In heart of Berkeley, startups disrupt, strut their stuff

The expo at Innovate@Berkeley held at the Shattuck Hotel in downtown on Thursday April 11. Photo: Shifra de Benedictis-Kessner

Last night, Berkeley hosted the inaugural Innovate@Berkeley, possibly the city’s largest entrepreneurship event to date. Held at the Hotel Shattuck in downtown, the gathering attracted hundreds of attendees and included a keynote address by tech entrepreneur and academic Vivek Wadhwa, a startup expo, and a pitch competition. Sylvia Paull has this report:

Berkeley has always been known for its political radicalism, but last night at Innovate@Berkeley, held at the Hotel Shattuck, 26 high-tech startups presented applications and hardware to disrupt everything from commerce to health, social communications, and play.

With the support of the Berkeley Startup Cluster, a coalition including the City of Berkeley and UC Berkeley, as well as Cal’s South Asian professional fraternity Alpha Epsilon Zeta and some local companies, UC Berkeley computer science sophomore Sameen Karim — all of 19 years old and the founder of startup Eventable — put together an impressive event and the first of its kind to take place in Berkeley.

The five-hour event started with a roar, as hundreds of avid attendees of all ages streamed into the expo room to check out 28 different offerings. The most popular ones were Dash Robotics, whose engineers earned their Ph.D’s by building cockroach-like robots that can climb up any surface and be built from a simple die sheet (batteries provided). Funded by the National Science Foundation, and tested by the military as well as by children, Dash Robotics easily won first place in the pitch competition that followed.

A runner-up was Mozio, an airport transportation search engine that solves the problem of getting one home the last mile after arriving from a flight. Dropsense, which won third prize, uses a cell phone screen and a sensor strap to alert diabetics of low blood sugar.

The sense of excitement among the crowd and the presenters was palpable. It was as if one were going into a museum of living art, where the objects in paintings all popped out and came to life. Only instead of art, most of the objects and services these students produced are functional, and ingenious as well.

This all tied in well with Vivek Wadhwa’s ‘innovation is alive and well’ keynote, in which he pointed out the strides humanity has made in the past two centuries in longevity, education, transportation, food production and communications. Wadhwa has just written a book on the need for the U.S. to bring in more immigrants to stay innovative. Looking around the event tonight, it was obvious that more than half the presenters were immigrants or children of immigrants, including Wadhwa himself.

First published on Sylvia Paull’s Berkeley Blog. Sylvia Paull is an independent high-tech publicist, networker, and avid cyclist.

Startup Berkeley: What does it take to make it in Berkeley? [03.06.12]
Skydeck hopes to boost Berkeley-based tech startups [03.01.12]
Berkeley for startups: Perfect spot or brain drain in action? [02.09.12]
Five steps to make Berkeley a high-tech Mecca [03.13.11]

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  • guest

    Bside editors…

    The lack of comments on this exciting entrepreneurial event (and the NextSpace project) is troublesome, indicating a serious lack of economic diversity among frequent posters.

    Bside is in danger of being typecast as the “Pauper’s Pulpit”. I’m certain that “wanking and whining over the old prog causes” was not what you had in mind when Bside was conceived. Rather, I remember the introduction calling for a fresh take on progress and capitalist success.

    But here’s the rub: Folks who are out making progress and being a capitalist success have little time to engage in chat, online or otherwise. Yet anyone can see our city is brimming with rich (or soon to be rich) fast moving big thinkers.

    Here’s solution: Feature paid interviews of these affluent game changers in our midst! Make it worthwhile for them to focus briefly on the tedium of Berkeley’s chronic bitching points and you’ll see a whole new world of opinion open before your eyes!

  • Um. Wat? I believe you are projecting a bit. This article describes a great event…if you were there. No video. No real reason to be excited or essentially comment about because I WAS NOT THERE. I’m sure some really great tech startups will soon find office space in West Berkeley and progress will be assured. Mostly because SF and Emeryville are full. And your crack about “economic diversity”? What the hell do you even mean? Troll. And I fell for it.

  • guest

    Fuzzy? It sure seems that way. Read it again with someone who can ‘splain it to you. Berkeley’s “Mewling Class” is well represented in these comment sections. We need to hear the Berkeley voices of those making at least $100K/yr. or there is no economic diversity. Till now is just been the down and going, jealously ragging on the up and coming

  • guest

    Poor little rich boy: is there not enough applause for you here?
    Pro-tip: Most of the world won’t give you the same praise for every little thing that mommy will.
    However, on the bright side: berkeleyside commenters tend to comment on things that piss them off. Apparently this article did not do so. Feel happy!

  • guest

    *Not sure if troll or freak*

  • Charles_Siegel

    ” whining over the old prog causes”

    You must not read the comments. Look at the comments on Berkeley Wire for 04-11-13, for example, and you will see a couple of commenters who are not regulars who are advocating old progressive doctrines, and several commenters who are regulars criticizing those old progressive doctrines. The regulars here are decidedly not old-line progressives.

  • guest

    The death knell for idioms is when oldsters start using them. And I liked the word troll.
    If you think $100/yr is a freakishly big number you’re definitely a pauper on this pulpit.

  • guest

    $100k/yr is the minimum for Berkeley’s upper middle class. There’s no shame in not qualifying, just big differences in world outlook.

  • guest

    Bside commenters tend to comment on the minutiae which their lives revolve around – garbage collection, parking meters and food trucks. Which is why we need richer minds involved, one’s that can see beyond the current group’s long nobly impoverished noses.

  • guest

    Pro tips come from pros. Has the world rewarded your ‘professional’ achievements to the tune of $100k/yr.? Don’t blame mommy if it hasn’t, you probably have emotional financial intelligence.


    It’s not an exciting event if no one who reads about it is excited. It takes a certain amount of self-centered-ness to be a would-be entrepreneur, which is not always interesting to others.

  • Bored Silly

    Most of the smart people who used to post have given up or been banned.

  • English Major

    Help!! Look up the definition of fancy words like “idiom” before you use them please. Idioms are expressions that have been around for a long time, not clever new quips by youngsters.

  • guest

    Go away, Tom.

  • guest

    The problem with the article is that it doesn’t explain what the purpose of the event was. Was it a showcase? Were these companies soliciting funding? Were they looking for public feedback on their ideas? What?

  • guest

    lel: don’t you mean meme?
    And if you aren’t trolling, you are a complete douche.

  • guest

    Yeah, If anyone thinks that is a big number, they might as well give up now.

  • guest

    To Bside editors…see what I mean…

    It’s your baby, so you’ll decide. But I think she’s been crawling long enough, time to start walking. Bside needs it’s editors to be editors, not absentee moderators. The public you sought to reach has strong views on local issues. And what little editorial comment you make shows, however timidly, you understand and support those views. The public you sought to reach has more interest in stories like the one above, than all the crabbing crap that a handful can spin into 110 posts.

    The other dedicated local news source has nearly evaporated after years of pushing one gal’s personal agenda. It’d be a shame if you too missed the opportunity to connect with Berkeley’s best future by not having an agenda at all.

    The are a few commenters with specific professional experience whose remarks inform us on certain issues, b4gal comes to mind. But overwhelmingly it’s fruitless diddling of the story topic with well worn prejudice.

    Have a vital committed editorial perspective and platform, don’t cop out with the ‘opinionator’ page. Have a ‘letter’s to the editor’ page, which we’ll trust you to cull the content in a reasonable way.

    The tail is wagging the dog. Clip it. End the tedious self-aggrandizing comments and the back and forth harping. Have readers submit well formed complete ideas in letters to the editor. Then you choose.

    The voices you will ADD to the discourse by ‘coming out’ about your political and social orientations will far exceed in number and in importance those you lose.

    Lastly, you may not have forever. Ask the folks at the “Cheese Board” what they think when customers tell them they just “love” their new place on Center St.

  • guest

    Right Arm!

  • guest

    I don’t think anyone was banned for being smart. I do think the “same old, same old Bezerkly” vibe Bside is becoming branded with has hurt readership growth.

  • guest

    I was, in fact born at the very end of the 70’s! good guess! How about you?

  • guest

    >dollar amounts as measurement of self-worth
    Enjoy your lifetime of therapy

  • guest

    Dollar amounts as measurements of difference, why do you oppose diversity? Being on the short end of the stick feel funny?

  • guest

    “complete douche?” What would your kids think about that comment?

  • The_Sharkey

    What I see is that one malcontent who sought to stir up the sh** (you)has managed to successfully stir up the sh** and is trying to use their sh**-stirring as a justification for trying to get the comments closed because you don’t like the general gist of what other posters have to say on a variety of topics.

    Predictable. Boring. Pathetic.

  • guest

    Of course you’d be threatened by the thought of having your 15 minutes of notoriety cut short.

    A “letters to the editor” section (aka a merit based competition for exposure) is the Name Brand commenters worst nightmare.

  • The_Sharkey

    Thanks for proving me right. XOXO

  • guest

    To: the Sharkey (previously “Da Sharkey”): I know you’re in pain. When it’s over, admitting to being “The Sharkey” won’t account for much…but not being “The Sharkey” is somehow less. Maybe you and the “Banned One” can hang out together.