The Berkeley Startup Cluster is operated by a steering committee comprised of representatives from each of the collaborating groups: the City of Berkeley, the Downtown Berkeley Association, the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, and UC Berkeley.
Every year, numerous startups spin out of UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (including an increasing number of greentech startups); but unfortunately most of these young, innovative companies don't stay in Berkeley. This innovation-drain (which is analogous to brain-drain) is a lost opportunity for the local economy (as well as the University and LBL research enterprise) to benefit from the commercialization of the innovations developed at the Campus or Lab. The Berkeley Startup Cluster (BSC) was formed to address this innovation drain, and correspondingly seed the cradle-to-scale business development strategy for the East Bay Green Corridor.
The BSC was conceived in a 2009 conversation between UC Berkeley's Mike Cohen, and the City of Berkeley's Michael Caplan and Dave Fogarty. The three were lamenting the dearth of funding to establish an incubator near the campus in downtown Berkeley -- that would attract the startups spinning out of the Campus and Lab. As a scrappy alternative to a centralized incubator, the group brainstormed on the formation of a virtual incubator comprised of technology-oriented startups clustered in downtown Berkeley.
Proximity to the UC Berkeley campus is a key attribute of this virtual or distributed incubator because in the intense competition to attract startups, proximity to the Campus and Lab is one of the few inherent competitive advantages that Berkeley has over the draw of Silicon Valley (40+ miles south of Berkeley).
For startup teams spinning out of the Campus and Lab, locating nearby enables the startups to:
- Readily (continue to) collaborate with Campus or Lab colleagues (including collaborations funded by the US government's STTR and SBIR programs);
- Easily (continue to) access the unique publicly-accessible technology development facilities at the Campus and Lab;
- Keep their residences and commutes intact; and
- Conveniently juggle completing their UC Berkeley degree program while pursuing a startup.
While focused on technology-oriented startups, the BSC also encompasses tech-oriented establish companies -- as these companies are effectively brand name, anchor tenants of the BSC. In addition to giving credibility to the BSC, these established companies provide the funding that supports the BSC community-building events. Likewise, the BSC also encompasses tech-oriented serial entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.