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Largest Startup Class Yet Enters UC Berkeley’s Expanding Accelerator

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candidates for outside hires and advisory board members. It also introduces them to potential customers and other industry executives in Silicon Valley. SkyDeck runs two sessions a year, starting in June and December.

In return for the $100,000 investment they receive from the Berkeley SkyDeck Fund, the Cohort startups give the VC firm a 5 percent equity stake. The fund has agreed to share half of its management profits from those investments—the carried interest—with UC Berkeley and SkyDeck.

If graduates of the accelerator program succeed, Winnett says, “it benefits Berkeley and helps us with our relentless pursuit of knowledge for the greater good.”

Counting this fall session, SkyDeck has nurtured 300 companies since the program began. Among the success stories Winnett points to is sonar chipmaker Chirp Microsystems, a 2013 participant in the accelerator program that announced in February it had agreed to be acquired by Tokyo-based electronics giant TDK. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

In addition to the initial $100,000 funding that SkyDeck’s Cohort companies receive, they can also vie for additional investment from the Berkeley SkyDeck Fund, from at least $50,000 to as much as 10 percent of the amount raised in their next funding rounds. HotDesk participants can also compete for this money.

The SkyDeck class members are being trained to deliver a five-minute pitch to a crowd of potential investors at their Demo Day in November. They not only learn to make a convincing business case for their companies, but also to frame their pitch as a “product story” that captures the imagination. They’re frequently reminded of the importance of storytelling, Winnett says.

“If you’re not presenting your startup as a story, it’s less likely to be engaging and less likely to be remembered,” Winnett says.

Photo courtesy of Berkeley SkyDeck Accelerator.

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