Berkeley Law Expands Startup@BerkeleyLaw Initiative to Help Silicon Valley’s Underrepresented Entrepreneurs

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New partnerships with Code2040 and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati will expand UC Berkeley law school’s groundbreaking work on entrepreneurship and venture capital

In Silicon Valley, it’s all about who you know, and not just about your idea for a new product or service. Unfortunately, the attorneys and investors that dominate the industry struggle in connecting with entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities.

Startup@BerkeleyLaw, a fast-growing initiative on the UC Berkeley law campus to help new ventures take flight, has launched a program to help underrepresented entrepreneurs find success in Silicon Valley.

This new effort, titled Access to Entrepreneurship, is designed to educate these entrepreneurs on how to start and grow their businesses and to connect with investors, law students, attorneys, and other startup founders. Startup@BerkeleyLaw has been providing similar services to entrepreneurs across the UC Berkeley campus since 2015.    

“In Silicon Valley, it’s all about who you know, and not just about your idea for a new product or service. Unfortunately, the attorneys and investors that dominate the industry struggle in connecting with entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities,” said professor Robert Bartlett, a leading expert on venture capital finance and a faculty co-chair of the law school’s Berkeley Center for Law, Business and the Economy.

Startup@BerkeleyLaw's Access program will partner with leading venture capital firms and community organizations, including San Francisco-based Code2040, a nonprofit that aims to close the racial wealth gap in the United States by creating pathways to success in the innovation economy for Black and Latinx technologists. Startup@BerkeleyLaw will sponsor travel for up to 30 entrepreneurs to Code2040’s annual summit on July 28-29 in San Francisco, where it will host workshops and office hours with law students, attorneys, and investors. It will also host a half-day of intensive training for Code2040 entrepreneurs on July 30 at Berkeley Law.

“We’re working to make sure that we are proportionally represented in America's innovation economy by 2040, when people of color will become a majority of the U.S. population,” said Deldelp Medina, director of the Code2040 residency program. “Our partnership with Startup@BerkeleyLaw will help ensure that our entrepreneurs have the tools and relationships necessary to make this a reality.”

Bartlett said the collaboration with Code2040 expands its work, not only at UC Berkeley, but also at UC Merced, where it joins forces with community organizations to provide comprehensive legal services to Central Valley entrepreneurs of limited means and lack of access to startup capital.

Legendary Silicon Valley law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, a founding partner of Startup@BerkeleyLaw, has contributed an undisclosed amount to help Access to Entrepreneurship expand its reach. “The gift will allow us to aggressively scale up to better serve our law students and underrepresented entrepreneurs both locally and nationally,” Bartlett said.

“Our law firm has maintained a commitment to diversity in the legal and technology sectors since our inception more than 50 years ago,” said Steve Bochner, a partner at Wilson Sonsini and a 1981 graduate of Berkeley Law. “We are pleased to be a founding partner of Startup@BerkeleyLaw and are confident that its Access program will help Silicon Valley and the wider Bay Area business community make positive strides in the area of diversity and inclusion.”

Startup@BerkeleyLaw is a critical offshoot of the law school's 12-year-old Berkeley Center for Law, Business and the Economy. The center serves as UC Berkeley’s hub for business law: it involves more than 15 faculty members, hosts over 30 unique courses each semester and manages industry-leading research, executive programs, and conferences on venture capital, corporate social responsibility, mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, antitrust, and more.

“The Berkeley Center for Law, Business and the Economy has built the world’s most innovative, and socially conscious, business law program. With Startup@BerkeleyLaw, we are seeking to increase the number of successful founders at UC Berkeley, as well as underrepresented entrepreneurs around the country,” said Adam Sterling, executive director of the center. To strengthen that effort, the center will collaborate with law and social science professor Victoria Plaut, the director of a diversity lab at UC, to offer workshops on equity and inclusion in the tech space. Professor Plaut will also be presenting on behalf of Startup@BerkeleyLaw at the Code 2040 annual summit.

Other participants in Startup@BerkeleyLaw's programs include high-powered venture capital firms, including Andreessen Horowitz, AngelList, Kapor Capital, and Y Combinator. Bartlett said the school will recruit additional top venture capital firms in Silicon Valley, as well as law firms and NGOs.

About Startup@BerkeleyLaw—a joint initiative launched in 2015 by two UC Berkeley Law School research centers: the Berkeley Center for Law, Business and the Economy and the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology. The program gives law students, entrepreneurs, investors, and attorneys access to top experts, timely courses, and dynamic programming on legal and finance issues for emerging companies.

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