Berkeley SkyDeck expands to Europe with Milan startup accelerator

Man wearing a black shirt with his back to the camera.

The program will give European-focused companies access to Berkeley’s network and entrepreneurship ecosystem. (Credit: Brittany Hosea-Small)

Berkeley SkyDeck, UC Berkeley’s flagship startup incubator, plans to spread its culture of innovation and entrepreneurship to Europe with the launch of SkyDeck Europe — a new accelerator program based in Milan, Italy.

SkyDeck, in collaboration with Italian innovation hub Cariplo Factory, will select at least 20 European-based companies to participate in two six-month startup cohorts a year. Startups in Europe will have access to SkyDeck’s network of advisors, mentors, workshops and interns to help grow their businesses.

To get their ideas off the ground, companies will also receive funding from the SkyDeck Europe Fund — it is supported by the philanthropic organization Fondazione Cariplo, in Milan, and the government of the Lombardy region — and get connected to a network of potential venture capital funders.

The home for the newly selected startups will be the Milano Innovation District, a $4 billion project in Italy considered to have the biggest startup ecosystem in the country. SkyDeck Europe, will run out of a building in the district under a three-year agreement with Lendlease, a global property developer.

The program will expand SkyDeck’s international footprint and its mission by helping European-focused startups grow and succeed, said SkyDeck Executive Director Caroline Winnett. It will also serve as a bridge to connect Berkeley to some of the scientific and technical discoveries coming out of European research universities, she said.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in the quality and quantity of European startups that work with SkyDeck to plug into Silicon Valley each year, and we know that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Now, we can offer part of the SkyDeck program a little closer to their homes,” said Winnett. “It’s the best of both worlds, as teams get the opportunity to learn from the programming available from our top accelerator without necessarily committing to picking up and moving across the world.”

While the accelerator program will run twice a year, all Berkeley services will be delivered remotely. Startups will have access to over 50 workshops, with topics that include startup acceleration, mentoring, and networking opportunities.

Startup participants will also have the opportunity to pitch investors on Demo Day in Europe, as well as at the Berkeley SkyDeck Global Innovation Showcase in August. Mentorship will also be provided by Berkeley SkyDeck advisors, such as Berkeley Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli.

Vincentelli co-founded technology companies, including Cadence and Synosys, and is the current chair of SkyDeck’s faculty advisors. From Milan, Vincentelli has been a pivotal partner in creating SkyDeck Europe.

“Now more Europeans will have an opportunity to participate in UC Berkeley’s world-class accelerator to launch their moonshots and positively impact lives around the world,” said Vincentelli. “I am excited to expand our reach and bring this powerful experience to more international startups.”

SkyDeck Europe, is currently accepting applications for its first May 2 cohort. European startups may submit to both the SkyDeck Europe and the Berkeley SkyDeck cohorts.

Berkeley’s Chief Innovation and Entrepreneurship Officer Rich Lyons said the Milan program is an enormous achievement that includes a partnership with many important global and European institutions.

Growing Berkeley’s network internationally will only help to support future innovative startups.

Said Lyons, “That Berkeley SkyDeck was chosen to provide the acceleration services is testimony to how strong Berkeley and SkyDeck are around the world.”