If its multitude of successful entrepreneurs in the past few years is any indication, UC Berkeley is becoming a hotbed of innovation.
According to a recent study by PitchBook, a Seattle-based research firm, UC Berkeley is one of the top universities for producing venture-capital-backed entrepreneurs. The report shows that from 2010 to the third quarter of 2013, UC Berkeley ranked second worldwide with 160 graduates receiving venture capital funds — 30 less than Stanford University, which placed first.
Andy White, an analyst for PitchBook, said the study was conducted based on data from alumni who have received undergraduate degrees from “hundreds” of universities and a wide variety of disciplines.
“I think (the ranking) speaks well of the combined efforts of faculty and students in raising the flag of entrepreneurship,” said John Danner, a senior fellow at the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship, a UC Berkeley program that fosters entrepreneurship training and conducts innovation research.
In recent years, UC Berkeley has placed additional emphasis on entrepreneurship – providing a “cornucopia of possibilities” for students, Danner said, adding that the multitude of courses, competitions and clubs on campus are all “potential breeding grounds for innovation.”
“Entrepreneurship is now being seen as really an opportunity for people to try new things,” he said. Former ASUC president Connor Landgraf, who graduated in 2013 with a degree in bioengineering, created a startup called Eko Devices in 2012. It is part of SkyDeck — a campus-affiliated incubator for student startups — and is developing a stethoscope that will help doctors diagnose heart murmurs, Landgraf said.
“(UC Berkeley) has definitely prepared me (for entrepreneurship),” he said. “Berkeley students are focused on big challenges — not just on building the next game or social media website but on solving the problems that the next generation is going to face.”
Steve Blank, a lecturer at Haas School of Business, said the difference between Stanford’s and UC Berkeley’s entrepreneurship cultures stems from the fact that during the Cold War, Stanford’s engineering school conducted research in microwaves and other electronics that can be commercialized, whereas UC Berkeley focused on nuclear weapons.
“The culture (of entrepreneurship) at the two schools got pointed in different directions,” he explained.
According to Blank, faculty members at the business school have begun to understand that universities, as research institutions, have the potential to facilitate new commercial opportunities. That awareness has helped universities’ entrepreneurship culture grow.
“Berkeley plays with the big boys (now),” he said. “We’re learning how to play the same game (as Stanford) and play it well.”