Every year, dozens of companies are launched by innovators and innovations from the UC Berkeley community—many helped off the ground by angel investors.
Some of these investors also have ties to the campus, yet until recently there was no organized way for these alumni angel investors to connect with each other or with budding UC Berkeley startups. That changed when several UC Berkeley alumni teamed up with the founding director of the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship last year to launch the Berkeley Angel Network.
“Our network includes alumni and faculty who share an interest in angel investing and a common Berkeley heritage,” says George Willman, MBA93, who co-founded the group with the Lester Center’s Jerry Engel. “We are all interested in startups and entrepreneurship, and the group itself is a startup that we are building together.”
The network has attracted about 100 members and held two networking events and two pitch meetings, where about 30 investors heard presentations from nine companies. At least three—including two from Haas—have been offered some funding by members of the network.
Although the network does not limit itself to only Berkeley startups, it’s a natural place for alumni entrepreneurs to turn. Bhavin Parikh, MBA 10, was invited by Engel to pitch the network at its second meeting in April, seeking funding for his Internet test-prep company, Magoosh.
"Berkeley Angel Network made the daunting task of finding interested investors much easier,” says Parikh, Magoosh’s CEO. “I presented my company to over 20 pre-qualified investors and received some funding within weeks."
Angel investors typically provide seed money to early-stage ventures with high-growth potential. Their investments tend to be smaller and earlier than venture capitalists’, and angels also tend to be interested in playing an advisory role in the companies’ development. According to the Angel Capital Association, there are about 40 angel groups associated with universities nationwide.
“The Berkeley Angel Network is a natural extension of all we do at the Lester Center to support entrepreneurship at Berkeley,” says Engel. “Our first meetings have proven that Berkeley has a wonderful community of investors willing to support entrepreneurs. It is more than simple investing—it is really a collaborative activity to encourage and support our young entrepreneurs.”
More information on the Berkeley Angel Network, including guidelines for entrepreneurs and investors, is available at berkeleyangelnetwork.com.