Whatever wariness has accompanied the collaboration between public universities and private sector profit-seeking, that horse appears well out of the barn, foaming at the mouth and galloping madly for the horizon. At UC Berkeley, academic/corporate “incubators” and “accelerators” are all the rage. Supporters focus on the upside: Creative researchers are able to launch start-ups that produce spookily cool products and generate gigabucks in the process — and may even embody the maxim to do well by doing good.
Certainly that’s the blue-skies view from SkyDeck, the accelerator located in the penthouse suite of the tall and magisterial building at 2150 Berkeley Avenue. A mere two years old, SkyDeck has sponsored 50 entrepreneurial teams, affording them working space, mentorship and exclusive contacts in academe, high tech and finance. People who are accepted to SkyDeck aren’t timorous young prodigies with great ideas; they’re not timorous, and they’re beyond the idea stage. They have products, great products, ready to launch.
They just need some help with the countdown and blast off.
“They’re here because they want to fly,” observes Caroline Winnett, SkyDeck’s executive director. “Maybe they need a few more feathers before they leave the nest, but they’re all dedicated entrepreneurs, and they can’t wait to get out and get their products to market. And we share that goal. Some companies may need to stay a little longer than others, but we’re all about helping them negotiate the real world.”