Dan Kanivas M.B.A. ’12, Founder, Triple Summit Advisors

Dan Kanivas, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Triple Summit Advisors, speaks to us about what he gained as a Berkeley Haas M.B.A. student and what advice he’d give to fellow entrepreneurs.


What advice would you offer students just beginning their careers in the startup world, either as founders or as early team members?

For those starting a company as a founder, leadership will be the most important thing that you can provide to your team. Your team will look to you for cues about the company’s culture and about what to focus on. Your team will be watching you always, and they will attribute significance to your actions and your words (even if you don’t believe those particular actions or words to be significant). The behavior, habits, and tone that you display will inevitably reflect in your team’s actions and attitude.

What’s the hardest thing about your work in a growing company? What keeps you up at night?

As a professional services firm, we succeed or fail based on the value that our clients receive from us. With a small team, it’s been difficult to balance upholding a high standard of client service while also growing. Ultimately, if faced between the choice of providing better client service or seeking growth, we will always choose the former and know that the latter will come as a reward for taking care of our clients.

Do you think it is better for first-time entrepreneurs to join a startup, or to start their own company? How do you evaluate your employment opportunities?

Unless you have a product or business that is in the process of catching fire, I would recommend joining a startup before starting your first company. In joining a startup first, you learn valuable lessons about what to do when you start your own company. Perhaps more importantly, you learn valuable lessons about what not to do when you start your own company. Given that most startups fail, experience working at startups is excellent at providing information on the mistakes and traps to avoid when you launch your own company.

I would evaluate employment opportunities first on how much I expect to learn in any given role. You add the most to your long-term value by acquiring additional human capital, so learning should be prioritized. After that, I would evaluate employment opportunities based on how I would like my career to progress. Even if you would like to be at one company for the remainder of your career, it still pays to seek the roles within that company that would let your career unfold as you desire. Finally, I would not neglect financial compensation in evaluating employment opportunities. While not the most important consideration, earning greater compensation can create greater security in the form of savings and provide more runway when you launch your own venture.

Has Berkeley been helpful to you in your entrepreneurial endeavors? If so, what have you valued most about your interactions with Cal or the resources it provides?

I am immensely proud to be a Cal Bear. My experiences as a graduate student at Haas certainly set me up for success immediately following graduation. However, even more important for my career has been the lifelong network that I have as a Berkeley alum. I have remained close with Haas faculty members who have advised us throughout the life of our entrepreneurial venture, especially during its earliest days. We are also proud to say that we have fellow Cal alums as clients!

What resource/s would be most valuable to you to help you attain your next milestone?

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Something that we have searched for in the six years we’ve been in business is a truly repeatable business development process. We are very grateful that our clients and friends continue to send us referrals, and we have primarily grown our firm this way. However, we would love to find a method that allows us to leverage our resources to yield high quality client connections at scale. This would help us grow to $100MM in assets under management and beyond.

Where do you want to be in 3 years?

We would love to grow to $100MM in assets under management and to approximately 200 clients in three years. At that point, we would have to decide on whether to grow our client base further, and if so, how. If we were to expand at that time, we would fundamentally change our growth profile and the type of firm that we would aim to build for the long term.

Lastly: You’ve chosen to make the Berkeley Founders’ Pledge. What inspired you to do that?

I am very grateful for the education that I’ve received throughout my life. I had the privilege to grow up in an excellent school district, attend an excellent college, and study at Haas for my MBA. I wouldn’t be where I am today without these academic institutions, and I want to express my gratitude by giving back to help students attend these schools as well. Berkeley is among the finest academic institutions in the world, and I want to do anything I can to increase access to this wonderful school and community for those who otherwise wouldn’t have the resources to attend.

Interested in joining Dan in his commitment to Cal? Make the Berkeley Founders Pledge, like he did, and have an impact from Day One of your latest venture.