Team Confidex

Written by: Adriana Bonifaz / Armand Amin / Haley Braun / Stephanie Rank / Katie Rentz


From the moment you step off the airplane onto the tarmac, clouds of breeze-borne cottonwood fluff give Finland in May a dreamlike aura. Whether standing on the shore of an impossibly glassy, tree-rimmed lake, or dodging extensive teams of construction workers taking advantage of snowless springtime streets in the city, the fuzzy white floating seeds fill the air. They cluster in still pockets of air on the tracks of Finland’s excellent train and tram systems before being blown aloft by a passing locomotive with all the whimsy of loose feathers in a pillow fight. When catching the train or tram, connecting with one of the country’s many bus routes to complete the final leg of your journey, or even hopping on a ferry for a reasonably-priced long-haul option, Finland’s transit system is likely to strike you as efficient, clean, and quiet. 

What perhaps may strike you as less certain, as it did our team, are the dishes you may receive when ordering at a restaurant! The complex Finnish language creates its own set of challenges for the visiting, curious restaurant-goer, but even when items are described in English to an English-speaker, often our team was surprised by the unexpected foods brought out: we once saw a half-vegetable, half-meatloaf patty advertised as steak, a fully-liquid soup with tiny specks of meat termed reindeer stew, and we quickly learned that “fried” often means “grilled”. 

Nonetheless, we quickly discovered a love of the popular mustards, the fresh and smoked salmon, and the many-flavored jams available at most local establishments and grocery stores. The Finns seem to put jam on almost anything—meats, bread, cheese, cake, and even eggs. 

While the food can be hit or miss, the Finnish language is inarguably a true challenge, equally as unfamiliar to our team’s native English and Spanish speakers. We occasionally made a game of guessing the proper translation of Finland’s notoriously long words (and were most often wrong). Not only is the Finnish language structure and etymology quite unintuitive, it’s also known for a tendency to join disparate words together, forming intimidatingly long single words. Usually, we found that when we saw a fourteen or seventeen-letter word, we immediately gave up on trying to pronounce anything beyond the first syllable. In light of this running joke among the team, I decided to look up the longest word in the Finnish language, and discovered that a 61-letter word holds the title! “Lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas” means “airplane jet turbine engine auxiliary mechanic non-commissioned officer student”. As you can see, their practice of word-combining would constitute a bit of a farce in other languages when it comes to the competition for the longest word, but such extremely long words are commonplace in Finland. 

What was reasonably predictable and consistent throughout our experiences both in business and casual settings, however, was the no-nonsense, straightforward nature of the Finnish people. This made for very good business relations with our IBD client, with whom we never had to worry about ulterior motives, unspoken sentiments, or hidden agendas. Although, on the flip side, it took some adjustment for me to stop myself from my American tendency of saying hello to strangers (I was not aware that this was “American” of me until traveling to Finland!) The Finns, while always helpful and kind if asked for help or directions, do not go out of their way to have conversations or interactions with strangers, 

preferring on the whole to keep very much to themselves in public.

Working with our client, Confidex, was an overall enjoyable and rewarding experience for our IBD team. Confidex employees at its Tampere, Finland headquarters were warm and welcoming, always going above-and-beyond to ensure we had everything we needed, from Post-It notes to fresh fruit, and an endless supply of the Finns’ workplace fuels of choice, coffee and tea. Our IBD team’s day-to-day life began with a twenty-minute bus ride from our characteristically Finnish simple, efficiently-furnished apartments, to the similarly unadorned, clean, Confidex office building. Their office is located in a somewhat remote office park area bordered by neighborhoods, a few other businesses, and of course, plenty of expansive grassy fields effusing and ensnaring clumps of drifting cottonwood fluff. The small office serves as home-base to about twenty employees, mostly local Finns. The rest of the company’s employees are dispersed among its global offices. 

Each day we continued our project research, interacted with and interviewed employees both local and remote, and hosted interactive brainstorming workshops to generate new ideas. We were surprised at how our project framework changed and adapted over time as we refined our strategic recommendations and priorities based on new learnings. We usually brought our lunch to the office, but sometimes took a fifteen-minute stroll to the only food bistro nearby, which ended up having a delicious buffet. Most days we worked until late afternoon or early evening and caught the bus back to our apartments before either enjoying a (very basic!) home-cooked dinner or eating out at a local restaurant. While our apartment certainly had all the amenities necessary to cook a decent meal, we found that planning to buy the supplies and having the time in the evening kept us from doing so most of the time.

One of the top highlights of the trip was the proximity and access to incredible weekend travel opportunities, which we will continue to take full advantage of, including Estonia, the arctic circle, Norway, Copenhagen, Barcelona, and Russia. Our trip to Estonia, by way of train and ferry, over our first weekend in country doubled as a wonderful team bonding experience. We stayed at a charming, beautifully-decorated Airbnb apartment in the heart of old town Tallinn, Estonia’s historic capital. Exploring the city with no solid plans meant a carefree afternoon of laughter and awe-inspiring sightseeing together, punctuated by tastings of Estonian beer and cocktails and what we agreed was the best food we’d had on the entire trip so far. Fresh seasonal fish topped off crisp-lettuce salads with a customizable motley of flavorful trimmings including olives, chewy cashews, mushrooms, herbed feta cheese, and pomegranate seeds. Starters were impressive unto themselves—tuna tartare beautifully adorned with crisp cucumber spirals, crunchy orange roe, crispy wonton strips, and sesame seeds, or savory noodle soup topped by a single sunny-side-up egg, perfectly browned on one side. When it came time to leave Estonia, I wished we could have many more days to explore the seemingly endless winding cobblestone streets and alleyways. 

We have two more weeks in Finland, and are looking forward to continuing to move our project forward, exploring new places, trying local foods and drink, and learning more about new cultures!

Giosg

Written by: Kyle Rolnick, Maddy Han, Joyce Yao, Annie Powers and Miguel Moreno Rodriguez

Discovering a unique culture

As the Berkeley IBD team walked into Giosg’s office in a quiet, corporate area of Helsinki, we realized that the nice shoes we brought from the U.S. weren’t necessary. We stared at many shoes strewn about in the entryway, took our own off, felt the soft rug beneath our feet, and took a few steps into the office. The truly vibrant work environment Giosg – a fast-growing tech company that focuses on helping businesses interact in more meaningful ways with their customers – has created was almost immediately apparent.  

Jussi, the company’s COO and our main contact throughout the project, met us shortly after we entered. It was very refreshing – and a bit surreal – to see him in person after talking with him so many time via video chat, and he was every bit as kind and welcoming in person as he’d been during the semester in Berkeley. The first order of business was a tour, which gave us a glimpse at not only employees in beanbag chairs working hard, but also colorful carpet, a poster showing Giosg’s values, and even a pinball machine. This is a quintessential tech workplace. 

Getting down to business

That first day, we started our rounds of getting a better look at Giosg in person, and throughout the first week, we were introduced to people in sales, marketing, finance, and product to better understand the different perspectives that could help our project, which focuses on helping Giosg think about a new market entry. 

The week also included an introduction to Finnish culture, of course. The Berkeley team was able to eat some traditional Finnish food, explore Helsinki’s chic city center, and even take a dip in the Baltic Sea (~50°F!) after heating up in a sauna at Löyly, a place that combines traditional saunas, drinks, and food all in one beautiful structure. 

The highlight of the first week, though, was the Summer Party. An event Giosg has held since its early days, the Summer Party is one of two main parties for the company each year. Although the weather wasn’t perfect, heading to Suomenlinna and partying in an 18th-century fort was something to be remembered. The party was also a great chance to meet even more employees at the company and see the optimism and can-do spirit that pervades the company. “If we have a problem, I know we can solve it,” one employee told us. 

An engaging presentation

Week two started off strong with a presentation to Giosg’s board, which was onsite at Giosg for two days of workshops and vision-setting. Our team outlined our work to date, key findings, and our direction for our remaining time in Finland. The board members asked some great, thought-provoking questions. After discussing the presentation and questions with Jussi, we refined our direction and put our nose to the grindstone to further synthesize our findings and do additional secondary research to support a strong recommendation.

On Thursday, our team got a nice break due to a Finnish holiday and explored nearby Tallinn, home of the most digitally connected government in the world. It was a beautiful day and walking the streets of the Old Town and the hip Depoo area was refreshing after a few days of rain back in Helsinki. The highlight of the week came on Friday morning, though, as we were able to join Giosg’s team for their weekly floorball game – and our very own Joyce Yao netted two goals! 

 

A very special last week

Our last week in Finland was a whirlwind! We worked hard during the days and nights, but also soaked up every last bit of fun we could as the temperature heated up in Helsinki. On Monday night, Jussi led the team on an orienteering adventure. In orienteering, people race each other by navigating through the woods or other terrain with only a map and compass. This is a very popular activity in Finland and we could see why – it was a great way to get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of nature while putting your attention and mind to work navigating. 

On Tuesday night, we got a glimpse of the beautiful Finnish countryside on the way up to Jussi’s summer cottage. Before we ate a traditional meal of smoked salmon and reindeer with lingonberry and mashed potatoes, Jussi, Ville (Giosg’s CEO), and the team enjoyed a more traditional sauna experience, including a nice dip in the lake after heating up.

Wednesday and Thursday were big days; we presented a total of 5 hours across three sessions to summarize our findings and recommendations for Giosg’s management team and employees. The presentations elicited some very good questions and it was exciting to hear feedback and questions from everyone after so many months of hard work. After wrapping up the final day, we got to enjoy one last outing in Helsinki, as three of Giosg’s employees invited us to join them in a sailing competition followed by a night out on the town. 

Wrapping up

So much work went into this project. Through the many hours of interviews, late nights reading research, design thinking sessions to synthesize findings, and more, we kept our focus on our big goal: providing as much value to Giosg as we could as they tackle new projects and growth opportunities. And we felt that responsibility deeply, as we connected with Giosg’s management and employees in a way that few of us expected possible when we heard we’d be heading to Finland last January and February. 

The IBD project exceeded our expectations on many fronts and in ways that would take many more pages to describe. As we sought to provide as much value as possible to Giosg, so too we have all come out of this with a lot of value: much more knowledge, new friends, and a great experience to look back on during our second year at Berkeley and beyond. 

IBD Team YGA Travels to Istanbul to Work with Young Guru Academy (YGA) for a Second Year

Written by Team YGA: Joanne Lee, Clara Jiang, Enrique San Martin Petit and Daniel Mombiedro

After a successful inaugural engagement between Young Guru Academy (YGA) and IBD in 2017, the two partnered again this year to send a team of four MBA students to Istanbul, Turkey. The IBD team was tasked with assessing the potential of virtual reality tours to develop a go-to-market strategy and revenue model. Piri – one of YGA’s most promising startups – wants to expand beyond its current travel app which offers only GPS-based tracking audio tours. The value that the Berkeley Haas IBD team would be able to deliver was unique – situated in the hotbed of innovation with VR companies like Oculus, YGA understood this advantage. I had the privilege of being a member of this IBD team and embarked on my first international work experience.

A day in the life:

My alarm goes off at 7:30AM. I quickly get ready and head over to the dining hall for breakfast. Dining hall? Yes, that’s right – my team members and I are staying at Özyeğin university where one of YGA’s offices are located. I assemble on my tray a typical Turkish breakfast – eggs, cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese, and simit, a circular bread encrusted with sesame seeds. I pour myself a cup of hot tea and join my team members in the discussion of today’s agenda.

An elaborate traditional Turksih breakfast spread at a café

An elaborate traditional Turkish breakfast spread at a café

Today’s agenda: a Piri tour of Karakoy, a brief 30-minute meeting with the CEO of Turkcell (the largest tech company in Turkey), self-study time for our team to get some work done, and wrap-up with a dinner party hosted by Sezin, a YGA colleague. I am excited to do a little sight-seeing of Istanbul which qualifies as product testing – perks of working with a travel tech startup.

We arrive at the starting point of the Karakoy tour, a beautiful mosque with two minaret towers, and are promptly greeted by Çağlar, one of Piri’s co-founders. We all plug in our earphones and begin following the instructions from the audio tour. The experience is seamless – as I stare up the intricate details on the dome ceiling, I hear about the rich story behind the mosque. The tour concludes with us reaching the harbor with a spectacular view of the glistening Bosphorus river. After snapping some photos, we stop in a café. Over baklava, we provide feedback to Çağlar on our experience with the tour. Eventually, it is time for us to meet with Kaan Terzioğlu, Turkcell’s CEO – we don’t want to be late and Istanbul’s traffic is unpredictable.

IBD Team on the Karakoy Harbor with Çağlar, one of Piri’s co-founders

IBD Team on the Karakoy Harbor with Çağlar, one of Piri’s co-founders

Again with an unobstructed view of the Bosphorus River, I am sitting next to Kaan in a large conference room. My team members and I are presenting our research on the VR industry and getting a rare look at how the CEO of a major tech company conducts himself. Kaan is engaged, nodding, and occasionally interjecting with an insightful comment. After the meeting, we collect our notes and head back to the YGA office.

We settle into an empty conference room and get to work. Daniel Mombiedro, our team lead, starts going through our slide deck and proposing changes to be made. We all offer our thoughts on how to best reflect the new information from today. We are a collaborative team – discovering, discussing, and delivering together. After several hours of tweaking models in Excel and putting together slides, we’ve made good progress. A YGA colleague swings by to offer us a ride to Sezin’s dinner party. We pack up and prepare to sit through more traffic.

Upon arrival at Sezin’s apartment, I kiss cheeks one-by-one with everyone there. As an Asian-American raised in New York, cheek kissing is uncommon. Through these warm embraces, I feel a strong sense of the close-knit family that YGA has formed. Sezin has prepared a bountiful feast with a variety of meze (similar to tapas). With full plates, we sit around the living room and chat with YGA members to learn about what drew them to YGA. I am particularly inspired by Küşat’s story – Küşat, who is visually impaired, is working on the world’s most advanced smart-cane, WeWalk, that detects obstacles above the waist and integrates third-party apps through voice-activation to lessen the everyday challenges of the blind. At the end of the night, my team packs into a van to return to our dormitories – it’s been a long but eventful day and I’m excited about what tomorrow holds.

The Spring IBD Program is Off and Running….

A lot has happened this past month in the life of the 2018 Spring FTMBA IBD program. On February 1st, we held the first day of Spring IBD class, revealing the names of IBD clients, their projects and country destinations to an excited group of 16 IBD Student Team Leads. The Team Leads then introduced themselves online to their project clients for the first time. Following that, IBD Team Leads and Faculty Mentors collaborated and successfully executed an IBD Team Member draft —  selecting up to four MBA Team Members for each project team.

Team Lead Reveal on Feb 1st

Team Lead Reveal on Feb 1st

This spring we are partnering with 16 client organizations in 12 different countries, spread across four continents.  Six clients from last year’s spring and summer programs, as well as three organizations from past IBD project years, have returned to work with our IBD FTMBAs on a project this spring. Our 16 Team Leads have certainly hit the ground running with their IBD projects, and they are looking forward to the first day of the full IBD class (March 15th), when incoming IBD Team Members officially join their project teams. 

We asked each of our Team Leads and Faculty Mentors to describe their impressions of their IBD projects, the “Big Reveal” of projects to the students, and what excites them about this stage of the IBD program.  Here is what they had to share:

“I am excited about the European expansion plans of Piri. It is such an ambitious and interesting project, that if it is successful it will have a big impact within YGA. So far it has been a great experience getting to know the team and the unique culture of YGA.” Team Lead Daniel Mombiedro

Catherine, Jocelyn, Daniel and Sara

“My Team Leads are in the throes of work planning and are really getting their arms around the client issues and available information. It’s so great to see them taking charge of the client relationship, and bouncing hypotheses off their client teams. I can tell their clients are excited about it, too. Keep up the good work, everyone!” Faculty Mentor Judy Hopelain

“’I’m incredibly excited about both the scope of my project as well as returning to explore Latin America after many years away! Although the amount of work in front of us is daunting, my (TBD) team is amazing and I’m highly confident in our ability to deliver a great set of insights for our client.” Team Lead Colin Dunn

“I only wish I could go on these​ trips with all the students as our clients are doing incredibly important and impactful work in fascinating places.” Faculty Mentor David Evan Harris

Jorge Tellez

Jorge Tellez

“I can’t wait for the Big Reveal tomorrow. I have seen so many IBD students walking around, and I just want to shout with excitement about where they will be going and what cool project they will be on. I’m looking forward to meeting members of my team (some for the first time!) and getting them excited about our work together!” Team Lead

Catherine Soler

“I could not be more excited to be working for Ford in Shanghai this semester. Having accepted an offer to work as a consultant this summer, I’m anxious to begin developing my consulting toolkit during IBD and deliver a great project to our client.  It’s going to be an amazing experience and I’m excited to onboard my team and get things going!” Team Lead James Westhafer

Tech Team Drafting Team Members

Tech Team Drafting Team Members

“I’m very excited about my project, and I’m thrilled to be leading the first IBD team to work with Majid Al Futtaim

James Westhafer

Holding. I am confident that this project will be the beginning of a long and meaningful relationship between Majid Al Futtaim and Berkeley Haas.” Team Lead Jorge Tellez

“Being a Team Lead is a big responsibility, but I’m comfortable with the great support we have from our Faculty Mentors and the executive coaching program.” Team Lead Melea Atkins

Team Lead Reveal

Team Lead Reveal

“Our Team Leads are fantastic: full of enthusiasm and undaunted by somewhat ambiguous and ambitious client project scopes!” Faculty Mentor Whitney Hischier

 

“I’m excited for the opportunity to develop my team leadership style with a group of all-star MBAs. I also can’t wait to develop a team experience that supports all of our professional and personal development.” Team Lead Michelle Boyd

“I’m really looking forward to the Big Reveal and introducing my team to the Seva Foundation project. My team has a strong and diverse set of healthcare experiences, and I can’t wait to see how we can tackle our project together.” Team Lead Jocelyn Brown

Natalie Bauman

Natalie Bauman

“I originally wanted to a be a Team Lead to push myself outside of my comfort zone and gain experience leading peers. Choosing the team and realizing how impressive and awesome my teammates are has made me even more excited/nervous about the opportunity to be a Team Lead!” Team Lead Natalie Bauman

“I’m excited about the project and client! Working with a repeat client sets a high bar, but also makes it a little easier since the client knows what to expect from a project like IBD. This was one of the top projects last year, and I’m happy to have the opportunity to work with this client.” Team Lead Stan Cataldo

“I continue to be impressed by the talent pool at Berkeley Haas.  It really was an embarrassment of riches that we could draw upon for our IBD teams.” Faculty Mentor Frank Schultz

The IBD program is indeed very fortunate to have these talented MBA Team Leads working with our international clients.  We are looking forward to expanding the energy and talent of this group with an additional 64 MBAs, when we welcome them into the IBD fold on March 1st for the “Big Reveal.”

 

 

IBD Team Travels to Stockholm to Help Civil Rights Defenders to Implement a New Innovation Program

Written by Carol Macavilca Paredes, Elizabeth Miller, Ingrid Monroy, Beth Williams and Blakey Larsen

Our IBD Project took us to Stockholm to help our client, Civil Right Defenders (CRD), a nonprofit organization devoted to human rights founded in 1982, to implement a new Innovation Program that will foster the development and launch of innovations. We started with one simple question, how can we apply innovation to human rights? Easy to answer, right? To be honest, none of us knew the answer four months ago.

Work hard, travel hard was definitely the motto of our team. We worked 3 weeks in Sweden and visited 2 countries, Finland and Norway.

It was hard work, but we also had a lot of fun in beautiful Stockholm, a city with 14 islands and, in the summer, 18 hours of daylight.

Our first week in the CRD office was a whirlwind: We started by introducing our project to the entire CRD staff, who gave us a warm welcome. In the days that followed, we had a lovely meal at Communications Manager’s house with Swedish pizza…

…and participated in the Stockholm Internet Forum 2017, focused on the Internet Freedom for Global Development, in order to interview innovation experts for our project.

During our second week, the most memorable highlight was to be in the CRD office when it was revealed that the organization had won a court case in which they had been working for four years. Representing 11 of about 4,700 people included in the police registry of Roma population, CRD won the court case against the Swedish state in the Svea Court of Appeal. The state was found guilty of ethnic registration and discrimination and was ordered to pay 30,000 SEK in damages to each of the 11 Roma plaintiffs. We were moved by the words of Robert Hardh, Executive Director of CRD to all the staff the day they received the news, that these are the days they live for.

Also, we had an unexpected but happy news for us: two and a half days of holidays. We decided to visit the IBD Finland team in Helsinki. At the recommendation of our client, we went to Finland by boat. The ferry ride was 15 hours of fun!

We also went to Bergen, during that holiday. We took a full day tour to see some of Norway’s most beautiful fjord scenery. We experienced the scenic Bergen Railway, the breathtaking Flåm Railway, and the narrow and dramatic UNESCO-protected Nærøyfjord.

Our team was surprised to experience a uniquely Swedish challenge: doing laundry. In Stockholm apartments, washers and dryers must be booked weeks ahead of time in order to wash your clothes. With limited options, our team had to cancel plans one evening to get our laundry done. The team at CRD said we were real Swedes now!

One fun fact is that in Sweden, purchasing alcoholic beverages isn’t a simple matter. There are no privately owned liquor stores nor do grocery stores sell wine or any liquor. Sweden has a state-run chain of liquor stores called Systembolaget, the only retail stores allowed to sell alcohol. Problems arise due to their opening hours (especially for unaware visitors like us). The stores generally close at 6pm on weekdays, at 3pm on Saturdays and all Systembolaget are closed, without exceptions, on Sundays and holidays! So you need to keep this in mind and don’t wait (like us) until 2:50 pm on Saturday to run to the store.

Last week. We had our first fika in the office and our final presentation. Fika is a tradition in Sweden, is the moment that you take a break, often with a cup of coffee, but alternatively with tea, and find a baked good to pair with it.

Updates from IBD Turkey – Touring Turkey with YGA and The Turkish Delights

Written by Amol Borcar, Annie Porter, Chelsea Harris, Jeanne Godleski, and Mariana Martinez

The room was buzzing with three languages, and communication was a game of telephone. One of the Syrian primary students would excitedly share something in Arabic, at which point it was translated into Turkish by a Syrian university student, and then a staff member from Young Guru Academy (YGA) would share it in English with our Berkeley-Haas IBD team of five. Nuance was definitely lost through these piecemeal verbal communications, and we came from radically different backgrounds – lives interrupted by the Syrian Civil War, educations defined by a single test score, and former careers in consulting, software engineering, and clean energy. Yet there was one language in the room that we all understood perfectly – science.

YGA university student volunteers leading a science workshop with Syrian primary school students in Gaziantep. Annie concentrating hard on remembering how electrical circuits work!

Our team, fondly nicknamed “The Turkish Delights,” was at one of YGA’s science workshops with Syrian refugees in Gaziantep – a city in southeast Turkey, just 20 miles from the Syrian border. At first glance, this activity seemed somewhat removed from the formal scope of our project with YGA – developing the strategic business plan for the new Aziz Sancar Science Center, set to open in Istanbul in 2018. We were struggling to understand how participating in YGA’s science workshops in Gaziantep and Trabzon would inform our marketing and financial plans for the Science Center. Coming from high-pressure, deliverable-oriented careers prior to Haas, we all wondered if our time would be better spent at our computers, modeling projected visitor numbers and coming up with creative marketing tactics. The business plan was the whole reason we were here after all, right?

Mariana answering the hardest of science questions, like “Where is Mexico?”

Mariana answering the hardest of science questions, like “Where is Mexico?”

Now in our second week, we have realized the immense gift YGA gave us by immersing us in their culture, projects, and relationships for the first week. Coming into our in-country time with YGA, we knew it would be anything but your typical client-consultant relationship given our interactions from Berkeley, but this experience has exceeded all expectations.

On paper, YGA is a non-profit organization that cultivates “selfless leaders” who will create a brighter future for younger generations through innovative, community-based programs and technologies. These projects include Science and Innovation Workshops, My Dream Companion for the visually-impaired, and the Young Leaders Program for high school students.

When the students insisted on giving us a Turkish dance lesson at the end of one science workshop, we couldn’t say no!

When the students insisted on giving us a Turkish dance lesson at the end of one science workshop, we couldn’t say no!

However, the projects themselves are merely tools that YGA uses to instill confidence, humility, and optimism in Turkey’s young generations, with the hope that they will one day lead more socially-conscious organizations and companies. The process of implementing these projects – the planning, the evaluation, the personal growth – is the true goal and measure of success. For example, we ran three separate workshops – one for Syrian refugees, one for orphans, and one for underprivileged students – and although we couldn’t communicate perfectly in any of them, science gave us common ground to which to connect. After each workshop, we paused to reflect on how the students interacted with us and the material, and we all left having learned something about ourselves.

Amol mastering a self-driving car with Syrian students at a science workshop in Gaziantep.

Amol mastering a self-driving car with Syrian students at a science workshop in Gaziantep.

This has been a very new way of thinking and working for us, as we come from jobs where the destination – what you produce – is far more important than the journey. Only by experiencing YGA’s model firsthand could we internalize the notion that success can also be defined as a thoughtful, self-reflective process that leads to personal and collective growth.

Our client Duygu giving us the rundown of all the delicious homemade Turkish dishes!

Our client Duygu giving us the rundown of all the delicious homemade Turkish dishes!

YGA has made us feel like family, from inviting us to a homemade Turkish dinner at our client’s apartment to including us in their weekly executive leadership meetings.

The future location of the new Aziz Sancar Science Center at Istanbul Technical University’s (İTÜ) Maçka campus, which currently holds very outdated science and technology exhibits.

The future location of the new Aziz Sancar Science Center at Istanbul Technical University’s (İTÜ) Maçka campus, which currently holds very outdated science and technology exhibits.

We have now lived and breathed the YGA way and will deliver a business plan for the Science Center that integrates both the tangible programs and intangible values that define this incredible organization. Earlier this week, when we visited the building in Istanbul where the Aziz Sancar Science Center will open next year, the impact of our project felt more real than ever.

These two weeks have been a blur, and we don’t anticipate it slowing down for the remainder of our time. While we’ve had to squeeze time at our computers into odd hours given the packed, immersive days with YGA, we have still managed to find moments to explore Turkey’s rich cultural – and culinary – offerings! We spent a few hours touring Trabzon with a very jolly tour guide who shared all of the local jokes and stuffed ourselves with Gaziantep’s world famous katmer!

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We have also been befriending Istanbul’s well-cared-for stray cats and popping into the city’s gorgeous mosques at every chance.

The full depth of the IBD experience likely won’t hit home until we are on our return flights or starting our summer internships because it is so much to digest both personally and professionally. We all know, however, that YGA has forever changed how we define success.

Amol, Mariana, and Jeanne visiting Istanbul’s Süleymaniye Mosque.

Amol, Mariana, and Jeanne visiting Istanbul’s Süleymaniye Mosque.

Updates from the IBD – Team Tekes in Finland

Berkeley-Haas Full Time students Lauren Elstein, Javier Gunther, Natalie Osterweil, Mitch Plueger, and Matt Shelton are working on an IBD project with Tekes in Finland.

The team learns about Finnish culture through a “Who are the Finns” presentation

The team learns about Finnish culture through a “Who are the Finns” presentation

Who are the Finns?

Considering how familiar we generally are with European countries, upon our arrival we quickly realized that we knew very little about the most eastern of the Nordic countries. Relegated to the far North and in the cross section of east and west, Finland’s geography and history have formulated a unique culture that none of us had imagined.

About a week into our trip, our IBD group found ourselves sitting in a semi-circle of

The team stand atop one of the most popular saunas in Helsinki, with a beautiful view of the Baltic

The team stand atop one of the most popular saunas in Helsinki, with a beautiful view of the Baltic

reclining chairs in one of the most popular saunas in Helsinki. Because of a family-friend connection, and good ole fashioned Finnish hospitality, we had the privilege of hearing a “Who are the Finns?” presentation from a former Fulbright director, who shared his insights with each incoming Fulbright Scholar group. His perspective, information, and storytelling conveyed a culture of survival, simplicity, isolation, yet fortitude. Sharing the longest border with Russia, and having been previously conquered by the Swedes, all while living on the periphery of Europe in one of the coldest climates in the world has not been easy for the Finns. It has created a culture of steadfastness, intelligence, but humility. The buildings are not fancy. Wealth is not on display. The people are not overly friendly or boisterous. However, the Finns are kind, smart (free education!), and resourceful. They think long term, are loyal to each other and their resources and are quick to welcome a group of foreign students working in Helsinki for a few weeks.

The team stands with the founders of Paptic, a startup seeking to replace plastic bags with a more environmentally friendly one

The team stands with the founders of Paptic, a startup seeking to replace plastic bags with a more environmentally friendly one

So, what were we doing there?

What was quite fascinating to us was seeing how this background provided a whole new context for understanding our clients. Our primary client, Tekes, is a Finnish innovation funding agency—it grants money to, and invests in, startups and R&D to create innovative Finnish businesses and help them scale their innovations to the world stage. Tekes selected three startups in particular for us to work with during the semester—they each had different projects for us, but all were working on scaling their innovations beyond the Finnish borders. We quickly observed a very common scenario: a brilliant Finnish scientist discovers a new innovation. He or she patents it, earns a grant or initial investment for lab testing and maybe a pilot but then is a bit stuck. It’s hard to receive the next level of funding without proving the ability to scale. But how do you prove the ability to scale without the funding to do so? Furthermore, how does a very technical scientist or engineer convey the business case or importance of the product in a way where investors can see the potential and long-term strategy? This is even more challenging in a culture where it is not common to put yourself out there and explain why your solution is the best and deserving of a partnership, resource, or investment.

Visiting Metgen’s pilot plant, which is creating enzymes to save manufacturers on energy use and costs

Visiting Metgen’s pilot plant, which is creating enzymes to save manufacturers on energy use and costs

These are questions we sought to tackle with our clients: one which has figured out how to extract nanocellulose from agricultural side streams (which is a first!), one which uses wood-based fibers to create a replacement of plastic and cotton bags, but which is sturdier and more durable than regular paper bags, and one which tailors enzymes to reduce energy use and cost for major processing plants, such as paper mills. Sound complicated? We thought so, too. But after talking to many experts, doing immense amounts of research, and learning more about the companies themselves, we identified many synergies and trends between them. We focused on helping them find applications for their innovations, building a business model that invites investment and creates long term sustainability, and strategizing entrances into international markets.  Along the way, we also had the privilege of visiting some of the pilot plants, learning about the production process and what makes the innovation so revolutionary, and experiencing some of the prototypes and early products.

Witnessing how clothing fibers can be broken down, cleaned, and recycled for use in brand now clothing and textiles

Witnessing how clothing fibers can be broken
down, cleaned, and recycled for use in brand now clothing and textiles

Green Gold

While Tekes supports many aspects of innovation across industries, it heavily invests in arguably one of the most ‘Finnish’—the bioeconomy. In case that’s a new term (it was to us), bioeconomy means an economy that utilizes biological natural resources to create products, food, energy, and services. It generally focuses on the long-term viability of natural resources and biodiversity, reduces dependency on fossil fuels and synthetic materials, and promotes economic development and sustainable job creation. With 80% of its land is covered by forests, Finland has become a pioneer in the industry, which has created wealth and sustainable economic development for the prosperous country. This is largely attributed to their ability to maximize the

The team visits Aalto University’s Bioproducts Center, where graduate students create new innovative discoveries of tuning biomass into products and applications

The team visits Aalto University’s Bioproducts Center, where graduate students create new innovative discoveries of turning biomass into products and applications

utilization of their natural resources in sustainable, wise ways. For example, the average US paper mill self-produces only 56% of its energy, while the average Finnish mill is over 100%. They actually create more energy than they need, as a result of their focus on resource efficiency and innovation.

Javier inspects the biodegradable ‘biokini,’ made of nanocellulose

Javier inspects the biodegradable ‘biokini,’ made of nanocellulose

This mentality is what drives many of the entrepreneurs in Finland. In addition to our three startup clients, we also had the opportunity to visit and learn from an entrepreneur who takes used clothing, breaks it down, and then is able to make brand new material from it. We met another who figured out how to make cosmetic containers, which feel and function like plastic, but which are made 100% of wood-based material. These environmentally-focused innovators are using cutting edge technology to create large scale and sustainable change in the marketplace—and for these last few months, we had the privilege of being a part of it.

 

We had the opportunity to meet with the founder of Sulapac, a thriving new startup that makes cosmetic containers out of wood-based materials

We had the opportunity to meet with the founder of Sulapac, a thriving new startup that makes cosmetic containers out of wood-based materials

And in our spare time…

After a steep climb up, the team (with Javier’s wife, Carolina) were rewarded with a gorgeous view over Old Town Tallinn

After a steep climb up, the team (with Javier’s wife, Carolina) were rewarded with a gorgeous view over Old Town Tallinn

In case you’re concerned that we didn’t actually get to have a little fun, rest assured, we had plenty of play time. In our first weekend, we took a ferry over to Tallinn, Estonia, to visit the old and beautiful city for the weekend. From another fortuitous family-friend connection, we had the immense privilege of being taken to dinner by the Undersecretary to the Foreign Minister of Estonia, who also gave us all a history, geography, and cultural lesson on the Estonian people as well.

 

A memorable experience

When we arrived in Finland, most of us could not have told you the difference between it and its long, northern, Scandinavian neighbors. But we have learned to appreciate the understated and unassuming country—one that knows a thing or two about survival, protecting its people and its future, and perhaps most importantly, how to stay hot in those icy cold winters.

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