2017 MBAs To Watch: Alvaro Silberstein, U.C.-Berkeley (Haas)

Alvaro Silberstein

U.C.-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business

Age: 31

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Social entrepreneur working on projects to improve quality of life for people with disabilities

Hometown: Santiago, Chile

Fun fact about yourself: I have a German passport and I do not speak German.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile; Industrial engineering with a major in information technology. (Graduated with honors.)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

* MatrixConsulting: Management consultant

* ComparaJobs: Strategy manager

* RayaLab: Product manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? WHILL, a mobility device maker.

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be working on the startup I co-founded, Wheel the World, an organization that’s focused on outdoor adventures for people with disabilities visiting tourist destinations worldwide.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Haas Achievement Award, Conference vice president for the Latin American Business Club, Design Innovation Club, Haas Tech Club, and the Entrepreneurs Association.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I organized an expedition to Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia in December 2016, becoming the first person in a wheelchair to complete the famous “W” trek to the Torres del Paine base viewpoint. With the trek, I aimed to increase awareness of people with disabilities by showing that we are active and live life to the fullest.

Before the trek, we launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money required to buy a special wheelchair designed for navigating tough trails. We donated the $8,000 wheelchair to the park, to allow others to experience this same adventure. We also designed a guide detailing how Torres del Paine can be explored in a wheelchair. (Since my expedition, three more people have explored the park using the chair.) The North Face, Ecocamp Patagonia and Hotel Las Torres sponsored the trek, which was also covered by newspapers, television, and blogs from Chile to California.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of working on Wheel the World, eliminating barriers for people with disabilities and inspiring people to live life to the fullest.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Rob Chandra, who teaches an entrepreneurship class that inspired me to seek an entrepreneurial career. In his class, I learned about the common challenges that entrepreneurs face and the characteristics of successful ventures. I also learned how important it is to make ethical decisions as an entrepreneur.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite class was Social Lean Launchpad with Jorge Calderon. I learned about hypothesis-driven entrepreneurship, and how important is to master customer interviews and validate a hypothesis to find the optimal direction for your venture.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Haas for three reasons:

* Culture: Haas is a supportive environment. Every student represents the school’s Defining Principles, especially “Confidence without Attitude” and “Student Always.” I’m inspired every day by my classmates.

* UC Berkeley’s history of social change: I have always admired the many social movements started at UC Berkeley by students and professors, especially the disability rights movement started by Ed Roberts, the first student with a severe disability to attend UC Berkeley.

* Location: I wanted to be immersed in the tech ecosystem of Silicon Valley. I also wanted to enjoy the outdoor opportunities. For this, Haas was ideal.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Having the chance to work, learn, and collaborate with an extremely smart and diverse group of people, many who share very similar values and have incredible life and professional experiences.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? The most surprising thing was how most off my classmates have a passion for making a social impact in their future careers. That was very surprising in a positive way.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? The Defining Principles are real here at Haas. Try to internalize them and demonstrate them in everything that you do.

What is the biggest myth about your school? That everyone supports Marxism. (In reality, there are people with all sorts of politics here.)

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not many regrets. Sleep less and do more!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Nancy Cao, a classmate who has such thoughtful comments and questions in class, and the person who has provided me with the best feedback during the program. I admire her as a professional and a friend. I believe she will be a successful social entrepreneur.

I knew I wanted to go to business school…when I came to California for vacations and visited UC Berkeley. I realized I wanted to live here and business school was the next step in my professional career so I applied.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school…I would be doing a masters degree in another area.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would invite more non-MBA students to take MBA classes to increase diversity of opinions and points of view in class.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to be an impact investor in social ventures focused on innovative ways to increase environmental sustainability and social inclusion.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My family has always supported me during every situation in my life, celebrating my successes, and helping me to overcome my failures.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A good friend that they could always rely on.

Favorite book: The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Luis Zafón

Favorite movie or television show: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Favorite musical performer: Radiohead

Favorite vacation spot: Vichuquen Lake, Chile

Hobbies? Hand cycling around Berkeley, trekking, adventure travel, kayaking

What made Alvaro such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Alvaro is a natural entrepreneur and leader. I’m not only impressed by his work in my Fall 2016 Social Lean Launchpad course, but also by the activities he has undertaken, specifically his wheelchair trek to Torres del Paine Park, Patagonia last December. His ability to enroll others in these fantastic projects, including another Haas student, is a testament to his character and his drive.

He has the gravitas required to bring the right people together for the shared journey of entrepreneurship.

In my course, Alvaro and his team spent 11 weeks validating his startup Indycom’s initial business design and prototype assumptions. Indycom is focused on helping individuals with physical disabilities live more independently by having access to more effective care services. Indycom offers a matchmaking and scheduling system that directly meets the daily assistance needs of individuals with disabilities with service providers. I often see teams offer very complicated or misaligned offerings, but the simplicity of  Alvaro’s Indycom plan was refreshing and demonstrates a keen understanding of the stakeholders and the opportunity. I am excited that Alvaro is driving his team and continuing to pursue this endeavor and will have a chance to further test the concept through pilots.”

– Haas Faculty Member



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