A list released by Crunchbase News in May shows that UC Berkeley has the largest number of graduating startup founders of any public university.
The Crunchbase News list is based on the number of startups that have raised more than $1 million in the span of a year, and UC Berkeley has almost three times more than the first runner-up, UCLA.
“Given that UC Berkeley is a core part of (the city of) Berkeley, I think the city naturally attracts a lot of innovators and creative thinkers and that inevitably leads to a lot of startups being in Berkeley,” said Nishita Deka, CEO of the startup Sonera Magnetics and a campus graduate student, in an email. “Meeting and being around like-minded people who want to build and create new things is probably the most important first step for any startup.”
Cameron Baradar, partner at the House Fund, a traditional venture capital fund that primarily invests in early stage software companies, said that while students at private institutions such as Stanford or Harvard may receive more guidance, students at UC Berkeley benefit from working more independently.
“It really instills (in) the students at Berkeley this grit that nothing is going to be handed to you, fighting to get into certain classes … fighting to get into certain student organizations,” Baradar said. “That translates really well to an entrepreneurial environment where you have to build something from scratch with your own energy.”
Berkeley-based startups also benefit from being in the Bay Area, according to Sritej Attaluri, a campus senior and vice president of development of the campus consulting group Venture Strategy Solutions.
Mary Catherine O’Connor, communications director for Cyclotron Road, said simply being in close proximity to Silicon Valley brings high investment potential that is beneficial to the fellows.
Founders can also benefit from the resources offered on campus.
“If there’s a certain research or facility down on campus that they want to access, we have the ability to strike partnerships there,” O’Connor said.
This was the case for Deka, who said the access to academic experts and lab facilities was beneficial for the development of her company.
Not all startups are successful, however. O’Connor said about 10% of the fellows who have worked with Cyclotron Road have opted to end their startups.
“It’s important to note that if a fellow comes through the program … has a startup, and then comes to the realization that it’s just not his or her calling … we still consider that really successful because we’ve helped them find the path that is most aligned with what they want to do,” O’Connor said.