UC Berkeley entrepreneurs engage with business leaders at international summit

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The Kairos Society selected five student ventures from UC Berkeley to be showcased as part of the “Kairos 50” at the summit. Politify.com was one of the UC Berkeley teams chosen to present at the New York Stock Exchange.

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UC Berkeley entrepreneurs attended the Kairos Society 2013 Global Summit, an international gathering of business leaders and the most talented student entrepreneurs worldwide.

The Kairos Society selected five student ventures from UC Berkeley to showcase as part of the “Kairos 50” at the summit, which was held from Feb. 22 to 23. The society recognized the top 50 undergraduate student ventures out of more than 2,000 applicants this year. The applicant pool encompassed a total of 30 countries and 100 universities worldwide.

Politify.com was one of the UC Berkeley teams chosen to present at the New York Stock Exchange. Founded by recent graduate Nikita Bier and current UC Berkeley junior Jeremy Blalock, Politify is an online tool that uses graphic models to visualize the impact of economic policies on a federal level.

Since receiving national media attention during the presidential election last fall, Bier and Blalock have decided to shift the startup’s business focus to a policy-simulation platform after considering the advice of mentors at the summit. Consequently, Bier and Blalock have changed their brand to Outline.com, which aims to model the impact of economic policies at the city and state level.

“(Mentors at the summit) said we were working on a really good problem that wasn’t going to be easy to solve,” Bier said.

Another UC Berkeley startup company that presented was Dreambox, whose practical product development strategy helped it become one of the Kairos 50. Dreambox, founded by campus senior William Drevno and recent graduate Richard Berwick, aims to make free 3-D printing accessible to the general public, beginning with the UC Berkeley campus.

“I think we’ve definitely done well with getting a prototype out there as fast as possible and testing it,” Drevno said. “So, you know, trying not to build something as perfect as possible but building something that users would like to use.”

The Bay Area chapter of the Kairos Society, an organization on the UC Berkeley campus founded by undergraduates Jeremy Fiance and Carl Shan and recent UC Berkeley graduate Henry Wang, also sent 20 UC Berkeley students to the summit to exchange ideas with peer entrepreneurs and mentors.

“We’re looking for ventures that have the potential to disrupt an industry,” said Director of Global Membership Kelly Baldwin. “We’re not looking for ideas — we’re looking for companies that are a little farther along in their startup.”

Other criteria included the well-roundedness of teams and their potential for generating a variety of new technologies and innovations.

“I think part of what made (Bier and Blalock) successful is that they brought a team from different disciplines to create a unique dynamic that has allowed them to merge technology and politics,” Fiance said.

Bernt Wahl, an industrial fellow in the UC Berkeley Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, serves as a faculty adviser for the Bay Area chapter of the Kairos Society and emphasized the significance of the Kairos Society Global Summit as an opportunity for young entrepreneurs to learn from today’s CEOs, intellectuals and business leaders.

“We get to give something back to future generations, and we get to keep the ball rolling,” Wahl said. “We were very fortunate today to have a big impact on the world, and we get to be the ones to … pass the torch of entrepreneurship to a new generation.”

The other UC Berkeley companies showcased at the event were Sportaneous, a marketplace for fitness classes; M3D, a medical search engine, VIRES, which develops high-growth sustainable productsand Nanoly Bioscience, which created a polymer to allow vaccines to survive without refrigeration.

Contact Yvonne Ng at [email protected].

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article only listed Jeremy Fiance and Carl Shan as founders of the Bay Area chapter of the Kairos Society. In fact, recent UC Berkeley graduate Henry Wang is also one of the founders. The previous version also incorrectly stated that five student ventures from UC Berkeley were part of “Kairos 50.” In fact, six student ventures participated. The sixth one previously not mentioned was VIRES.