by Elizabeth Hecht
In June 2009, Kevin Casey, MBA ’09, graduated from Haas and immediately founded his first startup, a service management platform for home design and construction services called New Avenue. Five years later, New Avenue has made the San Francisco Business Times’ List of the Bay Area’s fastest growing companies. With only five years under his belt and five employees plus a network of 60 architect and contractor partners coast to coast, Casey is still building his company from deep in the entrepreneurial trenches. But he has already found a way to make an impact in the Haas entrepreneurial community.
Casey is one of 64 Cal alumni who have joined the Berkeley Founders’ Pledge, an exclusive community of alumni-entrepreneurs with a passion for Berkeley’s work, ideals, and mission. These entrepreneurs and leaders, 20 of whom are Haas alumni, have chosen to take full advantage of Cal’s vast ecosystem of resources – and to give back when they have a liquidity event.
Founded in December 2013, the Founders’ Pledge gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to make a personal, nonbinding commitment to support the Berkeley schools and programs that matter to them – if and when they have a liquidity event. Members control the amount, timing, and destination of their eventual gifts to Cal.
In the meantime, members gain access to the Founders’ Pledge network, a broad spectrum of Berkeley resources, and a startup savvy Campus Navigator – an expert partner on campus who can concierge recruiting, networking, and special experience assets for members.
“The thing I value most about Berkeley is that it opens countless doors but it doesn’t handhold you.” Casey explains, “I want to open a few of those doors for future BerkeleyHaas entrepreneurs.”
Of the 64 alumni who have joined the Founders’ Pledge since December 2013, several have already made exits. For example, Lisa Guerra, PhD ’96 and Co-Founder of Victrio, fulfilled her pledge recently after the sale of the company. “My Berkeley experience and network have played an instrumental part in affecting my career and life,” Guerra remarked, “I’m happy to make the Founders’ Pledge to give back and support the next generation of students.”
Prakash Janakiraman, Co-Founder of social networking site Nextdoor, echoes Guerra’s sentiments: “As an entrepreneur and one of five proud Cal alumni in my family, the Founders’ Pledge program provided the perfect vehicle to meaningfully give back to the University.”
Mitch Gordon, MBA ’12 and Co-Founder of Go Overseas, agrees: “I’ll always be grateful for Berkeley’s impact on my life and on the growth of my company. It’s important that we all give back to help strengthen Cal’s entrepreneurial leadership and legacy. As Dean Lyons says, it’s important for all of us to consistently question the status quo and innovate fearlessly. These Haas values and other were integral in forming the values of my company.”