Berkeley Frontier Fund Launches With A Goal To Return $25M Back To The University

By Amit Chowdhry ● May 12, 2022
  • The Berkeley Frontier Fund (BFF) announced a new fund with a goal of returning $25 million back to the University. These are the details.

Berkeley Frontier Fund (BFF) – which is the Berkeley venture capital fund focused on investing in the most successful and highest growth UC Berkeley-founded companies – recently announced its new fund, leading in turn to the largest possible donation back to University programs. This fund has already made its first four investments: AyarLabs, Databricks, Mammoth Biosciences, and Neurona Therapeutics.

The donations from the fund will be directly allocated by a donation committee in support of programs that benefit students across campus and help the university address the perennial challenge of lack of program funding. And the fund will make its first $2.5 million contribution to UC Berkeley in the fourth quarter of 2022. The Berkeley Frontier Fund has set an ambitious goal to return $25 million back to the University over the lifetime of the fund.

This fund is managed and advised by Berkeley alums. Richard Chan, formerly managing partner of Ironfire Ventures and MBA ‘04/BA ‘96, is leading the fund with support from members of the University’s board of trustees, dean, and department chairs as well as campus oversight from Rich Lyons, UC Berkeley’s chief innovation and entrepreneurship officer.

While UC Berkeley has been recognized as the world’s number 1 public university, it has been challenged financially for years. Today the University receives less than 13% of its operating budget from the state. And Berkeley’s endowment per student is approximately one-tenth of the endowment at private universities of similar stature.

In the past 20 years, Berkeley entrepreneurs have created over $500 billion in public and private market value. So BFF was established with a mission to help Berkeley participate in that windfall.

One way the fund can help the University capture that capital is through investments in technology spinouts and inventions created in its labs. And BFF has a contractual relationship with the University that allows it to partner with the University’s IP office on rights; thus giving it investment access to companies utilizing this Berkeley IP.

While there are a number of Berkeley-focused venture funds currently working with University startups, the majority do not have any direct give-back to the university.


“BFF aims to provide a meaningful and sustainable revenue source for Berkeley. We are pioneering a way for alumni to give back. From the fund’s General Partners to the investors to the company founders, every stakeholder in BFF contributes to the cause. With our unique approach, BFF is acting as a conduit for UC Berkeley to benefit from all the entrepreneurship on campus. I envision this alumni-driven initiative to bring capital for labs, housing, equipment, and more to help address the school’s enduring challenges.”

“To do well by doing good, we invite all UC Berkeley alumni to join us in this journey.”

– Richard Chan

“This extraordinary new Berkeley Frontier Fund is one of the most innovative ways for a public school to engage in the new age of entrepreneurship and is pioneering a new way for successful alumni to contribute back to Berkeley. The incredible talent and opportunity within the UC Berkeley ecosystem gives the fund a broad range of options when it comes to investment.”

– Rich Lyons, UC Berkeley’s chief innovation and entrepreneurship officer

“Berkeley Frontier Fund makes these direct contributions plus a one-of-a-kind front-loaded donation component. That means 5% of total fund commitments will be donated within the first year of operation, making BFF a standout amongst all other donation efforts.”

– Loraine Binion, treasurer at the UC Berkeley Foundation and a member of the BFF donation committee