Haas MBA graduate and entrepreneur Hansoo Lee dies at age 35

Wendy Lim/Courtesy

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UC Berkeley Haas School of Business graduate Hansoo Lee, an entrepreneur known for his huge enthusiasm for life, died March 4 at age 35 after a 15-month struggle with lung cancer.

Lee, a class of 2010 Haas MBA graduate, co-founded the successful educational startup Magoosh while he was a student at the business school and was known as a driving force for entrepreneurship, encouraging others to pursue their ideas and build their own ventures.

“He believed in putting yourself behind an idea and focusing completely on what you want to accomplish,” said Pejman Pour-Moezzi, one of Lee’s former classmates and a co-founder of Magoosh.

As an entrepreneur, student and friend, Lee was described as a source of inspiration, admired for his courage and charisma as well as his ability to light up a room.

“He was absolutely fearless — fear wasn’t part of his vocabulary, said Wendy Lim, Lee’s fiancee. He embraced every experience and was always eager to try new things.”

Lee’s courage and dedication to entrepreneurship were particularly evident when, in the summer between the first and second year of his MBA program, Lee decided not to pursue a traditional internship but instead began working full time to build Magoosh.

“It was a brave move because at that point, we didn’t have any funding,” Pour-Moezzi said. “He brought the company to life.”

Lee’s courage and positivity extended to all aspects of his life, especially in the face of cancer, his fiancee added.

“He was never scared and was always focused on finding the right treatment — he remained optimistic and courageous to the end,” Lim said.

Now, Pour-Moezzi, Lim and third Magoosh co-founder Bhavin Parikh hope to instill that same courage in members of the Haas community by creating the Hansoo Lee Fellowship for Entrepreneurs. The fellowship will be used to support Haas MBA students wishing to pursue their ventures full time.

“This fellowship is a realization of Hansoo’s vision,” Parikh said. “He always talked about giving back. This is our way of celebrating him.”

Professor David Charron, Lee’s mentor during his time at Haas and an early investor in Magoosh, said that Lee will be greatly missed by the Haas community. He added that Lee exemplified the entrepreneurial spirit sought after in Haas’ graduate program.

“Hansoo was intellectually curious, constantly driven to learn and grow,” Charron said. “He was always trying to better himself. It is by virtue of people like Hansoo that our business school and entrepreneurship program are able to improve and grow.”

A memorial service will be held for Lee in Golden Gate Park on Monday.

Contact Natasha Osborne at [email protected].