Dan Driscoll (MBA ’14), Sebastian Turner (MBA ’15), Susan Strausberg (Longhorn Startup mentor to Prepify), Sarah Yu (MBA ’15) and Eric Burleson (MBA ’15) at Longhorn Startup Demo Day.
Getting to Texas
When asked how he ended up in Texas, Dan Driscoll (MBA and MA in Advertising ’14) will tell you that it wasn’t necessarily his choice. In fact, in the Washington D.C. native’s own words, Texas was the “last place” he ever thought he’d live. But when Dan’s wife was admitted to the LBJ School of Public Affairs here at UT Austin, and at a time when Dan was ready to move on from coaching soccer through an organization he co-founded, they were eager to make the move.
Once in Austin, Dan began work as a digital media consultant, teaching businesses how to market themselves, focusing primarily on web presence, digital strategy, apps, and social media. But over time, after alluring job offers from larger tech companies surfaced, he realized that he would much rather spend his time developing and marketing a product of his own than those belonging to other people.
That’s when Dan decided to pursue a dual degree program at UT, starting first with a Master in Advertising through the Advertising School in the Moody College of Communication, where he was able to pursue digital technology in the marketing space, and a Texas MBA here at the McCombs School of Business. During his time here, Dan has helped launch a few exciting ventures.
HireUp is a recruiting tool Dan developed after witnessing the inefficiencies and frustrations for both candidates and recruiters at career fairs. Determined there could be a better way to connect the two groups, he developed an intuitive, easy-to-use interface that helps “take the pain out of the search process, helping people avoid long waits and dead ends at career fairs.”
As a Texas MBA student, Dan was able to take an elective course outside of the business school that focused on UI/UX design, which helped him take the project from idea to product. He was the only business student in the class and he was able to connect with two engineers who were interested in working on the project. The HireUp model was so successful in their market testing for the class that they already had clients wanting to enroll before the semester had even ended. Dan knew that it was a bit more than he could handle with all of his other responsibilities, so he handed it over to a friend, Cawley Thompson, a student visiting from the ESADE Business School in Barcelona through the Texas MBA’s Exchange Program, who still runs HireUp today along with Dan’s original classmates from the UI/UX course. HireUp is now funded and joining the Seed Sumo startup accelerator this summer in College Station, TX.
Prepify came out of his coursework from the “Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility” class, taught by Professor Brian Richter. Dan wrote a paper that introduced a venture that would provide free, high-caliber SAT preparation to any student anywhere. A computer adaptive learning platform where students can login and study for the SAT through engaged learning, Prepify is gamified, which encourages students to interact with the curriculum in meaningful ways. Prepify was developed in partnership with Bell Curves, an education organization based out of New York that provided the curriculum content.
A few other Texas MBA students got involved with the project: Joe Bartolotta (MBA, ’15), Sebastian Turner (MBA, ’15), Sarah Yu (MBA, ’15), and Eric Burleson (MBA, ’15). They were able to acquire some developers from MakerSquare, a boot camp for coding in downtown Austin where Dan had taken some part-time classes, and, together, they built a demo. Recently, the Prepify team took home the $20,000 grand prize as the national winner of the Walmart Better Living Business Plan Challenge – an enormous honor for any entrepreneurial venture. (Sanergy won the same competition two years ago, a company that has since been named as one of Fast Company’s ten most innovative companies).
In 2011, during his first year at UT, Dan participated in a three-day startup conference where he helped hatch reQwip, a marketplace for sports gear. We’ve talked about reQwip previously in the blog, but now, in 2014, we’re pleased to report that they’re at last going to market. reQwip is also joining the Seed Sumo accelerator: they’ve fully funded their pre-seed round and they’ve won a few competitions (which translates to tens of thousands of dollars in cash prizes to help fund the venture). One of the co-founders on the project is a former engineering student from UT, and the other, Kate Dailey, is the wife of fellow Texas MBA student Doug Herling (MBA, ’15).
Using the idea for reQwip, Dan participated in the Longhorn Startup Seminar run by Josh Baer, Bob Metcalfe, and Ben Dyer. While not officially offered through the MBA Program, it turned out to be one of the best classes Dan has taken here at UT. “It’s all about learning by doing and making mistakes. You focus less on your grade – it’s more about where you end up based on where you started,” he says.
Since starting the Texas MBA Program, Dan has won multiple awards for his innovative business plans, including the national “Walmart Better Living Business Plan Challenge” for Prepify.
The Texas MBA Experience
While pitching ideas at the Longhorn Demo Startup Day in front of nearly 1,000 people (on the same stage where four U.S. Presidents stood just weeks before) was an incredible experience, Dan says that it has been his classmates he appreciates the most about his time in the Texas MBA Program. “People here are genuinely excited for their neighbor’s success – the general view in Austin is that a rising tide lifts all boats. It has been a remarkable experience here, and I think that really speaks to the quality of the Texas MBA students,” he says.
If all of that isn’t enough, Dan has also been working closely with the McCombs Entrepreneur in Residence, Brett Hurt, on designing and executing strategies and opportunities for advancing entrepreneurship on the campus of the UT Austin. And in his “spare” time, Dan is also an assistant coach with the UT men’s soccer team and volunteers for DreamGoDo.org, a charity raising college tuition support for at-risk youth.
Dan’s trajectory has been shaped by many different experiences – his résumé is a roadmap of a mind in motion and a reflection of innovation in action. We’re glad his path led him here, and we wish him all the best as he transitions to his full-time role with reQwip after he graduates with the Class of 2014 on May 16. We’re also excited to mention that Dan was recently given the honor to speak at the 131st University-wide Commencement Ceremony, taking place Saturday May, 17.
Join us in congratulating Dan and all of our Class of 2014 graduates. They have worked incredibly hard and have truly earned the Texas MBA.