Computer science students Zuhayeer Musa and Jimmy LiuComputer science students Zuhayeer Musa and Jimmy Liu lead a DeCal course designed for student entrepreneurs. (Photo: courtesy)

Origin stories at The House

March 13, 2017 by Daniel McGlynn

In collaboration with the university, The House — the startup institute located across from campus on Bancroft Avenue — is hosting a DeCal course (CS 198) this semester that is for student entrepreneurs, taught by student entrepreneurs.  

The course, called “Build the Future,” is designed to get undergraduate students from all academic backgrounds engaged with the rapidly maturing Berkeley entrepreneurial ecosystem and to inspire students to use their time on campus creatively.

Jimmy Liu, a freshman computer science major, is already well acquainted with Berkeley’s startup scene. He, along with junior computer science major Zuhayeer Musa, run a company called Bash, which helps busy friends organize group events. They developed the Build the Future course with the support of The House, CITRIS Foundry and Free Ventures, in order to help connect curious students with some of the innovation-focused programs and opportunities on campus.

“I wanted to start this course because I saw a gap between campus entrepreneurial services and student startup founders,” Liu says. “I want to help make Cal a startup powerhouse so that the top-tier research that happens here can be used to change the world.”

The course is constructed around a speaker series that invites successful entrepreneurs — many of them current faculty or Berkeley alumni — as well as representatives from different parts of Berkeley’s startup ecosystem to tell the story of moving an idea to a commercial product or venture.

“Berkeley is a world leader in research,” Musa says, “and we wanted to bring that into class, be inspired by it and have it pave the way for innovation and entrepreneurship. That’s why we are bringing in people that have helped shape the Bay Area.”

The guest lecture list is a blend of technologists, academics and investors including:

  • Jason Wang (B.S.’09 BA), founder of Caviar
  • Joseph Hellerstein (M.S.’92 CS), EECS professor and founder of Trifacta
  • Holly Liu (M.I.M.S.’03, IMS), founder of Kabam
  • Amy Herr, professor of bioengineering and Kelly Gardner (Ph.D.’13 BioE), co-founders of Zephyrus Biosciences
  • Justin Kan, co-founder of Twitch and YC partner
  • Kurt Keutzer, EECS professor
  • Jack McCauley (B.S.’86, EECS), co-founder of Oculus
  • Peter Boyce, General Catalyst Partners
  • Marc Tarpenning, co-founder of Tesla Motors
  • Urska Srsen, founder of Bellabeat
  • Jessica Mah (B.S.’10 EECS) founder of inDinero
  • Josh Elman partner, Greylock  Partners
  • Kevin Hartz, founder of Eventbrite and a Founders Fund partner
  • Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and Khosla Ventures
  • Joesph Gonzales, EECS professor and co-founder of Turi
  • Maran Nelson, co-founder and CEO of Clara Labs

Scott Shenker, an EECS professor and entrepreneur, is the course’s faculty advisor.

“What we hope students will get out of the class,” Liu says, “is knowing how to start startups so that they can build out a company when they come up with the right idea. We also say, ‘Once you are ready, here are all the resources.’”

“The ethos behind this course,” says Cameron Baradar (B.S.’15 EECS), executive director of The House, “is that it’s not about startup first. It’s problem and technology first. We don’t want to have people running around starting companies just to start companies. Instead, we want students to understand how to use technology to tackle major problems.”