Amid an explosion of AI accelerators, a UC Berkeley-focused company, House Fund, is swinging its doors

by Ana Lopez

Companies at the forefront of AI naturally want to stay ahead of the game, so it’s no surprise that they want to stay close to smaller startups putting some of their latest advances to work.

Last month eg. Neoa startup accelerator founded by a Silicon Valley investor Ali Partovi, announced that OpenAI and Microsoft have offered to provide free software and consulting to companies in a new trail focused on artificial intelligence.

Now, another Bay Area outfit – House Fundthat invests in startups associated with UC Berkeley — says it’s a AI accelerator and that similarly, OpenAI, Microsoft and Databricks offer participating startups free and early access to technology from their companies. The outfits also offer mentorship, much like Google’s Gradient Ventures.

We caught up with House Fund founder Jeremy Fiance this weekend to get a little more color on the program, which will replace a broader accelerator program that House Fund has been running and whose alums include an additive manufacturing software company, Dyndriteand the managed app development platform Crowdbotics, most of them recent round in January brought the company’s total funding to more than $60 million.

For founders interested in learning more, the new AI accelerator program will run for two months, starting in early July and ending in early September. Half a dozen companies will be accepted, with the early application deadline next week on April 13. (The application deadline is June 1.) As for time commitment during those two months, each startup may have a different experience, Fiancée says. “We’re there when you need us, and we’re good at staying out of the way.”

There will be the necessary kick-off retreat to kick-start the program and founders to get to know each other. Candidates who are accepted will also have access to some of UC Berkeley’s renowned AI professors, including Michael Jordan, Ion Stoica, and Trevor Darrell. And they can sign up for dinners and events in collaboration with these different constituencies.

As for some of the financial dynamics, each startup that goes through the program will receive a $1 million investment on a $10 million SAFE bill after payment. Also important, as with the House Fund venture dollars, the AI ​​accelerator is looking for startups with at least one Berkeley-affiliated founder on the co-founding team. That includes alumni, faculty, PhD students, postdocs, staff, students, dropouts, and other affiliates.

There is no demo day. Instead, Fiancée says, founders will receive “targeted, personal introductions” from the VCs best suited to their startups.

Given the buzz about AI, the new program could boost House Fund, the venture organization, which is already growing rapidly. Fiance launched it in 2016 with just $6 million and now manages $300 million in assets, including on behalf of Berkeley Endowment Management Company and the University of California.

At the same time, the competition is fierce and is increasing day by day.

For example, while OpenAI has offered to partner with House Fund, the San Francisco-based company announced its own accelerator in November. Called Converge, the cohort would consist of about 10 founders who each received $1 million and access to five weeks of office hours, workshops and other events that ended and received their funding from the OpenAI Startup Fund.

Y Combinator, the largest accelerator in the world, is also currently bustling with AI startups, all part of a winter class that will talk directly to investors this week via demo days which will take place tomorrow, April 5, and on Thursday.

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