The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce honored three UC Berkeley faculty and staff members — Mike Cohen, Amy Herr and Scott Shenker — with Berkeley Visionary of the Year awards Sept. 11.
The award, a collaboration between the campus and the city, was founded five years ago and recognizes individuals who bring innovation and entrepreneurship to the city of Berkeley. This year’s three recipients each share an “intellectual curiosity” that makes them eligible for this award, according to Gina Daly, a director from the campus’s Government and Community Relations office.
“(The Visionary of the Year award) really celebrates the innovators in Berkeley who, though drive and persistence founded and grew a business that used innovative technology and business and contributed to our economy here,” said Kirsten Macdonald, CEO of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce.
Herr, a campus bioengineering professor, co-founded a medical device company called Zephyrus Biosciences which enables protein analysis in single cells. This development could help researchers treat and better understand diseases such as cancer.
Upon receiving the award, Herr mentioned that she would like to give campus students the skill set and inspiration to create companies of their own, according to Daly.
Shenker is a computer science professor on campus who “revolutionized the way that data storage happens on the internet,” Daly said. He focuses on software-defined networks, or SDN, which construct and design online networks.
“He created the global standard for software*-*defined networking,” Macdonald said. “So a lot of the research tools we use today are based on his network.”
He also co-founded a networking startup, Nicira Networks, which was sold to tech company VMware for $1.3 billion.
Cohen, associate director at UC Berkeley’s Office of Technology Licensing, has been involved in numerous startup incubators on campus, including founding the Berkeley Startup Cluster and the SkyDeck startup accelerator.
“The inspiration for the Berkeley Startup Cluster was to enable more startups coming out of UC Berkeley to stay in the Berkeley area instead of going 50 miles south to Silicon Valley,” Cohen said.
Apart from work with startup development, Cohen co-founded Peak Democracy, an online civic engagement platform. It provides software and services to government agencies in order to increase civic participation from their constituents.
Overall, the award highlights entrepreneurs who are able to create a synthesis among research, jobs and startup companies, according to Daly.
“When a university has a thriving ecosystem of entrepreneurs, it bolsters its research and educational programs,” Cohen said.