UC Berkeley ranks as top public university for startup founders, 2nd overall

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Can Jozef Saul/Staff
UC Berkeley was ranked as the top public university for startup founders and second for all universities, according to PitchBook’s 2021 university rankings. Haas School of Business programs and growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem around Berkeley contributed to the achievement.

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PitchBook’s 2021 university rankings placed UC Berkeley as the top public university for startup founders and second among both private and public universities.

Every year, PitchBook ranks the university’s undergraduate and MBA programs based on a cumulative tally of entrepreneurs who received venture funding since 2006, according to PitchBook writer James Thorne, who edited this year’s rankings.

“It is very exciting to be recognized,” said Haas School of Business professor and Chief Innovation and Entrepreneurship Officer Richard Lyons. “The other universities that are near the top of the list are as extraordinary as Berkeley.”

Thorne added schools like UC Berkeley that have graduated many entrepreneurs over the years tend to remain at or near the top of the rankings from year to year.

Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley-Haas Entrepreneurship Program and the Bay Area National Science Foundation Innovation Corps, noted PitchBook’s rankings are objective and a good way to measure UC Berkeley’s influence.

Shrader said the Haas school is continuing to design programs like the Berkeley-Haas Student Entrepreneurship Program and the university’s startup accelerator LAUNCH.

“Making things inclusive and helpful to everyone — this is really what Haas’ role has been,” Shrader said. “Bringing folks together, giving them the training they need for startups.”

Deevy Bhimani, a campus alumnus who graduated in spring 2021, co-founded the startup Vesen Inc. in his senior year, which enables restaurants and retail stores to connect with their customers via text.

“People should be encouraged to continue to work on solving problems, instead of going to another traditional work at a large company,” Bhimani said.

The Berkeley ecosystem around entrepreneurship has grown significantly over the last 20 years, according to Lyons.

He said the Haas school provides resources and opportunities to introduce students to entrepreneurship, including the A. Richard Newton Lecture Series which introduces alumni starting in the private, public and civic sectors.

“We want to make sure not just to support startups, but also support undergrad students as interns in those startups,” Lyons said.

Shrader also described UC Berkeley’s startup culture as “scrappy,” since students have to take the initiative to find things on their own, including a program and teammates.

She noted there have been many successful startups from campus undergraduate students, including Cityface, a skincare line founded by Jeena Chong, a campus junior. 

The business school is also being more intentional about building a “pipeline of programs,” Shrader added. She hopes more programs will begin midsemester, as students come up with ideas at different times throughout the year.

“We now finally get some of the infrastructures we need to move these ideas from either people’s head or lab out into the world quickly,” Shrader said.

Contact Winnie Lau at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @winniewy_lau.