Global Ambassador Kohtaro Yagi Talks Business and Studying Abroad

BHGAP student shares his firsthand experience studying business in Berkeley, California

My name is Kohtaro Yagi and I am a junior from Waseda University in Japan, majoring in economics. I am part of the fall 2021 cohort for the Berkeley Haas Global Access Program (BHGAP) at Berkeley Global. My program focuses on studying entrepreneurship, innovation framework and accounting.

Before Coming to Berkeley

Before coming to Berkeley, I worked for a marketing company as an intern for one year. I had the opportunity to create and manage the educational business with three other members. Although it was a great experience to learn new business practices, I was unable to assist with scaling the business. This was due to my lack of business knowledge and experiences, as well as my mindset.

At the time, this experience was the biggest setback in my life and I was disappointed in myself. However, this experience also made me realize that I need to recognize myself as an imperfect person and could use a fresh start. I needed to figure out what I wanted to be and how I wanted to grow after graduation. I tried to find a way of satisfying both and finally found it​​—studying abroad.

What brought me to BHGAP?

As criteria for choosing a study-abroad program, I focused on two things—the education level of the business department and the entrepreneurial environment within the university.

The educational level was important to me because I wanted to enhance my competence while meeting new and ambitious people.

The importance of an entrepreneurial environment on campus was so I could learn what I was capable of doing that I was unable to do at my past internship. Based on my personal criteria, I decided to apply to the Berkeley Haas Global Access Program. The program fit exactly what I was looking for as it focuses on innovation and entrepreneurship through Haas courses at University of California, Berkeley—one of the best entrepreneurship ecosystems in the world.

What am I doing at Berkeley?

I will introduce what I am doing in two parts: classes and extracurricular activities.


About Classes

I am taking 14 units: Thriving at Haas and Beyond; Opportunity Recognition in Silicon: Technology & Entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley; Introduction to EntrepreneurshipHigh Technology Marketing Management; Blockchain and the Future Technology, Business, and Law; and Intermediate Financial Accounting. From six different course perspectives, I have already learned so much from business to theory to practices. I’d like to introduce four BHGAP classes that I have been attending these last few months.


Thriving at Haas and Beyond (Core Course)

Every class has guests from the Bay Area, local Berkeley community and even Cal alumni. With guest speakers and site visits, students have a chance to learn how the Berkeley ecosystem works and how these entrepreneurs become successful. Sometimes the speaker’s topics are about their success stories while some are about the speaker’s values and principles and how their entrepreneurial journey led them to overall happiness. In this class, I am learning not only how I can enhance my experiences through the Berkeley community, but also how I should live to be successful and maximize my own happiness.


Opportunity Recognition: Technology & Entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley  (Core Course)

In this class, we do a case discussion based on readings. All lectures are related to innovation so students can learn how to structure innovation within different types of companies’ features. Theories we learn can be applied to the real world and explain the changes made by Silicon Valley’s big name companies such as Apple, Tesla and Google. This class focuses on the dynamics and structure of innovation from the theory and macro point of view.


Introduction to Entrepreneurship (Elective)

In this class, students are required to create a business as a team. Together we came up with a hypothesis then tested using customer interviews and MVP (Minimum Viable Product). We also created a website landing page and marketing video, which we will then pitch to the business to venture capitalists. Even though there are many things to finish, there is no exact answer for how to be the perfect entrepreneur. Sometimes it can be confusing to know whether I am going in the right direction. But with the well-established, customer-centric methods and project-driven assignment, I feel confident overall in our business. I am excited about this project and learning how entrepreneurship works in the real world.


High Technology Marketing Management (Elective)

This class is a collaboration of theory and simulation. The professor teaches about the marketing principles and students are able to use a marketing simulation which lasts 10 weeks. Each class is assigned a “period” of the marketing simulation and goes through each step of a business marketing timeline with the goal to show students the results of each marketing strategy.

To gain the best results, students must think about the strategy in depth based on the data and knowledge from previous classes’ lessons. With two teammates, I am coming up with strategies such as how much money is needed to put into research and development (R&D) and advertisements. We also decide how we should allocate the money to distribution channels and when we should launch new products. Even though the project can be difficult, our team is implementing the most effective strategy amongst all of the other teams!


Extracurricular Activity at Berkeley Global

I would like to dive deeper into the rest of my time here at Berkeley—starting a business and hanging out with my friends.


Starting a Business

I am excited to begin creating a business with two of my classmates and three teammates. This is supported by the Berkeley Student Entrepreneurship Program (Berkeley StEP), a 10-week startup incubator program. Our business is called MealShare, a platform where individual chefs can sell their meals to individual buyers.

To find buyers and sellers, we have been interviewing over 15 customers and organizing the Minimal Viable Product (MVP). The MVP test connects sellers and buyers directly. Each process requires deep thinking and logic for why we are doing this and what the next steps are. Each process can’t be finished with just your intuition but needs a solid, measurable hypothesis. Even though it is quite difficult for me, it gives me many experiences and has taught me a lot about entrepreneurship through business and teamwork.

Our goal is to do a Venture Capital (VC) pitch in November. We hope to get acceptance from accelerator programs in January and raise funds from venture capitalists in April. It is important we work hard as a team to become successful. This project is both very exciting and difficult, but I am eager to keep learning to make MealShare even better.

To Future BHGAP Students

BHGAP is not a program where you are forced to do a lot of assignments and bookwork. It’s a program where the students have flexibility. If you need to relax, you can. If you want to commit to the class assignments or attend extracurricular activities, you can. Whichever you choose, it’s great if you are satisfied with your work.

However, it’s very difficult to choose what you will not regret without a strong purpose and passion. With a strong purpose and passion, you can do whatever you want. Time flies much faster than I thought here at Berkeley Global. To maximize the precious time in BHGAP, it’s helpful to think about what your purpose is and cultivate your passion. I hope your time abroad will be nothing but successful. Go Bears!