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IE Student Startup Wins 2nd Place in Berkeley Haas Competition

IE Student Startup Wins 2nd Place in Berkeley Haas Competition

IMBA students pitch startup that tackles exclusion in travel inspired by personal experience.

IE Student Startup Wins 2nd Place in Berkeley Haas Competition

Paraventures, a travel startup created by three IE International MBA (IMBA) students, snagged second place and $5,000 at Berkeley Haas Business School’s annual startup competition Investing in Inclusion Pitch Competition that invites MBA student entrepreneurs to propose ventures in the early-stage of development to real investors.

The competition is designed for business ideas that tackle issues of exclusion, marginalization and belonging in the workplace and they compete for $15,000 in prizes.

Paraventures, which is a digital platform that provides a comprehensive travel experience with outdoor activities for people with physical disabilities, was founded by Yosuke Ochiai, Cassandra Christian, and Vincenzo Morla, three IMBA students who are passionate about entrepreneurship and have experience working for startups.

The initial idea for Paraventures came from Ochiai’s experience in his hometown, Tokyo, where one of his rugby teammates and lifelong friends suffered a serious injury during a game. The injury left him with physical disabilities limiting not only his ability to play rugby, but also his ability to walk. However, Ochiai and his teammates were determined to help him fulfill his dream of climbing Mount Fuji with his peers. After successfully helping his friend hike the 3,776 meter high volcano, Ochiai saw an opportunity in creating a business that could help more people with disabilities enjoy this type of experience and feel less limited by their disabilities.

IE Student Startup Wins 2nd Place in Berkeley Haas Competition

“I came up with this business idea in order to provide this kind of experience to people with disabilities and those around them, just like my friend, so that they can enjoy their lives more and we can contribute to making a better world,” said Ochiai.

In the 3rd term of the IMBA program, students have the opportunity to join the Startup Lab, which is an immersive and practical lab that focuses on helping students jumpstart their entrepreneurial journeys. Ochiai, Christian, and Morla decided to transform their idea into reality through the Startup Lab while parallelly applying to the Berkely Haas competition. When they received the news they had been selected as finalists for the competition and were being invited to California to pitch their idea in front of a panel of judges including venture capitalists, they started preparing their final pitch with the help of the Startup Lab and its mentors.

“The support that we received from mentors in the Startup Lab helped guide us in the right direction from day one, from creating our business plan to building our deck and getting our pitch down to something that won us second place at the Berkeley Haas Investing in Inclusion Pitch Competition.”

Cassandra Christian

The experience gained in the Startup Lab as well as in the Berkeley Haas competition has given the Paraventures team the confidence to pursue their idea and join the IE Venture Lab in order to further develop their idea.

“My hope is that by the end of Venture Lab we are up and running and sending out our first few customers on adventures of a lifetime,” said Christian.