in Mexico and South America. He has created a neighborhood store that makes its customers feel safe, at home with “people speaking the same language”, and first-name-basis familiarity. Figueroa, the son of immigrants, influenced by his own childhood struggles growing up in a low income neighborhood was inspired by his parents’ determination and resilience. He opened Canaan Express three years ago to better “cater to the needs of the Latino community”. His goal was to help eliminate barriers for low income individuals, facilitating easier access to people back home in Latin America. His success as a “reliable shipper” and financier is notable. His customers are lined up around the block every morning before the store opens.

“Do you give up? Do you let it all go? Do you let something you created die? No. You keep fighting,” explained Figueroa. Earlier this year, faced with a spontaneous administrative error that left his bank accounts frozen, Figueroa nearly lost not only his entire life savings but also three years of hard work building his business and establishing a strong line of credit. His prompt action in rectifying this glitch saved his refuge for fair treatment, low prices, and reliable services.

Featured Above: Figureoa with frequent customer Doña Tita, local business owner, who goes to Canaan Express every week to purchase minutes to call home

Figueroa admits that it’s difficult to balance school and the rigors of running his own business but has found that the immediate application of concepts taught at Haas “make class and business easier”. He spends his days juggling classes, near-constant phone calls and emails from international vendors, and working in or managing his store and employees. Haas has helped him develop “skills to be competitive in the community” by “personalizing” the experience for consumers with the goal of “increasing community impact”. Figueroa “want[s] to understand [his] customers so [he] can offer them the best service possible,” applying Professor Fanning’s example of visualizing yourself in the client’s “wooden chair” as you make business decisions.

Figueroa’s goal has always been to make a positive difference in his community, believing in Haas’ principle of think ‘beyond yourself’ as one which promotes changing lives for the better. To Figueroa, this means making decisions that will benefit the greatest number of people. His passion has driven his enterprising spirit. Encouraged by his own hard-fought success, Figueroa encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to “pick something [they] are willing to lose sleep over” because if they “don’t have passion…[they] won’t have the strength to fight for it”.

He is fully committed to creating a better future for others. When he isn’t at his store or in class, Figueroa has taken a leadership position in a variety of teaching and guidance roles- managing a tutoring center that helps over 100 youngsters through afterschool programming, volunteering (with his friends in Hermanos Unidos) to play soccer with inmates at San Quentin and helping them learn to read and write to earn their GED. Figueroa believes that if you “can change one life, it branches out quickly” and you change many more.

Figueroa has remarkably and successfully negotiated through the struggles and dangers of shipping, ensuring successful delivery of packages to Mexico and South America. The threats from crime, corruption, and lack of a protected postal service create substantial challenges for Hispanic immigrants that want to send help to their families back home. Figueroa described a proud and satisfying moment when a package, unaccountably delayed, was successfully delivered. The elderly woman, who had shipped the parcel from his San Mateo business, came in one morning to personally thank him. Because of Figueroa, her “nieces, nephews, and grandkids ha[d] new clothes.”


Dana Siegel

Senior Writer

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The Milkmen of the Future: Meet Movebutter


Featured: Co-Founders of Movebutter. Left: Chai Mishra, CEO; Right: Sebastien Werz, CPO

Former Haas Berkeley students Chai Mishra and Sebastian Werz are determined to transform the way San Franciscans buy groceries. Proud, self-proclaimed “milkmen of the future”, rather than run-of-the-‘bay’ tech moguls, Mishra, CEO and Werz, CPO, are co-founders of Movebutter (2015), a service that provides fresh, customized, high quality and personalized groceries direct from farmers and producers to their members-only food club. With maximum efficiency, zero-waste, and a commitment to giving back to the community, Mishra and Werz are working to change the culture of food marketing. I spoke with Werz about the unique Movebutter brand, his time at Cal, and the contents of his fridge.

“Getting food should be as exciting as consuming it.” Now that’s a philosophy we can all get behind. Werz enthusiastically described Movebutter’s positioning as the first “direct to consumer food brand,” which gives each customer an entirely personalized experience that even includes their names on packing labels. Mishra worked with a farm-to-table coffee company in Germany and his experience inspired him to reach out to Werz to start Movebutter, initially delivering groceries to students in Berkeley which developed into its current closed-membership stage of high quality, customized farm-to-table products to foodies in San Francisco. Movebutter has been funded by some of the greatest investors in Silicon Valley, including Y Combinator, Kima Ventures, and The House Found, to take on the multi-trillion dollar US food market. Customers have also been enthusiastic about the service, using Movebutter for their entire shopping lists. 100% of its users, mostly young professionals, have placed multiple orders through the service. Their special requests are displayed as recommendations on the merchandise homepage which also features such esoteric options as duck eggs and cold cured salmon.

Werz, proud of the Movebutter’s recent move into its new San Francisco office, is optimistic about their growing operations and ability to keep up with demand. With increasing daily orders, Movebutter is satisfying a hole left by our “broken” food systems. “Supermarkets are in the business of blurring the story behind our food” and are extremely wasteful with regard to quantity, cost, and resources, Werz explained.  He and Mishra want to cut out the supermarket middleman that increases costs for the consumer and undercuts the farmers and suppliers just to maximize profits. Movebutter prioritizes conscious coordination, purchase, and consumption of food – no waste, ever.

Maximum utility with zero-waste is taken very seriously at Movebutter. When he can get his hands on a jar, Werz savors their creamy, crunchy peanut butter, but most days he’s too busy managing product goals, designing the next improvement, and working with customer feedback. Ironically sipping Soylent instead of tall, cool glasses of almond milk from Modesto, CA, Werz and Mishra work tirelessly until the “product is at least 20% better than it was the day before.” Quick success and plans to expand to all of San Francisco within the next year mean no distractions, just hard work, motivated by a sincere passion to change the way we interact with our food.

In Movebutter’s first year, Werz had to balance the rigors of Haas studies with the excitement and challenges of launching a new business. The company wound up taking 70% of his time. He knew “people relied on [them] for groceries” and was committed to providing the best experience possible for the customer. Learning about the experiences of his Haas classmates helped him “get better at putting [himself] in someone else’s shoes, which translated to a better understanding of the way [his] customers feel and think.” He is fully dedicated to improvement and innovation.

Werz agreed he was positively influenced by his time at Haas. He characterized his defining principle as “question the status quo,” evident by his “strong interest in taking something completely traditional, tearing it apart into a million pieces, and putting it back together as something completely new and better.” As an enthusiastic entrepreneur, inspired by the idea that “no one can stop you,” because you’re “only limited by [your own] drive and imagination,” he encourages aspiring businesspeople to prioritize a strong co-founding team. The key, he says, is finding people who share the same dedication and determination. He insists that with a solid foundation “it won’t matter how many times the idea changes or how many times you fail if you have a team that keeps moving.”

As a co-founder, CPO, and Haas graduate, Werz is looking forward to an exciting future with Movebutter. There is pride in every label, every photograph, and every delivery (each of which is personally delivered by either Werz or Mishra). They are dedicated to giving their customers the ultimate, customized, freshest marketing experience, even if that involves transporting a live octopus (their most unusual delivery to date).

You can drool over the delicious featured food selections here: If you’re lucky enough to live in San Francisco, their full-time launch is coming soon!



Dana Siegel

Senior Writer

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It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish


“Can’t sing. Can’t act. Slightly balding. Can dance a little.”

This unpromising review for Frederic Austerlitz would certainly have discouraged a less self-confident man than the extraordinary star of stage, film, and television, Fred Astaire (nee Austerlitz). Success is not always instantaneous. In fact, you could make the argument that some failure is a necessary ingredient in the success of every venture.

Consider the start and finish of some of these businessmen:

Henry Ford: After building his first vehicle in 1896, Ford launched two unsuccessful car companies- The Detroit Automobile Company and then the Henry Ford Company. Ford abandoned these initial failures, readjusted his approach, rallied financial support, and in 1903 created the Ford Motor Company with 12 investors. Ford is now one of the largest automotive manufacturers and has been under family control for over 110 years.

Mark Cuban: Now known as a billionaire TV personality, political contributor, and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Cuban’s early jobs and businesses ventures proved less lucrative than the $5.7 billion sale of his company to Yahoo!. He was fired from his first job after college and proved incapable as a cook, waiter, and carpenter. None of those positions were right for him, he pivoted, adapted, and tried again, ultimately finding that business investment and nurturing were his strongest skills.

Sir James Dyson: After 5,126 failed prototypes, Dyson finally perfected ‘the Dyson’ (vacuum). Inspired by the failure of his Hoover vacuum’s diminishing suction and performance, Dyson sought to design a bag-less machine whose power would not be compromised. It took over five thousand tries and tweaks to get a successful model and even then he was unsuccessful at selling his vacuum to major cleaner manufacturers. Determined, he launched his own company and now Dyson is known for consistently creating innovative solutions to typical vacuum problems.

Haas Students: Whether it’s an app, a charity, a product, or an investment idea, Haas students have created unique business propositions. Some of have failed, many have succeeded (Intel, eBay, Tesla, The Gap,, PowerPoint, AIG, even Pokemon Go). Beyond having a winning idea, a cohesive and cooperative team, a dynamic pitch, clever marketing, and thoughtful financial analysis – Haas businesses have been designed by creative men and women determined to succeed. All have faced some challenges: an app design was incompatible with a new software update, a competitor beat them to market, or a good idea was pitched in a poor investment environment. Haas students realize that facing initial or intermittent challenges is part of succeeding.

After all, pushing ourselves to continually improve has been instilled in us through our interactions with Haas. The famous ‘defining principles’ of Haas – Question the Status Quo, Confidence without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself all encourage us, in at least one aspect of our endeavors, to move beyond failure, adapt, adjust, rework, fix, modify and strive to create our best possible effort.

How is it possible that failure is a good thing? Fred Astaire, Henry Ford, Mark Cuban, Sir James Dyson, and enumerable successful Haas grads would all affirm that it builds character, inspires determination, and helps dispel that insidious obstacle to success: fear of failure itself.

So You Want to Be a Billionaire?

Your idea could become the next big thing. The Haas School of Business is funding student ideas for scalable startups. Haas offers undergraduates and MBA students unique access to financial aid to build their ideas into the world’s future leading businesses. Pursuit of innovation and entrepreneurship are coveted qualities in Haas’ curriculum. The mentorship, resources, and funding available at Haas inspire and facilitate student-driven business concepts. The two largest fund sources are LAUNCH and The Berkeley Haas Entrepreneur Startup Seed Funding.

Since 1999 LAUNCH has provided $1 million dollars, industry connections, and mentorship to student teams presenting viable business ideas and strategies. 100 teams compete in LAUNCH for the chance to be selected as one of the top 15 Berkeley student start-up presentations. In a three month long accelerator program, young entrepreneurs have the opportunity to take their ideas from concept to company by transforming products and services to become fundable by venture capital firms and investors.

Dean Lyons has reenergized funding for The Berkeley Haas Entrepreneur Startup Seed Funding, promising $100,000 to teams of current, innovative Haas undergraduates and graduates including $5,000 grants for early stage start ups. Applications for funding consideration were submitted last Friday by groups competing for one of 10 coveted December grants. Winners have the option to use funding for business expansion, to generate viable prototypes, and to pursue further funding.

Haas is committed to giving its students an edge. With the help of the world’s industry leaders and the financial support of the business school, student innovation, creativity, and success thrives at Haas.