Student Perspectives

Student Perspective

Akonkwa Mubagwa

Akonkwa Mubagwa

MBA 21

Winko Solar

It was my dream to study here, where risks are encouraged and where they support entrepreneurship.

It was my dream to study here, where risks are encouraged and where they support entrepreneurship.

On campus, you are at the crossroads of so many disciplines. There is cross-pollination among engineers, business sectors, bioscience, law, and people from all over.

A university is a place where intellectuals should meet and hear different views, should come to think differently, and shift our paradigms. This should be a time to have an intellectual joust.

Being in the Berkeley Haas MBA program is validation. Being taught, mentored, and encouraged by successful businesspeople is a way of the universe saying this is the right thing for me.

It’s hard to achieve things alone. Doors need to be opened, connections made. Here, I am meeting people who have been through this before.

Entrepreneurs should start with a problem

As an entrepreneur, you want to launch your business on the biggest stage possible to give your business the best start.

Instead of asking ourselves what will sell, what is the demand, we looked first for the problem. Once you identify a problem, you can engineer a solution. Once you have the solution, demand will take care of itself.

Not all problems are sophisticated. With Winko Solar, we chose to tackle electrification and access to the internet in rural Africa. It’s not AI or blockchain. It’s not a social media or lifestyle platform. But electricity is something people need, and they need it as soon as possible.

Electricity not only delivers light, it brings security. In the dark, animals and snakes are menaces. You are alone and can’t contact people. Electricity means so much more in Africa than it does here.

Competitions for fun, funding, and experience

I wanted to do everything! Winko Solar earned funding from both the Haas Seed Fund and the Berkeley Impact Ventures Accelerator. In addition to the much-appreciated money, competitions let you measure yourself against others. Seeing someone who is ahead of me or has more enthusiasm, motivates me.

The judges gave great feedback about what we are doing well, where we are falling short, and how to do better.

Out in the real world, our competition track record will demonstrate our ideas and our work.

Memorable, supportive teachers

Dr. Kurt Beyer teaches Entrepreneurship in full color, linking each aspect of the class to entrepreneurs who have been at Cal, drawing on their actual experiences. We learn from the vantage point of entrepreneurs themselves.

New Venture Finance taught by Chris Puscasiu and Peter Secor takes you through how companies can be financed at every stage, what each stage means, and how those decisions are made.

Professor Yaniv Konchitchki is the kind of teacher I came to Haas to have. I do not like accounting, but he made it exciting by sharing his own experiences. Today, he is a friend, an advisor, and a mentor.

Deepak Gupta in the Career Management Group was always a phone call away. Once, an investor wanted something immediately and I called him at midnight. We spent an hour on the phone.

To hear more about Akonkwa's journey to Haas, check out his episode of the Here at Haas podcast

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