Two UC Berkeley-affiliated startups win $100,000 dollars each to expand

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Vik Thairani/Courtesy

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Two UC Berkeley-affiliated startup companies were chosen on Tuesday to receive $100,000 each in grants from Founder.org following a nationwide search for promising startups.

Among the 500 student companies that applied from leading universities, Pristine and Eko were two of only 10 finalists chosen to win the prize, which also includes 12 months of mentorship. Pristine tracks the environment wine has been in, and Eko helps doctors better analyze heart conditions. Both companies are teams of Skydeck, a UC Berkeley-sponsored business accelerator program.

Pristine’s products aim to simplify the process of choosing wines. According to Pristine’s CEO and recent Haas School of Business graduate Vik Thairani, his company’s “smart wine labels” allow consumers to track the environment their wine has been in from the moment it was bottled using their smartphones. Pristine’s team is made up of both UC Berkeley students and industry specialists.

“We’re a company that focuses on adding intelligence to a product,” Thairani said.

Eko is another UC Berkeley startup founded by former ASUC president Connor Landgraf. Eko combines the smartphone application Shazam with hardware to better analyze and more easily record a patient’s heart sounds.

Both Pristine and Eko are teams that work with Skydeck, a business accelerator program formed as a joint venture between the UC Berkeley College of Engineering, Haas School of Business and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. Skydeck aims to provide startups with the guidance and tools necessary to grow their businesses. In addition to finalists Pristine and Eko, three more Skydeck companies were chosen as semifinalists in the grant competition.

“We are extremely proud of both Pristine and Eko, but we are also proud of the other teams that were semifinalists,” said Zen Trenholm, Skydeck community manager. “This just shows that what we’re doing here is providing teams with what it takes to get to the next level.”

With the grant funds, Eko plans to finish up its design, carry out clinical trials to evaluate the quality of its work and gain FDA approval. Eko intends to increase spending on marketing its product and partner with larger organizations.

“In the future, we hope to work with companies like the Red Cross to sell their product to doctors in both the U.S. and developing countries,” Landgraf said.
This is the first year that Founder.org carried out its $100K program. Current Founder.org CEO Michael Baum conducted the search. Along with the grant, finalists will receive 12 months of mentorship under Baum.

“What’s most important about Founder.org is the advice and support of Michael Baum, because working with him in the last few weeks has already helped us so much,” Thairani said. “We are all very excited and we know we’ll be able to do extremely great things.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Eko uses the software of the smartphone application Shazam. In fact, Eko’s software is developed by Eko Devices.

Contact Jane Nho at [email protected]