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Maura O'Neill - Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley. Berkeley, CA, US

Maura O'Neill Maura O'Neill

Lecturer | Distinguished Teaching Fellow | Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley


Expert in entrepreneurship, leadership, blockchain, and policy


Areas of Expertise (7)

Women and Racial/Ethnic Equity

Breakthrough Innovation in Private & Private Sectors

Blockchain & Cryptocurrency: Strategy, Regulatory Policy & Opportunity Identification

Entrepreneurship & New Venture Finance

Executive Leadership

Narrow-mindedness & Unconscious Bias

Unconscious Bias in AI & Algorithms


Maura O’Neill is a lecturer and distinguished teaching fellow at the Haas School of Business. Relentlessly focused on sourcing and scaling breakthrough ideas, she has been thrilled to grow businesses, teach, and mentor others wanting to make a big difference. In 2009 she was appointed by President Obama to be the first Chief Innovation Officer of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Serving until 2013, she was responsible for inspiring and leading breakthrough innovations in foreign assistance and development worldwide.

O’Neill is best known for adapting venture capital and drug discovery methods to global development by co-creating the Development Innovation Venture Fund that has expanded into the Global Innovation Fund. She served as a member of the White House Innovation Cohort assisting in innovation across the federal government. Prior to joining the Administration, she served as a Chief of Staff in the U.S. Senate. In 2019 O'Neill returned to the U.S. Senate to serve as Senior Domestic Policy Advisor to Senator Ron Wyden and the Senate Finance Committee on access to capital for women and people of color as well as combating bias and discrimination in AI/deep learning/algorithms.

A serial entrepreneur, O’Neill founded four companies in the fields of electricity efficiency, smart grid and customer info systems and billing, e-commerce, and digital education. In 1989, she was named the Greater Seattle Business Person of the Year.

Currently she is teaching at Berkeley Haas and previously at Stanford and Columbia University. She is a three time winner of the Berkeley Haas Earl Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching. She advises start-ups, global companies, foundations and government agencies and co-leads the Aspen Institute Global Health Ideas Incubator. She has MBAs from Columbia University and Berkeley Haas and a PhD from University of Washington, where her research focused on narrow-mindedness and the errors it can lead to in science, medicine, business, and political decision-making. She helped found the public charter school Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women (grades 6-12) and continues to serve as vice chair that is the subject of an award-winning film, STEP.

Education (4)

University of Washington: PhD, Interdisciplinary (Psychology, Biology, and Business) 2009

Columbia University: MBA, Business 2005

University of California, Haas School of Business: MBA 2004

University of Washington: BA, magna cum laude, Environmental Studies 1977

Honors & Awards (6)

Berkeley Haas Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching

2016, 2017, 2018

Businessperson of the Year, Seattle Chamber of Commerce


North American Participant, NATO Advanced Study Institute on Energy Efficiency and Utility Industry, Portugal


Environmental Excellence Award, Rotary Club of Seattle


Academic Awards

- PhD nominated for top dissertation across all departments and schools (2009) - Columbia University Distinguished Service Award (2004) - University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business – Dean’s Council of Student Presidents, Haas Community Fellow & Graduation Speaker

Beta Gamma Sigma

Academic Business Honor Society

Selected External Service & Affiliations (5)

  • Vice Chair, Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women
  • Guest Curator, Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship
  • External Advisor, PATH for the Global Innovation Countdown 2030
  • Member, Clinton Global Initiative
  • Sr. Domestic Policy Advisor, Senator Wyden & US Senate Finance Committee, Jan 2019-present

Positions Held (1)

At Haas since 2005

2005 – present, Lecturer, University of California, Berkeley 2014, Lecturer, School of Engineering, Stanford University 2014, Lecturer, Columbia University 2010 – 2013, Senior Counselor and Chief Innovation Officer, U.S. Agency for International Development 2009, Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor, Energy and Climate for Under Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture 2008 – 2009, Chief of Staff, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, U.S. Senate 2006 – 2008, Lecturer, Columbia University 2005 – 2008, Chairman, Fourteen40 (www.cafescribe.com) 1999 – 2001, Chairman and CEO, ImproveMyBusiness.com 1995 – 1997, President and CEO, ConneXt

Media Appearances (5)

Maura O’Neill: The three factors organisations need to be creative

Human Resources Online  online


Last week, Maura O’Neill, former President Obama’s first Chief Innovation Officer and Senior Counselor to the Administrator for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), was in town as a speaker at YPO EDGE 2018, YPO’s largest flagship event, which saw over 2,000 global chief executives examining leadership from many perspectives.

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Should I Sell My Company? 7 Questions Every Successful Entrepreneur Must Ask

Huffington Post  online


Back in 2008, I watched so many students tend bar or wait tables to help support themselves through college. Once they finally emerged with degrees during the Great Recession, NO HIRING signs were everywhere. Some kept pocketing those tips and waited for company hiring to refresh. Holly Robinson was one of those and while managing a bar met Ben Capdevielle. Both love and an entrepreneurial adventure began.

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Berkeley Haas Fellow Talks Myopia in the Face of Information Overload

Metro MBA  online


In an era of information overload, habits can turn primal, according to Berkeley Haas School of Business teaching fellow Maura O’Neill.

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The surprisingly simple economic case for giving refugees cash, not stuff

Quartz Media  


“I believe that mobile money will be a bigger game changer in development than the green revolution ever was,” said Maura O’Neill, formerly chief of innovation at USAID and now a teaching fellow at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “If you don’t embrace at the leading edge of this change then someone will come in and say you’re irrelevant.

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How does a girl make it into the the boys club?

Huffington Post  online


With recent attention and important conversation going on about the dearth of women in tech and venture capital it reminded me of a story that left myself and a colleague of mine with our jaws on the floor. “Next time, can you bring the real decision-makers?” This is how a young venture capitalist ended our meeting.

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Selected Papers & Publications (1)

Gender and Workplace Perceptions Around the World: Evidence from the World Values Survey

Journal of Human Resources

Fisman, Raymond, and Maura O’Neill


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Teaching (1)


New Venture Finance Advanced New Venture Finance Berkeley MBA for Executives: Washington DC Immersion Week Berkeley Executive Education: Executive Leadership, Innovation & Silicon Valley Immersion, Blockchain Technology & Strategy for Business