UCD partnership to give Irish start-ups a ‘potential bridge into Silicon Valley’

23 Mar 2021

Caroline Winnett of Berkeley SkyDeck. Image: Berkeley SkyDeck

NovaUCD will nominate start-ups to join the SkyDeck accelerator programme at UC Berkeley.

A new partnership could help start-ups at University College Dublin (UCD) gain a foothold in Silicon Valley.

Through NovaUCD, the university’s centre for new ventures and entrepreneurs, UCD has been selected as a global strategic partner by Berkeley SkyDeck, the start-up accelerator programme at University of California Berkeley.

SkyDeck partners with universities and accelerators around the world to help identity top start-ups to participate in its programmes.

It hosts nearly 300 start-ups a year through its two main programmes: the Cohort accelerator programme and the HotDesk incubator programme. Around 20 start-ups are selected to take part in each Cohort programme, which runs twice a year and lasts six months.

‘This partnership provides a potential bridge into Silicon Valley for NovaUCD companies’

Caroline Winnett, executive director of Berkeley SkyDeck, said the programme has become “increasingly well known as a launchpad into Silicon Valley” and it is now looking to bring Irish start-ups into the mix through the UCD partnership.

UCD is SkyDeck’s only Irish partner, and the university will be able to nominate one start-up directly to the interview stage of both annual Cohort programmes.

Tom Flanagan, director for enterprise and commercialisation at UCD, said NovaUCD plans to nominate a start-up from its community “with deep intellectual property and international ambitions” that can proceed to the interview stage for SkyDeck’s Cohort programme this autumn.

“If selected, the nominated UCD start-up will benefit from the excellent programme and significantly accelerate its growth and ability to scale globally,” Flanagan added.

“Silicon Valley is a fantastic location to launch a company with its high concentration of investors willing to back exciting early-stage start-ups, and an enterprise ecosystem keen to adopt new technologies.”

Start-ups in the Cohort programme receive $105,000 investment from the Berkeley SkyDeck Fund, which is backed by top Silicon Valley VCs such as Sequoia and Mayfield. They are also matched with advisers and take part in an experience-based acceleration programme, before pitching their idea to almost 1,000 investors.

Past participants include Lime, the micromobility company that recently announced plans to invest $50m in an e-bike expansion.

Simon Factor, senior manager of new ventures at NovaUCD, said SkyDeck could help UCD start-ups to get a foothold on the other side of the Atlantic.

“For many UCD deep-tech start-ups, the US market is the first and most important export market. This partnership provides a potential bridge into Silicon Valley for NovaUCD companies.”

This week it was also announced that another UCD centre is teaming up with a US accelerator. The AgTechUCD innovation centre is partnering with SVG’s Thrive accelerator programme to assist with the Thrive Europe Challenge, which will focus on early-stage tech start-ups tackling challenges in agriculture.

Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic