Kevin Casey MBA ’09 is Going Big with Small
Building backyard cottages can bring families together or produce income for the homeowner.
“Berkeley gave me a new sense of scale. A sense of scale that’s real and impacts the real world. It helped me appreciate that we can create something that solves a big problem - and that you can impact tens of thousands or millions of lives.”
|Kevin Casey MBA ’09, Founder and CEO, New Avenue Casey’s experience includes various roles in community development, technology and finance. He obtained an MBA from the Haas School of Business, researched economic and community development as a Fulbright Scholar in Indonesia, and holds a BA in Economics and Anthropology from Fordham University. The anthropologist in him believes that our homes and our communities should address our emotional and social needs, and he founded New Avenue to offer an alternative to the broken financial and home building industries that have lost touch with this mission. Kevin has also made the Berkeley Founders’ Pledge, and is part of a community of startup executives who build strong relationships with Cal and pledge to support the university as their ventures mature.|
Q. What advice would you offer Berkeley students just beginning their careers in the startup world, either as founders or as early team members?
This is a commitment that may be the hardest thing you ever do. If you are motivated by a mission or a love of what you do then the satisfaction you find in progressing towards your goal makes it a lot easier to face the never ending challenges that the world’s going to throw at you.
Choose your partners wisely. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
Q. What have you carried from your Berkeley experience to your work in innovation/entrepreneurship?
Berkeley gave me a new sense of scale. A sense of scale that’s real and impacts the real world. It helped me appreciate that we can create something that solves a big problem - and that you can impact tens of thousands or millions of lives.
Q. What are you most proud of in your work?
We are simply improving the lives of our clients in a major way - our clients are entire families who benefit from what we do for generations. It’s nothing short of life changing.
Q. What significant challenge is your company working to solve, and how are you doing it?
We are attacking the challenge of isolation and poverty by making it easier for people to access the resources they need to transform their homes from a source of stress to a source of income, stability and connectedness.
Q. What is the hardest thing about being CEO of a fast growing startup? What keeps you up at night?
The world seems to have trouble grasping the fact that there’s a new sheriff in town.
Q. Everyone says persistence in the face of rejection or skepticism is necessary for entrepreneurs. But at some point you might have to stop and pivot or shut something down entirely. How do you evaluate those situations?
Thankfully, I grew up in a big family where my mother didn’t have time to baby us and my brothers and I used to beat the snot out of each other. So getting beaten down day after day feels normal to me. I find satisfaction in facing a difficult, vague problem and chipping away at it. People have always been willing to pay for what we do, so that’s a clear indicator that we’re doing something right. When they stop paying for what we do, we realize we’re doing something wrong.
Q. When looking at startup job offers, how do you evaluate which path to take?
I considered three key metrics: 1) Meaningful work that made a difference in the world, 2) Work that I would find personally challenging and enjoyable, then 3) I added up the cost of a home in Berkeley, a second house on Lake Tahoe, and good schools for a few kids, and then I worked backwards. I didn’t get any offers that provided that so I started a company.
Q. Is it better to start your own company right out of school, or join an existing startup?
The pragmatic approach is to take a job in the space you want to work in. You can always start a company, it’s not essential that you do it right out of school. However, there’s a very slim chance you’ll walk away from that cushy job to start a company once you get used to the regular pay.