The Future of Education Needs New Funding Models. UC Berkeley Has One.

Caroline Winnett
Mar 19 · 3 min read

Caroline Winnett, Executive Director, Berkeley SkyDeck

Berkeley SkyDeck is UC Berkeley’s premier startup accelerator and incubator. We host over 200 startups per year, have over 170 mentors, and occupy two floors of prime real estate in downtown Berkeley. Berkeley SkyDeck recently partnered with a newly launched $25 million seed fund that invests in our startups. This dedicated fund, the Berkeley SkyDeck Fund, will share 50% of fund profits with campus. We are looking for moonshot startups to accelerate at SkyDeck, and when these startups are acquired or go public, revenues flow to UC Berkeley. We are aiming to bring $1 billion in total revenue to campus via these fund returns.

Have we caught your attention? Please read further to learn more about our specific model and how it works.

What is the Berkeley SkyDeck model? Our agreement with the Berkeley SkyDeck Fund is a public/private partnership that allows us to work together for a common goal that benefits both partners. The Berkeley SkyDeck Fund taps into UC Berkeley’s superpowers: our global network of talent and expertise, our entrepreneurial community, and the discoveries that come from our world-class research. UC Berkeley taps into private capital to fund our startups, the expertise and network of the fund managers, and brings SkyDeck to a completely new level of startup acceleration. Working together, both partners will bring revenues to their investors and institutions. For Berkeley specifically, these revenues will help fund education.

Twice per year, Berkeley SkyDeck accepts around 20 startups for the accelerator track. Founders can be affiliated with Berkeley or any of the ten UC campuses, or they can be founders from outside the US who seek to launch their companies here. Each startup receives $100K in funding and dedicated workspace. Startups are given massive resources: office hours with industry experts, one-on-one advisor pairing, connections to students and faculty, hundreds of free and discounted resources donated by our partners, and connections to UC Berkeley’s 500,000 living alumni. This last point cannot be overemphasized. This is one of our most significant superpowers. For startup acceleration, it’s network, network, network, and UC Berkeley has one of the world’s most powerful, global, and talented alumni networks.

Our incubator track accepts about 100 startups of any stage, and we especially welcome any Berkeley students or faculty who wish to participate in our program. The incubator track is open to founders affiliated with any of the ten UC campuses, and the Berkeley SkyDeck Fund can select investments from this track. These are sometimes very early stage startups that become great candidates for our accelerator track.

The Berkeley SkyDeck Fund started making investments in December 2017, so it’s early days, as seed funds don’t typically see any returns for the first few years. We are laser-focused on finding and accelerating the next moonshot startup, from Berkeley, or one of our sister campuses, or from outside the US. With this global outreach and the support of our powerful alumni network and our world-class research university, we know we will find those moonshot startups.

Maybe we already have found a few and they are just warming up the rocket boosters.

Caroline Winnett

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Berkeley SkyDeck is UC Berkeley's global startup accelerator. We connect the world’s top startups to the talent and resources at UC Berkeley.