- Entrepreneurs need to be in command of the facts when seeking venture capital.
- It is not enough to show up and wing it. The money will not get thrown at you. You need to be in total command of the facts.
- TVL is a UT cross-campus initiative using an applied curriculum and program to fund local Austin startup companies.
What is Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs?
Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs (TVL) is a cross-campus initiative that curates an applied curriculum and program to fund local Austin startup companies. With beginnings as the Global Moot Corp Competition in 1984, the Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition (TVLIC) was re-imagined in 2015 by Rob Adams as a way to take the global competition and centralize the success in Austin. With more than a 33-year history, the Competition was the oldest operating inter-business school competition in the world.
It’s not every day that you run across a University program that has placed entrepreneurship at the forefront of its efforts and has been engaged in that capacity decades before it was ‘cool and on every corner’. Since its inception, TVL has continually evolved to meet the changing entrepreneurial landscape. TVL has received the nationwide prestigious MBA Roundtable Innovator Award and collectively with the MSTC program adds value to the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business in ranking sixth in Entrepreneurship in the nation.
Innovative Entrepreneurship Programs
TVL works with UT graduate-student led teams and local startups from the Austin ecosystem. TVL is structured to look and act like a venture fund but has no direct access to capital. “With an active investor community, TVL prepares these startups and places them in front of the top investors in Austin.” Without taking equity, the program is results-oriented and highly focused. “TVL breaks all the urban myths that are so prevalent out there by showing how much work it is to raise funds and how to get the work done correctly.”
To build on its “investor-ready” focus, TVL hosts robust programs that simulate the real-world process of raising funds, provides an end to end approach to Austin startup acceleration, develops UT graduate students across all majors and advances community entrepreneurship efforts.
“We take graduate students all over campus, engineering candidates, graduate science, school of pharmacy, architecture, combined with law and MBAs and put them together on cross-functional teams. We parachute those people into local startups and put them through the same fundraising process that we put our companies.”
Adams spoke about the market validation core concept behind most of the entrepreneurship programs. “We like to see 100 interviews in our target audience before money gets raised. We want them thinking, I’m going to find a market problem. If I find a good market problem, I should have many ways to address a product or service to hit that market problem. In the investment world and the world, we live in, how you fix the problem is the easy part. The technology, the secret sauce or whatever is involved, is the simple part. The harder thing to find and the rarer commodity is the market problem. We want market problems that are:
- High Urgency
- Ubiquitous – A reasonable number of people have them
- People are willing to pay to fix them.
TVL has more than 150 alumni startups, with 40% receiving outside funding. To date this has been 491 million in post TVL Funding, 61% closed within one year and six acquisitions. In addition to the Accelerator, the TVL Investment Competition has allowed more than 1,000 student companies to date to participate, with five to ten launching each year.
TVL works with its many Austin community partners, advances University technology and has a cumulative student reach across campus. The graduate students involved in TVL programs become TVL Venture Partners, are hired by corporate agencies like Apple, McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group, cofound their own startups or choose to continue to work with the TVL alumni companies for which they worked.
Adams showcased several TVL companies from different verticals to include uShip, Ordoro, Xeris Pharmaceuticals, Novothelium and Sandbox Semiconductor. One of these was BeatBox Beverages who pitched on Shark Tank, acquired a $1 million investment from Mark Cuban and has closed a $4.7 million Series A. BeatBox Beverages was an MBA student team that progressed into the TVLIC Investment Competition, Venture Partner and Accelerator Company.
“They were quizzed mercifully before they got their investment. What’s your margin, what’s your cost of customer acquisition, what’s your rollout strategy and they had extremely articulate, well-formed answers because they had answered the questions many times before in the coursework, in the competition, in the accelerator work they did for us so they absolutely smoked it when they were on national TV. It takes a lot of confidence and experience to talk back to Mark Cuban on national TV and to get him to actually agree so that was quite an accomplishment on the part of that team.”
How to Get Involved
UT Austin graduate students apply to be a part of the TVL Practicum. The course provides students hands-on opportunities to work with local area startups going through the same life cycles of venture creation, funding and launch and follow-on financing so they can experience all these steps in real time across multiple companies before graduating. Students gain real-world experience by providing research and consulting services to aid startups in taking their products to market and making funding decisions.
The TVL Accelerator matches early-stage Austin-area startups with cross-functional student teams from across UT’s graduate schools to help solve business problems during a ten-week-long practicum course. Students work with the startups to deliver 200-300 hours of quality consulting work in exchange for academic course credit. At the conclusion of each semester, TVL hosts a public demo day that is popular among active local investors and the Austin entrepreneur community. Interested founders should contact the TVL Venture Partner team at InfoTVL@mccombs.utexas.edu or explore TVL’s Accelerator webpage.