DotDashPay Wins $250,000 Startup Competition At UC Berkeley

Last summer, we told you about a new competition sponsored by Pejman Mar Ventures, a two-year-old, Palo Alto, Ca., venture firm with close ties to Stanford and a growing interest in technologies coming out of the University of California, Berkeley.

Today, the firm is announcing the winner of that competition. Evidently, it couldn’t resist creating two new award categories, too, owing to the quality of the companies with which it met.

The central, $250,000 prize — which could have been won by any UC Berkeley student, faculty member, or alum – goes to DotDashPay.

DotDashPay is developing a hardware and software platform that promises to make it easy for machine makers to implement payments. All it takes, says its founders – two of whom are computer science Ph.D candidates at UC — is a couple of wires and a few lines of code to accept credit cards, Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Android Pay, Bitcoin, and more on nearly any machine.

In an additional boon for UC Berkeley, the school will receive 10 percent of Pejman Mar’s stake in DotDashPay. (We don’t know exactly what that translates into; Pejman Mar isn’t saying how big a stake it’s getting for its $250,000 check.)

A second company that Pejman Mar decided to fund with a smaller, $20,000 uncapped note is Tinkering Labs, a kit company that provides its young users with parts and ideas about what they can make entirely on their own. For example, one kit comes with markers, screw drivers, a small motor and numerous wooden pieces, along with suggestion cards, including to “build a machine that draws curvy lines.”

Tinkering Labs, which won Pejman Mar’s “edtech award,” was cofounded by Nik Morozoff, who earned his MBA at Haas; he met his cofounders at the UC Berkeley business incubator SkyDeck.

Last, Pejman Mar wrote a $5,000 check – a “social impact award” – to Thera, an online chat platform that connects survivors of sexual assault to vetted volunteers for anonymous and confidential support. This check also came in the form of an uncapped note, says Pejman Mar cofounder Pejman Nozad.

No doubt the competition was a big hit on campus, where budding entrepreneurs aren’t paid nearly as much attention as their peers at Stanford, though that looks to be changing.

In fact, the prizes from Pejman Mar come on the heels of what may wind up proving a banner week for the University of California, which announced plans on Tuesday to invest $250 million in startups that are emerging from its 10-school system.

Students, professors, and alumni are all eligible. The school said it’s particularly interested in startups that are focused on the life sciences, technology, energy, agriculture, and materials.