Young Guru Academy (YGA) Partners with IBD for a Brighter Future

“IBD was the best experience I had at Haas.”  One of the reasons we repeatedly hear this sentiment from our Berkeley-Haas alumni is because of the client/student project dynamic.  The IBD experience goes beyond the classroom and intersects with real life.  For 24 years IBD clients have looked to the MBA’s in our IBD program to solve concrete challenges for their organizations.  They have invested their time, resources and trust in our IBD consulting teams.

One of our exceptional spring 2017 IBD client organizations is known as Young Guru Academy or YGA.  YGA is a non-profit organization founded in Turkey in 2000 with the mission of cultivating selfless leaders to realize the dream of a brighter future for younger generations.  YGA students volunteer over 3,000 hours of their time working in teams on social innovation projects.  The organization focuses on three fields of innovation – science, orphans, and the visually impaired – and develops innovations that impact the lives of many in these areas.

We asked Sezin Aydin, YGA’s Director of International Affairs, to answer some questions about YGA and the IBD experience to date.

IBD: What made you decide to participate in the IBD program?

YGA:  Over the years, we have experienced that the essence of a fruitful partnership is one of shared values and meaning. Once we saw that (Berkeley-Haas and YGA) both value field study and we both find the development of a student imagining a better world to be meaningful, our passion in participating in the IBD program grew.


IBD:  What do you hope to accomplish from your IBD experience?

YGA:  The field we chose to collaborate with IBD Students is YGA’s project on the advancement of science among youth.  The IBD team is specifically working on developing sustainable marketing and financial strategy for all three parts of the science project- the launch of a Science Museum to inspire youth and adults with attractive, inspiring and thought-provoking content, production of a Live Science Show, which will be broadcasted on CNNTurk; and the distribution of Science Kits which has been designed by YGA graduates and funded through crowdsourcing.

What strongly unites the IBD team and YGA in this project is the shared dream of children becoming more curious and enthusiastic about science. YGA brings years of experience of working with students from age 10 to 22, visually impaired students, orphans and recently, refugees, as well as knowledge of local opportunities, obstacles, and challenges. The IBD students, on the other hand, bring a global perspective as each team member comes from a different background and knowledge of best management practices.

IBD: How has the IBD experience been to date?

YGA Visits Berkeley-Haas

YGA: It has already been an amazing experience. Even before YGA was selected to participate in IBD program, we always felt we are on the same team. We are aware of the approach most international universities adopt for programs in Turkey nowadays. There are not enough words to explain our gratitude to Prof. Kristiana Raube for the support she has provided to YGA. We very much appreciate her confidence in us, and we will strive to make this meaningful collaboration work in the best way possible.

IBD: Have you enjoyed working with your Team Lead, Faculty Mentor, and newly formed Team Members?

YGA:   Prof. Kristi said in our last meeting, “We feel like we are old friends now.”  This is exactly how we feel about each other.  Team Lead Chelsea Harris and Prof. Kristiana Raube devote many hours each week and have brought valuable resources to the YGA Science Project.  Our team members, Amol Borcar, Mariana Martinez-Alarcon, Annie Porter and Jeanne Godleski, have impressive backgrounds from diverse fields.  Their combined strength is a valuable resource for this project.

Berkeley’s culture is very close to YGA’s culture.  We believe in the essence of Berkeley Culture’s 4 pillars, just, we have them in different words. We believe in questioning the status quo: we say “Positive Challenge” to do things in a better way.  We believe in confidence without attitude: we say “Selfless Confidence.”  We believe in the unlimited potential we possess: we say “Best Today, Better Tomorrow.”  And we always believe in students: we say “Our main project is people project.”

IBD: Are you excited for any part of the process that is coming in the future?

YGA:  Next week, our team will present a benchmark analysis of world-class science museums, their key performance indicators (KPIs) and examples of some of the best practices. The most exciting part will be their final presentation which they will be delivering to a very high executive level audience- the advisory board of the Science Museum. As challenging as it may be, we have no doubt it will also be a broad experience for them.

IBD: What are you most excited to share with your team when they arrive in Istanbul?

YGA: Most importantly, we would like to share the YGA culture. We already consider them YGA students, like ourselves. We would like to share our challenges and what we have learned from them.  A special trip to Trabzon-Tonya, a north city by the Black Sea, is planned which includes science workshops with primary school students.  

There will be two notable events which will take place during our teams’ in-country visit: Great Place to Work Awards Ceremonyin which YGA will be awarded a Great Place to Work in Turkey for the second time; and the YGA Annual Advisory Board Dinner in which YGA will announce its new entrepreneurship model.  

Finally, İstanbul is one of the most glamourous cities in the world.  We will enjoy the most beautiful views of this city throughout the program. Of course, Turkish cuisine is an inseparable part of the program, so we advise our team to start exercising in advance to make room for delicious food!
The IBD Team leaves for Istanbul on May 13th to experience all that YGA has planned for them during their three weeks in-country.  We look forward to hearing from the IBD Team about their experience.  Please check back over the summer as we will feature blogs written by our student teams.  We leave you with the last thought from Chelsea Harris, the IBD Team Lead, about how she feels about the partnership with YGA.

IBD Teams United – The 2017 Full Time MBA IBD Program “Big Reveal”

017 Full Time MBA IBD Program “Big Reveal” Day

Finally, the wait is over!

The Spring 2017 IBD program Team Leads, faculty, and staff don’t have to stay quiet any longer.  The IBD “Big Reveal” event took place on March 2nd when each Team Lead welcomed their respective Team Members with a short two-minute video on their client, their industry, and their overview on what the team has been tasked to solve.  Team Leads also included information about their project destination and what they might experience while living and working for three weeks in-country.  Finally, Team Leads presented their four new Team Members with a small gift that represented something about their project country or client.

Said one Team Member of the experience, “The IBD reveal day was a lot of fun. (Team) Leads did a great job staying silent until the day of so it remained a mystery, which I loved. The videos were hilarious and all of the gifts were so thoughtful.”

Team Tekes has hugs all around

Clapping, hugs and handshakes were exchanged after each IBD team was revealed.  

Another incoming IBD Team Member commented that “I loved seeing all of the fun videos and learning about all of the projects!  The local country specific gifts for team members made the reveal especially tailored and fun.  I was so excited to find out that I’d be spending my summer in Thailand, with a great group of people, working in a new industry.  It is sure to be a fun experience and I look forward to being challenged personally and professionally along the way.”

Team ARM meeting for the first time

Once the IBD project “Big Reveal” was concluded, it was time to get the newly formed groups working on a team building exercise called the Viking Attack – a longstanding IBD tradition.   Building successful team dynamics is one of the main goals of the IBD course; IBD Executive Director Kristi Raube often describes IBD as “teamwork on steroids.”  Although there are many courses at Berkeley-Haas in which MBA students work in teams, there isn’t one quite like IBD in which students end up spending three weeks together outside the US working on a consulting engagement.  As Kristi Raube put it, “we really emphasize teamwork, as students will need to rely on each other in-country.  International work is all about being flexible and being able to handle unpredictable and difficult situations.”  

YGA Team Lead giving her new Team Members yummy baklava

Over the next seven weeks leading up to the departure to their respective project countries, IBD teams will work to gather more insights from their clients, conduct extensive research, and tackle the problems they have been tasked to solve.  At the same time, Kristi Raube and the IBD Faculty Mentors will work with the students on IBD course goals like developing consulting skills and techniques, communication and storytelling skills, and understanding cultural dynamics.   As Faculty Mentor Judy Hopelain observed at this point in the course, “My teams are excited, revved up, and they know what they are doing.”  

Team G-Hub

Tune in next month when we check back with the IBD teams on their progress, and we learn how ready they are to head out on their international adventures.  

To see all the photos from the Spring 2017 IBD Program “Big Reveal”, click here.

Team ElectroMech


2017 Full-Time IBD Clients

If you have been following our IBD newsletter over the last few months, you may have noticed that we have shared a lot of information about the IBD course, the processes we go through to select IBD Team Leads, and how we assign Team Members to projects.  So far we have introduced you to our talented IBD Team Leads and two of our IBD Faculty Mentors.  We are very proud of the IBD course, including our hard-working MBA faculty and students and what they bring to the program, but we haven’t yet shared with you information about one of the most important aspects of the IBD program: our clients.  Without our valuable clients, the IBD course and the opportunities it affords to Berkeley-Haas MBA students wouldn’t exist.

The first IBD program took place in 1992 with 15 participating MBA students.  Since then IBD has worked with over 450 clients in 89 countries.  Clients are introduced to IBD through a myriad of channels.  IBD Executive Director Kristi Raube and Director of Business Development David Richardson spend countless hours talking with prospective IBD clients and traveling to far-flung destinations to pitch the IBD experience.  Berkeley-Haas and UC Berkeley alumni are also a huge part of the process of IBD project development.  They act as local ambassadors for our work, helping IBD staff develop and refine a variety of challenging consulting projects worldwide.

Over the many years of its existence, the IBD program has partnered with governments, NGOs, 
nonprofits, social enterprises, entrepreneurs, and companies of all sizes and industries.  This year, for example, the Spring 2017 IBD program includes eleven for-profit clients and five nonprofit clients in eleven different industries.  To conclude work on their respective IBD projects, our MBA students will end up traveling to Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America.

We are currently partnering with three returning clients from the Spring 2016 IBD program.  Nine of our Spring 2017 IBD projects boast a valuable Berkeley-Haas or UC Berkeley alumni connection; four of these have an alum currently working in the organization.  No matter how this year’s 16 remarkable client organizations came to be a part of the Spring 2017 IBD course, we are honored and grateful to work with all of them.

Updates from IBD London

FTMBA students Songwoo Kang, David Liang, Akira Matsuzawa, Lev Pogosov and Karl Brenner Román are currently in London, England, working on an International Business Development (IBD) project with IMImobile.

Our team was focused on the task at hand and listening intently to every word being spoken to us by the subject matter expert. This was the moment we had been waiting for and were making sure we were fully prepared before making our opinion known. Finally came the moment of truth as we finally sampled the expensive product in front of us.

“Wow, this whisky is amazing.”

And that is the story of how we tasted a 35-year-old whisky (older than any of us!) valued at £500 per bottle.


Selection of Scotch whisky that we sampled.

Let me back up. Prior to beginning our project in London, our team spent 4 nights exploring all that neighboring Scotland had to offer. We started in the city of Edinburgh and road tripped through the northern Scottish Highlands. We even spent a few hours observing intently for any activity at Loch Ness.


Enjoying a lakeside dram of whisky in the Scottish Highlands on a rare sunny day.


Team photo in front of Dunnottar Castle on the east coast of Scotland.

Meet IMImobile


Sadly, our team of Berkeley Haas MBA students wasn’t asked to travel to Europe to simply enjoy the sites and sample Scotch whisky. We also had the important task of helping our client, IMImobile, develop go-to-market strategies for two industry verticals.

IMImobile is a company with a history in technology and began as a business for developing structural engineering software for the design of telco and power transmission towers. It was originally founded in 1997 as Information Management India Software (IMISoft). In the mid 2000s, IMImobile aggressively expanded its businesses and made several acquisitions, backed by prominent VCs such as Sequoia and Firstmark. Today, IMImobile is continuing to expand and has been listed on the UK stock market as of 2014.


Our IBD team discussing the best way for IMImobile to enter a new vertical in a breakout meeting.

A day in the life at IMImobile was similar to a typical 9-6 job. The company had an open seating set up similar to a Silicon Valley start-up minus the severe lack of Apple products. Fortunately, we were seated right next to sales & marketing and product teams so we were able to set up meetings with key stakeholders fairly easily.

Our work consisted of working closely with stakeholders and account managers on the front lines to build out use cases they could implement in their sales pitches. We conducted almost a dozen internal as well as external interviews, targeted our newly forming Haas Alumni network to find connections in the travel industry, and leveraged the extensive Haas business library resources to gain a deep understanding of the market. Songwoo also championed us to victory with Bain & Co. inspired slides complete with Harvey balls, 2×2 matrices and “low hanging fruit.”


Hard at Work in the office.


Hard at work at a company social on a rare sunny day in London.

Exploring London

We couldn’t live in London without exploring the local sites and customs. During our evenings after work, we immersed ourselves into the London culture by enjoying the pub culture, museums, and even catching a play from ‘ol Billy Shakes’. Another thing that can’t be missed is the local cuisine. The UK often gets a bad reputation for food, but we thoroughly enjoyed our meals of fish & chips, bangers & mash, meat pies, and late night doner kebabs.


Soaking in some culture by watching ‘Taming of the Shrew’ at the Globe Theatre.


There was a very steep learning curve at the client, but no hurdle was too high to climb


While visiting Stonehenge, we took time to appreciate the sights and observe the local wildlife


Making friends with the locals was a high priority. Some bonds will never be broken.

Our Takeaways

At the end of the day, this trip was about delivering quality advice to our client. We spent countless hours researching, presenting our drafts to the stakeholders and pivoting our findings in order to provide them with the highest value deliverable this side of the Mississippi. On our last day at the client, we delivered two presentations for the client’s management. Both of the meetings were attended by the CEO with our proposed journeys and go-to-market strategies being very well received. One of our team members even received a soft internship offer for the summer.

We all entered the project with hopes of learning how to become better consultants, to improve our presentation skills, and gain experience working internationally. What surprised us the most was how different working styles were for a culture that is so similar to ours. In our short time, we gained a solid understanding of the multi-channel mobile communications industry, immersed ourselves in UK (and Indian) culture, and made some great friends and connections with the IMImobile team from both London and Hyderabad!


The team presented our project counterpart  and Haas alum, Sudarshan Dharmapuri, with his very own Haas flag that we can proudly fly on his boat. (Boat purchase pending)


Team giving the final presentation to the IMImobile leadership.


We even coordinated our outfits for the final presentation to achieve perfect synergy and symmetry with the client.


Hallo Jumbo! The Future of Dutch Supermarkets

FTMBA students Shipra Agarwal, Scarlett Li, Joan Mao, Shantanu Mittal, and Matt Mueller traveled to Veghel, Netherlands, to work on an International Business Development (IBD) project.

We have had a fantastic time so far on our trip to the Netherlands for IBD. On our first weekend in country, we met up with 30 other Haasies who were in Amsterdam for a course on Design Thinking. It was also the birthday of one of our Dutch classmates. Needless to say, we had a really fantastic amount of fun.

Amsterdam Canal Tour copy

Our Project

Due to our client’s NDA, I can’t share much of the details of our project. What we can share is that we are working on a long-term strategic proposal related to how they best serve their customers. The work experience so far has been very informative. During our first week, we visited more than 20 grocery stores to observe key differences with the US market and interviewed a large set of customers on their habits and motivations. We were really surprised by the number of differences in something so simple as grocery shopping and how much a solution would need to be tailored to each individual market.

Team Jumbo at a Supermarket copy.png

In addition to our visits and interviews, we have met with a number of key stakeholders in our project across the company. Everyone has been nice and genuinely interested in learning what we are working on, and how they can help. It has been great to have the support needed to deliver on our project and provide real value to the client.

Outside Jumbo headquarters copy.png

Finally, we had the chance to lead multiple consumer focus groups to test out proposals. It was a great experience to interview and lead a discussion for a large group of Dutch consumers. We also received valuable feedback on our work and got a new perspective on how our ideas stand up to a different culture. We are now working hard to summarize our work and present two concrete solutions to Jumbo that address the initial problem presented to us.

Working before the presentation copy.png

Culture and Country

Enough about work. Traveling to the Netherlands has given us a fantastic base to explore the country and Europe in general. As we mentioned above, we spent our first weekend in the Netherlands in Amsterdam with a big group of Haasies exploring everything the city had to offer. We saw a great set of museums (highly recommend Van Gogh), toured the canals and celebrated our classmate’s birthday in traditional Dutch fashion. One of our best memories was grabbing food from the local grocery store and sitting down in Vondelpark on a nice sunny day to watch the crowds. During our second week on IBD, we spent a memorable evening in the city of Rotterdam. We had the chance to go to a 500-foot observation tower and got a view of one of the largest ports in the world.

Rotterdam_1 copy.png

Rotterdam_2 copy.png

While in Rotterdam, we also had one of the best dinners on the trip. The meal was a 10 course rampage through everything Indonesian. We all left happy and full for our drive home to Veghel that night.

Indonesian Food copy.png

Finally, our group split up and spent last weekend in both Prague and Berlin. In Prague we walked around the entire city, saw a thousand-year-old church and ate a large quantity of pork knuckle. The weather was fantastic, and it was a great chance to explore the fairytale like city. In Berlin, Shipra visited her cousin, and walked along the Berlin Wall and visited the famous Brandenburg gate.

Prague copy.png

That is about all we have to say at this point. We are finishing up our final deliverable now and getting ready to head back to the US. Thanks for taking the time to read about our experience!

Updates from IBD Hungary – Team National Toll Payment Services of Hungary

Working to Bring Hungarian Road Tolling to the USA

In the summer of 2015 our Haas IBD team (Mayank Gupta, Jason Silver, Udayan Naik, and Andy (Xi) Chen) spent two weeks in Budapest, Hungary.  Our task was to develop an actionable US market entry strategy for the National Toll Payment Services of Hungary.  Our client developed, owned, and operated the entire Hungarian toll system for private and commercial vehicles.  They knew there was huge potential in the US market, but they did not know where to begin when it came to potential projects and contacts.

Our team donned safety vests and went on site to see mobile toll enforcement in action!  From left to right: Xi “Andy” Chen, Udayan Naik, Jason Silver, Mayank Gupta

Our team donned safety vests and went on site to see mobile toll enforcement in action! From left to right: Xi “Andy” Chen, Udayan Naik, Jason Silver, Mayank Gupta

Over the six weeks in Berkeley, our team worked extensively to learn about the Hungarian toll system as well as the US tolling market.  This was entirely new territory for this team of silicon valley engineers and was a daunting task.  In fact, the biggest challenge initially was scoping the project.  The team quickly found that trying to wrap our head around this topic without expert help would be impossible.

As the trip approached we made key contacts in academia, industry and government agencies.  These were essential to our final solution and taught us a valuable lesson.  People are willing to help out total strangers more than you might realize, and these discoveries might mean the difference between a dead end and amazing insights.

The central control room.  Andy really enjoyed the multiple monitor display that filled the entire wall.

The central control room. Andy really enjoyed the multiple monitor display that filled the entire wall.

Ultimately we delivered a solution that the client deemed “better than he expected”, that was “very professional”, and which was created through “impressive teamwork”.  We hope that with our recommendations and by connecting our client to key experts, this will be the first step in their successful entry into the US market.

The war room!  This is where all the magic happened over the two weeks.  Synthesizing the knowledge we gained in country with the methods learned at Haas to create an action plan for the client.

The war room! This is where all the magic happened over the two weeks. Synthesizing the knowledge we gained in country with the methods learned at Haas to create an action plan for the client.

Final presentation day!  From left to right: Mayank Gupta, Udayan Naik, Jason Silver, Xi “Andy” Chen

Final presentation day! From left to right: Mayank Gupta, Udayan Naik, Jason Silver, Xi “Andy” Chen

While the work was the reason we came to Budapest, do not be mistaken that we did not enjoy the city as well.  Budapest is a beautiful, vibrant city full of welcoming locals.  Our client treated us better than we ever could have hoped for.  The pictures below show just some of our on site visits…and oh the gigantic two hour lunches.  These were of course some of the most rewarding experiences as we exchanged insights on our relative cultures over delicious food and often great beer and wine!

The lunches and dinners with our client were lengthy and delicious affairs.  They gave us an opportunity only to not discuss business, but even more importantly, to bond as friends and learn about Hungarian culture.

The lunches and dinners with our client were lengthy and delicious affairs. They gave us an opportunity only to not discuss business, but even more importantly, to bond as friends and learn about Hungarian culture.

Our first dinner with Zoltan and Tibor at a traditional Hungarian restaurant on the Buda side of Budapest.

Our first dinner with Zoltan and Tibor at a traditional Hungarian restaurant on the Buda side of Budapest.


Updates from IBD United Kingdom – Team RIU

IBD London: A Developed Country assignment doesn’t protect you from uncertainty, chaos, and self transformation

EWMBA students Arun Arunagiri, Ben Kagonyera, Sharon Kam, and Pavithra Krishna spent two weeks researching the feasibility of a startup budget hotel investment in Central London for a group of investors.

Hi!  We’re team RIU — an enthusiastic bunch hailing from the US, India, and Uganda!

Brainstorming in country, from L-R: Pavi, Sharon, Ben, & Arun. T-E-A-M spells TEAM :D

Brainstorming in country, from L-R: Pavi, Sharon, Ben, & Arun. T-E-A-M spells TEAM 😀

We’re a diverse team who had never met each other prior to the IBD course, but working together came very smoothly almost immediately since we all had the same goals in mind — to work together harmoniously and to do the best job for our client.  We also were brought together by the fact that we knew that the most valuable asset from this class would be the insights and perspectives from each other.

In our super tiny hotel elevator!  It’s amazing we had enough space to take a #selfie!

In our super tiny hotel elevator! It’s amazing we had enough space to take a #selfie!

Getting to know each other and the client was pretty easy — we sought to help our client develop a business plan to enter the budget hotel market in Central London.  In reviewing the research, though, we were overwhelmed with the amount of information and the depth of our ignorance — ARR / RevPar / ADR — what were all these terms and, more importantly, how could we master our knowledge to bring something thoughtful and meaningful to our clients?

Day of arrival presentation & Hypothesis pivot

Meeting up with our clients after work in one of London’s few “al fresco” patios

Meeting up with our clients after work in one of London’s few “al fresco” patios

What a pleasure it was to meet our clients in person!  For the first full comprehensive presentation of our initial findings, our client set up a meeting with several of his contacts, including a hedge fund investor and the Head of Business Development for Four Seasons Europe.  Given our position in Silicon Valley and our preliminary research, we were able to provide some insightful commentary on the impact of the shared economy and potential impact of AirBnb.  Our core studies helped determine and analyze key metrics to focus on with regard to supply and demand metrics and how it would impact the potential markets for hotels and hospitality.

Our financial analysis of the current business model, however, remained unclear.  Given the high prices of real estate in London, would our client be able to overcome the required hurdle rates for them and their investors?

Pics or it didn’t happen!  Photos of our team with industry thought leaders in the hotel & hospitality industries

Pics or it didn’t happen! Photos of our team with industry thought leaders in the hotel & hospitality industries

Our first conversations in a pub in central London would shape the research in the ensuing days, which included touring dozens of hotel rooms in targeted areas and interviewing hotel managers, owners, research analysts and industry experts.  Our days of research and interviewing were intense, exhausting, as well as exhilarating — we were able to meet and interview and learn from a variety of perspectives and personalities amongst one of the most diverse cities in the world.

A collage of but a few of the many hotels we investigated in our research of London hotelling

A collage of but a few of the many hotels we investigated in our research of London hotelling

But in tandem with our research was the opportunity to learn more about London as tourists — for three of us it was the first time venturing into Europe!  We got to partake in cultural events such as watching the sunset from the London Eye, enjoying high tea, and enjoying some of the best chicken we’d had in a city notorious for the lack of food options.

What a view!  Beautiful sunset panoramas from the London Eye

What a view! Beautiful sunset panoramas from the London Eye

There’s no business like High tea business @ Sketch all you can eat & drink!

There’s no business like High tea business @ Sketch all you can eat & drink!

At the end of our research, at day 9, we’d finally come to some difficult, but conclusive insights.  First and foremost, the London market would not sustain profits necessary to attract investors and necessary returns for the proposed budget hotel model.  While the term “pivoting” on an original idea is one that is thrown around pretty often in Silicon Valley, it presented an intimidating challenge halfway through our in-country experience.  Feeling somewhat deflated, many questions circled our team at this tenuous juncture: how could we pivot in a way that could reframe the proposal into one that would work for our client?  Given this initial setback, could we reconcile what we’d done out of country to the expectations in country?  In light of time that was passing faster and faster, how could we help the client get the most of our time?  Getting to know the clients better and seeing them not just as clients, but as real people who we wanted to help only increased the sense of urgency of the task at hand.

The remaining days we saw our directives and work change as a team to meet the uncertainty of the work before us.  We learned to fully trust and depend on each other.  We learned to recognize that obstacles were inevitable, but that together we could work through them.  Most importantly, we learned that we could come together as a team more strongly than we could produce individually.

The final presentation


It took days of additional research, late nights, and a relentless search for truth, (which harked back to the initial “Viking” experiment we had in class, which implored us to focus not on all information, but rather the most pertinent information).  We presented in front of our clients and a leading industry analyst in the hotel and hospitality space on our final insight findings and how the client could re-approach their investments in the hospitality sector to achieve a richer return that would satisfy their initial return requirements.  This discussion led to a final reframe of approach, and we celebrated as a group at the end of our two weeks over dinner and a beautiful walk through London with our client and their families.

Farewell London -- a walk to remember :)

Farewell London — a walk to remember 🙂


Updates from IBD Hungary – Team SMark

Taking Unique Anti-Counterfeiting Technology To The Global Market

Jonathan Chen, Ryan Liu, Taylor Marcus and Kati Pease

Our team arrived to Hungary on July 5 to develop a go-to-market strategy with SMark, a Hungarian startup with a state-of-the-art anti-counterfeiting solution. Our client wanted us to be able to celebrate Independence Day, so we arrived to a barbecue complete with decorative napkins. Over the following two weeks, we continued to enjoy similar Hungarian hospitality. We were continually shown new things and treated to many great things Hungary offers while working together to develop their marketing plan.

The Haas and SMark team upon arrival

The Haas and SMark team upon arrival

Our Fourth of July BBQ in Hungary!

Our Fourth of July BBQ in Hungary!

The SMark and Haas team kicked off the first morning with a deepdive of the unique anti-counterfeiting technology in order to better understand where to focus when going to market. SMark is an irreproducible authentication solution that transparently and immediately checks authenticity. The state-of-the-art solution uses security labels and verification devices. It was helpful to meet SMark’s engineering leads in-person to dive into the product overview and discuss details.


Meeting with the SMark team to understand the technology of their product.

Meeting with the SMark team to understand the technology of their product.

Following the meeting, we took some time to visit a neighboring national park in Szilvásvárad for team bonding. We went on a hike, which included feeding deer and taking a short train ride.


Team-building hike through the park.

Team-building hike through the park.

We presented our project overview to a broad audience that included SMark employees, inventors, investors and potential investors. There was a translator for those who preferred Hungarian, so our team made efforts for our statements to be as concise and as jargon-free as possible. To permit for translation, we would pause numerous times on each slide, which ultimately felt like a welcomed opportunity to develop our own thoughts.

Presenting with a translator.

Presenting with a translator.

In order to be able to help with their go-to-market strategy, our team recognized the importance of learning more about SMark’s future customers, existing customers and partnerships. We also wanted to learn about the current startup and tech ecosystem in Hungary to better understand how to take a startup to market.

In our work at Haas, our team identified a few key industries that could adopt SMark’s technology to battle counterfeiting, and our client arranged meetings with various companies. Given anti-counterfeiting challenges in electronics and with car parts, we visited Samsung and a Hungarian car part startup. At Samsung, we were able to tour the factory where LCD TVs are made to see the assembly line and better understand the supply chain.

Which Audi car part is counterfeited?

Which Audi car part is counterfeited?

SMark’s pilot customer is a Szent Tamás, a premier winery in Hungary’s Mád region. We spent a day in Mád to learn more about the wine industry and both their historical and future challenges. It was inspiring to see Szent Tamás’s excitement about SMark’s solution and equally as exciting to see SMark’s ability to update the product based on customer feedback. And thanks to SMark’s continuous hospitality, we also had an incredible wine tasting and tour of the vineyards.


The team enjoying our experience and incredible scenery at the Szent Tamás Vineyards and Winery.

The team enjoying our experience and incredible scenery at the Szent Tamás Vineyards and Winery.

One of SMark’s partnerships is with Patria Printing House, Hungary’s oldest printing company, to print their unique labels. We learned more about the technology for the labels as well as future partnership opportunities. We also toured the printing house to see how books, documents, and, of course, labels are printed to understand the process.


Discussion and tour at Patria Printing House.

Discussion and tour at Patria Printing House.

We also met with VCs, Hungarian-based startups, and multinational tech companies to understand the business side of startups and tech companies. Each meeting reinforced how numerous brilliant inventions have originated in Hungary as well as the country’s focus on going global with their businesses.

After a week of meetings in Budapest, we arrived at the SMark offices in a renovated warehouse in Miskolc to synthesize our findings from previous meetings, tours and conversations. SMark’s office is rather similar to a Silicon Valley-based startup, complete with beanbags and a comfortable atmosphere.

The Haas team at the SMark offices, complete with beanbag chairs.

The Haas team at the SMark offices, complete with beanbag chairs.

Our team focused on how SMark can refine its pitch to potential customers and VCs to have an effective go-to-market strategy. Together we developed a one-sheeter and pitch deck that articulates SMark’s product and competitive advantages. We also shared suggestions on digital marketing and relationship management for future business development and sales/marketing opportunities. Working with SMark was an incredible experience for all of us to apply many of our learnings from Haas classes from marketing courses to supply chain management to help a startup grow its technology from an invention to a business.


Updates from IBD Finland – Team Tekes

Full-time MBA students Adrian Gomez, Anita Kotagiri, Daniel Reddin, and Andrea Soto traveled to Finland for their IBD project to work with Tekes – The Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation.

It’s 8pm and there’s no sign of the sun setting any time soon. As we hop off the plane we can feel the slight chill in the air despite it being summer. Everything is clean, simple, and impeccably designed. Welcome to Finland!

After a somewhat restless night thanks to jet lag and the four hours of twilight that constitute night at this time of year, we were anxious to meet our client for the first time. After a wholesome breakfast of omelets and traditional Finnish rye bread prepared by chef and two-day early arriver, Adrian, we set off to meet our client at Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation.

The morning with our client began, of course, with coffee. As it turns out, Finland has the highest coffee consumption per person in the world! It quickly became apparent that the next three weeks would entail constant caffeination – a fact we well appreciated following a hearty meatball lunch on that first day.


After several hours of discussion with our client on Day 1 and reaching an agreement on the scope of our project and the planned activities for the weeks ahead, we were excited about what lay ahead of us – interviews with CEOs of leading Finnish companies, meeting with the Office of the Prime Minister, mentoring participants in a clean-tech startup competition, conducting workshops with Finnish entrepreneurs and presenting to the Steering Committee, a group of extremely senior executives responsible for Tekes’ clean-tech program. It very quickly became clear to us that this project was extremely important and was truly going to have an impact in shaping Finland’s future.

After many back-to-back interviews with entrepreneurs, academics and Tekes personnel throughout the week, we were fortunate enough to have made some Finnish friends along the way. The Finnish people are incredibly warm and inclusive, willing to go out of their way to show us around and invite us into their friendship circles. They are proud of Finland.

After a demanding week the team decided to take a trip across the Baltic to Estonia, a country that, up until now, really only popped to mind when thinking about Eurovision contests. The boat ride to Tallinn was a bit tough (many people got sea sick!) but the trip was definitely worth it! We had a blast wandering the narrow streets and alleys of Tallinn’s medieval Old Town and sampling some extremely good food.


In our second week we continued to meet with Finnish entrepreneurs and innovators. We hosted “Cleantech Power Morning” with a number of influential players in the space. Taking advantage of having these 25 people in one room, we ran a number of exercises and administered a short survey in order to test and validate our emerging hypotheses about cleantech and the innovation ecosystem in Finland.

Following the session, our client was excited to finally take us to what he constantly referred to (especially when around Helsinki natives) as “the cultural capital of Finland”, his home-town of Turku. We took this opportunity to meet with the CEO of Clewer, a water recycling firm, and the leaders of the Future Studies department at the University of Turku’s School of Economics (the “Haas of Finland”, as our client called it). We capped of the day with a wonderful dinner and a quick walk around the town before jumping on a bus back to Helsinki.



Being so close, we knew that we could not return home without making a trip to Russia! We boarded an overnight cruise ship for St Petersburg, excited for a weekend of new experiences. This city was incredible. As a previous capital of Russia, it had strong economic and social capital in the 19th and 20th centuries. As such, their citizens built incredible architecture with strong European influence. We had a great time exploring the beautiful city and even took in an opera at the world-famous Mariinsky Theatre.



Returning to Helsinki for our third and final week, we were excited about our progress so far but expectant about the deliverables that would soon be due. during this week we had the privilege of visiting with one of the leaders of the Prime Minister’s innovation initiative. She provided us with high level information and confirmations of the government’s goals for the Finnish innovation ecosystem.

More than twenty five interviews later, the moment of truth was growing near. Having gathering tons of information over the past sever days, it was time to start pulling it all together to form our proposal and recommendations for how to spur on cleantech innovation in Finland.  Our team set off to the task of completing the final draft of a 90 page report for the client and a final presentation to the Steering Committee.

Our presentations throughout our time in Finland were filled with engaging discussions and our final presentation was no exception. We were further motivated in our work with Tekes by the confirmation of how important our findings would be to the organization. After one final session of business card exchanges and handshakes we conducted our final meeting with our client.


Being our last week in country, we wanted to make sure we did not leave without experiencing more of the culture. Our team took a traditional Finnish sauna, complete with a dip in the chilly Baltic Sea, and went out with Finnish friends to watch the sunset from the top of Helsinki’s tallest building. We also took the chance to visit the medieval Finnish town of Pörvöö, half an  hour away from Helsinki. There we enjoyed a laid back afternoon strolling around the town, visiting a cathedral from the 1200’s and buying Salmiakki, the traditional Finnish candy made from licorice root (an acquired taste, for sure).

Once back in Helsinki, our team prepared for departure from this place which had exceeded our expectations. With luggage carrying at least ten collective pounds of Finnish rye bread and chocolate wafer sweets, we departed our hotel for our next destination.

Our IBD project and our Tekes client made for an unforgettable time in an unexpected place.

Updates from IBD Turkey – Team Indofood

FTMBA students Chris Dulgarian, Joy Henderson, Mijin Sim, and Akshay Yadav traveled to Turkey to complete their Spring 2015 IBD project with Indofood, the world’s largest producer of instant noodles.

Our excitement knew no bounds when we found out who our IBD client was – the world’s largest instant noodle manufacturer, Indofood (brand of noodles is Indomie)! Much to our surprise though, Indofood was facing some hurdles introducing instant noodles to Turkey.

The challenge seemed delicious, but the only problem was that our visit was 4 months after the semester started. Going beyond ourselves as usual, our team valiantly started soaking in the Turkish experience while we were at Berkeley itself, paying visits to yummy Turkish restaurants and reaching out to the Turkish community for insights.

Team Turkey at a Turkish restaurant on Shattuck Ave in Berkeley

Team Turkey at a Turkish restaurant on Shattuck Ave in Berkeley

Soon we realized why Turkey was an uphill challenge for Indomie. Not only was the Turkish food delicious, it was also relatively inexpensive and Turkish people were extremely fond of the diversity of the cuisine available to them. Meals typically had many courses, and the cooks in the house were proud of their elaborate food preparations.

A mini version of the Turkish spread

A mini version of the Turkish spread

When the team arrived in Turkey, we set about talking to as many locals as we could to get a better perspective of the target customers of Indomie. While some families kindly hosted us in their homes, we met other target customers such as youngsters in universities and coffee shops for focused group discussions and noodle tasting sessions.

Focus group discussions with locals

Focus group discussions with locals

As we expected, many people instantly fell in love with the taste of noodles. However, there were some concerns ranging from healthiness to awareness and packaging, factors that were potentially keeping customers from buying noodles. The Turkish passion for fresh food and local ingredients was unambiguous and very impressive. The bulk of the local population bought their provisions from bi-weekly organic food bazaars, where one could find an extensive variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and spices.

Visiting a food bazaar in Instanbul

Visiting a food bazaar in Instanbul

To gain more insights on customers’ buying habits and concerns, we gathered as much data as we could through ethnographic interviews, surveys and focused group discussions. The team realized that the two biggest bottlenecks in the sales of Indomie noodles were the lack of awareness about the product and perception of noodles as an alien food.

Even though Indomie had been in Turkey for 5 years, they had not invested in marketing their product, and this resulted in very sparse awareness of the noodles. Even when people knew about them, they would hesitate to buy the pack owing to the packaging and perception of flavor of the noodles. The most popular flavors are Eggplant, Beef, Tomato and Yogurt, and a combination of any of these seem to set off hunger bells for any Turkish person. These factors put together yielded in low sales of noodles.

The team ended up giving multiple suggestions for improving sales such as localizing flavors, introducing larger packs etc., all of which fell under one of the 4 P’s of marketing – Product, Price, Placement or Promotions. The suggestions were welcomed by the management, and they reassured the team that their own findings were on similar lines too.

Chris with his recommendation on using brand ambassadors for advertising

Chris with his recommendation on using brand ambassadors for advertising

With the final presentation delivered to the customer, the team had some free time to explore the beautiful and conveniently located country. We managed to squeeze in a few trips to different destinations in Turkey and Egypt, which were all affordable and close to Istanbul. The most memorable trip was to Cairo, where the entire team got to visit the pyramids for the first time!

The IBD Turkey team in Egypt

The IBD Turkey team in Egypt

Overall, the IBD trek was a real success, and the team learned significant facts about challenges in running the instant noodles business, especially in a nascent market. Meeting the beautiful people of Turkey and seeing breathtaking sights over the country were just the icing on the cake!

So if you go to Turkey and see Tomato and Yogurt noodles on a shelf in a supermarket, remember that the Haas IBD team of 2015 probably had something to do with it. Elveda Turkey!

Elveda (goodbye) Turkey -- the team with our client representatives, Yusuf and Diaa

Elveda (goodbye) Turkey — the team with our client representatives, Yusuf and Diaa