| NetSeer

NetSeer gets the scoop on this week’s UM & UC Berkeley: The Future of Innovation event – a topic near and dear to our agency friend, Universal McCann (UM). We caught up with John-Paul Aguirre, SVP and Group Partner – Strategy, at Universal McCann on the inspiration and meaning behind it all. NetSeer is a proud supporter of this event, and the brilliant minds it fosters in the startup community.


Tell us a bit more about UM & UC Berkeley: The Future of Innovation 2014, the fundraising event in support of LAUNCH: The UC Berkeley Startup Competition:

UM: Universal McCann is so excited to organize and sponsor this fundraising event on behalf of LAUNCH: The UC Berkeley Startup Competition. The latter has given rise to some of the Bay Area’s most innovative startups, such as TubeMogul – the 2007 Grand Prize Winner that just filed for their IPO in March. For five years, UM has rallied the media community in support of this great cause. Over that period, we’ve raised more than $200,000 with our media partners to help the competition continue to thrive.

To accelerate the success of LAUNCH, we decided to create a unique companion event that precedes the competition’s final round in late April. Over the past few weeks, a UM committee identified four of LAUNCH’s semi-finalists that focus on ad tech to participate in a mini-challenge.

The invited startups have prepared a two-minute pitch of their business idea that they will present at the event to a panel of industry judges. Attendees of the Future of Innovation fundraising event will get to witness these presentations. And, the winner of this mini-challenge actually earns one year of free office space at UM’s own startup incubator and co-working space, Mad Valley. It’s a place where UM can help accelerate their business idea even further by connecting them to our network of clients.


How did the LAUNCH competition get its start? 

UM: The UC Berkeley Startup Competition was founded by two MBA students at the Haas School of Business back in 1999, both of whom are now venture capitalists. These students felt it was time for UC Berkeley to have a competition focused on early-stage ventures. Since its inception, the competition has helped start many successful businesses.

UM’s involvement dates back to 2010. It started with a simple desire to tap into the technological innovation that is happening all over the San Francisco Bay Area. Despite our proximity, UM was fairly isolated from the startup culture of Silicon Valley. We sought to change that and asked ourselves, “How we could help foster the entrepreneurial ecosystem that surrounds us?”

Our search led us to LAUNCH: The UC Berkeley Startup Competition. UM was excited at the prospect of helping the university nurture the event to become one of the preeminent startup competitions in the world. And, the partnership has been wonderfully fruitful on both sides.


How does LAUNCH feed into the thriving Bay Area startup community? 

UM: LAUNCH provides resources, prize money, mentorship and contacts for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to take their business idea from just that, an idea, to actually launching a business. A number of successful companies have gone through the competition, resulting in millions of dollars in venture capital funding, exits, and even an IPO. LAUNCH brings together the best and brightest teams of UC Berkeley- and UC San Francisco-affiliated entrepreneurs and allows them to launch their businesses in a supportive, low-risk environment.


Who can we expect to bump elbows with at this year’s event?  

UM: We are inviting members of the media, venture capital, brand management, and startup communities to join the UM leadership team and our clients to celebrate. Our clients, in particular, are very excited about the opportunity to meet with members of the tech community and to hear directly from the startup founders. We’re expecting a strong showing from senior leaders at our clients. Attendees at the event are certainly a who’s who of the most forward-thinking minds in our industry.


All these great minds surely made their mark on tech innovation. Any notable winners from previous events? 

UM: TubeMogul is by far the biggest success story from LAUNCH. However, the winners of last year’s mini-challenge were Vivek Bidwai and Levee Brooks, co-founders of Moogi. The pair created a platform that enables marketers to monetize every moment of video on YouTube. For example, if a character in an online video is applying lotion to their face, Moogi’s technology enables the surrounding advertising placements to recognize what is happening on-screen and serve up information about that product. The dynamic duo not only won a desk at UM’s Mad Valley, but raised angel funds. We love these sorts of ideas because it redefines what’s possible. It makes advertising more relevant, increasing the likelihood that consumers will take interest in our clients’ messages.


Agencies and start-ups: a natural fit for innovation and creativity. How do you see these worlds commingling?

UM: Our clients are constantly looking to break out of the status quo – to find innovative ways to use technology and content to create stronger bonds with consumers and prospective customers. We see our partnership with LAUNCH and our startup accelerator, Mad Valley, as the front door of innovation for UM. Ad tech is making our industry stronger, marrying the creativity and discipline of Madison Avenue with the vision, passion and technological prowess of Silicon Valley. We think the two industries are a powerful duo and a force to be reckoned with. By partnering with UC Berkeley, we’re able to do our part: fueling the tremendous entrepreneurialism that surrounds us.


UM & UC Berkeley: The Future of Innovation 2014
Thursday, April 17, 2014