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“Connected Life” Startup Class at UC Berkeley

I just finished teaching my latest course at UC Berkeley, “Connected Life”. In this course, we examined our “always-on” lifestyle and how this expectation of being ever-connected in our social and professional lives continues to develop, especially in a post-COVID world that allows for work via connectivity. We examined connectedness from an entrepreneurial standpoint to solve previously unsolvable problems using apps, data, IoT for machines, AI for decision-making, robotics for automation, and beyond.

The course explored practical applications of e.g. 5G-connected smartphones, machines, and sensors, empowering entrepreneurs to solve previously unsolvable problems. For example, a surgeon can now use technology to save patients’ lives on the other side of the world, or anyone can be automatically alerted if a faraway family member needs help. However, questionable uses have also appeared, such as the constant battle to protect private data against illegal use for commercial, political, or criminal gain. 

The course explored the use of technologies at the foundation of connectivity for people, communities, businesses, factories, and the environment and what happens when there is a lack of equity in technological access.

For the final project, students formed teams to develop a start-up with a scalable business model to develop solutions and leverage “always on” connectivity to improve lives in private, at work, at play, for companies, for communities, and for our planet.

Read on to learn what unique solutions the UC Berkeley students created. It is both enlightening what types of problems they deem important and what kinds of businesses they want to create: Making an impact is the common thread. And that is very reassuring to know about the next generation of entrepreneurs!

The “Connected Life” class 2022 at UC Berkeley

Congratulations to the winning team WorkerBee!

Team Worker Bee was the winning team of the Connected Life class! The team around Sergio Mazariego and Evelyn Tran wants to solve one of the most pressing problems – the labor shortage. Their user research in the hospitality industry led them to two critical problems for workers and employers to find each other. WorkerBee uses AI matching algorithms and mutual rating systems to overcome these problems. A dozen businesses and four culinary schools have already enlisted WorkerBee’s services. Such innovation and traction convinced the jury to reward WorkerBee with first place.

Team WorkerBee: Sergio Mazariegos, Evelyn Tran, Chanon Sirimontaporn, Sophie Lai, Wish Wang, Kongpasit Rojyaroon, with Gert Christen (left) and Manan Barghava (course coordinator, right)

Meet the Runner-up Winners

Upon acceptance into the best public university in the US (aka UC Berkeley), students are met with the harsh reality of the shocking crime rate in the neighborhood of campus: Hate crimes, theft, and gun violence are plaguing students. SAFEST is an app designed for students, by students, to create a buddy system that helps students get safely home from late nights on campus by meeting up to walk together. 

SAFEST hopes to expand from serving the student community to serving women in all urban areas.

The team members of team SAFEST are: Amanda McGraw, Eléonore Van Marcke, Niel Khadilkar, Dechathorn Rangsiyopash, and Chawin Viriyasopon.

DAOcracy is a civic tech platform that allows cities and councils to be aligned on important community issues. DAOcracy applies the principles of blockchain and decentralization to increase transparency around how local policy is created and how local funding is spent. DAOcracy interviewed over 100 officials across several cities to understand the most important issues affecting their communities. The team won the City of Sausalito near San Francisco as their pilot site, a seaside city that is facing multiple challenges, including climate change and rising sea levels. DAOcracy creates a decentralized community where members are engaged locally and can become shareholders of projects that increase collaboration and education about issues that are important to constituents.

DAOcracy hopes to launch not only in major cities in the United States but internationally with two of its founding team members from France.

The team members of team DAOcracy are: Brahim Belasri-Nogueira, Angela Johannsen, Thomas Biscondi.

What students say about the Connected Life Class

“Life begins outside of your comfort zone.” Although I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur, hearing this quote from Professor Gert Christen during a lecture was important while being at UC Berkeley for graduate school. Being a first-generation college student is challenging. The Connected Life class helped the student body feel connected with the Berkeley community and encouraged us to leverage each team member with a business-driven mindset. This helped me grow as an entrepreneur as it built perseverance, grit, and an open mind.” – Amanda McGraw, SAFEST Team Member

“The class was incredible for helping me to understand beyond the concept of launch. Guest speakers, especially those involved in civic technology, helped me understand the progress needed to take my vision from conception to reality.” – Brahim Belasri-Nogueira, DAOcracy Team Member

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  1. Pingback: Climate Change As A Business Opportunity – Gert

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