Berkeley Founders' Pledge member and current Haas undergrad Jeremy Hammer, who spent six years in the US Navy before entering Cal, has jumped headfirst into Berkeley's entrepreneur ecosystem since arriving on campus in 2017: He started Bear Founders, a Cal-exclusive platform which unifies the Berkeley entrepreneur ecosystem in order to help students and alumni find work opportunities in top Berkeley-founded startups and help startups find resources and funding opportunities; and he also helped coordinate the Inclusion and Entrepreneurship Summit on campus last fall. Jeremy took Bear Founders through the LAUNCH accelerator program, and is currently hotdesking the company at SkyDeck -- in addition to finishing up his degree this coming academic year.
Q. Knowing what you know now, what programs/activities/etc. would you have taken advantage of to prepare for your career in innovation?
A. I would take even more advantage of cross-program classes. Innovation takes place where people from different backgrounds and skillsets collide. SCET, Haas, Jacobs Institute etc. have great cross-program classes where students from all degrees come together to collaborate. These are incredible opportunities and everyone who wants to innovate should get involved.
Q. What advice would you offer students just beginning their careers in the startup world, either as founders or as early team members?
A. Find your core group of trusted people and share everything with them. They will be your biggest advocates as well as challengers to your thoughts/ideas, which will help propel you forward faster. Ideally these people will be on your core team, but they can also be close friends or advisors. Whoever they are, you need them – believe me!
Q. What’s the hardest thing about your work in a growing company? What keeps you up at night?
A. One of the hardest things is prioritization. You can scratch the surface on a million things, but doing that doesn’t necessarily push the needle forward. Figuring out what is priority on a daily basis is a must. I try to use the Eisenhower box of importance to help with this, but it is certainly a feat of self-discipline to be able to continually operate under this model.
Q. As an entrepreneur, you're told to push through barriers and face down rejection. How do you know when it's time to pivot or sunset a project you're working on?
A. ...[Y]ou need to design for your user from the outset and take the passion out of your decision making as much as possible in the early stages. Metrics are your best friend in determining when to pivot from/abandon a project. You have to create those metrics for yourself, but try to be optimistically realistic. The last thing you want to do is spend all your time on something that nobody will use/benefit from or pay for. So long as you’re reasonably convinced that you’re 1) solving a real problem that needs solving and 2) there is a big percentage of people who will benefit from and pay for your solution, then keep the passion up and keep driving forward!
Q. Has Berkeley been helpful to you in your entrepreneurial endeavors? If so, what have you valued most about your interactions with Cal or the resources it provides?
A. Berkeley has been the greatest platform for me to start a company. I don’t know what I would be doing without the Cal innovation ecosystem. I won some seed money for my idea, I met people to join my team, I found advisors, I participated in the LAUNCH and SkyDeck accelerators and of course joined the Founders’ Pledge community. I love it all. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. It’s an incredible community and an amazing time to be starting a company as a Cal Bear.
Q. What’s the most exciting opportunity at this stage?
A. The most exciting opportunity right now is becoming the go-to platform for entrepreneurship at Cal with support from the many administrators and faculty deeply involved in the ecosystem. We’ve just started to get the adoption and interest necessary to make this a reality!
Q. What resource/s would be most valuable to you to help you attain your next milestone?
A. The most valuable resource at this stage would be a way for us to get exposure to investors who focus on Cal startups. (We’re building this right now actually!)
Q. Where do you want to be in 3 years?
A. I want [BearFounders.com] to be in the top 100 universities for entrepreneurship across the world. And I want to be living in Berkeley still, of course.
Q. Lastly: You've chosen to make the Berkeley Founders' Pledge. What inspired you to do that?
I was inspired to make the Founders’ Pledge because I love this university’s startup community and I want to be committed to helping it improve, as well as to network with other people doing amazing things. It has been a great decision thus far!
Interested in joining Jeremy in his commitment to Cal? Make the Berkeley Founders Pledge, like he did, and have an impact from Day One of your latest venture.