2018 Top 50 Undergraduate Professors: Rob Chandra, University of California Berkeley (Haas)

Rob Chandra

Distinguished Teaching Fellow

University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business

Rob Chandra’s reputation as a venture capitalist is renowned. He’s a five-time member of Forbes Magazine’s “Midas List” of Top Venture Capitalists, was previously named to Top 50 among “Most Influential Global Indian Men,” and was once named Forbes Magazine’s “Most Thoughtful Investor” (April, 2011). He’s served as an active angel investor, advisor, or board member with more than 25 tech startups, served on 45 company’s board of directors (public and private companies during a 20 year venture capital career), and chairs or has membership with a number of entrepreneurship and Silicon Valley focused leadership groups.

At Haas where Chandra teaches entrepreneurship, his reputation is as impressive. Says Prof. Toby Stuart, the Leo Helzel Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, “Rob is unique. He combines an extraordinarily successful career in venture capital with a humility and love of teaching that disarms and inspires students. He pairs outstanding domain knowledge with a willingness to invest in mentoring. He distills complex subjects to their essences and conveys them to students through memorable anecdotes.”

Chandra himself, says, “For me, teaching is only a small part of what I do. I feel like I am only properly doing my work when my teaching style makes it easy for my students to seek me out as a mentor. I like to try to help them with their most important decisions.”

Professor Chandra is a two-time excellence in teaching award recipient and a frequent member of the very elite “Club 6” which refers to professors receiving a mean teaching score of at least six on a seven-point scale.

Age: 52

Education: Harvard Business School, MBA; UC Berkeley, BA Economics

At current institution since: 2013

List of courses you currently teach: Alternative Investing: An introduction to venture capital, private equity and hedge funds (Undergrad course); MBA 295A: Entrepreneurship (MBA course)

Twitter handle: @robchandra

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

  1. Over the course of my career, I have been ranked by Forbes Magazine as one of the Top 100 global venture capitalists five different times in their annual rankings called The Midas List (https://www.forbes.com/lists/midas/2012/rob-chandra.html)
  2. Over 25 start-ups that I have personally funded have gone on to become public companies or been acquired by other public companies.
  3. I remain connected on LinkedIn with every student enrolled in one of my courses at Berkeley Haas.

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” I saw the spark in a student’s eyes when they discovered the answer to a question I posed.

“One word that describes my first time teaching…” Exhilarating

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I am researching how startups can best determine the product market fit for their idea. What I am learning is that it is very hard to get the fit right, but when the fit is right, it takes very little time to discover that the customers really do want the product.

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? My most memorable moment was getting a standing ovation from the students after teaching my first semester at Berkeley Haas.

Since you first started teaching, how has business education changed? The student’s expectations are higher.

“If I weren’t a business school professor, I would be…” a writer.

“Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a professor”: You get more than you give. Had I known this, I would have started teaching earlier in my career.

Name of the professor you most admire and why: Professor Laura Tyson (now Interim Dean of the Haas School of Business). She was my freshman Economics professor and completely sparked my interest in economics and business.

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? They are really engaged.

What’s the biggest challenge? The undergrad students have to juggle a difficult class workload with the difficult, time consuming and stressful job recruiting process they are doing in parallel.

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? Start a company.

What is the least favorite thing one has done? Get caught cheating on a quiz.  

Since you’ve been teaching, how have students changed over the years? They are more informed, better prepared, and more open minded.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? Demonstrate the ability to make a good decision about a messy complex business situation.

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …” Fair

If your teaching style/classroom experience had a theme song, what would it be? I’ll Stand By You, by The Pretenders

Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student: Engaged

Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Distracted

“If my students can make good business decisions, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”

Fun fact about yourself: World War II history buff

What are your hobbies? Golf, Ski, Surf, Read, Hike

How did you spend your summer? Traveled with my wife and kids

Favorite place to vacation: Hawaii

Favorite book: Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Favorite movie and/or television show: Shawshank Redemption

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Coldplay

Bucket list item #1: Golf in Scotland

What’s the biggest challenge facing business education at the moment? Making the business education more relevant for startups, especially high growth pre-IPO startups where students really want to land roles.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…” Focus on the soft skills: how to manage people and build relationships.

“And much less of this…” Spreadsheet modeling (though this isn’t a problem at Haas).

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would be like for you: Ten years from today, I would like to look back and feel proud that I gave whatever I could to help my students achieve their goals.

Students say…

““Best class at Berkeley.”