Berkeley-based institute aims to support AI-related startups

Berkeley House
The House/Courtesy

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Berkeley-based startup institute The House announced a new initiative that aims to support the translation of artificial intelligence, or AI, research into an industrially applicable form, according to a press release Wednesday.

The group running the program, called [email protected] House, consists of six professors from the campus electrical engineering and computer science department along with two UC Berkeley alumni. [email protected] House will offer technical guidance, mentorship, free graphic processing units and financial support, among other resources, to startups focused on AI, according to the press release.

“Today, there’s so much activity and energy (in the AI industry) now that it could be confusing for a young entrepreneur,” said The House co-founder Cameron Baradar.

Baradar expects that the program will be able to take around 10 startups at a time, and he explained that the team at the House hopes to provide “high-quality support” rather than grow too fast.

Currently, only UC Berkeley-affiliated startups are eligible to apply, according to the press release, though Baradar said that [email protected] House has received applications from groups associated with other universities since the announcement.

UC Berkeley is one of the top universities in the world for computer science. According to the press release, in a ranking by academics search engine Semantic Scholar, 32 percent of the top 50 most influential researchers are either UC Berkeley faculty or alumni, including [email protected] House consultant and campus professor Michael Jordan, who was named the most influential computer science researcher worldwide.

Those working for [email protected] House are no strangers to working with startups; Baradar was an engineer at Mapsense, a 2013 startup that was bought by Apple in 2015, and Pieter Abbeel, another [email protected] House consultant and UC Berkeley alumni, co-founded both Gradescope and Embodied Intelligence. Most of the program’s consultants have worked on startups in the past, such as Ensighta and Databricks.

“Startup creation presents an incredibly efficient mechanism for taking a small team of brilliant people and … enabling them build AI solutions that can create and positively transform industries,” the press release stated.

The House hopes to make Berkeley a “global center-of-gravity of AI activity,” according to the press release. Researchers in Berkeley are often situated at the intersection of technology with social and ethical issues, according to Jordan, which differentiates The House from other startup incubators.

AI has implications on various fields, including transportation, medicine, government and public policy, according to Jordan. He said AI is where “humans interact with technology the most.”

But before it can have an impact on such fields, it must first be translated into industry —  [email protected] House hopes to accomplish this by supporting and mentoring AI-related startups, according to the press release.

“We’re hoping to build infrastructure that can last many decades,” Baradar said. “We’re here to stay.”

Contact Matthew Lo at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @matthewlo_dc.