What’s the Plan for SkyDeck Fall Cohort 2020? It’s Game On.

The Cal Band at SkyDeck Fall 2019 Demo Day

Like everyone on the planet, we at Berkeley SkyDeck have had quite an unusual time these past few months. 140 startups, 300 advisors and mentors, six full time staff, two fund managers, 30 Faculty Advisors, and 510,000 Berkeley alumni. We have been working with all of you remotely and it has been an incredible experience. Many people have been asking “what is the plan for the Fall 2020 cohort? “

Simple answer: the plan is full speed ahead. We will be running our Fall 2020 cohort at the same rapid pace as we always have. The Berkeley SkyDeck Fund is making investments. Applications open July 8 and we are looking for the world’s startup talent. This is what we do know. What we don’t yet know is how much we will be operating out of the SkyDeck building. We are waiting for word from UC Berkeley as to when we can open our building for operations. We will do so as soon as it is safe according to public health guidelines and UC Berkeley’s own safety guidelines. Whether remote, in person, or hybrid, our startups will receive full acceleration and all the Cal Bear energy we have at our disposal.

Our current operations have not only maintained all the powerful programming that we are well known for, we have actually expanded our programs. We have even more advisors and mentors signing up for office hours. We continue to introduce our founders to UC Berkeley alumni for leads to customers, investors, and expert advice. The enthusiasm in our global community to support our founders has been extraordinary. We are accelerating startups remotely all over the world, and they are a remarkable group — not surprising as the acceptance rate for the cohort was 1.6%. They come from Berkeley, from some of our sister University of California campuses, and from all over the world — Armenia, Canada, Chile, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Russia, and Taiwan. What’s the hardest part about our program right now? Time zones!

New initiatives include the launch of an Aero Track for startups in aerospace and air mobility, the expansion of the SkyDeck Faculty Advisor program, and expanded intern matching for our startups. We have so far hosted almost 250 separate office hours for our startups with our advisors and mentors, and we are only halfway through the Spring session. (Thank goodness Zoom has been able to scale). Recently some of our alumni founders have raised $32 million in venture funding, an impressive amount even during non-COVID times.

While we are eager to get back in person with our amazing founders, our first priority is their health and safety. We are proud to be part of UC Berkeley, where new research is breaking ground to tackle COVID-19. The campus in the process of testing thousands of students, faculty, and staff as part of a massive Safe Campus study. Berkeley’s Innovative Genomics Institute has developed a saliva test for the virus. If the FDA approves this test it will allow anyone to get tested for the virus within minutes. Imagine how that will improve society’s ability to function in the midst of a pandemic.

Our mission at SkyDeck is to find and accelerate the world’s most impactful startups. This mission is more important than ever, and it burns even more brightly as we face the challenges that we as a global society are grappling with. At Berkeley, people come to change the world. That’s what we expect our founders to do, and we expect ourselves at SkyDeck to do everything we can to enable this. When founders can’t meet potential customers and investors in person to expand their network, tapping into an existing network is absolutely critical. Ours is ready for the next cohort of moonshot startups, launching at SkyDeck in the Fall of 2020.

Executive Director, Berkeley SkyDeck. We connect the world’s top startups to the talent and resources at UC Berkeley.