Three Haas MBA alums and a longtime Lester Center mentor shared their experiences about building and evaluating successful teams. They also shared how LAUNCH helped them grow as entrepreneurs and encouraged students as well as alums to participate in this year’s revamped accelerator program.
Moderator Steve Hahn (Research Fellow, Dow Chemical Company) sources opportunities throughout the Berkeley campus. What does he look for? “Does it work, what’s the business model, and tell me about the team.” Steve used this framework to explore how the three panelists answered these questions for their respective startups.
All three used Haas and Berkeley’s on-campus resources to craft and validate their ideas as well as to build relationships with potential teammates, making the issue of “team” central to the evening’s discussion.
How They Did It
Brian Feth (MBA 13, CEO/Founder, Xcell Biosciences, Inc.) came to school to start a company. With a background in molecular biology and chemistry as well as consulting experience with tools and diagnostics, his focus led him to seek others in the space. He started attending Berkeley Postdoctoral Entrepreneurship Program (BPEP) meetings and explored opportunities in a “low pressure” way until clicking with a particular postdoc and building a relationship. The two further developed and validated the idea, starting XCell while they were still in school.
Kevin Kopczynski (MBA 08, President & CEO, Enki Technology) agreed with Brian. “Courses are a great way to incubate an idea and start relationships. You really get to know people.”
Kevin entered LAUNCH and frequented events around campus to meet a co-founder with the science skills he needed. The efforts led to an email from a post doc and then followed a similar course to Brian’s, building the relationship and validating the idea through the Lean LaunchPad class and work as a Haas Venture Fellow.
Aashi Vel (MBA 13, Co-Founder/Co-CEO, Traveling Spoon) best encapsulated the group’s passion by saying, “Changing the world is about solving a problem that tugs at your heart.” In her case, the search for authentic experiences on her travels led her to create the Travellng Spoon. “On a trip to Mexico, I peered inside a house with delicious smells and wished I could go inside and share a meal.” Although it took time, effort and an eventual pivot for the idea to manifest, she kept chipping away. “Passion leads you to create opportunities.”
Creating a Strong Team
All three panelists stressed the importance of building the right team for both competencies and culture.
“Relationships are essential…just as important as marriage. Take your time in finding someone with both complementary skills and a personal fit,” advised Brian.
Kevin added that building a strong team, “….is about finding people who are not going to let each other fail. You need to sort out quickly who’s going to move you forward.”
So what are you waiting for? Get your LAUNCH application in…the deadline is November 20. Find out more info here.