On Monday, November 9, the Honors Business Association held Start-Up Speed Dating, the first-ever event of this kind for BHP students interested in entrepreneurship. Approximately 30 students were able to meet with six prominent BHP alumni (listed below), all of whom found success in the startup space:
- Travis Devitt (BHP/FIN ‘06) – current Director of Growth at Aceable and Angel Investor
- Michael Koetting (BHP/MIS ‘13) – current Corporate Development Manager at Civitas Learning and Co-Founder of Hoot.me
- Cindy Lo (BHP/MIS ‘98) – President/Owner/Event Strategist at Red Velvet Events, an international award-winning meeting and events management company
- Elliot Oshman (BHP/MIS ‘00) – current Principal Program Manager at Amazon and former Director of Client Operations/Senior Technical Advisor/Senior Manager for Delivery Operations at Mass Relevance (now Spredfast)
- Haley Robison (BHP/FIN ‘07) – current COO of the innovative outdoor equipment brand KAMMOK, MBA/MA in Education graduate from Stanford University, former curriculum designer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and former consultant at Bain & Company
- Joel Knight (BHP/MIS ‘02) – Vice President of Customer Experience at WP Engine; formerly worked for several early-stage startups including Bazaarvoice, BlackLocus, and Compare Metrics
Rotating through small groups of 5-6 students each, the alumni provided valuable insights about their entrepreneurial experiences and shared the lessons they learned during their careers so far.
Interested in entrepreneurship but couldn’t attend this year’s Start-Up Speed Dating? Check out the below major takeaways that students learned from the event:
- Optimize for opportunity. Travis Devitt, who joined a startup after working in hedge funds for eight years, advised students to look beyond perks or salaries and choose jobs that give us the greatest opportunities for growth and advancement. Often these opportunities can come at startups, where employees are given a lot of responsibility and are continually challenged to help the company grow.
- Entrepreneurship has no GPA. Michael Koetting put it this way: if you go into your test tomorrow and absolutely bomb it, that grade will stay with you in some form or fashion for the rest of your college career. The impact of failure on your GPA is somewhat irreversible, but the same isn’t true for entrepreneurship. Failures don’t put a stain on a resume, provided you learn from them. In fact, they can often be good things. So when it happens, pick yourself up and move on.
- Get plugged in to the Austin startup scene. Austin provides a plethora of events for budding entrepreneurs, and these events are a great way to meet other people in the startup scene. A subscription to Austin Startup Digest will help you learn about these types of events. Once you’re there, network, learn from other entrepreneurs, and find out about some of the most innovative ideas coming out of Austin.
- Do what scares you – but don’t make decisions out of fear. Haley Robison told students that she took her current job at a startup because it was the one job that scared her the most. She said she knew that she would be challenged, that she was passionate about the idea, and that it would help her grow. However, she also said that fear shouldn’t rule your decision-making process. Don’t do something because you’re afraid of what will happen if you do something else. Do it because you want to.
- Act on your idea now. If you have an idea and you think it’s worth pursuing, start testing it out now. See if you can get people to listen to you, and try to gauge their response. When building a team, make sure you get people who really believe in what you’re doing. If you can’t get a couple of friends who are passionate about working with your idea, chances are you’ll have a hard time convincing investors to invest in your company.
After a successful first event, HBA looks forward to continuing its partnership with BHP alumni, exposing students to the wide variety of career options available to them through BHP.