UC Berkeley Startup Competition Offers Larger Prizes

Thirty-nine teams, including 16 from Haas, are competing for larger cash prizes and a new $100,000 grant and mentorship program in this year's UC Berkeley Startup Competition, a marquee entrepreneurship event at the university.

Teams will practice their pitches and get feedback from lawyers, entrepreneurs, and VCs at an upcoming Launchpad event April 3. Then the 39 teams will compete in the April 23 semifinals.

Teams compete in four tracks: IT & Web, Life Sciences, Energy & Cleantech, and Products & Services. From the pool of semifinalists, judges will choose eight finalists—two per track—who will head to a final competition at Haas on April 25, including a private event in the afternoon and a public round that starts at 6 p.m.

First-place track winners in the semifinals will receive $5,000; second-place track winners will be awarded $2,500 each, up from $1,000 in previous years. The final grand prize winner will receive $20,000. A $5,000 People’s Choice Prize and a $2,500 Elevator Pitch Presentation Prize, up from $1,000 last year, also will be awarded.

In addition, all semifinalist teams will be eligible for a $100,000 funding grant and mentorship program from Founder.org, the competition's newest sponsor. Founder.org's mission is to inspire students to chase big ideas and become founders of impactful companies that drive innovation and economic growth.

A new competition format, launched in 2011, reflects a shift in the competition from long-form business plan to an approach that includes a high-level summary, pitch, and prototype.

Earlier this month, students received startup guidance from veteran entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki, former chief evangelist of Apple and co-founder of Garage Technology Ventures. The title of his talk was "Top 10 Mistakes of Entrepreneurs," but he actually shared 11 mistakes because he said he likes to "under-promise and over-deliver."

Kawasaki spelled out the top mistakes in the context of a hypothetical online dog food business, poking holes in common practices from market sizing to fundraising. He went on to praise entrepreneurs with meager beginnings, noting that “poverty is a very motivating force.” Watch a video of Kawasaki's talk.

This year’s judges include Kawasaki; Steve Hahn, a research fellow at The Dow Chemical Company; Jed Katz, MBA 96, managing director at Javelin Venture Partners; Rebecca Lynn, MBA/JD 08, partner at Morgenthaler Ventures; George Willman, MBA 93, of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati; and Don Wood, managing director at Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

For more information about the competition, visit bplan.berkeley.edu.