Odds are you’ve walked through Sproul and at any given time there were at least 8 different people trying to give you their organization’s spiel. Arms outstretched, they chorus: “Would you like to join ABC?”
We’ve been there. And we remember the sensory and auditory overload that accompanies walking through Sproul during the first week of the semester. There’s a whole host of opportunities at Berkeley where you can develop your entrepreneurial skillset, but deciding which ones to pursue is always hard. The incredible variety also doesn’t make navigating the ecosystem easier at all. What’s easy to spot, however, is the strong undercurrent of entrepreneurship that flows through campus — be it through incubators, student-led VC funds, or even design and consulting organizations, the spirit of innovation is definitely hard to miss on the Berkeley campus.
In continuing to foster that same entrepreneurial spirit, below is a rundown of resources we’d turn to in the Berkeley ecosystem, from clubs and classes that will equip you with the skills needed to code/design/build models to incubators and VC funds that will help you navigate the labyrinth of getting funded and launching.
We’ll continue to populate this section with a deep dive into each organization, trying to understand their secret sauce and distilling down everything anyone needs to navigate the collection of Cal clubs quickly.
Blueprint is a group that provides software pro-bono for nonprofits and promotes the use of tech for social good, working alongside organizations such as 1951 Coffee, the San Francisco Art Institute, and Veterans 360. Blueprint has been consistent in helping cultivate software talent for several years now and serves as a main outlet for students to use their technical know-how to make tangible impact. To help expand on their role on campus, we were joined by Nick Wong ‘22, a CS major and technical program lead at Blueprint!
Codebase is a student org that aims to make the software industry more accessible by bridging the gap between classes and practical experience. Every semester, they build projects for non-profits and high growth tech companies, empowering students to work with real industry clients. They’ve partnered with a range of companies, from growing startups like Nuro and Ginger to clients as large as Atlassian, as well as local nonprofits like the Berkeley Food Pantry.
Cal Hacks is a club that hosts the largest collegiate hackathon in the world. Cal Hacks also runs other events designed to promote hacking and entrepreneurship, like a fellowship for hackathon teams and a full-stack development course for new coders.
Free Ventures is a student-run pre-seed startup accelerator. Each semester, they accept a small cohort of Cal student founders and help them grow to the next level by providing them access to funding, mentorship, and other resources. Their portfolio companies have secured over $140 million in follow-up funding from industry-leading investors like Kleiner Perkins, Greylock and YCombinator.
Venture Strategy Solutions
Venture Strategy Solutions (also called Venture) is a startup-focused consulting organization. Some of their past clients include Niantic, Snackpass, Figma, and Pipe. As the only consulting club focused on early-stage startups, they’ve sure been one of the leaders in cultivating founders as well as a spirit of innovation within Cal.
Blockchain at Berkeley
Blockchain at Berkeley is a blockchain focused research, education and consulting organization. What started out as the world’s first undergraduate university-accredited blockchain course has now grown into a comprehensive educational platform with courses on crypto, blockchain tech, and blockchain development. Their consulting division has worked with multiple industry partners on implementing real-world solutions for the most innovative blockchain use-cases. They also recently launched B@B Grants and a DeFi Governance Initiative to further build the blockchain-focused ecosystem at Cal.
Berkeley Innovation is a human-centered design consultancy. Some of their past clients include Burt’s Bees, Patagonia, and Netflix. Not only do they work with firms on projects ranging from digital products to experiences but also actively make an effort to make design more accessible to all through educational initiatives like the HCD decal and public workshops.
Courses & University Resources
As one of the institutions at the frontier of the study and practice of entrepreneurship, Cal boasts a collection of courses, certificates, and programs to elevate your skills and expand your network as an entrepreneur. Here is a curated collection of the best of these resources.
Build the Future (UGBA 198)
Build The Future believes in using a collaboration-driven approach in teaching students about entrepreneurship. Our course is not just a speaker series nor lecturing. We have created an intimate environment for students to learn from other students supplemented by our student facilitators’ and guest speakers’ experiences. We have previously hosted prominent entrepreneurs and venture capitalists inclding Vinod Khosla (Khosla Ventures), Steve Wozniak (Apple), Patrick Collison (Stripe), and Dylan Field (Figma).
Over 13 weeks, the course covers 10 core topics that we believe to be essential tools and knowledges all entrepreneurs must keep in mind. In a given week of the course, students come together for two sessions: one session with a guest speaker and introduction to that week’s core topic and a second session reflecting and discussing that week’s topic with a smaller group of students in the class.
- CalHacks is the world's largest collegiate hackathon. It typically runs over a weekend and is open to students from any university. It also runs a Fellowship program for selected CalHacks teams to continue building their projects with mentorship, equity-free grants, and workshops from the brightest minds in entrepreneurship and engineering.
- Big Ideas @ Berkeley
- Industrial Design and Human Factors (INDENG 170)
- Introduction to Product Development (MECENG 110)
- Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Social and Cultural Context (Sociology 121)
- Principles of Engineering Economics (ENGIN 120)
DeCals (Student-run Courses)
- Introduction to Full-stack Developement (CS 198)
- Cubstart (CS 198)
- Human-Centered Design (DES INV 98)
- Introduction to Figma (DES INV 98)
- Blockchain Fundamentals (INDENG 198)
- Blockchain Development (INDENG 198)
Funding & Accelerators
- The House Fund is a pre-seed and early stage venture capital fund investing in the Berkeley community. They’ve mainly invested within the industries of Consumer, Enterprise and AI through the likes of Superhuman, Dyndrite, and Eko. One of their core offerings, AI@TheHouse, focuses on creating partnerships with the best AI researchers in the world to pair university-led research with the possibilities of starting up, creating an incredible foundation for AI-focused startups to succeed at Berkeley.
- Dorm Room Fund is a VC firm focused specifically on investing in student-run startups. They are supported by First Round Capital and we like them because of their comparatively smaller check sizes (ave. 5-10 investments at $50k vs. 1-2 investments at $500k.
- Contrary Capital
- Blockchain Xcelerator
As this guide gets fleshed out, if you or someone you know would provide a good view on the inside of entrepreneurial organizations on campus, please reach out to us!