Catalyst@Berkeley launches as Cal’s first student-run health-tech incubator


Taner Dagdelen


Zach Zeleznick









Catalyst@Berkeley, UC Berkeley’s first student-run health-tech incubator, is launching this Thursday with featured speakers that include StartX Med founder Divya Nag and Cal alum Connor Landgraf, co-founder of medical device company Eko Devices.

The event’s main objective is not only to show students the bright future they can have in health-tech innovation, but also to have them meet each other and form into cohesive teams—if they haven’t already—that can apply for the incubator’s pilot this semester, Catalyst co-founder Bioengineering junior Taner Dagdelen said. Dagdelen added that teams will be given priority over individuals, and while each team may have a general area of interest, it will determine its specific project as the program progresses.

“We want them to have an idea so that they already have a motivating force in their head to start prying and asking questions and digging deeper to find out where the problems actually are,” Dagdelen said.

Catalyst@Berkeley was co-founded by Dagdelen, Bioengineering and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) junior Zach Zeleznick, Economics junior Ashish Nag, Bioengineering junior Ori Hoxha, Bioengineering senior Deepika Bhatnagar and Bioengineering senior Sivan Marcus. Dagdelen and Zeleznick are Managing Directors at the incubator.

The program emerged so that student entrepreneurs could personally observe problems in medical and health technology that they could try to fix. Their solutions may be as specific as creating a novel health device or as broad as organizing patient data. Zeleznick differentiated the program from other incubators because of the emphasis on firsthand learning.

“Our teams will have the opportunity to shadow doctors and to hear from the medical side, but we also have members on our board representative from industry. It won’t just be focused on hospital-specific problems, but we’re also interested in taking on problems that are more universal,” Zeleznick said.

Resources involve an advisory board that includes  Director of CITRIS Healthcare Dr. David Lindeman, Jacobs Institute of Design Innovation Chief Learning Officer Dr. Sara Beckman, Foundry@CITRIS co-founder Dr. Peter Minor and Lester Center for Entrepreneurship Executive Director Andre Marquis.

“My goal is to help them structure their accelerator in a way that’s going to lead to the most learning and the most acceleration for the teams. That comes from [the Lester Center’s] expertise, which is to try to train entrepreneurs to turn their idea into an actual successful startup,” Marquis said.

Other opportunities include grants up to $2,000 to build prototypes, three upper-division units for students to reduce their workload and the chance to connect with local accelerators and health-tech companies.

“‘You have your prototypes now. In a month, you’re going to be pitching to X, Y and Z investors. Go.’ The first day, they’re going to say, ‘Sweet, what an opportunity,’ and the next day, they’ll realize, ‘Holy cow, I have no idea how to pitch.’ And all of a sudden, there’s a huge need for them to learn and they’ll be motivated enough to get the most out of [our] resources,” Dagdelen said.

The incubator will have a fixed syllabus with aspects borrowed from courses such as entrepreneur Steve Blank’s Lean Launchpad class and Stanford University’s Biodesign program, according to Zeleznick. Coaches from outside will come into each lecture to discuss specific topics related to the teams’ needs.

“I’m really interested because this is a student initiative. I get very excited when students take the initiative to create something new and exciting that’s helping their fellow students,” Marquis said.

But Catalyst@Berkeley has plans to motivate more than only students at UC Berkeley. The team envisions the incubator at the forefront of a new direction for health-tech industries.

“Health care, technology [and] the intersection of design and computer interface is where we’re headed, and I think the Catalyst program will be able to innovate its way into where the industry will be, not in a year or two years, but 10 years down the line,” Zeleznick said.

The Fall 2014 program’s application is open through Sept. 7.

One comment on “Catalyst@Berkeley launches as Cal’s first student-run health-tech incubator

  1. Dr. Blanche Kapushion on said:

    Taner Dagdelen demonstrated innovation and leadership qualities as a young student at Kyffin Elementary in Golden, CO. Congratulations to Taner and his team on designing, creating and launching this incredible project.

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