The Basement Opens to Student Entrepreneurs

Dean of Arts and Humanities Cristina Della Coletta and alumni Mark Suster and Aryeh Bourkoff host a question-and-answer  session at the Atkinson Pavilion during the launch of UCSD’s entrepreneurial training program. Siddharth Atre/UCSD Guardian.
Dean of Arts and Humanities Cristina Della Coletta and alumni Mark Suster and Aryeh Bourkoff host a question-and-answer session at the Atkinson Pavilion during the launch of UCSD’s entrepreneurial training program.              Siddharth Atre/UCSD Guardian.

The UCSD Alumni and Community Engagement enterprise launched its new resource center for student entrepreneurs called The Basement on Feb. 6.

The Basement launch event was held at Atkinson Pavilion in the UCSD Faculty Club and featured a question-and-answer session between Dean of Arts and Humanities Cristina Della Coletta and alumni Mark Suster and Aryeh Bourkoff. Although he was not present at the launch event, alumnus Jeffrey Belk was also a key contributor to the project.

Suster, who serves on the Alumni Board of Directors, told the UCSD Guardian that he and his fellow alumni are interested in funding student start-ups because of the refreshing entrepreneurial spirit that is characteristic of today’s youth.

“I believe that entrepreneurship is getting younger and younger because entrepreneurship is getting more technical,” Suster said. “When you get older, you become a little jaded because you’ve tried so many things that don’t work. I’m interested in funding these people because young people have naive optimism; you don’t know what can’t happen, so you’re willing to try anything.”

Located underneath Mandeville Center, The Basement is designed to inform and educate undergraduate students about the process of starting or joining startup businesses through its three programs: Seekers, Incubator and Accelerator.

Seekers events are open to all UCSD students who are interested in entrepreneurship and participation does not require an application, unlike the other two Basement programs. The Incubator and Accelerator programs accept student teams and provide them with resources to receive seed funding.

Suster added that collaborative office space aims to fund up to 100 companies in the next five years with over $1 million.

In 2014, Forbes named San Diego as the best city in the United States to launch a start-up. According to The Basement, there are over 200 UCSD-related companies in San Diego County that generate about $31.6 billion in sales annually. Bourkoff explained that this project will make it significantly easier for students who are interested in venture capitalism to enter the field.

“Setting up this fund and putting $1 million into the opportunity to create businesses and to create the Basement was all about creating a new [way] for people to pursue the path they want,” Bourkoff said.

After the Q&A session, students had the opportunity to participate in a PitchFest where teams had 60 seconds to pitch their ideas to the two businessmen and receive immediate feedback. Students also had the chance to drop off their resumes for critiquing purposes.

The Basement will host similar events in the future, including coding competitions and more PitchFests, while working in collaboration with other shared-space centers, incubators and accelerators across campus.