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Business Plan Competition Couples Students With Silicon Valley Companies

By Ute Frey, Haas School of Business
Posted January 26, 2000

Organizers of this year's UC Berkeley Business Plan Competition expect at least twice as many people to register as did last year, and the competition has not even officially been launched. Building on its first year's success, the competition has received even greater support this year from students and faculty, as well as the business community.

The competition builds a bridge between Berkeley's talents, ideas, and initiatives and Silicon Valley's entrepreneurial and investment communities, integrating Berkeley into the business fabric of the Valley. Berkeley's is not only the country's youngest such competition, it also has the strategic advantage of being located near Silicon Valley, the epicenter of new venture creation.

The competition is organized by Haas School of Business MBA students and endorsed by the departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, Industrial Engineering and Operations Research, and the School of Information Management and Systems.

Organizers invite Berkeley students, faculty, alumni and members of the local community to form teams now to participate in this year's competition. The competition will be launched Jan. 31, with a special event at the Haas School of Business Andersen Auditorium, 4 - 6 p.m. Everyone interested in being a part of the competition -- as an entrepreneur or mentor -- is invited.

Following a semester of workshops and networking events, the business plans will be judged in two major rounds by some of Silicon Valley's most notable venture capital firms: Sevin Rosen Funds, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, SoftBank Venture Partners, Onset Ventures, 21st Century Internet Venture Partners and Palladium Venture Capital. Each team must have at least one Berkeley student or alum to register.

"In just one year, the UC Berkeley Business Plan Competition has gained a reputation as one of the country's premier entrepreneurial competitions," said Jerry Engel, director of Berkeley's Lester Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, which along with the Haas School and its Entrepreneurs' Association is hosting the competition.

"What makes this program unique and generates so much interest in Silicon Valley is that the ideas that come out of it are realistic, marketable and fundable. We're not promoting Frisbees that fly under water."

In fact, the winner of last year's competition, Timbre Technologies, developed software that could save semiconductor manufacturers billions of dollars in quality control and time to market issues, according to Neil Weintraut of 21st Century Internet Venture Partners and a competition judge. To date, participants in last year's inaugural competition have raised more than $22 million in funding. Of 80 registered teams, nearly half included students from life sciences or electrical engineering and computer science.

The local business community has donated more than $165,000 in cash and in-kind services, about triple the support of last year's competition. The increase allows competition organizers to offer more than $50,000 in cash prizes to its winners. Just more than 90 members from the business community and Berkeley faculty have volunteered to serve as competition judges or as mentors to the teams.

For information, see the Web site at



January 26 - February 1, 2000 (Volume 28, Number 19)
Copyright 2000, The Regents of the University of California.
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