Launch Your Startup

Graduate Division

Do you have an idea that could improve health science? Have you thought of a way to streamline patient care? Or maybe you’ve just been binge-watching Silicon Valley and you want a taste of the action.

Startup 101 is the course for you.

Stephanie Marrus, director of the UCSF Entrepreneurship Center, spoke at Genentech Hall about the Startup 101 course, an 11-week class that runs Jan. 23 to Apr. 9.

Startup 101, which is free for current UCSF and UC Berkeley affiliates, teaches future entrepreneurs how to start and grow a for-profit venture with the potential to improve healthcare and the life sciences.

Marrus said two objectives of the course are exposing students to entrepreneurial thinking and building relevant experience for what it means to be on a startup team.

The information session on Nov. 19 wrapped up with eight attendees volunteering to pitch the ideas they want to work on in Startup 101.

Some ideas included “the Uber of medical imaging” and faster diagnosis of autoimmune diseases.

Michelle Estrella, a nephrologist at UCSF, said the class helped in her venture as a co-founder of the startup KidneyCor.

Estrella is developing a diagnostic test to replace current measurements of kidney function, which are used to monitor patients after heart failure.

An improved diagnostic test will allow physicians to more accurately decide when a patient can be discharged and lower the risk of releasing patients too early.

“What I got more comfortable with during the class was reaching out to complete strangers,” she said. “You learn that mindset... that laser focus of trying to get this project through.”

Students learn to build a business plan both by working on a pitch and getting out in the real world.

Marrus said the essential qualities investors look include a good team, product/market fit, and market opportunity.

Next year, student teams will be split into specific sectors to learn the ins and outs of a particular field, including diagnostics, digital health, therapeutics, and medical devices.

Each team will interview 20 people in their target sector, talking to patients and providers to improve their understanding of the needs of their target users.

Next year’s class will culminate in a pitch competition night, where investors attend and give feedback.

The class has a track record of propelling alumni further into the real world with their ideas. Alumni have been accepted to accelerators like Indie Bio, Skydeck, and YCombinator to continue work on their projects.

From 2013 to 2018, 37 companies emerged from Entrepreneurship Center affiliations and raised over $300 million.

Startup 101 provides opportunities not just to work on an idea but to find potential team members and network.

The class recruits internally from UCSF students, postdocs, and faculty as well as MBA students at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, clinicians, investors, and business executives.

Each team additionally receives focused mentorship from one or two industry professionals or investors.

Marrus reminded attendees that you don’t need your own idea to join the class, and if you haven’t pitched before, this is the place to learn.

Applications for Startup 101 are due Dec. 12. More information is available at