UC Berkeley organizations launch blockchain startup accelerator program

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Paolo Harris /Staff

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On Jan. 28, UC Berkeley launched the Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator, an accelerator program open to international participants and designed to guide and support high-value blockchain startups.

The Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator was initiated by a collaboration among Blockchain at Berkeley — a blockchain-focused student organization on campus — UC Berkeley’s Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, and the Haas School of Business.

According to Jocelyn Weber, director of Xlabs and executive programs at the Sutardja Center, the program will begin in mid-March, provide business and entrepreneurship training and aid an estimated five to 10 projects by connecting them to mentors and investors. The accelerator will typically last 12 weeks, and participants will receive office space, funding of up to $200,000 per team and partnership resources.

“At Berkeley we have a groundswell of blockchain activity, ranging from a number of courses offered on campus to a very large and in-demand student group to a lot of independent projects and faculty doing research in the blockchain space,” Weber said. “We at the Sutardja Center felt that it would be beneficial to the ecosystem to launch an accelerator that serves this blockchain activity.”

According to Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program, participants must apply to the program with a semi-developed project. The accelerator includes resources for technical training and support for commercialization.

According to the president of Blockchain at Berkeley Gloria Zhao, the organization will be a resource for blockchain expertise, and members will teach blockchain classes and act as mentors. Though projects must be technically sound to be accepted, Zhao noted that because blockchain is an interdisciplinary space, the accelerator will be looking for a diverse group of participants.

“There’s going to be folks who have done this for other industries like the internet, so they’re going to be able to rely on that expertise, and they’re also going to be able to rely on technical expertise and also a fertile environment,” Shrader said in regard to mentorship.

The Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator has been sponsored in part by the Berkeley XLab Fund — a venture capital fund focused on making investments in UC Berkeley’s blockchain ecosystem — and associated emerging technology initiatives, according to a press release from the Sutardja Center.

Shrader explained the importance of supporting blockchain startups because the technology is new and people are still exploring the extent of its application.

“The technology itself is, I would call groundbreaking, because of its ideological differences,” Zhao said. “It springs out of a movement of libertarianism and freedom and personal privacy, so it’s very much intuitive for social impact and democratization.”

Contact Emily Hom at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @hom_emily.

Because of misinformation from a source, a previous version of this article may have implied that the Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator was a free program. In fact, the program may or may not charge teams to participate depending on certain factors, including the stage of the startup and fundraising done to date.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Jocelyn Weber is the director of executive programs at the Sutardja Center. In fact, Weber is the director of Xlabs and executive programs at the Sutardja Center.