Berkeley - Although the dot-com frenzy has slowed, interest in entrepreneurship remains strong at the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business, where 30 teams are competing in the semi-final round of the third annual UC Berkeley Business Plan Competition.
Entries reflect the current trend in the venture capital world: fewer plans this year than last but stronger ideas, according to the majority of the 54 judges evaluating this year's entries. Of 65 executive summaries submitted this year, judges selected 30 to advance to the semi-final round of competition on April 12.
Eight of the 30 teams will be selected for the final round after presenting their plans to judges on April 13. These teams will compete for $90,000 in cash and prizes, including a $50,000 first-place award. Winners will be announced following public team presentations on April 25 at the Haas School.
"The history of Silicon Valley suggests that the biggest innovations tend to be produced when times are the toughest," said Robin Jones-Mendoza, competition co-chair and Haas School MBA student. "Today's market conditions seem to have had a positive effect on the quality of this year's submissions."
Entries in this year's plans represent a wide range of industries and sectors including biomedical devices, wireless platforms, advertising media models, and innovative chip manufacturing processes.
While half of the teams represent the Haas School, the remainder is divided between students and alumni teams from various engineering disciplines, cross-disciplinary student teams, and alumni teams from disciplines ranging from philosophy to bioengineering.
The Business Plan Competition serves as a springboard for innovative ideas and technologies, providing an opportunity for UC Berkeley students and alumni to learn how to create sustainable business ventures.
Teams not only compete for money, they also gain access to more than 100 successful entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and technology business leaders who serve as competition judges, mentors or workshop presenters. At each competition round, teams gain written feedback from their judges.
Final round judges include Steve Domenik of Sevin Rosen Funds, Mark Gorenberg of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, Susan Mason of Onset Ventures, and J. Neil Weintraut of 21st Century Internet Venture Partners.
Throughout the spring, the competition will host workshops and guest lectures for participants. For example, John Doerr, partner of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and one of the world's best-known venture capitalists, will speak to competition participants and students at the Haas School on March 21.
Other learning opportunities include workshops with business leaders and past competition participants on business and financial models, legal issues, market research, presentation skills, recognizing opportunity, and managing the chaos in an early-stage venture.
The following leading venture capital and technology firms support the UC Berkeley Business Plan Competition: corporate sponsors IBM, CommerceNet and Synapta; venture capital sponsors: Sevin Rosen, ComVentures, Motorola Ventures and Red Leaf; and general sponsors SkyFlow, Electronic Advisor, Palo Alto Software, Qualcomm, Hotpaper, Red Herring, All Business, and Campsix.
Teams from previous competitions have secured more than $95 million in funding. The first-year competition's winner, Timbre Technology, which developed software for the semiconductor industry, was recently acquired by Tokyo Electron, a Japanese semiconductor equipment firm, in a major purchase.
Other successful past competition participants include:
*(SkyFlow, last year's winner, which provides hosted ASP (application service provider) services to portals with $3.5 million in funding;
*(AudioBasket, which creates customized audio news and information, with $29 million in funding;
*(ZipRealty, the first nationwide full-service online real estate agency, with $28.1 million in funding;
*(Alloptic, creator of high-speed fiber optic solutions, with $19.7 million in funding; and
*(GetRelevant, a pay-per-performance advertising network, with $7.9 million in funding.