By Francesca Paris
The city of Berkeley has, in recent years, been working to make the community a better place for technological innovation via efforts to fight “brain drain,” make it easier to find office space, and create connections among its more than 300 startups to strengthen the “fabric of the innovation ecosystem,” city staff told council members during a special session last week.
The finishing touches are being applied to the program, the speakers, all world experts in their fields, are tweeting about their imminent appearance on stage in Berkeley, and the final decisions on wine pairings, music sets and lighting for the sure-to-be celebratory party at the art museum have been made. This time next week the inaugural Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas will be in full flow.
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:
By Hannah Long
On Wednesday night at the Freight & Salvage, the Pitch Mixer Entrepreneur Forum will hold its first Berkeley event. In honor of Women’s History Month, the event will feature five women pitching their business ideas to an all-women panel of judges.
What makes a city a magnet for startups? Why do entrepreneurs and financiers flock to the South Bay even though there are so few good places to eat there? Does Berkeley want to be Silicon Valley anyway? (You can guess the answer to that one.) Maybe Berkeley is just not hip enough to attract young talent? Does the city’s red tape makes it too cumbersome to be innovative? And, perhaps most significantly, is there just too much distrust of businesses as they thrive and grow? Perhaps Berkeley should focus on what it already does well: incubating startups then allowing them to fly to pastures new, be that San Francisco or Palo Alto.
The growth of Greenerprinter, West Berkeley’s eco-friendly printer, serves as an object lesson in the risks, twists and turns entrepreneurial businesses need to navigate.
For several decades, Berkeley — and the East Bay more generally — has looked longingly at the vibrant enterprise and job creation on the Peninsula and in the South Bay. Why can’t Silicon Valley spread its secret sauce across the Bay?