Over 1,000 Cal alumni have started companies since 2006, starting at least 961 companies and raising over 17 billion dollars. But after talking to many of my former classmates from undergrad and grad school it seems like most founders with ties to the school don’t know that the school itself along with some pretty powerful alumni groups offer some great resources for alumni starting their own companies. I’ve spent more time than most as a student in Berkeley, and I’ve gotten to know the people running some really great programs to support students and alumni.
For alumni founders, here are my top six:
1. The House
The House is a startup institute built for Berkeley founders by two recent undergrad alumni. Cameron Baradar and Jeremy Fiance run an accelerator program called The House Residency as well as The House Fund, a venture fund that invests in Berkeley alumni as well as students and faculty. They lead pre-seed investments up to $100,000 and join larger seed rounds with checks up to $250,000. Their portfolio already includes some exciting companies like TBH (acquired by Facebook), Flexport, and Superhuman. They also host alumni events across the country to bring together Berkeley’s best alumni founders, investors, and executives.
SkyDeck is an incubator program for UC Berkeley startups led by Caroline Winnett. It’s formed as a partnership between the Haas School of Business, the College of Engineering, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. They also offer capital through their own fund led by Chon Tang, and half of the carry is donated back to SkyDeck and UC Berkeley. Roughly twenty teams are selected every six months to receive a $100,000 investment from the Berkeley SkyDeck Fund. Students, staff, alumni, researchers, visiting scholars, and faculty of UC Berkeley, other UC campuses, and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab are all considered for the program. Some past SkyDeck companies include LimeBike, Copia, and Eko Devices.
Startup@BerkeleyLaw serves entrepreneurs through its FORM+FUND Series and Access to Entrepreneurship programs. FORM+FUND, which is open to Berkeley students, staff, faculty, and alumni, teaches the core legal, financial, and organizational aspects of starting and scaling a new business. Each session features instruction and office hours hosted by leading Silicon Valley attorneys, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists.
Access to Entrepreneurship is designed to educate underrepresented entrepreneurs on how to start and grow their businesses and connect with investors, law students, attorneys, and other startup founders. The program partners with leading venture capital firms and community organizations, including San Francisco-based Code2040, a nonprofit that aims to close the racial wealth gap in the United States by creating pathways to success in the innovation economy for Black and Latinx technologists. They sponsor travel for up to 30 entrepreneurs to Code2040’s annual summit in July in San Francisco, hosting workshops and office hours with law students, attorneys, and investors. There is also a half-day of intensive training for Code2040 entrepreneurs at Berkeley Law
LAUNCH is a free accelerator program (they don’t take equity) for early stage startups run by Haas School of Business MBA students. Each fall, judges select 20–25 startups with at least one founder that is a student, alumnus, faculty or staff member of a school in the UC system. Teams are paired with serial-entrepreneur mentors and led through a rigorous curriculum by the UC Berkeley Faculty. The program is three months long and focuses on team building, IP, launching a minimum viable product, and developing a scalable business model.
5. Cal Founders
Cal Founders is a group of over 700 founders supported by a team of mentors across a broad range of industries. The group is supported by Haas MBA alumni Michael Berolzheimer and Tim Smith of Bee Partners. Bee has invested in a number of Berkeley companies including IndieGogo and TubeMogul.
The Berkeley Angel Network is a group of alumni, faculty and former faculty of UC Berkeley that invest in startups. They meet quarterly to hear companies pitch and have invested in many successful startups over the years.