Imposter Syndrome

By: Catherine Morgan, MSTC Class of 2020

Let me start off by saying I’m an off-the-charts extrovert who has very few qualms with “putting herself out there” in most capacities. I enjoy things like improv acting, leading presentations, and even networking – activities that often provoke wild anxiety for some. I’m a newly-twenty-six-year-old who’s incredibly lucky to say that she’s had a substantially accelerated career path to her current dream job at a fantastic company involving learning, doing, and being responsible for things arguably much earlier than most. Despite the extroversion, confidence, and professional experience I’ve worked so hard to hone, I found myself in literal tears on the way to my first day of grad school (seriously, I can’t believe I made it safely down I-35 in retrospect).

Imposter Syndrome is so real. A Harvard Business Review article defines it as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.” I remember opening my acceptance letter to the MSTC Program with such elation; however, soon after all of the “I got in!” texts were sent and phone calls were made, the nerves started to settle in. In the MSTC Class of 2020, 38% held previous graduate degrees, 52% were already entrepreneurs, and almost 73% were male – I fit into none of those percentages. Not to mention, I was exactly a decade younger than the class average and I looked even younger according to the number of times I get asked for my ID in exchange for cocktails.

Compared to everyone else, I felt and looked like this neophyte-child who would be so lost in MSTC’s rigorous academic setting. Flashbacks of seeing the big, fat “44%” grade at the top of my undergrad “Intro to Accounting” final exam from six years prior was constantly nagging at me. The MSTC curriculum – which includes an Accounting course – is based on collaborative work within small, assigned teams and I sincerely struggled to see what value I could possibly bring the handful of students that would ultimately get strapped with me as their teammate. For the first time in a long time, I experienced the debilitating weight of Imposter Syndrome that led me to believe my acceptance was an absolute mistake and the thought of showing up to class was an even bigger one.

Despite the irrational fears and tears, Day One arrived and I did show up (I mean, I had already fork over the deposit). I quietly walked up to the check-in table where I half-expected my name to have an asterisk next to it for someone to pull me aside and say my enrollment was a farce. To my surprise, my name was there – sans asterisk – and I was even given a swag bag and snacks like the rest. I moseyed over to sit with my team of all dudes, trying so hard to give off an “I totally didn’t just cry on the way over here” vibe. Dr. Murphy opened our session by having us write down what was going through our heads, realize everyone’s contributions were related to the same social anxieties, and commit ourselves to putting those thoughts on a back-burner for the week; I could feel Imposter Syndrome’s tight grip on me begin to release. I met my team; we talked about all of our individual strengths, weaknesses, areas in which we sought to improve, and overall expectations and goals for the program. I was so thankful to realize that my strengths were all areas that the dudes surfaced as their weaknesses; starting to believe I might actually generate value for this group, I felt even less of an “Imposter.”

Fast forward almost ten months: my team, Task Force Awesome, is still completely in-tact (we even gained a strong teammate after the first semester) and thriving as both a unit and individual students. Task Force Awesome is a consistently high-performing team that has relentlessly worked to build and improve skills with our pitches, proposals, and forecasting; and, for those keeping score, I actually more-than-doubled my performance in MSTC Accounting compared to that of my undergrad (see, there’s hope!), and took ownership of many substantial team deliverables. Beyond Task Force Awesome (and most importantly), I feel that our entire Class of 2020 personally knows the value that each student individually brings to the MSTC Program. We’ve spent every-other weekend together for almost a year; we attend community events and internationally traveled together; most pivotally, we’ve been our most vulnerable selves with each other since Day One with Dr. Murphy. The time we’ve dedicated, discussions in which we’ve engaged, and implicit commitment to transparency and vulnerability have all contributed to creating an approachable environment where everyone recognizes their individual value, other students’ value, and opportunities to capitalize and expand on both.

The MSTC Class of 2020 is so many things; Gen-X and millennial representative, extroverted, introverted, technical and non-, we have fashion designers, salespeople, product managers, military leaders, attorneys – we even have at least one Aggie amongst our crew. What I can tell you we don’t have: Imposters. Everyone has and knows their respective purpose for being here, including my improv-acting, demographically-self-conscious, and terrible-at-undergrad-Accounting self. So, if you find yourself on the way to an anxiety-provoking activity like a presentation, networking event, or even your first day of MSTC, and are experiencing symptoms of Imposter Syndrome – you’re likely right at home with the rest of us “Imposters” who learned to be vulnerable and valuable, together.

From the Military to MSTC

By: Apollo Hernandez

(the transition from Iraq and Afghanistan to MSTC)

After a few combat deployments as a young enlisted infantry rifleman, I was fortunate enough to earn my way into the elite and storied Marine Recon community, where I served as a Team Leader. The military instills many traits and soft skills in men and women that are extremely valuable to businesses, especially in startups. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to translate these traits and frameworks that we learned in the military into civilian life. The MSTC program is teaching me how to bridge that gap by increasing my business acumen and introducing me to new frameworks and concepts that have already proven extremely valuable in my civilian career.

If you are a current or former service member and are looking for an exceptional graduate program, here are a few bullet points that you might find helpful.

  • When creating the MSTC program, The University of Texas combined a Masters in Technology Commercialization with a traditional business degree.
  • The program is a part of the highly ranked McCombs School of Business.
  • You do not have to be technical to be successful in this program.
  • You do not need to have a technology or idea already that you want to commercialize.
  • You do not need to be an inventor to be a business person.
  • At least a quarter of the class are veterans or still serving in the military.
  • The GI Bill covers the program.
  • The program is a 1-year program, meaning you spend only one year of VA benefits.
  • Even if you attend online, the Post 9/11 GI Bill will pay you as if you are on campus.
  • You have options for the delivery method i.e., in-class or online.
  • If you’re like me and prefer to attend in person, classes are in Austin, TX.
  • The education and networking are phenomenal.

Thank you for your service. I hope this helps you in your search for a quality graduate education.

If you have more questions about the program email, or if you have any veteran-specific questions, connect with me on LinkedIn.

Semper Fi/Hook’em Horns,

Apollo Hernandez

Four Things I Learned as a First Semester International Student in the Texas McCombs MSTC Program

By: Yu-Sheng (Roger) Wu

Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.

– Otto Van Bismarck

Dear reader,

Hello, and thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. I understand in a competitive economy today, time is a precious resource, and the fact that you are spending a sliver of your finite time in this world is something that I am eternally grateful for.

As one of the international students in the MSTC program, I thought I’d offer my 2 cents about what an international student might want to know if they are planning to join the program (or might want to know BEFORE they start the program). While I can’t offer a holistic review of the program yet*, I feel like I am still able to offer some slivers of knowledge and firsthand experience about what incoming students could expect.

Also, as per the Bismarck quote above, think of this blog post as an opportunity to learn from MY mistakes. I’ve made a handful of them since my matriculation, and reflecting on them in a public forum is probably the best way to ensure that future students do not make these mistakes.

*I’ve only been here for one semester


1. A few things regarding the F1 Visa

The visa application process takes time, so start it ASAP.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? It’s smart to follow up with the program staff if you have not received information about this process from the international office. They should contact you directly to kickstart the visa application process, and while I did end up getting my visa before the program started, I would advise keeping in mind that the process could take at least 2 months.

Let’s put it this way:

  • Even with FedEx Express mail and the wonders of the internet, it takes approximately 1 week ~ 10 days for the UT International office to process all of your paperwork and send you your I-20.
  • Filling out the DS-2019 might be a one-day affair, but depending on how backlogged your local US embassy is, your visa interview could be pushed back to a date that is over one month later than the day you filled out your DS-2019. If you’re also accounting for the amount of time that the US Embassy takes to process checks and money orders, it may take even longer for your visa interview to be scheduled.
  • After you pass your visa interview, it could also take up to 10 days for you to receive your actual visa.

So even though you could TECHNICALLY get your visa in a month (I mean, that’s how long it took to get mine), I would take some extra time to go through the visa application process. The month to which I applied for my visa was one of the most stressful months in recent memory.

Check for misprints on your I20

It happens! And yes, it happened to me. A misprinted I20 could mean a stunted visa application process or even a denial of entry into the country. You must make sure that the following things in your I20 are printed correctly:

  • Your name
  • Your program start date
  • Your earliest entry date (the date you receive your visa is dependent on this date)

Call the UT International Office after 10 AM CST

While the International Office is open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM CST,  the staff may be busy starting their tasks for the day in the early morning hours 8:00 AM to 10 AM. You may be better off calling them after 10 AM CST.


2. A few things regarding “Financing New Ventures”

Finish all of the launch week readings before launch week

Another no brainer. But seriously, Professor Badolato might only assign the readings for his first 2 launch week classes, but you’ll want to read them all. You’ll be too jet-lagged and tired during launch week to read all of the daily readings.

Audit Professor Badolato’s FSA class

During the middle of the summer semester, Professor Badolato will offer students the opportunity to audit his FSA class. Aside from being a good class to sit in, you should know that in other semesters, this class has a waitlist of up to 40 students. So get in there if you can.

Attend the excel boot camp

To put it frankly, If you’re not great with excel, you will be pulling your hair out in the accounting sections of the first semester. With that in mind, I would advise every student to attend the excel boot camp during orientation to save yourself from future hair-pulling sessions.

(Pictured above: Professor Alexander interacts with students in the “splash zone”)

Sit in the “splash zone”

For the uninitiated, the splash zone is the first 2 rows of the classroom. Prof. Alexander’s lectures are akin to performances, and you’ll get the most out of them if you sit in the front row.

The Stat Apps server is your best friend

You will need to run a Monte Carlo simulation later on in the first semester. This means that you’ll need to install a software called RISK that eats up your computer RAM like I eat tacos. If you’re a Mac user or if you’re running a not-so-high-end PC, might I suggest running RISK on the Stat Apps server via remote desktop? It’s much easier on your computer.

Information on how to do so can be found in this link:

Barring that, you can always visit the library and run the software there.


3. McCombs and another miscellany

Newspaper Discounts:

McCombs offers discounts for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other publications for students. You can also grab a hard copy from McCombs to take home. So, consider ditching your newspaper subscription if you have one.


Your UT EID gives you access to Kanopy if you log into it via the UT Library website. Sure, it’s not a free Netflix or a free HBO subscription, but I think it’s worth perusing, if not to check out their extensive access into the Criterion Collection.


Live too far away from the library to visit often? UT Austin offers a VPN service for anybody that needs access to a school resource remotely. Just keep in mind that you need to login once every hour…but it can be useful if you live far away from campus.

More info about the UT VPN can be found here:

(Pictured above: The LBJ Presidential Library)

Visit the LBJ Presidential Library

It’s on-campus, admission is free, and it’s got some cool stuff inside.


4. Living in Austin

The Austin Stone

If you are looking for a Church to attend mass at, might I recommend the Austin Stone? They are a non-denominational group that meets at Austin High, and they offer morning, afternoon and evening mass services on Sundays. Attendance is free, and there is always free coffee before any mass event.

You can learn more about them at

Unionpay is useless:

If you’re a Chinese student or a student who has a bank account in China, please be aware of the fact that Unionpay is useless in Austin (I have yet to find a vendor that accepts Unionpay in the city). If you are going to use a credit card tethered to a Chinese bank account in Austin, please be 100 percent sure that the card also comes with Visa or Mastercard payment capabilities.

Don’t buy a bus pass:

Your UT ID grants you free rides on public transport around the city.

The Lucky Lab Coffee Co. has the best cold brew in Austin

…that I’ve had so far.

No seriously. It’s great.


So that’s it I guess? If you have any lingering questions (or if you just want to chat), feel free to hit me up at I check my email every hour (sans sleeping hours of course), and I usually reply within the day.



Yu-Sheng (Roger) Wu

Austin Startup Week 2018

Together achievement

The time of the year for startups is back, Austin Startup Week. Every year organizations and startups open their doors, put on events and roll out the red carpet for both locals and visitors who are interested in learning more about the startup scene in Austin. There are many different events and tracks that you can check out. We’ve compiled the list of events for the University Track that will take place on Wednesday, October 3 at UT Austin Rowling Hall.

 8:00 AM Dorm Rooms to Startup Showcase
 9:30 AM The University’s Role in Entrepreneurial Ecosystems
 11:00 AM Emerging Tech Off College Campuses
 12:30 PM 10 Legal Mistakes Every Startup Makes
 2:00 PM The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion within Startup Culture
 5:30 PM MoneyTalks by Herb Kelleher Center – The State of Fundraising
 6:30 PM MSTC + Herb Kelleher Center Entrepreneurship Night

And those are the University Track events you don’t want to miss. Be sure to check out Austin Startup Week. We hope to see you there!


Texas MSTC Staff Writer

3 marketing paradigms every healthcare entrepreneur needs to know



Before beginning the MSTC program, I regularly stipulated to my colleagues that I didn’t know anything about marketing. If I’m honest, I didn’t want to know anything about marketing. For me, marketing was mostly a pejorative word reserved for the magical hand-waving and special kind of half-truth whispered into the ears of people reluctant to buy something. Three classes into the MSTC program, though, and it was apparent that I had missed some rich opportunities due to this limited view. More importantly, I had committed the grave mistake of tacitly accepting the status quo paradigm of my customer. Worst of all, perhaps, I myself have been (kind of, maybe) a marketer without even knowing it.

For the last two and half years I have been a part of an Austin-based startup aiming to stymie the deleterious effects of preventable chronic diseases like Type 2 Diabetes and COPD. As is generally the case in startups, my compatriots and I have worn many hats. One of my hats involves conducting in-depth interviews with users so that we can learn about their needs and experiences. Following the revelation that user interviews are not just an aspect of but a central part of marketing, I retreated (appropriately chastened) to my recordings of the interviews I conducted to reevaluate my conclusions. Following are three observations that I consider blunders I made by not applying basic marketing paradigms that I hope other entrepreneurs in healthcare (and beyond) can avoid.

1. People that share an attribute don’t necessarily share a need.

Treating a person based on a disease or diagnosis is a logical and necessary approach for medical professionals in acute situations. However, when engaging with people as consumers rather than patients, segmenting by disease is often the wrong approach. Why? The mere fact that people share a disease does little to inform us of what people need. For example, consumer interviews revealed a broad range of needs for people with Type 2 Diabetes, from accountability to encouragement, healthy meal recipes to reminders to take medication. Some people simply need a trigger to remind them to make good choices, while others need hands-on training in how to healthily navigate a restaurant menu. Some just want to know that someone cares. Recognizing this range fundamentally changes the nature of the solutions we can and should employ.

2. Don’t assume people will pay for a problem to be solved at any cost.

Navigating healthcare payments is notoriously complex and, despite the sheer size of annual healthcare expenditures, health system margins are often slim. Consumers daily feel the impact of the real growth rate of per capita expenditures, especially at lower income ranges. But, as pernicious as some diseases can be, we should neither assume that people can or will pay for solutions nor that, in the grand scheme of their lifestyle, people can adapt to radical change. Rather, we should consider how we can meet them on their own terms.

3. Seek out the experience people want to have, not just the one that you can provide them

In most cases, a visit to a doctor or a hospital is a matter of necessity. Optimizing that experience is an important undertaking, but the reality is that in those circumstances people generally wish they were somewhere else. It isn’t an experience they want to have. The task in front of healthcare entrepreneurs is to envision experiences beyond this environment where consumers can willingly and positively engage.

A hallmark of worthwhile education programs is their ability to expose new paradigms and frameworks that can be immediately applied to areas of weakness, especially when you do not initially recognize the area as a weakness. The MSTC program has done that for me. While all the appropriate humble caveats apply (I am neither a healthcare professional nor a true marketer), recognizing the breadth and depth of the marketing paradigm has fundamentally altered my ability to assess the business landscape. Now, when I say I don’t know anything about marketing I don’t mean it as a willful choice but as a desire to learn about and understand the people who matter most: those we aim to help.


Elijah D Kelley is a graduate of the MSTC Class of 2018. He is currently a Solutions Director with Wellsmith Inc., a startup which gives people the tools to make simple, memorable and actionable choices to manage their health.

The Most Successful Companies Today Are Data-Driven

Enterprise Data Science

As a data nerd and product marketer, I never cease to be amazed by what data science can reveal about people’s preferences, moods, and behavior. These applications can range from the amusing to potentially life-saving. From its analysis of online interactions between couples, Facebook Data Science can predict with astounding accuracy the likelihood of budding relationships and break ups. Using Twitter data, researchers at Northeastern University developed a model to accurately predict flu outbreaks up to six weeks in advance.

Data analytics is being used by more and more companies to allow them to make better decisions, develop new products and services, and verify or refute existing theories or models. According to McKinsey research, “organizations that leverage customer behavioral insights outperform peers by 85 percent in sales growth and more than 25 percent in gross margin.” Perhaps then it is no surprise that some of the most innovative products, services, processes, and solutions were developed by companies that successfully leveraged and applied the customer insights that came from big data. The names of companies who have outperformed their peers through data are now household names.

With its unrivaled database containing the shopping and purchasing behavior of 244 million customers, Amazon used predictive analytics to build personalized recommender systems, book recommendations, one-click ordering, and anticipatory shipping models to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. Guided by its mission statement to become “Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company,” Amazon is currently one of today’s most admired companies (in addition to enjoying an impressive $7.4 billion free cash flow as of December 2017).

Most people go about their day using Google’s search engine, email, and its Android operating system on their smartphones without a second thought. But as the saying goes, “if the service is free, you are the product.” All information that goes into those free services are eventually integrated into Google AdWords, Google’s online advertising service that has an ingenious business model using keywords, targeted advertising, a unique bidding model, and paid-per-click. Google AdWords is ultimately responsible for over 90% of Google’s staggering $89.5 billion revenue.

Netflix became the biggest streaming service in the United States using data analytics that combed through subscribers’ viewing habits, gathered valuable insights, and produced heavily personalized content. One successful hit that emerged was the political thriller House of Cards. To this day, 75% of Netflix’s viewer activity is still driven by its recommendation algorithm, which is estimated to save the company over $1 billion every year.

Amazon, Google, and Netflix may all have different business models but all three of these tech titans built their vast empires with a core focus on customer behavior data and analytics. Clayton Christensen, author of the best-selling classic The Innovator’s Dilemma, has taken pains to point out that customers aren’t really interested in products or services themselves but in what they do, specifically “jobs to be done.” Christensen further elaborates:

Identifying and understanding the job to be done are only the first steps in creating products that customers want—especially ones they will pay premium prices for. It’s also essential to create the right set of experiences for the purchase and use of the product and then integrate those experiences into a company’s processes.

For example, when someone buys Netflix subscription, he or she is not just buying TV shows and movies. That person is “hiring” Netflix to provide affordable and convenient entertainment. Examined in this context, Netflix is not competing not only with other streaming services like Hulu or Amazon Prime Instant Video, it is competing with “everything you do to relax” from listening to music or reading a book.

Successful companies such as Netflix know that they have go beyond knowing “who” their customers are. Specifically, they rely on data analytics as revealed through their customers’ behaviors to obtain a more accurate picture of what they really want and need, and how and when to best deliver it to them. The key takeaway for marketers is that they should not be segmenting their customers by demographics or personas, but instead be focusing on motivations, context, and triggers.

Data-driven companies like Amazon, Google, and Netflix are laying the groundwork for the future and various industries are feeling their disruptive effects. Industries unable or too slow to apply customer-centric, behavioral data-driven strategies in their business models will be at greater risk of obsolescence.

In today’s economy, companies are constantly reinventing themselves through customer-centricity, personalization, and customer experience. Data-driven analytics and quantitative insights are the must-have tools.

Another version of this article was originally published on the Abraxas Technology company blog. Read the original article here.


Aaron Tao is a graduate of the MSTC Class of 2017. He is currently a Product Manager with Abraxas Technology, a data analytics startup devoted to serving the out-of-home (OOH) advertising industry.

Follow him on Twitter here.

SXSW 2018 – Events you don’t want to miss!

Austin Skyline

It’s that time of year again. The week during spring when crowds upon crowds of people descend onto Austin to attend the heavily anticipated SXSW Conference. The conference consists of three main components, Interactive, Music and Film, each track bringing top creatives and global professionals together for exciting events, workshops, festivals, and more.

SXSW has MANY different events and it can be pretty overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Stop your worrying, we’re here to help! We’ve compiled a list and if you’re looking for interesting events be sure to check out those below and if you see us there say Hi!

  1. Hugh Forrest: Welcome to SXSW

  2. Corporate Accelerators: What Startups Should Know

  3. Against the Odds; Charting Your Path as a Woman

  4. CNN’s Jake Tapper in Conversation with Bernie Sanders

  5.  Giving Back Rocks: How Austin Brands Do It

  6.  Dell Experience

  7.  Want to Fix Corporate Innovation?

  8.  Community Builders Meet Up

  9.  Startups Inside Giant Companies Meet Up

  10.  New Girls’ Network: Women Funding Women

  11.  Overcoming Systemic Barriers in the Way of Investment.

  12.  Brand Personality and Business Growth

  13.  Tech-no-color: Advancing Women of Color in Tech

  14.  What Real Investors Really Want

  15.  SXSW Accelerator: Hyper-Connected Communities  Technologies

  16.  Don’t Launch A Product, Build A Brand

  17.  Get Funded: How to Pitch

  18.  Startup Culture: Where Do We Go From Here?

  19.  How Can Big Companies & Entrepreneurs Collaborate?

  20.  How Startups Can Partner With Companies Like Google

  21.  Student Startup Madness Session 1

  22.  Empowering a Billion Women with $1B in Capital by 2020

  23.  Student Startup Madness Session 2

  24.  Inclusion + Tech: How To Get It Right

  25.  Future of Education’s Relationship with Startups

  26.  PitchTexas: Graduate Startup Pitch Competition

  27.  UT Austin’s Best Undergrad Startups

  28.  Startups and Big Companies Working Together

  29.  How to Take Your Idea to Revenue!

  30.  Building a Badass Business Against All Odds

  31.  Breakthrough Innovators Who Changed the World

  32.  PerfectPitch

No badge? No problem! Check out some of these free events, just make sure to RSVP!

  1. SXSW Startup Crawl
  2. Her <Success Code>
  3. Launch Institute @ SXSW
  4. Pandora
  5. Flood Fest
  6. Mashable House: Time Warp

Don’t forget that there’s more to SXSW than just Business and Technology events. Make sure to check out some local bands as well!

And that’s a wrap for events you don’t want to miss. Have fun at SXSW!


The Conscience of a Capitalist

“We need to discover anew what makes free-enterprise capitalism what it has been: the most powerful creative system of social cooperation and human progress ever conceived. We next need to rethink why and how we engage in business to better reflect where we are in the human journey and the state of the world we live in today.” —John Mackey

Thanks to the sponsorship of the Adam Smith Society, I recently had the pleasure of enjoying a private dinner with Whole Foods CEO John Mackey. Molded on the lines of the Federalist Society for legal professionals, the Adam Smith Society is an ideas-centered organization that seeks to connect business students, executives, and entrepreneurs who share a commitment to free markets, individual liberty, limited government, and classical liberal philosophy. The Austin Chapter was especially fortunate to host hometown hero John Mackey given his open advocacy of libertarianism and capitalism and the recent Whole Foods-Amazon merger.

Of course, Mackey was asked for his opinion regarding that particular “elephant in the room” during dinner but gave guarded answers, as expected. But the evening’s most rewarding aspect was the direct exchange of ideas on entrepreneurship, business ethics, and political philosophy, specifically the new movement he inspired: Conscious Capitalism.

Mackey and his coauthor, Harvard business school professor Raj Sisodia, elaborate on the concepts behind Conscious Capitalism in their book of the same name. At the fundamental level, Mackey takes pains to remind us that free-market capitalism is inherently good, and it is “the greatest system for innovation and social cooperation that has ever existed.” Billions of people have been lifted out of poverty, average life expectancy has increased, major diseases have been contained or outright eliminated, and civil liberties and freedom across the board have increased in the span of only 200 years when the Hobbesian state of nature was the norm for almost all people for most of human history. These indisputable trends are well-documented by eminent scholars such as Deirdre McCloskey and Steven Pinker, and by multidisciplinary projects such as and Our World in Data.

Despite all these major gains, capitalism remains under attack by intellectuals and political activists. In addition to the growth of “crony capitalism,” Mackey believes a major philosophical and rhetorical reason is responsible for capitalism’s bad PR:

In recent years, the myth that business is and must be about maximization of profits has taken root in academia as well as among business leaders. This has robbed most businesses of the ability to engage and connect with people at their deepest levels.

This stance can be traced to a famous article by the late Nobel-winning economist Milton Friedman, “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits.” Despite considering Friedman as one of his personal intellectual heroes, Mackey believes Friedman’s view is too narrow and challenged him on this topic in a debate back in 2005. This exchange is archived by Reason Magazine and is well-worth reading as it exhibits the highest standards of professionalism and respect between two accomplished gentlemen with diametrically opposed views (especially relevant for today given the significant drop in civility between political opponents).

Fast forward to 2017. Some of the most admired (and top-earning) companies today include Amazon, Costco, Google, Patagonia, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, and of course, Whole Foods. Each of these companies is cited by Mackey as those that have embraced its “rising consciousness.” He is convinced that a “conscious business energizes and empowers people and engages their best contribution in service of its noble higher purpose. By doing so, a business has a profoundly net positive net impact on the world.”

The Four Tenets of Conscious Capitalism

To “liberate the heroic spirit of business and our collective entrepreneurial creativity so they can be free to solve the many daunting challenges we face,” Mackey outlines his vision for Conscious Capitalism which includes the following foundational tenets: higher purpose, stakeholder integration, conscious leadership, and conscious culture and management.

There is nothing wrong, per se, with wanting to make a lot of money, but it’s not particularly inspiring. Instead, a conscious business should have:

…. a higher purpose which addresses questions such as: Why do we exist? Why do we need to exist? What is the contribution that we want to make? Why is the world a better place because we are here? Would we be missed if we disappeared?

Mackey suggests that businesses look to transcendental Platonic ideals for inspiration: The Good (service to others—improving health, education, communication, and quality of life), The True (discovery and furthering human knowledge), The Beautiful (excellence and creation of beauty), and The Heroic (courage to do what is right and improve the world). A clearly defined higher purpose will serve as the foundation stone of the business and can inspire and galvanize all stakeholders.

For a conscious business, stakeholders go beyond that of only shareholders interested in short-term profits. Under a conscious business model, major stakeholders will include “customers, team members, suppliers, investors, the community, and the environment.” Each part is linked together and the success of one constituency is directly dependent upon the others. Conscious Capitalism, at its essence, “recognizes that business is the ultimate positive-sum game, in which it is possible to create a Win for all the stakeholders of the business.”

For example, a conscious firm’s higher purpose and values will attract the right team members. These inspired team members will have higher levels of creativity and be more likely to deliver superior customer service which would translate into improved market share, higher revenues, profits, and shareholder value. (For skeptics concerned with measurable objectives and the bottom line, Raj Sisodia has marshaled an impressive array of evidence showing that conscious businesses are growing faster and are bringing in superior financial returns compared to their traditional competitors.)

To achieve these goals, establishing conscious leadership is an imperative for the company. Conscious leaders are “emotionally and spiritually mature…. and primarily motivated by service to the purpose of the business and its stakeholders, and not the pursuit of power or personal enrichment. They develop and inspire, mentor and motivate, and lead by example.” These leaders must possess “exceptional moral courage” and “above all, view themselves as trustees of the business, seeking to nurture and safeguard it for future generations, not to exploit it for the short-term gains of themselves or current stakeholders.”

With conscious leadership, people within the organization derive meaning from their work, and grow and evolve as both individuals and leaders on their own. A successful leader will recognize and nurture a healthy company culture that keeps the company committed to its higher purpose and maintain the harmony of interests between different stakeholders. As an energizing and unifying force, a conscious culture will bring a conscious business to life.

Summing up his new vision for business and philosophy, Mackey reminds us that:

Business is fundamentally about people working together cooperatively to create value for other people. It is the greatest creator of value in the world. This is what makes business ethical and makes it beautiful. It is fundamentally good. It becomes even better when it is fully conscious of its inherent purposes and extraordinary potential for value creation….

Our dream for the Conscious Capitalism movement is simple: One day, virtually every business will operate with a sense of higher purpose, integrate the interests of all stakeholders, develop and elevate conscious leaders, and build a culture of trust, accountability, and caring.

Millennial Entrepreneurship and the Road Ahead

During dinner, Mackey mentioned that he wrote his book with Millennial entrepreneurs in mind. This revelation meant a lot to me knowing that he, for all of his successes, is placing his hopes on my generation. Various polls have shown conflicting Millennial attitudes towards capitalism and socialism. But to me, the evidence is all around: we ride Uber and Lyft, we subscribe to Netflix, we expect free two-day deliveries with Amazon Prime, we take pride in being foodies, and we spend copious amounts of time on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. All of these everyday delights we take for granted are the fruits of the labor of free minds, free peoples, and free markets. As Brittany Hunter of FEE aptly summarizes, “Millennials Are The Most Capitalist Generation, They Just Don’t Know It.” Despite being cash-strapped, encouraging data show a large number of Millennials who still possess an entrepreneurial streak.

I encourage my fellow Millennials and entrepreneurs to read Mackey’s book, think about his message, and show this world what we can do!

This article was originally published on under the title “In Capitalism, Nice Guys Finish First.” Read the original article. _________________________________________________________

Aaron Tao is a graduate of the MSTC Class of 2017. He currently works in the biotech/healthcare industry.
Follow him on Twitter here.

Come and Build It: An Entrepreneurs Journey

There are some people who keep on moving around all their lives looking for their own particular paradise. For me, I was lucky because I found mine in Texas. It has plenty of room for any dream I’ve ever had. But, try telling that to a wife and family who’ve lived all their lives in the grand shadows of our nation’s most vaunted monuments and institutions in Washington D.C. and the glitz and glamor of New York City’s skyline. The overwhelming response from them wasn’t encouraging

“Texas! It’s a desolate desiccated desert!”

Needless to say, it took time for both Austin and me to charm my family into packing our bags, and hitching our wagons to follow a dream, my dream.

I have to admit, there were times that I wondered whether or not I was crazy. Life on the East Coast had been great for me; I worked for Oracle, was a consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton, assisted in amazing research at one of our nation’s top research and development institutions, held a high position in the federal government, and even testified before the United States Senate. The only thing missing from my Washington, D.C. resume was a position within the White House! But, still Texas called to me and I had to find out whether or not it was a Siren’s song.

Stumbling upon McCombs School of Business’ Masters of Science in Technology Commercialization one day, I knew that it was the opportunity that I was looking for through with which to set myself up for success in Austin. I did not realize how true this was going to be upon submitting my admission package, but even though I already had earned an MBA, I found that the quality and quantity of advice that I received from professors and advisors at McCombs prepared me well for when I took my business idea out of the classroom and into the real world.

However, if there is one thing that is true in life, regardless of the field of work, it is “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” The amount of time that you spend researching your market, validating your idea with potential customers, and writing your business plan, inevitably results in the real world laughing in your face. At Health Hat, the company that I co-founded, this laughter was an opportunity for us to use what we had learned when building our plans to figure out how to react to life. If we had not done the research and customer validation, drilling down into our new target customer segment would have been game ending rather than just game changing. Instead of minor tweaks to our software, we might be re-writing the entire code.

Yet beyond the business plans and beyond building the software, there is a lesson that is not generally taught or mentioned in books. That’s probably because It is a hard concept to qualify or quantify but can be summarized as: ride the wave and make sure to get on the next one. The reason is as simple as Newton’s First Law of Motion “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion..” Startups live and die every day because of two factors: their team, and what people think about their startup.

Ride the wave until it dies, and people eventually will forget about your startup and stop caring about your team.

I’ve found that staying on top of that startup wave is as hard as staying on top of a real wave. This past year has been filled with ups and downs. I’ve been told “Not interested” or “Come back to me when you have success stories” more times than I can count. But I’ve also signed a pilot deal with Seton Healthcare Family. I’ve been told by accelerators that Health Hat is not at a stage that interests them. But, I also became a “Veteran in Residence” at WeWork because of what Health Hat has achieved, and Health Hat made it into Bunker Labs’ Entrepreneurial Program for Innovation and Collaboration. Yet, as small as the wave seems to be to the wider world, winning Texas Venture Labs’ Investment Competitions’ James D. Pippin Veteran Award, for being the best veteran company in the competition was the first wave that I and Health Hat got on that allowed us to catch and leverage all of these other waves.

Riding the startup waves is as much about intuition as it is luck. Good luck!

Joshua Lawton-Belous

Follow Joshua Lawton-Belous on Twitter @alertingmainst

7 Truths of Being an Entrepreneur

Reprinted with permission from DivInc.

Being an entrepreneur is like jumping out of a perfectly fine aircraft and hoping you can create a parachute before you hit the bottom.

Knowing the following 7 things before you jump out of that plane might help you survive the fall.

You Look at Money Differently

Somewhere along the path to entrepreneurship I started looking at my bank account not in dollars but weeks. I know that at my weekly burn rate I can work on this idea for 11.3 more weeks.

Your therapist will love you, your accountant will hate you.

I honestly cannot remember the last time a paycheck hit my bank account on a regular basis, that is not necessarily a great feeling.

Trade shows are the greatest and worst thing for you psyche. People will look you in the eye and tell you your idea is amazing and that they want to commit to purchase and then disappear into the witness protection program the week after when you are doing your follow ups.

You should honestly tattoo on your forearm,

You do not have a sale until you have had your customer’s money for 30 days.

With that in mind it is critical to remember that your customer is not always the end user of your product. Your customer is the entity that is willing to separate themselves from their money to purchase your product.

Google’s customer is ad buyers and not people that use the search engine. Never forget that.

You Draw Your Own Map

Being an entrepreneur is like trying to move quickly through the thickest fog you have ever seen. Technically, you can run as fast as you want, but you have no idea if you are going backwards, about to run into a wall or fall completely off a cliff…

In the world of entrepreneurism, you are staring at a white board until you create your own plan of action, and even that plan can be completely wrong.

I have a love hate relationship with whiteboards that should be studied by a team of psychologists.

The Barrier to Entry to Become a Subject Matter Expert is Really Low

Rob Adams teaches New Venture Creation in the Master of Science in Technology Commercialization program at McCombs School of Business, it is a down and dirty breakdown of the down and dirty in becoming a domain expert. The biggest takeaway from that course is to interview 100 people throughout the industry of your entrepreneurial idea.

I promise you that if you read every relevant article, as well as scholarly paper on the topic combined with 100 interviews of industry related personnel you will know the industry better than anyone that exists.

I have the most random expertise because of this process. I can speak at length with experts in the following topics:

· Cannabidiol effect on treating seizures

· Growing and distribution of Hemp based products

· Emergency and Outpatient care clinic architecture

· Home based water usage patterns

· Taxidermy lead times and tanning requirements

· Integrated Practice Units

· Disparity of Referrals between Neurologist and Epileptologist

I have interviewed hundreds of people in my time as an entrepreneur and it all just adds up. People love to talk about their passion, introduce yourself, ask them a question and then sit back and listen.

Your Sense of Time Becomes Drastically Distorted

‘Entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week for themselves to avoid working 40 hours a week for someone else’

Man it must be nice working banking hours like that.

Pretty sure those bankers you are comparing me to were not up until 2am Skyping with South Korean manufacturers, nor will they be working through the weekend to secure a bid for proposal with a potential client…

The other day I got asked what I did for fun, I honestly could not even fake an answer. I had no clue. It was almost like my brain has forgotten that aspect of life. There are activities people do for fun that do not involve an excel spreadsheet, this is however a completely foreign concept to me.

It Is All About Implementation

There is no such thing as an Original Idea, someone somewhere has already thought about your Top Secret plan, sorry to burst that little bubble.

Much like it is all about the green sauce with tacos; with entrepreneurship, it is all about the implementation.

Never trust a person who demands you sign an NDA before they will tell you their idea.

That person has not been truly hardened by the hard knocks of the streets of entrepreneurism.

I agree with NDAs for proprietary Intellectual Property; but to swear me to an order of secrecy to tell me about your idea to create yet another app that puts “Hats on Cats” is over the top.

Establish the End State and Work Backwards

Within the first month there needs to be a Founder’s Agreement established that includes an agreed upon plan for exit.

It is mandatory to have the discussion and document what the core group of founders intends to dedicate the next 5 years towards.

Your endeavor will fail if there is a founder working towards building a unicorn, one that is hoping to create a lifestyle company, and the third wants to eventually file for non-profit status to enrich the community.

All three of those are awesome end states for any entrepreneurial idea, just not the same entrepreneurial idea….

Being an Entrepreneur is Scary

I have more questions about my future than ever before.
I have no idea if my ideas will work.

I am 30 years old and have more spots of gray than I should.

I know what it is like to wake up at 2:30am in a full-on panic attack.

I am in constant fear of running out of money, but one thing I do know…

I would not change a thing!


Neal Wendt is the Principal Consultant at The Hill Growth Fund, a boutique consulting firm specializing in Lean Six Sigma redesign, business model reengineering, organizational leadership and strategic planning. He is also a founding fellow of Institute of Lean Healthcare, a community committed to revolutionizing the Primary and Secondary care divisions of the U.S. Healthcare System. He can be reached at 512.740.8925 or