UC Berkeley comes in 2nd to Stanford in 2017-18 startup ranking

Joshua Jordan/Staff

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UC Berkeley was ranked No. 2 among the 50 undergraduate programs that produce the most venture capital-backed entrepreneurs, according to PitchBook’s 2017-18 report.

The report distinguishes undergraduate and MBA programs, compares Ivy League colleges to other universities and analyzes numbers such as companies per sector, female founders and total capital raised by founders’ companies. This year, UC Berkeley produced 1,089 entrepreneurs and 961 companies, coming in second to Stanford University.

Ido Deutsch, co-president of Berkeley Entrepreneurship Association and a campus MBA candidate, said he believes the campus’s biggest challenge is making resources accessible and maintaining relationships between its different colleges.

“Basically, every school has its own program. Every student club starts its own program or events,” Deutsch said. “Every year, there is many more events and competitions that are more accessible for students, but it’s very hard to find those resources.”

When Cloudera co-founder and UC Berkeley alumnus Mike Olson was a campus undergraduate, he did “scut work” for a team which later disbanded to bring its research to the private sector. Many years later, when an entrepreneurship opportunity came knocking on Olson’s door, he followed suit.

Olson said in an email that his biggest regret about UC Berkeley was the segregation of his “world-class education in engineering” from the “world-class work going on at Haas.” But having stayed close to the College of Engineering in recent years, he added that he is impressed by the opportunities that the campus’s current generation of students have to bridge the tech and business divide.

“There was no mixing of the folks in the College of Engineering and the School of Business. I didn’t learn how to hire and fire employees, how to negotiate a contract or how to read a balance sheet until I was actually on the job,” Olson said in his email. “By then, I had a lot to lose by messing up (and I did make some expensive mistakes).”

In 2011, Berkeley SkyDeck — a startup accelerator program — was implemented on campus as a joint venture between the College of Engineering, the Haas School of Business and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. The program aims to prepare companies to launch into the commercial market. This year, Berkeley Skydeck, under its fund manager Chon Tang, will provide about 20 eligible startup teams with $100,000 in funding.

“The campus has taken an intentional view towards being an entrepreneurial environment,” Caroline Winnett, Berkeley SkyDeck’s executive director, said.

While both Stanford and UC Berkeley are located in “the heart of the venture capital industry,” according to the PitchBook report, Stanford consistently ranked higher than UC Berkeley in the report, producing more entrepreneurs and female founders and raising more venture capital, even with approximately 20,000 fewer undergraduates.

Joanne Chen, a UC Berkeley alumna and a partner at venture capital firm Foundation Capital, said UC Berkeley still has a lot of improvements it needs to make “to leverage its alumni base.” After graduating from UC Berkeley, she received her MBA from the University of Chicago, where she felt a sense of community that she said was absent on campus.

“The associate dean of (University of Chicago) was the officiate at my wedding. I couldn’t think of that at Berkeley,” Chen said.

Chen added that while UC Berkeley has a strong engineering and computer science program that teaches students to be “very good individual contributors — super smart, very technical,” the curriculum’s theoretical and technical approach failed to emphasize business perspectives.

According to the PitchBook report, the question has shifted in recent years from why certain schools rank highly in terms of entrepreneurial success to the particulars of the programs that put them there.

“ ‘Are we doing the same things as Stanford?’ isn’t how we should score entrepreneurship at Berkeley,” Olson said in his email. “(W)e should look to our strengths, and figure out how to magnify those.”

Contact Alicia Kim at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @aliciackim.