Alpha Epsilon Zeta’s Innovate@Berkeley Startup Expo

This article was contributed by Kapil Kashyap, an inducted member of the Alpha Epsilon Zeta professional fraternity.

On April 16th, 2014, Alpha Epsilon Zeta (AEZ) hosted its 2nd Annual Innovate@Berkeley Startup Expo at Hotel Shattuck, in the heart of downtown Berkeley. Innovate was established last year as an opportunity to showcase and highlight entrepreneurial activity in the city of Berkeley. In the process, it achieved something even more important: it united the entrepreneurial community. This year, it was AEZ’s goal to host the same event, but on a significantly larger scale. More people, bigger names, better companies.

From its roots as a simple idea, conceived by AEZ alum Sameen Karim, Innovate has grown tremendously and managed to draw in over 300 attendees this year. The crowd was comprised of both industry professionals and students, all unified by a common interest – entrepreneurship. Even within the student population, the attendees represented a diverse group, with majors including architecture, integrative biology, business, and engineering.

The Lively Start Up Expo in the Crystal Ball Room of Hotel Shattuck
The Lively Start Up Expo in the Crystal Ball Room of Hotel Shattuck

Innovate was essentially a two-part event. It began as a startup fair, with individual booths set up for each of the 24 participating startup companies to showcase their products. As attendees entered the lively startup expo, which was held inside Hotel Shattuck’s crystal ballroom, they each received two red tickets. Each ticket represented a vote for the People’s Choice Award, an honor bestowed upon the startup that accumulated the highest number of votes. After walking through the ballroom and interacting with the various innovative companies, attendees voted for their favorite startups by writing their names on the red tickets and turning them in.

Following the startup fair, attendees were treated to the panel discussion – a discussion revolving around the panelists’ journeys in entrepreneurship. The panel featured three extremely successful entrepreneurs: Ankit Agarwal – Founder/CEO of Micello, Romish Badani (an AEZ Alum) – Founder/CEO of Bridge US, Chris Griffin – Founder/CEO of Betable. Through their experience running their startups, the panelists were able to provide invaluable insight on running a successful business venture in the modern marketplace.

The Rockstar CEO Panel in the Boiler Room of Hotel Shattuck
The Rockstar CEO Panel in the Boiler Room of Hotel Shattuck

While the panel discussion progressed, a group of highly-esteemed judges – featuring investors from well-regarded VC firms – deliberated upon the three most impressive startups. As soon as the discussion finished, the judges awarded these prizes to the startups. First place went to Knox, a company that hopes to revolutionize the medical device industry by creating a mobile platform to track asthma. After the votes were tallied, the People’s Choice Award was also awarded to Kangakare, a startup that focuses on creating low cost baby incubators for usage in rural parts of the world. As the judges distributed the prizes to the recipients, they voiced their support for Innovate, acknowledging its ability to bring together the larger Berkeley community in such a unique and creative way.

The Grand Prize winners 'Knox' with their check!
The Grand Prize winners ‘Knox’ with their check!

As a student organization, hosting an event of this magnitude was no easy feat. It required countless hours of meticulous planning, from creating an aesthetically pleasing website to contacting startups. Any kind of planning involves unexpected setbacks, and we certainly experienced our fair share. But the experience was incredibly rewarding, and provided us with exposure to the happenings of the entrepreneurial space – an exposure that is extremely rare for students. As an organization, we were proud to put on such an event for the UC Berkeley and Haas Community.

Alpha Epsilon Zeta (AEZ) is a Haas sponsored undergraduate Professional Fraternity. It is dedicated to promoting and fostering professionalism, brotherhood, and unity. AEZ has distinguished itself from traditional professional fraternities with its multidisciplinary focus. Every brother in the fraternity come from a wide variety of majors, ranging from Biology to Business to Engineering. 

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