New ‘Skydeck’ Accelerator Inspires Startup Companies to Reach Markets Faster

Perched in the 10,000 square-foot penthouse of downtown Berkeley’s tallest building, Berkeley Skydeck may have the best 360-degree views in the city. But it's what is happening inside this new interdisciplinary startup incubator-accelerator that will change the way emerging startups scale up to succeed.

The Berkeley Skydeck startup accelerator is the genesis of new collaborations between Berkeley business and engineering students, professors and scientists, Bay Area entrepreneurs, investors, innovators, the city of Berkeley, and local business leaders. 
 
“This is an exciting development for Berkeley-Haas and for the campus. It will deepen the business school's already significant relationship with the College of Engineering and Berkeley Lab,” says Haas Dean Rich Lyons. “It will provide a unifying point of contact for the venture, entrepreneurial, and corporate communities that our students and faculty interact with regularly. And it will feed the increasingly strong mindset on campus for all we can bring to society in new jobs and new opportunities.” 
 
Every year close to 20 companies are founded based on innovations and people from the campus and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL), and the Berkeley Skydeck was established to incubate, accelerate and expand this startup pipeline. 
 
"This initiative is a perfect fit for a campus that is deeply engaged with and concerned about real-world challenges. We have long needed a space to help support the activities of the campus’ many outstanding entrepreneurs,” explains Graham Fleming, UC Berkeley vice chancellor for research.
 
A collaborative effort between the College of Engineering, the Haas School of Business and the Vice Chancellor for Research Office, Berkeley Skydeck is the campus’ first interdisciplinary startup accelerator-incubator complementing existing spaces run by departments and research institutes. 
 
So far, nine startup companies have taken residence at the Berkeley Skydeck. Each team is at a different stage of rolling out, but the goal is the same: to develop new products and services for the marketplace. Visits by industry leaders and venture investors to the Skydeck will help strengthen mentoring networks and establish meaningful industry connections early on. The progress of student-led companies will be monitored by UC Berkeley faculty against key milestones established in advance. The goal is to ensure that their startups develop scalability and drive their products and services to market faster than if attempting to grow on their own.
 
It’s already working.
 
Mitch Gordon, MBA 12, CEO and co-founder of GoOverseas, a community driven website that provides resources and reviews for travel and study abroad says being a part of the Berkeley Skydeck helps him attract key student talent from UC Berkeley.”Skydeck also gives us credibility when speaking with potential investors and clients because of the university’s stellar reputation,” says Gordon.
 
More information on the inaugural Skydeck teams may be found on the Berkeley Skydeck website: skydeck.berkeley.edu
 
The startups incorporate a mix of UC Berkeley faculty, postdocs, students (undergraduate and graduate) and recent alumni with companies fundable within six to nine months. To join Berkeley Skydeck, each company must apply and compete for a spot in the UC Berkeley Startup Accelerator (UCBSA), sponsored by the Haas School's Lester Center for Entrepreneurship, or the Venture Lab competition at the engineering college’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (CET). Affiliates of the Berkeley Postdoctoral Entrepreneurs Program (BPEP) also have access to the new space.
 
The Berkeley Skydeck launch received a $50,000 grant from the Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund to help support the facility’s infrastructure. The Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL), the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Business Association and the City of Berkeley Office of Economic Development are also partners in the Skydeck effort.

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