The Power of the Haas Alumni Network
Racing into Entrepreneurship
Steve Herrick, BS 60
Principal, The Herrick Fund and Continental Capital Corp.
Steve Herrick worked as an industrial engineer after graduating from Haas in 1960. But in his spare time he liked to race Porsches, a hobby that eventually grew into the first American company specializing in Japanese auto parts.
He built the business until 1985, when he sold it and began a career in venture capital. Separately he started the Herrick Fund, a foundation to benefit education at Cal and Stanford. He realized that his Japanese connections provided an opportunity for business professors to learn more about the then-soaring Japanese economy. Herrick began organizing trips to Japan, where faculty met with Japanese business leaders.
Several years later he founded the Haas Academic Research Foundation to benefit the Haas School. In need of a chief financial officer, he searched the Haas Alumni Network and hired Karisa Chin, BS 85. "Karisa makes life easy. You give her an assignment and know it's going to be done accurately and early," says Herrick.
The foundation aided Haas until it closed in 2009, but Chin continues to work on the still-active Herrick Fund, which just last year gave $35,000 to the UC Berkeley Skydeck Accelerator (see page 8 for more on Skydeck).
Skydeck's cross-disciplinary approach to entrepreneurship is one major reason why Herrick is supporting the startup accelerator, a collaboration that includes Haas and the College of Engineering. "I think the need for business and engineering to work together to create a successful company is paramount," says Herrick.
Herrick should know: He currently runs Continental Capital Corp., a venture capital firm in Menlo Park that has funded such companies as E*TRADE and Granite Computer Products (a Cal startup).
"I like working with people in startups," he says. "It's great when they really hit something and you see them multiplying in size." --Mandy Erickson
Karisa Chin, BS 85
Co-founder and Partner, Devereaux, Kuhner & Chin
Karisa Chin, BS 85, founded her own accounting firm partly to indulge her love of working with startup companies. "It's exciting to watch them grow and succeed," she says. "You grow together."
Chin had been working as a partner at Eichstaedt & Devereaux in San Francisco and Menlo Park for five years when the firm decided to focus exclusively on the higher-end market. "Working with startups didn't fit into that, " Chin says. So she and two other partners left the firm to form Devereaux, Kuhner & Chin in 2010, with offices in San Francisco and Menlo Park.
Most of their clients moved with them, including Steve Herrick, BS 60, who found Chin back in 2002 through the Haas Alumni Network. "A love of working with startups is something we share," Chin says of Herrick.
Chin's biggest client is an entrepreneur who started his own firm--evidence that startups and higher-end clients are not necessarily mutually exclusive, Chin notes. "Startups can grow into the higher-end market, or higher-end clients can start their own companies," she says. "There is a lot of satisfaction in helping and advising clients as they become successful."
Chin also has enjoyed sharing her expertise with Haas, including participating in a panel discussion in Professor Emeritus Alan Cerf's tax accounting course. "His class was what got me interested in becoming a tax accountant in the first place," says Chin.
She credits Herrick, meanwhile, with helping her deepen her connections to Haas. "I had always thought it would be nice to help out Haas more than the annual contributions I made, but I didn't know how to go about it," Chin says. "Steve pulled me into some alumni events and led me to become more involved." --Mandy Erickson