Archive for the ‘kelly karns’ tag
Last night, on April 24, 2012, I attended a reception at the University of California Berkeley Clark Kerr Campus. The reception was held to announce the finalists for the 2012 Berkeley Startup Competition. This event used to be called the Berkeley Business Plan Competition. I competed in the finals of this competition in its inaugural year, and have sponsored the competition every year since, including in 2012.
This year I was a mentor to semi-finalist team University Gateway, lead by Dorian Walden. I got to know Walden over four meetings, some of them stretching to 3 hours around my dining room table. Sadly, University Gateway did not progress to the finals, but it was easy for Walden to understand why.
Two teams I know personally were in the same judging category as University Gateway — Products and Services. University Gateway is an Internet company, but the track for Internet companies apparently was filled up already. This meant University Gateway was competing with companies that make and sell physical goods.
The teams I know that competed in the Products and Services track both were advanced to the finals. I was 99.9% confident that this would be the result, even though I knew nothing about the other competing teams. I was so confident because the teams I know are so strong, and I have been a judge for this competition for the past 8 years or so. I know from experience that teams this strong always make it to the finals.
I also know that teams this strong are very rare, so it was unlikely that the Products and Services track had any other teams so strong. I have never gone home from judging thinking that a third team from my judging track should have gone on to the finals.
University Gateway has a good idea, and I hope that Dorian Walder and Julian Riediger make their venture a success. The company is still in stealth mode, so I won’t tell you what they do yet.
The Products and Services teams that advanced to the finals are Modify and Back to the Roots. Both are unusual companies for this Berkeley competition.
Modify makes wrist watches that you can change easily to suit your tastes. The straps are made from silicone, similar to what silicone bake ware is made from. One can pop the time piece out of the strap/case in just a second, with no tools or special skills required. The straps are available in bright colors, and I describe them as chunky chic. The team from Modify are each wearing a Modfiy watch in the photograph I took at the top of this post. I am friends with Modify founder Aaron Schwartz. We see each other most months at the Haas Founders group I wrote about March 11, 2012.
Schwartz is a likeable and modest guy — only when researching this blog post did I discover he’s been profiled in a blog published by The New York Times newspaper. The New York Times is worth tens of millions of dollars less than photo sharing smart phone application Instagram, but I’d much prefer to be written about in a blog by The New York Times than in a blog by Instagram.
Back to the Roots makes and sells affordable oyster mushroom growing kits. I’ve written about Back to the Roots when I saw their CEO Nikhil Arora speak on a panel at a Food Startups Meetup run by my friend Matthew Wise, the co-founder of both Founderly and Tableslice. Back to the Roots has 20 full time employees, or so I was told when I interviewed a staff member at their booth at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show on March 24, 2012.
Back to the Roots has received lots of press coverage, including two minutes and forty seconds on the national CBS Evening News in the United States on March 15, 2012. The newscast says that Back to the Roots sells its products in over 1,000 stores and has 28 employees. Impressive.
Both Modify and Back to the Roots have businesses that are well along. Modify has sold _____ of thousands of watches to companies as well known as _____ and _____. [I'm waiting to hear from Schwartz to fill in the blanks in the last sentence. I know the values, but I want to verify the numbers and names I know are meant to be public information.] Back to the Roots sells its kits at Whole Foods Market and Home Depot. While Modfiy and Back to the Roots are still startups, they are making big strides and are companies to watch.
The reception was well attended and busy. I got to talk with my fellow judges from past years of this competition. I captured video. I took hundreds of pictures. I didn’t eat until the event was technically over. What I didn’t get to do, sadly, was interview the finalist teams that I didn’t know. If they are reading this and would like to be the subject of a future blog post, I invite them to contact me. I’ll meet you for coffee and you can give me your pitch and I’ll write about your venture.
Here is a list of the 2012 finalists for the Berkeley Startup Competition. The descriptive text that follows was provided by the teams themselves.
- Kloudless, Inc.
Kloudless is a free service that helps you manage all the things you put in the cloud. We enable users to search for, access, and manage their information that is spread across the Internet. We’re starting with email attachments, the black hole of cloud services, and will expand to other cloud services in the near future. Our solution addresses an increasingly large problem as more and more information moves into the cloud.
Traverie is an explorer focused startup that leverages the emotional, personal and inherently social aspects of travel discovery to make the process visual, fun and trustworthy. We bring structure to the current ad hoc and offline model of discovering and selecting destinations. We blend user-generated content, professional content and advertising to deliver a compelling user experience. Our founding team comprises a designer, engineer and product manager from MIT, Harvard and Berkeley-Haas, respectively.
AdrenaRx is a biopharmaceutical company focused on the prevention and treatment of heart failure due to toxicity from cancer chemotherapy. Each year, 1.6 million Americans are affected by cancer, and a third of these patients receive chemotherapy that can damage their heart. AdrenaRx has identified a new therapeutic target and a potent, selective drug that can protect the heart from damage by chemotherapy, and reduce a patient’s risk of developing heart failure after surviving cancer.
- Calcula Technologies
Calcula Technologies is developing a novel urological medical device for the removal of kidney stones outside of the operating room. Our patent pending technology will treat 4M patients/year in the US and EU. With clear FDA predicates and existing CPT reimbursement codes Calcula will be a major disruption in the field of Urology.
- Claro Energy
Claro Energy provides solar-powered water pumping solutions to meet irrigation needs of farmers in remote power-deficit agriculture areas in India where costly diesel generated power is the default choice. Claro Energy’s solar-powered pumps have near zero operating costs, are longer lasting and highly reliable when compared to dieselpowered pumps. In combination with sales, marketing and business development competencies, Claro Energy has also developed in-house integration and implementation expertise in remote rural regions of India.
- HARBO Technologies
During the first critical hours, oil-spills spread, split, and create escalating irreversible damage. HARBO develops the only emergency oil-spill containment solution for immediate response. HARBO’s Zero Time to Spill system is at standby position on-board oil-tankers/rigs and other ships and deploys a boom (floating barrier) within minutes to contain spills. HARBO’s advantage: Minimizing environmental damage, avoiding large containment/cleanup expenses, offering superb costefficiency and preventing a PR nightmare. “Containing oil-spills when they’re small, preventing big disasters.”
- Back to the Roots
Back to the Roots, started by two Haas Business School undergrads, promotes sustainability and zero-waste, while reconnecting people to food through its grow-at-home mushroom kit. Our gourmet mushroom kits are made with 100% recycled coffee grounds, and produce 2 pounds of fresh oyster mushrooms in just 10 days! People of all ages can actually grow and eat their own mushrooms all at home, a unique experience in today’s urban lifestyle.
Modify is a brand built on freedom of expression. Customizable for individual style, Modify’s interchangeable watches offer dope design for anyday wear. Available in two different sizes and over 250 combinations, Modify is a brand made for anyone—anytime, anyplace. A proponent of exceptional personalized service, we engage organizations and fans to help create (and name!) watches. Modify Watches are available for corporate gifting and licensing.
Here’s the handheld video I captured of the finalist teams learning of their advancement and collecting their certificates documenting their achievements. Andre Marquis, the Executive Director of The Lester Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, delivers the opening remarks. John Steuart, Managing Director at Claremont Creek Ventures, comments on the judging process. Steuart’s firm is a financial sponsor of the competition, and Steuart is one of the judges.
Anthony Franco of Better Cater, pictured above, contacted me and asked me to link to his startup’s website. Sorry for the delay in creating the link — I just saw your Facebook message from April 25th a few minutes ago. Kevin — May 3, 2012 @ 12:47am.
Please participate in the UC Berkeley Startup Competition, formerly known as the UC Berkeley Business Plan Competition. Here’s the email notice I received this morning from the competition organizers. Since this link will eventually not work, I prepared a screen capture of the email and I show it below this paragraph.
My friend Kelly Karns of AutoTB is shown in the picture at the lower right of the email screen capture above. That’s Andre Marquis, the Executive Director of The Lester Center for Entrepreneurship in the lower left. Marquis is shaking things up and making changes — I wrote to him October 5, 2011 suggesting the name of this event be changed to The Berkeley Startup Competition, and today I open my email and the name has been changed. My suggestion may not have been unique, so I am not trying to take all or even a majority of the credit for renaming the premier entrepreneurial competition at Berkeley. But I will take my earned share, however tiny or substantial that turns out to be.
I made the name change suggestion to take the focus off of writing business plans that few will read or pay attention to. Instead, I want the focus to be on creating viable startups that create jobs and change the world. Achieving this goal will require a lot more than a new name, and I hope to be invited to contribute more of my many ideas to help reach this goal.
I was a finalist in this event in 1999 and my success I trace directly to this competition. I am grateful that the rules allowed me to compete. I am grateful the rules still allow me to compete, should I want to start a new company.
I have donated USD $20,000 to the competition since 2000 — I am that grateful.
The Lester Center has extended to me many perks beyond what I technically ‘paid for’ with this $20,000, and I thank them for their extraordinary generosity. For example, I’ve recently concluded a dozen year stint on the Advisory Council of the Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum. I paid nothing for this membership during this dozen years, despite the Council being a fund raising mechanism for the Lester Center. I enjoyed dozens of fascinating dinners during this period, and I made a lot of smart and interesting friends by my membership, including Jerry Engel, Brian Goncher, Robert Dellenbach, Laura Oliphant, Sam Angus and Tom Kintner and by association his brother Avery Kintner. I will miss these twice yearly dinners, which I never missed unless I was out of California.
I am talking with Marquis to expand and extend my assistance to the competition over the next 14 years. There is so much more I can do to help, and the future looks bright under the stewardship of Andre Marquis and the leadership of the student organizers, who have the responsibility to run and perpetuate the event.
Here’s something I never expected:
My picture is on the front page of the Berkeley Business Plan Competition website.
I’m pictured with AutoTB Co-Founder and CEO Kelly Karns. AutoTB won the competition in 2009. This picture was taken by long time Berkeley event photographer Bruce Cook at the public finals awards ceremony on April 28, 2011.
I’m a judge and sponsor for the Berkeley Business Plan Competition, and I was a contestant in 1999.
I received word this week that I’ve been invited back to be a semi-final round judge for the Business Plan Competition at the University of California at Berkeley.
I can’t remember what year I started being a judge for this competition, but I strongly suspect it was 2005, plus or minus a year or two.
Judging is generally a day long affair in the Faculty Club at Berkeley. I consider it one of the most exciting days of the year. I get to meet 6 to 8 startups, and I get to see them under the pressure of one of their most important presentations they’ve likely given. It’s a really fascinating process, and I am thankful to be included by the student organizers.
I am generally the only judge that’s a practicing tech entrepreneur. The large majority of the other judges are venture capitalists. A few of of the judges are startup lawyers. I’ve made friends with a lot of VCs over the years as a result of the business plan competition. They’re not scary to me anymore.
This year I am judging teams competing in the Products and Services track. I particularly enjoy judging tracks that are not Internet tracks, because I learn more. Two years ago I judged the medical device teams, and had the priviledge to meet the AutoTB team that’s seeking to make a low cost automated digital microscope that can diagnose teberculosis in minutes. I’ve exchanged many emails over the last two years with Kelly Karns, answering her questions, and we’ve become friends. I would likely have never met her if not for the business plan competition. AutoTB won the competition in 2009. Here’s a nice article about AutoTB on CNN.com.
I read the business plans word for word before the judging day, and I take it very seriously. I competed in this same competition in 1999 and I credit it with my later success in selling the venture that competed. I have first hand knowledge of the stakes for the competitors, and I put forth a lot of effort to identify the best plans.
I love helping students, and I think I benefit from helping as much as the students benefit from my help.