Berkeley Haas Student Founders Crushing COVID-19

Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP) Executive Director Rhonda Shrader used a recent panel to highlight how Haasies are inspiring and impacting the world during COVID-19.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding and Haas’ Institute for Business Innovation, panelists shared examples of solutions from past and present. Shrader detailed how BHEP is using a focus on the fundamentals, including finding customers’ must-have-right-now products to guide both the creation of new ventures and pivots for existing ones.

A prime example is how the UC LAUNCH Accelerator student team pivoted over the course of four days last March to bring a 100+ person hackathon-style event online.

For two teams, the event was particularly well-timed. Dispatch Goods had been scheduled to start a major pilot in San Francisco for their “more taste-y, less waste-y” reusable takeout containers. Ditto for Canbiance–their CBD-infused boba pilot at USC was scheduled to start right as campuses across the state shut down.

The two teams used the LAUNCHathon weekend to pivot to their customers’ must-have-right-now product–hand sanitizer. By the end of the weekend, Canbiance had set up a Shopify site and sold hundreds of dollars in CBD infused hand sanitizer.

Likewise, Dispatch Goods collected hundreds of empty spray bottles for sanitizing in their dishwashing facilities and partnered with a distillery to distribute hand sanitizer to care homes as well as other facilities in need.

LAUNCH alums Chloe Alpert (Medinas Health) and Liz Klinger (Lioness) used their experience as CEOs to build a platform matching front line healthcare workers with free N95 masks that people had in their homes. Since March, MaskMatch has facilitated the matching of 820,000 masks.

Another problem faced by healthcare workers in March was deploying to hot spots. Kyte, a car rental delivery service co-founded by Ludwig Schoenack (MBA 19) offered free rentals for frontline healthcare workers and first responders.

Since March, teams have turned their focus to longer-term solutions for remote work as well as the after-effects of COVID itself. Sike Insights, a LAUNCH 20 team of UCLA undergrads, has developed a tool to improve communication for remote teams. Likewise, Olayinka Omolere (MBA 21) has launched Seren, to replicate spontaneous, water-cooler conversations. Chinmay Milaviya (MBA 18) co-founded Ridepanda, after seeing an increase in friends trading in cars for micro mobility solutions and not having a trusted source for information. Leveraging his experience at Lime, Chinmay’s goal is to be the “NerdWallet of micro mobility”.

Finally, National NSF I-Corps team Aila Health is using its precision, at-home healthcare platform to address the needs of “long haulers”, patients experiencing symptoms after recovering from COVID-19. Founded by Rory Stanton (MBA 20), Aila Health was originally created to address other chronic conditions, but has evolved as the population of long haulers continues to grow.