Introducing Free Ventures’ Spring ’17 Batch & Trends in Berkeley Startups!

Four years ago we started out with a simple mission: to empower UC Berkeley students with the resources, motivation, and support necessary to build products and services that create a positive impact on people’s lives. At the time there were limited outlets on campus supporting student founders, with fragmented efforts across different pockets of campus. Contrary to our belief that a university ecosystem is the ideal place to start up, there remained a huge need for a strengthened community on campus to bring students together to tackle meaningful challenges.

Free Ventures was built to change this. We give students course units to work on their startups, provide small amounts of equity-free capital, and invite alumni entrepreneur mentors to guide them on their way. We support brilliant students in turning an idea or project into a scalable business, and in doing so launch venture-backed businesses that would not otherwise exist.


Today, we cultivate relationships with top undergraduate and graduate student groups and colleges, and each semester the brightest UC Berkeley student founders apply to Free Ventures to bring their dissertation research, side projects, or innovative products to market. Each day our team actively works with The House, Dorm Room Fund, and other groups to build the strongest community of Berkeley founders — running the full spectrum from ideation to investment. We have helped our 40 alumni teams raise over $25 million from top firms such as Y Combinator, Greylock, KPCB, and SVAngel. Collectively they’ve gone on to tackle problems in VR, drones, IoT, neuroscience, AI, real estate, and renewable energy, just to name a few.

In the process of picking our Spring ’17 Batch we reviewed over 50 applications ranging from MBAs and PhDs in electrical engineering, to undergraduates studying computer science. As a result of Free Ventures’ strong visibility and relationships across UC Berkeley’s colleges, we found an increasing diversity and range of traction among our applicants. Several teams were developing solutions within the healthcare, EdTech, FinTech, personal safety, consumer goods, and social planning spaces. More notably, their products and services increasingly leveraged cutting-edge academic research, advanced science (e.g. AI/ML, NLP, computer vision), open source solutions, and proprietary hardware — a promising improvement over our past batches for the health of the Berkeley startup community.

To offer more flavor on the top early-stage startups from Berkeley, below is a short introduction to each team in our Spring ’17 Batch:

Genetic Foresight: Genetic Foresight provides a genetic test that determines your likelihood to adversely react to medications based on your genetic code; this allows your doctor to make safer and more effective prescriptions. Additionally, the report includes how your current prescription medications will interact with other medications you may be prescribed to prevent harmful drug-to-drug interactions. Your report will be updated biannually based on newly produced research, newly created drugs, and newly prescribed medications to ensure your report never becomes obsolete.
Memory: Memory is an Alexa-based voice assistant for individuals with Alzheimer’s. It responds to patients’ questions using information provided by family members and caretakers, and collects data used for medical research and improvement. Memory’s goal is to reduce the burden on caretakers and allow physicians and healthcare providers to provide customized treatment methods directly to patients in their own homes.
PeerEditr: PeerEditr is a collaborative application for students and teams to share feedback on visual and design projects. Our product provides tailored features for a breadth of projects, from résumés and presentations to marketing material and web design. Our goal is to provide the quickest and most seamless feedback experience.
Acuity for Moms: Acuity for Moms in an online platform that empowers moms to re-enter the workforce by providing online skills training and community. Our platform aggregates existing online courses — think Coursera and EdX — to create customized learning paths based on skills, interests, personality, and time availability. These courses are coupled with a community of like-minded moms and value-add resources in order to help moms ultimately return to the workforce.
Cognigence: Information overload drains the cognitive bandwidth of high-performing individuals and organizations, reducing their peak performance potential. We are the only research-backed cognitive enhancement solution serving this market, bringing data-driven diagnostics, enterprise software, and customized VR therapeutics to the world.
Paladin Drones: Paladin Drones is creating autonomous drone solutions for public safety, at a price even volunteer departments can afford. Their product decreases response time by at least two minutes by providing crucial situational awareness to first responders before they arrive on scene. Their solutions have landed them a spot as a finalist for Berkeley Big Ideas, and helped them win the Penn Innovation Grant.

If you would like to speak with any of our founders or support our program as a mentor, resource partner, or sponsor, please reach out to to us at omkar_salpekar@freeventures.org.