Student-run incubator program hosts competition for startups at SkyDeck Berkeley

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A student-run incubator program hosted a pitch competition on Monday evening in an effort to guide aspiring student-entrepreneurs to the next stage of their development process.

The competition featured designs for mobile applications, websites and inventions and was held by Free Ventures, a student nonprofit designed to provide resources and mentoring to potential UC Berkeley startups. At the competition, which was hosted at startup incubator SkyDeck Berkeley, five entrepreneurial teams presented short product pitches to a panel of 10 judges from notable venture capital firms. After a deliberation process, the judges and audience members voted for the winning team.

The prize included priority in next semester’s application for a workspace spot at SkyDeck and a $500 cash prize. Free Ventures team member Sam Kirschner said the competition is also rewarding in that it teaches students goal-specific pitching and networking skills for the future.

“If a team is looking to raise money to help fund their company, it’s critical to be good at explaining what it is their company is doing,” Kirschner said.

The teams pitched a variety of innovative ideas, including SuperTag’s text message service for sharing various media, Lily’s autonomous personal camera, Fractal’s platform for nonprogrammers to build mobile apps, Clover Ink’s vision of a pay-per-hire startup recruiting website and Clique’s private social network model.

Amy White, director of marketing at Highland Capital Partners and one of the presiding judges, praised the diversity and quality of the pitched ideas.

“Honestly, I liked all of themthere was a nice balance of practical and extreme ideas presented, all of which have the potential to scale into larger endeavors,” White said.

The winning team, “Lily,” presented an autonomous camera that impressed the judges with its “outstanding technical aspect” and capacity to offer both a hardware and software solution, said judge Jordan Kong.

Team Lily is run by Antoine Balaresque and Henry Bradlow, former and current UC Berkeley students, respectively. They showcased their camera with a video of different sports activities shot from various aerial angles. The device is currently assembled by off-the-shelf components, including four rotors and two cameras to track the user through a computer-vision algorithm.

Bradlow credited Free Ventures for being the “external force” that pushed Lily forward, providing the team with “deadlines, motivation and mentorship.”

“The collaboration among students to build a real support system for entrepreneurship at UC Berkeley was very inspiring and encouraging,” White said.

Contact Jeff Landa at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JeffLanda.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the student nonprofit Free Ventures hosted a design competition last Wednesday. In fact, it was a pitch competition that took place on Monday.