Celebrating Entrepreneurs at Berkeley Founder’s Event

Foundation Capital’s Joanne Chen, the founders of  Wetravel, Foundation Capital’s Ashu Garg, and TubeMogul Co-Founder John Hughes at our Berkeley Founder’s Event

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Over the years, many of our friends and favorite entrepreneurs have passed through the Berkeley Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology and the Berkeley-based Lester Center for Entrepreneurship. These people are intelligent, insightful, and driven—and we’ve invested in many of them too. From Brett Wilson, CEO and Co-Founder of TubeMogul to Dr. Ion Stoica, the Co-Founder and CTO of Conviva, Foundation Capital has a long history of supporting the Berkeley community.

Our Co-Founder and General Partner Bill Elmore wrote the first donor check that helped open the doors to the Lester Center. And one of the very first investments Bill made here at Foundation Capital was to the startup Atheros (who IPO’d and was later acquired by Qualcomm). Atheros’ advisors included Bob Brodersen, the Berkeley professor who founded the Berkeley Wireless Research Center.

Our support for the Berkeley community and passion for helping entrepreneurs’ great ideas come to life, led our team here at Foundation Capital to partner with TubeMogul and Berkeley to create the Founder’s Program—a new initiative that offers seed funding to emerging Berkeley startups.

Founder’s Program Kickoff at TubeMogul

After an overwhelming response, fellow investor Joanne Chen and myself worked tirelessly over the last few months to whittle down the applications to a short list of worthy finalists. Earlier this month a crowd gathered at the offices of TubeMogul to hear the twelve finalist pitches—and decide who would walk away with $25,000 in seed money from our firm.

We were joined by esteemed guests from the Berkeley community, TubeMogul Co-Founder and Berkeley grad John Hughes, and Dr. Ion Stoica, the Co-Founder and CTO of Conviva. John and Ion addressed the finalists and spoke of both their experiences as company founders—sharing powerful lessons for the finalists as they enter those formative early days of building a great company.

The pitches themselves were all impressive, with topics ranging from healthcare to education, and semiconductors to soil analysis. And while the judges (myself, Joanne Chen, John Hughes, and Foundation Capital General Partner Paul Holland) deliberated the rest of the attendees enjoyed getting to know each other over wood-fired pizza, beer, and their shared experiences of building something from nothing.

In the end, we selected two winners to receive seed money to fund their businesses. One of the companies was Rynm, whose goal is to create a mobile-centered records database for patients in the Chinese healthcare system. The second winner was Wetravel, which is a platform for people to self-organize tour groups to destinations all over the world. What really stood out about these products was the passion and know-how of the people behind them. We believe in these teams and that’s a key ingredient in the investment decisions we make.

Joanne Chen with the winners of the Founder Program at Berkeley

Overall, the event was a huge success and it inspired Joanne and myself to find even more ways to work with the entrepreneurial community at Berkeley. In the meantime, if you are an entrepreneur—Berkeley-affiliated or not—with a big idea, be sure to get in touch with us at @ashugarg and @joannezchen. And… Go Bears!