When it comes to entrepreneurship, I am constantly in awe of the creativity and spirit I see in the eyes of UC Berkeley’s young founders. Some of our most exciting investments have come from students emerging from the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology and the Berkeley Haas School of Business-based Lester Center for Entrepreneurship. From Brett Wilson, CEO and Co-Founder of TubeMogul, to David Breslauer, CSO and Co-Founder of Bolt Threads, Foundation Capital has a long history of supporting the Berkeley community. In fact, our Co-Founder and General Partner Bill Elmore wrote the first donor check that helped create the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology.
Our belief in the vitality of the Berkeley community and our passion for helping entrepreneurs make their visions a reality led our team here at Foundation Capital to partner with TubeMogul and Berkeley to develop the Founders Program—our ongoing initiative that offers seed funding to early stage Berkeley startups. This week we hosted our second installment of the Founders Program with a new class of students. Kudos again to the previous winners from our inaugural event––WeTravel and RYNM.
After an overwhelming response and a tough round of deliberating to select finalists, we hosted our new round of 12 final pitches at the offices of TubeMogul to decide who would win $25,000 in seed money from our firm. We’d like to thank all the attendees––including students, faculty, founders, special guest speakers and judges—for making the event so special.
At the start of the night, we heard inspiring stories and hard-learned startup lessons from Brett Wilson and David Breslauer. Brett had this to say about building a long-lasting company: “ What made the difference between me and my Co-Founder John Hughes and our other business school classmates was our determination. We were 100% driven and all in. Even when we heard all the criticisms and naysayers, we pushed forward.” And David, whose company Bolt Threads engineers polymers inspired by spider silk and recently raised $32 million, noted, “We didn’t initially know what to do with the thread––so we focused on trying to make sense of what would work best in the market.” Next year, Bolt Threads will bring their first line of apparel to consumers. Lastly, Eugene Noh, from Berkeley’s Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, delved into the university’s plans to amplify their support for the next generation of founders coming out of Berkeley.
The finalist pitches we heard were all outstanding and exceptionally innovative––with startups ranging from healthcare to fashion and from AI to travel and social discovery. Although we couldn’t award prizes to all the teams, we believe in their determination and look forward to seeing them succeed. In the end, our judges (myself, Ashu Garg and Brett Wilson) selected four winners, who each received the seed funds to build their businesses.
Congratulations to our winners:
- Clima, a “hardware-as-a-service” company that aims to use fleets of drones to create on-demand rain and snow in drought-ridden areas.
- ServiceX, which uses natural language processing to deliver real-time product insights.
- IStyleMyself, a company that allows shoppers to snap a photo of an item of clothing and instantly see themselves onscreen wearing it. The company will also connect shoppers with clothing recommendations and brands that will be the best fit for them.
- Hitmap, a marketplace that helps retailers find and select other retail locations––offering predictive sales for that locale in a friendly, easy-to-use online platform.
As is the case with most winning startups, the founders’ passion and drive really took the spotlight. At Foundation Capital, we believe that the people behind the startup are just as important as the product they are building, and that principle remains central to all the investments we make.
Overall, the event was a great success, and we are looking forward to even more opportunities to connect with and support emerging entrepreneurs from the Berkeley community. So if you have a great idea, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at @joannezchen and @ashugarg. And as always . . . Go Bears!