The Berkeley Catalyst Philanthropic Fund I and II are uniquely connected to its sister funds, the Berkeley Catalyst Fund I and II, a for-profit venture capital fund that is a separate entity from the University. This for-profit fund invests in new startups and shares returns with the College of Chemistry via the UC Berkeley Foundation. Both BCPF and BCF provide benefits to entrepreneurial startups and the College of Chemistry. The funds work hand in hand to foster commercialization of new technologies from faculty, postdocs, students, and alumni that channels investment returns back to the College of Chemistry.

In addition to the special limited partner relationship with the UC Berkeley Foundation, the Berkeley Catalyst Fund I and II have a legal agreement with the University of California, Berkeley. It was the first fund at Berkeley to operate under this model. The model has now been under adoption by other units across the UC system.

The Berkeley Catalyst Fund I and II have made investments in 27 companies, and continues to work closely to foster the vibrant startup ecosystem around UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, UC San Francisco, associated incubators and accelerators, and alumni throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. The sector focus of BCF I and II are biopharma, agriculture, medical device, clean air, clean water, energy storage, and sensors. The stage is primarily Seed and Series A.

The Berkeley Catalyst Fund (BCF) was started and originally managed by three founding partners which included Dr. Laura Smoliar (UCB Ph.D., Chemistry, with Yuan T. Lee), Dr. Ted Hou (UCB Ph.D., Chemistry, with Yuan T. Lee), and Mr. Drew Lanza (MS, EE, Stanford; MBA, Harvard). Mr. Michael Phillips (UCB, Boalt Hall School of Law), who recently retired from Morrison and Foerster, has joined as legal advisor.

What makes the Berkeley Catalyst Fund Special?

This groundbreaking program was the first of its kind for the UC system and has since become a model for other campuses. The BCF management team has a strong scientific background and consults with new companies to help them get the right start as well as provide funding.

About the BCPF Team

Laura Smoliar
Laura Smoliar became a Founding Partner of the Berkeley Catalyst Fund because it combines her passion for mentoring technical entrepreneurs with her interest in philanthropy. Laura founded a start-up in 2005 called Mobius Photonics (acquired by NASDAQ:IPGP), where she served as Chairman and CEO, and where she raised several rounds of funding from investors in the USA and Japan. She has worked in diverse hardware industries including data storage, displays, lasers, and biotech instrumentation. In 2017 Laura was elected a Senior Member of the SPIE and was awarded the Judith Pool award by the Association for Women in Sciences for her mentoring work. Laura earned her Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from UC Berkeley’s College of Chemistry with Yuan T. Lee. She also holds an A.B. Summa Cum Laude in Chemistry from Columbia College, Columbia University.

Ted Hou
TED HOU (Fund I and II)
Ted started his career in the fiber optic communications industry. For over ten years he managed product marketing and product development and later served as the general manager of the passive component business unit for JDS Uniphase. In 2010, Ted joined the solar energy industry and served as VP of Marketing at Hanwha SolarOne and VP of Product Strategy at NRG Residential Solar. During this time, he gained experience in solar panel manufacturing, solar farm project financing, and residential solar financing. Ted grew up in China, is fluent in Mandarin, and received his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Science and Technology of China in 1989. He received his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from UC Berkeley in 1995, under the guidance of Nobel laureate Professor Yuan T. Lee. He was engaged for four years at the IBM Almaden Research Center as a postdoctoral research fellow.

Drew Lanza
DREW LANZA (Fund I and II)
Drew grew up in the Silicon Valley where his father was the early CTO of a tiny chemistry-focused startup that grew into a large, successful public company. He has entrepreneurship in his blood. He started and helped to run five companies before joining Morgenthaler Ventures. He has a solid track record of using his deep, operating experience and taking companies from two or three founders and growing them into large, multinational corporations. Drew received his BSEE and MSEE degrees from Stanford and also served on the faculty. He went on to receive an MBA from Harvard.