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Fall 2021 | UC Berkeley's DECODE Silicon Valley Startup Success

Fall 2021 | UC Berkeley's DECODE Silicon Valley Startup Success

DECODE Silicon Valley Startup Success

Course Overview 

Berkeley’s Computer Science curriculum and Business curriculum trains many graduate and undergraduate students with a high level of technical and theoretical ability. However, UC Berkeley is only ranked 4th by the number of founders who raised more than $1M based on a report from Crunchbase. 

​Serena Zhang

University of California, Berkeley | Class of 2024
B.A. Architecture


Ryo Weng

​University of California, Berkeley | Class of 2024

 B.S. Business Administration 


​Jin Yu

University of California, Berkeley | Class of 2024
B.S. Business Administration


Aamir Khan

University of California, Berkeley | Class of 2022
D.S. Data Science

Student Facilitators

Decode Silicon Valley Startup Success bridges the gap. 

We teach startup intelligence. Our curriculum consists of guest speakers from top entrepreneurs and investors in Bay area and also hands-on assignments and projects to help students build their portfolio. By the end of our course, students will be able to:

  • Learn the fundamentals of starting a new venture

  • Identify, define, and characterize problems

  • Spot opportunities for innovation

  • Segment and analyze opportunities

  • Evaluate and choose innovation diffusion pathways

  • Evaluate and choose models of new ventures

  • Conduct customer and market research both qualitatively and quantitatively

  • Design customer journey

  • Establish foundation of product development

  • Evaluate and choose market strategy

  • Develop an in depth understanding of your customer

  • Identify and quantify sources of value

  • Map and influence customer decision making process

As a result, this course will prepare students for starting up their own company or joining an early-stage start-up. However, students can enroll in the course even if they aren’t planning on starting up. Lots of concepts and skills about entrepreneurship are highly transferable to other aspects of career development.


There are no prerequisites for this course. We're working really hard to make the material accessible for all backgrounds.

Grading and Assignment 

The course will be offered for 2 units, P/NP. The class is 6:30-8:30 PM PDT on Thursday, consisting of an introduction of the topic, guest speaker, Q&A, and group discussion. 


There will be weekly assignments released on Thursdays after the lecture and due the following Thursday at the beginning of the class. 


Projects are graded on effort. Every last 30 minutes of class is the group discussion for the weekly group project assignment. The idea is that students will discuss among the group in their approach to the problems, and the staff will facilitate this discussion.


Your grade in this course will be calculated on a 1000-point scale.

  • Weekly Assignment (300 points)

  • Semester Project (350 points)

  • Attendance (350 points)

You will need 700 points to pass the course, which roughly corresponds to doing all the problem sets and coming to all the classes. As this is a new course, we reserve the right to adjust this boundary and the point system as a whole as the course progresses, but we want everyone to succeed in this class and learn. 

Weekly Course Schedule

Time: Thursday 6:30-8:30 PM PDT
Location: Zoom

Speakers (*Continuously Updating)
Sep. 2
Opening - Information Session
To be announced
Sep. 9
Validating Ideas | Fantasizing to Fantastic
Shuonan Chen: General Partner at IOVC; Faculty at UC Berkeley; Board Director at DECODE
Sep. 16
MVP & Iteration | Make Something People Want
Kevin Tan: CEO at SnackPass Forbes 30 under 30
Sep. 23
Product Market Fit | 1000 True Fans
Brian Ma: General Partner of Iterative Capital, Former founder CEO of Divvy Homes, Weave and Decide
Sep. 30
Business Model | How to make money
Steve Huffman: CEO of the Reddit
Oct. 7
Team Building & Culture | The Unicorn's team
Sarah Hawley: CEO and founder of Growmotely
Oct. 14
Enterprise Business | Not all startups looks like Instagram
Kenny Mendes: Head of Finance, People, & Operations at Coda; Angel Investor/Advisor
Oct. 21
The art of scale | No growth equals death
Marcel Santilli: Head of Marketing at Scale AI
Oct. 28
Startup Finance, VC and beyond | Fundraise when you must
To be announced
Nov. 4
Legal | Things unnoticed that could kill your business
Reserved for Sam Angus: Partner in the Venture Capital and Corporate Group of Fenwick & West LLP
Nov. 18
Emerging Technologies | Surf on the tide of tech (To be confirmed)
Michael Seibel: CEO and Partner at Y Combinator
Dec. 2
Closing - Demo Day
Judges: To be announced

Semester Assignments & Workloads 

Semester Project 

The semester project consists of 1-6 people per group and will simulate growing start-ups. Think of it as a business game where your team has to decide which type of start-up you are founding, what problems you want to solve, how you will make a profit, etc. The project will be closely related to each class, and at the end of the semester, your group will present your result. Each weekly assignment will be worth 50 points and will be graded on effort. The pitch will be 250 points. The best 10 groups or so will be selected to present in front of the angel investors and advisors. 

Weekly Assignments

The weekly assignments will be announced during lectures each week. Each assignment will be turned in on bCourses at 11:59 PM PST.  Each assignment will be worth 30 points and will be graded on effort. 

Materials and Tools

Primary reading material: 

  • Steve Blank, Bob Dorf: The Start-up Owner's Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company

  • Alexander Osterwalder: Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers


Optional reading material: 

Each week we will assign a book that is recommended either by our guest speakers or an expert within the domain of knowledge. We understand the busy schedule of students (especially in Berkeley) so these readings will not be mandatory. It is aimed to be used as supplementary material for further understanding of the topic of the lecture. 



We will try our best to post recordings of the weekly lectures, but this depends on the preference of the guest speaker.



We will be using bCourses for course announcements. You can also email the course staff Based on interests, we could potentially use Piazza for class discussion. More details will be announced later.

Other Information

SCET Certificate

This class will count toward the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology Certificate. More information regarding the Certificate may be found here.


Academic Integrity

You are a member of an academic community at one of the world’s leading research universities. Universities like Berkeley create knowledge that has a lasting impact in the world of ideas and on the lives of others; such knowledge can come from an undergraduate paper as well as the lab of an internationally known professor. One of the most important values of an academic community is the balance between the free flow of ideas and the respect for the intellectual property of others. Researchers don't use one another's research without permission; scholars and students always use proper citations in papers; professors may not circulate or publish student papers without the writer's permission; and students may not circulate or post materials(handouts, exams, syllabi--any class materials) from their classes without the written permission of the instructor.


Any test, paper, or report submitted by you and that bears your name is presumed to be your own original work that has not previously been submitted for credit in another course unless you obtain prior written approval to do so from your instructor. In all of your assignments, including your homework or drafts of papers, you may use words or ideas written by other individuals in publications, websites, or other sources, but only with proper attribution. If you are not clear about the expectations for completing an assignment or taking a test or examination, be sure to seek clarification from your instructor or GSI beforehand. Finally, you should keep in mind that as a member of the campus community, you are expected to demonstrate integrity in all of your academic endeavors and will be evaluated on your own merits. The consequences of cheating and academic dishonesty—including a formal discipline file, possible loss of future internship, scholarship, or employment opportunities, and denial of admission to graduate school—are simply not worth it.


Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Please contact course staff as soon as possible if you need special accommodations, and we will work out the necessary arrangements.



Students may find the services of Berkeley CAPS helpful. The mission of Counseling and Psychological Services(CAPS)is to support the emotional, psychological, educational, social, and cultural development of all UC Berkeley students through a wide range of multiculturally based counseling, psychiatric, career, consultation, training, and educational services.


CAPS offers short-term counseling for academic, career, and personal issues. There is no charge to get started, and all registered students can access services regardless of insurance. Professional counselors can meet with students to talk about personal, academic, and career issues including adjusting to school, deciding on a career or major, dealing with family or relationships, sexual orientation, and identity, coping with personal crises. Groups and workshops are also available on a variety of topics.


Drop-in crisis assessment and intervention for urgent concerns. Visit the CAPS website for hours and contact information.

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