Startup expo attracts entrepreneurs, features forum and competition

Shan Swami/Courtesy
A startup expo Thursday featured more than two dozen companies, a speaker panel and a pitch competition. The event was organized by the campus business fraternity Alpha Epsilon Zeta.

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More than 300 ambitious young entrepreneurs and seasoned businesspeople alike gathered Thursday at Hotel Shattuck for [email protected], an event that showcased some of Berkeley’s startups and featured a panel of prominent speakers.

Organized by UC Berkeley undergraduate business fraternity Alpha Epsilon Zeta, the event consisted of a startup expo showcasing 26 different startup companies, a speaker panel and a pitch competition, during which high-profile judges selected five startups to present their work on stage to compete for cash prizes and other awards from sponsors.

UC Berkeley sophomore Sameen Karim, a computer science major who founded his own startup, Eventable, and organized the event, hopes that events such as [email protected] will bring more attention to the startup community in Berkeley.

“Everyone always focuses on Stanford or MIT,” Karim said. “Berkeley is just a sleeping giant … We’re trying to bring awareness to the fact that Berkeley is pumping out some really high-quality companies.”

The event, however, also drew in significant city support. The Berkeley Startup Cluster, a sponsor of the event, helped student organizers connect with prominent individuals like publicists, judges and speakers, according to Jennifer Cogley, the sustainable business coordinator in the city of Berkeley’s Office of Economic Development.

“The fact that (the event) was produced by students is significant,” Cogley said. “The level of energy and creativity was beyond what we’ve seen before.”

The Berkeley Startup Cluster consists of a committee of representatives from the city of Berkeley, the Downtown Berkeley Association, the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce and UC Berkeley, all of whom work in collaboration to develop and support the startup community in the Berkeley area.

Additionally, Michael Cohen, UC Berkeley’s director of innovation ecosystem development, hopes that by sponsoring events like [email protected], Berkeley will develop into a prominent startup community.

“One of our objectives (at Berkeley Startup Cluster) is to make UC Berkeley and Downtown Berkeley a world-class cluster of high-tech-oriented companies,” Cohen said.

Although the event was not necessarily the first of its kind, [email protected] was one of the largest forums to bring a variety of different startups together, according to Jessica Lee, marketing manager at Dorsey & Whitney LLP, which also helped sponsor the event.

The event is just one of many initiatives in the Berkeley area to support and build the startup community, which have also included SkyDeck, NextSpace and the hackerspace that recently opened in Cory Hall.

“(Startups are) a great source of jobs,” Cogley said. “A lot of students now are making their own businesses once they graduate, and we’d rather have them do that (in Berkeley) than somewhere else.”

Eventually, Alpha Epsilon Zeta hopes to expand the number of companies featured in the expo and make [email protected] an annual event.

Contact Jennie Yoon at [email protected].