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New Director Reinvigorates UC Berkeley Business Startup Accelerator

haas skydeckA Haas alumna and entrepreneur who has led several startups of her own has taken over as executive director of SkyDeck, the startup accelerator at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, the school reported this month.

Caroline Winnett, MBA ’90, who served most recently as founder and CEO of a neuroscience-inspired marketing company called BrandNeuro, met with Dean Rich Lyons because she wanted to run an accelerator program at Berkeley-Haas. Voila. She got her wish, joining as executive director of SkyDeck in November 2014.

“There’s an insane amount of talent aligning here,” Winnett said as part of an article on the Haas website. “SkyDeck has a laser focus on helping these budding entrepreneurs succeed, to make sure they have an awareness that there’s a place to go when they have their team together — and a somewhat mature business idea.”

Founded in 2012 as a joint venture among UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering, the Haas School of Business and the Vice Chancellor for Research Office, SkyDeck enjoys the support of many partners, including the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and the Chancellor. Housed in a Shattuck Avenue penthouse, the accelerator currently hosts 28 teams, nine of which have Haas affiliations. Eleven of its former startups included Haas team members.

Winnett is making some changes in her new role as executive director, including building more formal steps into the accelerator process and bringing in staff to support that build out. She’s also looking at ways to make sure SkyDeck is positioned to be tap the university’s many resources, and she is focusing on helping entrepreneurs tackle the components required for successful launch, such as startup governance, organizational issues, marketing and funding.

“Caroline hit the ground running last November with a vision for SkyDeck that she developed rapidly, with input from many different people who make entrepreneurship tick at Berkeley,” Dean Lyons said as part of the Haas website article. “She’s been a great motivator for the SkyDeck teams as well.”

According to Winnett, her team is about halfway there. “We’re trying to expand the program and make it more visible, not only to UC Berkeley and Haas students, but also to the outside world and the investment community,” she said.

SkyDeck Berkeley is accepting applications through March 31st for its fall cohort, and a Demo Day for the spring cohort will be held May 21st.

Learn more about UC Berkeley’s SkyDeck and its new director.