Your Haas Network
Marcos Kulka Kuperman, MBA 01
Soon after earning his degree from Haas, Marcos Kulka Kuperman, MBA 01, began what would seem to be an ideal job for a recent MBA graduate from Chile: a position at Visa International managing strategic commercial alliances for Latin America. But two short years later, Kulka left Visa in Miami to return to his native country.
"When you're in the US as a foreigner, you always have the urge to return home and develop value for your country," says Kulka. "Plus, you also get interesting opportunities: To be a CEO at 35 is not that common."
But that uncommon position is exactly where Kulka has landed, as CEO of Fundación Chile, a 32-year-old foundation funded by Chile's national government; ITT Corp., a high-tech engineering and manufacturing company in Atlanta; and BHP Billiton, an Australian mining and oil industry giant. Part venture capital firm, part business incubator, and part technology developer, Fundación Chile launches and builds technology-based businesses.
The opportunity to create businesses – Kulka's professional goal – convinced him to leave Visa for Fundación Chile in 2003. Kulka began by overseeing business development, providing business design and contract know-how to startups like Oleotop, a $20 million-a-year supplier of rapeseed oil (a fish food) to the salmon industry. And he negotiated licensing agreements with Swiss biotech firm Novartis for a salmon vaccine co-developed by Fundación Chile.
"In large companies, business development happens over a really long term, ten years," says Kulka. "But the foundation puts out three or four businesses a year."
Kulka jumped to the corner office in early 2006, when the foundation's CEO became Chile's minister of public works and its president became CEO of the CODELCO mining company. Headhunters hired by the foundation's new president quickly realized that Kulka knew Fundación's business better than anyone. In a June article for El Mercurio, Chile's largest newspaper, a top headhunter in Chile named Kulka one of Chile's top seven young CEOs.
Before Haas, Kulka received a degree in commercial engineering at Chile's Catholic University and went on to work at CB Financial Group and CMPC, a Chilean paper products company. For Kulka, Haas was the right stepping stone from finance and marketing to high-tech.
"To develop new businesses, beyond having the personality, you need a background in finance, marketing, and negotiations. That's what I strengthened at Haas," Kulka notes. Plus, he adds, "Haas was very oriented toward technological innovation."
That combination has made Kulka a generalist. And, he says, "Being a generalist has helped me to handle everything from renewable energy to vaccine development."