Berkeley SkyDeck spreads culture of entrepreneurship to state capitol

a member of skydeck looks at the camera in a busy work space

Seven companies a year will graduate from Berkeley SkyDeck and begin work in Sacramento under the new partnership. (Berkeley SkyDeck photo by Marla Aufmuth)

Berkeley SkyDeck, UC Berkeley’s flagship startup incubator, will be sending to Sacramento seven of the startups it has graduated in a first-of-its-kind municipal partnership.

The agreement, announced this week, will let the companies, which each must have at least one founder who is an alumna of a University of California campus, get to know the Sacramento area and spread the energy of Berkeley’s entrepreneurs to other parts of the state.

“We are very proud and excited to share our incredible startup companies with a vibrant and nearby city like Sacramento,” said Caroline Winnett, executive director of Berkeley SkyDeck, which launched in 2012 and incubates roughly 20 companies every six months. “We look forward to creating sophisticated, cutting-edge business opportunities to attract talent and bring new jobs (to Sacramento).”

The seven companies will be chosen early next year and will work with the Sacramento Urban Technology Lab to connect with potential customers and business partners in the city’s public and private sectors. Companies will also be introduced to the local workforce and get support to navigate the area’s regulation approvals.

The partnership is Sacramento’s first large-scale innovation agreement, according to city officials. Berkeley SkyDeck will continue to funnel seven new startups into Sacramento every year.

“The steady flow of young companies looking to prove their products in our city could eventually pay off with new jobs and new investment in growth industries that could further diversify our economy and provide opportunity for young people growing up in our neighborhoods,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

The partnership was made possible in part by a 2017 bill authored by state Democratic Assembly Member Jacqui Irwin that allocated $22 million in state funds to accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship in the UC system. The policy has since supported more than 500 new startups and existing companies and helped launch at least 47 new products.

“Converting science into products that benefit California, whether it’s by launching a new company or pioneering cutting-edge technology, pays dividends many times over for both our local communities and the state as a whole,” said Irwin, a graduate of UC San Diego.