Newly launched seed fund aids Berkeley Haas student startups
Shahidah Abdul Rashid and Howard O, MBA 17s, co-created D!, an app providing a mobile solution for dining out with diabetes. D! received a $5,000 grant from the Dean’s Startup Seed Fund, powered by the Haas Fund.
Shahidah Abdul Rashid, MBA 17, knows how difficult diabetes can be. Her father has struggled with modifying his lifestyle to manage the disease and has suffered serious health complications. So she was especially motivated to co-design a mobile solution for diabetics to use when dining out. Abdul Rashid joined forces with Howard O, MBA 17, and three fellow Berkeley students.
The app, called D!, assists Type 2 diabetes patients by proactively providing diabetic-friendly meal options at restaurants—based on a diabetes index they are developing.
The concept is sprouting thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Dean’s Startup Seed Fund. The $100,000 fund, announced last October, provides grants to early stage startup teams that include Berkeley Haas students. D! was among the first 10 recipients, awarded in December, which also included a wearable hand sanitizer, a platform for connecting consumers with farmers and food producers, and a mobile app that empowers moms in India’s slum communities to deliver early literacy experiences to their kids. Ten more grants were distributed in April.
Abdul Rashid says she and her teammates are using the money for prototyping and testing. “Our idea, from conception to where we are now with seed funding, would not exist if Haas did not have such an innovative mindset in the classroom and beyond,” she says. “I have nothing but confidence as we move from innovation to entrepreneurship that we will be supported by the Berkeley network.”
Another grant recipient, Saharnaz Safari, MBA/MPH 16, co-founded team Clima after witnessing parched farmland on a drive through California. Safari and Sohrab Haghighat, an aerospace engineer, discussed affordable, practical solutions that could be created using drones to help farmers. Clima aims to use fleets of drones to create rain and snow in drought-ridden areas.
“The fund has been very important in helping us build a minimum viable product,” said Safari, who plans to continue working on the startup after graduation. “It also paves the path to receive additional funding.” The grants are part of a larger effort by Berkeley Haas to strengthen entrepreneurship support for all of its students.
“Our student entrepreneurs are already thriving within the Berkeley Haas and Bay Area startup ecosystem,” says Dean Rich Lyons, BS 82. “This new effort will continue to build on and expand that success, creating a new generation of leaders who will be mixing with alumni and giving back to the entrepreneurial ecosystem.” Berkeley Haas will integrate entrepreneurial thinking throughout the student experience by pooling a variety of Haas resources under a new umbrella organization called the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP).
Rhonda Shrader, MBA 96, will oversee all student-related services within BHEP. “We’re improving and redefining how we engage with the entrepreneurial needs of our students,” Shrader says. “Through BHEP, we will continue to support students who are interested in entrepreneurial goals that range from participating in their first hackathon to accelerating a startup to seed funding.” —Charles Cooper