If you’re familiar with Austin, then you’ve probably been indoctrinated to the city’s unofficial slogan: “Keep Austin Weird.” Whoever the Forrest Gump-like soul was that came up with this saying must have been onto something, because it certainly has stuck. What I believe this endearing, if over-used catch phrase to mean though is: keep Austin unique. The distinctive spirit that pervades this city was in large part what swayed me to attend business school here – and I have found that it really bleeds over into the culture of UT. Below I’ve captured just a couple differentiators that have struck me thus far:
A Two-Stepping McCombs Classmate
- Austin is ranked as one of the most innovative cities in the US, as measured by the number of patents per capita, venture capital investments per capita, etc. As a result, entrepreneurial opportunities at McCombs abound. From Venture Fellows to Venture Labs to the Entrepreneur Society, to our affiliation with the Austin Technology Incubator, if you want to do something outside of the box with your career, you’ve come to the right place.
- When I was getting ready to move here, people kept telling me that Austin was the “Berkeley of Texas.” While parts of that statement ring true, I’m constantly reminded (in wonderful ways) that I’m not in California anymore, and that Texas has more personality than a lot of other states put together. Just last night I was biking home from campus and there in front of Gregory Gymnasium were about a hundred members of an undergraduate Asian society learning to two step. And where else can you wear jeans and cowboy boots to a formal function and fit right in? Gotta love it.
In parting, please do keep in mind the wise advice my mother gave me as I was headed off on my business school adventure: “If you’re too weird for Austin, you’re too weird!”
One of the great things about going to b-school at UT is the school really puts its money where its mouth is regarding entrepreneurship.
This Spring term, I’ve been fortunate to get involved with Texas Venture Labs (TVL), a relatively new entrant on the startup scene. Founded last Spring after several years in a ‘skunkworks’ format, TVL exists to help startups accelerate their development curve and get funded/revenues/growth faster. A group of 16 business, law, natural science, and engineering graduate students provide VC-like oversight and support to a hand-picked portfolio of startups. The 16 of us were chosen through a rigorous application process and learn the basics of how to promote new venture creation through hands-on experience. The companies get our intellectual horsepower, market and business plan validation, and access to UT’s vast network of talent and investors. We get an amazing learning experience.
Our first official class was last night, and we learned what ‘deals’ – or companies – we’ll be working with this semester. We got to pref our deals, and I got my first choice of SpectraPhase, a medical device company that’s trying to provide real-time blood glucose level monitoring to hospitals nationwide. I don’t know much about the product right now, other than that the current option – pricking a finger of an ICU patient every 15 minutes – is painful, costly, and inaccurate. Sounds like a perfect niche to fill right? Well, that’s what we’ll have to help SpectraPhase figure out.
|AT&T Conference Center, just south of The Tower
The perks of the class are innumerable – we can sit in on investor pitches (to get funding), act as flies on the wall on board meeting calls, and have meetings with CEOs who are living and breathing this stuff. It doesn’t hurt either that we have our own office space in the beautiful AT&T Conference Center just south of campus.
I’ll keep this blog updated on some of my experiences with SpectraPhase and other startups throughout this term.
For more info on Texas Venture Labs, visit the TVL website or contact me and I’ll do the best I can to answer any questions you have.