CITRIS Foundry introduces new vision under managing director Marc Theeuwes

Collage of five images: a robot arm holding a steaming beverage; three microchips; Marc Theeuwes wearing a dark suit jacket; two sample tubes in a rack; a solar-powered sensor on a light pole with a hand holding a cell phone next to it.

Since its launch in 2013, the CITRIS Foundry has supported the entrepreneurial ambitions of hundreds of University of California (UC) students and faculty members as they have translated their science and engineering research and technology into meaningful impact on society. 

Located in Sutardja Dai Hall at the headquarters of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society and the Banatao Institute (CITRIS), the Foundry has primarily served affiliates of the four UC campuses of Berkeley, Davis, Merced and Santa Cruz by providing a community of like-minded innovators, one-on-one mentoring from Silicon Valley experts, dedicated co-working space, and access to state-of-the-art laboratory and prototyping facilities.

Collage of five images: A woman with dark hair watches a young boy examine a medical device while he holds a cell phone; a man in protective eyewear, gloves and a lab coat looks at the camera while manipulating an item in a fume hood; a man in a blue lab coat and protective eyeware peers at something red-colored in a lab flask; two women in lab coats stand in a laboratory; a man leans against a UV chamber.
CITRIS Foundry alumni have launched successful startups in diverse industries, from medical devices to consumer products to clean tech.

With more than 125 ventures in its portfolio, the CITRIS Foundry incubator has seen its alumni secure hundreds of millions of dollars in total funding across a variety of industries. Success stories include silicon photonics startup Ayar Labs, which recently raised $130 million in series C funding for its high-speed, low-power optical connectivity solution; Lion Semiconductor, an electronics company that enables faster, more efficient mobile device charging, acquired last year for $335 million; and Samay (formerly Respira Labs), a woman-led health care startup developing “gamechanger” devices to monitor lung disease. 

Marc Theeuwes.

The Foundry now welcomes its new managing director: Marc Theeuwes, who offers a broad background in venture capital, information technology and deep tech. His role at CITRIS is, in a way, a homecoming; he holds dual bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and biochemistry from UC Davis, as well as an MBA in finance from Santa Clara University and a master’s degree in engineering from Stanford University.

Theeuwes has served in diverse roles in his career, including vice president of strategic development, director of engineering and operations, management consultant, and venture partner in organizations such as Jabil, Nokia, OmniCell and Rocket Fuel Inc. He has experience in a wide array of industries, including artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), health care, manufacturing, networking and security, and semiconductors and photonics. Theeuwes has also served as a consulting associate professor at Stanford School of Engineering, where he taught classes on entrepreneurship — from startup to scale — in the design group of the mechanical engineering department.

“We are pleased that Marc will bring his considerable expertise and background in a variety of sectors to lead the next phase of the CITRIS Foundry,” said CITRIS Director Costas Spanos, the Andrew S. Grove Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at UC Berkeley. 

The CITRIS Foundry, under Theeuwes’s leadership, will begin accepting applications for its newest cohort on Dec. 21, and accepted teams will start the 12-month program in spring 2023. 

Theeuwes recently shared insight into his plans for the revitalized program.

What is your vision for the CITRIS Foundry? 

CITRIS operates at the center of information technology and major global issues. This mission provides a very broad agenda to apply advancements in IT — cloud computing, big data, AI/ML, photonic communications, 5G networking — to sizable societal topics such as health, transportation, resource management, climate and energy, robotics, food production, semiconductors, and more. Combined, these innovations show great potential to disrupt a variety of enterprise and consumer markets, and to create new ones. 

Ayar Labs, a venture in the 2015 CITRIS Foundry cohort, received $130 million in series C funding in 2022.

The CITRIS Foundry will provide highly focused incubation resources that enable UC engineers, scientists and researchers to form venture-ready startups. Our vision is to create custom engagement programs for each startup that include a path to entity formation, funding and banking guidance, and opportunities to further product development, market exploration and customer discovery.  

The Foundry is looking for advanced teams with deep domain expertise that are addressing large markets with functioning innovations. Graduate students, postdocs and principal investigators are in a great position to start companies given their technical abilities, customer insight and the maturity that allows them to pursue their goals and pivot as the market unfolds. 

What interested you in this role?

The UC research ecosystem continues to advance IT and deep tech in a variety of growth markets. With its 10-year history, the CITRIS Foundry represents an impressive portfolio of companies with the opportunity to expand as new innovations mature. 

I’ve spent 30 years in Silicon Valley working with multinational and startup corporations. I’ve always done my best work engaging with CEOs, CTOs and CFOs on strategy, innovation, business models and financing. This role lets me participate at an early stage of the entrepreneurship cycle and to apply my experience in management, business development and finance to each unique startup team. 

What CITRIS resources do you think are the most valuable for Foundry startups? 

Each team’s needs are different, and the CITRIS Foundry offers the space, time and support to move forward in a manner that matches the startup’s development. 

Clarity Movement Co., a venture in the 2014 CITRIS Foundry cohort, received $9.6 million in series A+ funding in 2022. Its air quality sensors have been installed in more than 65 countries.

Our flexible engagement process includes self-reflective milestones to guide progress. The 12-month incubation period can be used for a variety of purposes, from product development to fundraising, to market research. Teams can make use of dedicated space for collaboration and business meetings. We offer legal support through a network of firms, and we curate funding introductions to a network of UC-affiliated funds and a growing network of off-campus sources. 

Beyond that base, each team has the freedom to access a library of technical resources, as well as experts within the CITRIS boards and research communities for advice. 

How will the CITRIS Foundry serve all four CITRIS campuses?

Entrepreneurship has expanded significantly within the UC system over the past decade, with notable growth in the UC Berkeley ecosystem. According to PitchBook, Cal is the No. 1 public U.S. university for producing venture capital-backed entrepreneurs.

However, entrepreneurship interest is also increasing at UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz and UC Merced. The Foundry structure offers these campuses a transferable connection to resources for forming startups. 

Aluna (formerly Knox Medical Diagnostics), a spring 2014 CITRIS Foundry startup, received FDA approval for its at-home spirometer in 2020.

In addition, each campus is empowered to offer local space and support to meet their community’s unique needs. Each campus is on its own trajectory with its own domain expertise. 

For example, UC Davis, in addition to agricultural technologies, is also particularly strong in biological sciences, and its connection to the UC Davis Medical Center has the potential to accelerate innovations in IT, computer science and health data into digital health and medical device inventions. UC Santa Cruz’s strong history in computation, information technology and media opens up opportunities in multimedia and augmented reality applications. UC Merced has also extensive experience in agricultural technologies, which touches on a number of related engineering disciplines such as AI, aviation, robotics, climate and systems integration.