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.

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 HumanProgress.org 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 FEE.org 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.

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 neal@thehillgrowthfund.com.

SXSW McCombs Entrepreneurship Night Recap

In case you missed it the Texas MSTC program cohosted the annual SXSW McCombs Entrepreneurship night where successful McCombs entrepreneurs from the Texas MSTC Program showcased their startups. It was a great time to reconnect with old friends, make some new ones and check out all the cool things alumni and classmates have been up to. Meet the exceptional Texas MSTC startups that we showcased this SXSW:

Fishviews this startup creates 360-degree HD waterway maps of rivers, coasts and shores that can be delivered to desktop, mobile or VR devices. In other words, it’s similar to Google Street View, except watching a video feels like you’re heading down a river.

Mednoxa is an early stage medical device company bringing effective and affordable oxygen generation and delivery bandages to consumers to accelerate the healing process, reduce pain, and reduce scarring. They are now finalizing a minimum viable product in preparation for production.

Alafair Biosciences is an emerging medical device company developing a novel suite of products based on a non-cell adhesive hydrogel technology that protects and manages advanced wound healing. They just received FDA 510K clearance for VersaWrap™ Tendon Protector in 2016.

Gitty  is simplifying tech recruiting using AI.  Their mobile-first sourcing tool designed to uncover superstars of the software engineering world and is used by recruiters at Fortune 100 companies including Google, Facebook, Greylock Partners, Sequoia Capital and more.

Apptronik offers robotic engineering services as well products that are a result of their innovation. Now anybody from hobbyists to advanced researchers can use the same components used in leading robotic programs.

Texas Free Market Surgery are bundling together all the elements of surgery into one coherent platform and an upfront all-inclusive price making surgery simpler and less costly for patients, purchasers and healthcare providers.

She Started It: A Documentary on Women Tech Founders

By Sheena Moore/UTexas MSTC ‘17

The facts are alarming at the start of She Started It, a documentary film empowering the next generation of women founders. Women create only 3% of tech startups; receive less than 10% of venture capital funding, and run only 4% of Fortune 500 companies. The film highlights five women: Thuy Truong (Vietnam); Stacey Ferreira (Phoenix/LA); Sheena Allen (Mississippi); Brienne Ghafourifar (Palo Alto); and Agathe Molinar (France). However, it’s Thuy and Stacey that the camera follows for over a year, as they attempt to bring their technologies to the market.

Thuy is CEO of GreenGar, a real-time whiteboard: collaborative drawing app. With over 12 million downloads, her technology shows creativity, innovation, and successful user experiences. However, Thuy faces a challenge that many of us don’t think consider. A language barrier. Selected to participate in the 500 Startups, Truy and her team struggle through the pitch competition, not because they lack a problem to solve, or because they didn’t know their financial projections, Truy struggles with the inflection of her voice when she pitches her idea. Afterwards, other participants comment that she was a bit loud or they were unsure of the messages wanted to convey. Although not her fault, Thuy’s tone just didn’t set the right message for investors. As a result, Truy’s company GreenGar, did not receive additional funding from investors and she goes back to Vietnam to start all over again with a new technology company.

Stacey Ferreira started her first startup, MySocialCloud with her brother after graduating from high school. After being acquired for an undisclosed amount, Stacey ventures out to start her own tech company, Admoar. Packed with a list of over 100 potential investors and companies, viewers watch tirelessly as Stacey pitches her idea over and over again. Each time, you notice a look of defeat as she exhausts every contact on her list. After she has contacted several investors, she realizes that maybe her struggles have to do with her being a female. At one point during the process, she says, “I wonder if my brother was fundraising if we would have the money already?” Unsure of what her next steps should be, Stacey appeases her parents and returns to school to work towards a college degree in business.  Stacey goes to school full-time and continues to pursue her dreams to start a tech company on the side.

She Started It explores what is it’s like to be told “no” multiple times, gender bias that tech world, and the importance of having women mentors. It’s refreshing to see a film that celebrates the voices and technology of women. Although, the women struggle, they push through and remain determine to see their technologies change the lives of others. For more information on the film go to: http://www.shestarteditfilm.com/

Sheena Moore is a MSTC (Master of Science in Technology Commercialization) student at The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business.


The Golden Age of Technology

By Maricarmen Senosiain MBI ‘16/UTexas MSTC ‘17

As we enter our final semester of the MSTC program, I’ve started to count down the days to graduation. This past year has been a blur with so much wisdom imparted not just by the MSTC faculty but from my classmates and alumni as well.  As a wise man once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Well this week I took a moment to attend one of the MSTC sponsored events and had the opportunity to meet Brett Hurt, founder of Bazaarvoice. It wasn’t long ago that he was a commencement speaker for the Class of 2015, since then life has moved really fast and he’s started a new venture Data.World, a social network for data people.  I went back to  some past posts to search for the speech he gave to the Class of 2015 and I thought I’d share it again.

“From a long-time Austinite and a fellow Longhorn, I would like to start us off with a big, friendly, Texan “HOWDY YA’LL!”. Can I also get all of you to do a “HOOK ‘EM, HORNS!” with me?! 1, 2, 3… “HOOK ‘EM, HORNS!!”

It is an honor and pleasure to be here with you today, on what will be one of the days you remember best in your hopefully very long and prosperous lives. I want to sincerely thank Dean Gilligan and Director and Dr. Cadenhead and all of the McCombs staff for inviting me to be here with you today. I hope to inspire you and also give you some tips for being prosperous – both personally and professionally – in the years to come. Because both are equally important.

I want to start with a bold statement. This is the most exciting time in the history of the world for you to graduate with this degree. Let me repeat that – this is the most exciting time in the history of the world to graduate with this specific degree, your Masters of Science in Technology Commercialization.

This, my friends, is because we are in what I call the new Golden Age of Technology – and this is very different than the infamous Dot-Com Boom and Bust of the late 90s. This time in history will be remembered as the professionalism – indeed the professionalism of the world’s most advanced technology commercialization – in the history of the world. And here you are – lucky you – on your graduation day from one of the most prestigious institutions in the world – with the tools, degree, and network to capitalize on it.

But yet it doesn’t always seem like such an exciting time, does it? We are bombarded by a 24/7-cable news cycle, which amplifies the worst of our 7.3 billion people in the world. As I tell my friends, there is bound to be something bad going on somewhere in the world with that many people. But this ignores all of the good, doesn’t it? We sometimes romanticize periods like the Middle Ages – or maybe we used to before watching Games of Thrones – but I can assure you we wouldn’t want to live in those times if given the choice. My advice to you – embrace the good in the world, which by far outweighs the bad – lift up your spirit and feed your soul with all of the positivity out there to be found. And stop watching so much of the news. Read great books instead – a tremendous amount more thought was put into them; they capture the wisdom of the ages.

Yes, this is the time. Quality of life throughout the world has never been better. Possibility has never been higher. You are living in the new Golden Age of Technology and now the key question on this day – your graduation day – is, “What are you going to do about it?”

The invention of the Internet will surely go down in all of history as the most transformational invention in all of humanity. At least to date, that is. Because we are just beginning. Because now the professionals are moving in to capitalize on the world’s grandest challenges. A shortage of water. A shortage of food. A shortage of energy. A shortage of education. A shortage of medicine. A shortage of land. And so on. And as I look around, all I see are possibilities – and what the world needs is more people to believe in themselves and each other to grab a hold of these challenges and solve them through grit and innovation.

You may think I’m a blind optimist. How can Uber be worth $40 billion? How can SnapChat be worth $15 billion? How can Facebook be worth $226 billion? And buy WhatsApp for $19 billion? How can Alibaba – a Chinese company – be worth $232 billion, more than Amazon and almost as much as Wal-Mart? These companies are all so young – aren’t they overvalued? Didn’t we live through this during the Dot-Com Boom and Bust? Haven’t we learned our lesson?! The answer is easier than you may think. It is because of the combinatorial technologies that are available to be snapped together today combined with the largest and most efficient network invented in history (something that we can partially thank our own Bob Metcalfe here at the University for).

And I would propose to you that we are getting smarter about leveraging these combinatorial technologies and network effects than ever before. We are becoming better at commercializing. SnapChat can be worth $15 billion because of what has happened with Facebook. Facebook can be worth $226 billion because of what has happened with Google. In short, the Internet and its derivatives are becoming professionalized. And with your degree you are exactly the type of person who is best positioned to advance that professionalism.

Computers are making everything faster. All of us carry around a supercomputer in our pocket. We have the ability to tap into the cloud for an unlimited amount of computing power at a minuscule fraction of the cost just a decade ago. Consider that when Brant Barton and I started Bazaarvoice – just 10 years ago – there was no iPhone, no Android, no open Facebook (it was closed to the public), no Twitter, no Uber, no Pinterest, no SnapChat, and so on. That was Just. 10. Years. Ago. When I started Coremetrics, we spent over $15 million on our initial infrastructure – in our own (would you believe it) data center. Today, it would cost us nothing for the first few months because I can get a credit from Amazon or Google for free, and I bet it wouldn’t cost any more than a few hundred thousand dollars in the first year.

Yes, my friends – now is the time. This is the new Golden Age of Technology.

But it isn’t just limited to the Internet. There are major advances being made in artificial intelligence, robotics, personalized medicine, 3D printing, biotechnology, nanotechnology, virtual reality, and so much more. Everywhere you look – if you look hard enough – you’ll find major advances being made. It would be fair to say that the Internet has made this acceleration possible. But it would also be fair to say that advances are being made in the most archaic of industries. These industries are becoming more professionalized – yes, that word again – and more innovative than ever before. These industries are also being disrupted at a faster pace – and that includes industries like this fine University – than ever before.

One of the great ironies of this time – at least to me – is that California is close to running out of water. And Dean Gilligan chooses to return to California. But that is a very cool job, Dean. Yet Silicon Valley is the more innovative it has ever been. Why is this ironic to me? Well, the answer lies just to the east – in Israel. Israel recycles around 75% of its water. It is completely sustainable when it comes to water. But yet it is in a desert. How is this possible? Through innovation. Through the necessity to believe in each other and to invest in solving the grandest challenges. California’s answer is actually easier than you may think. It is a subject near and dear to your heart. It is… Technology… Commercialization. In all seriousness, all California has to do is commercialize on the technology that the Israelis have already developed.

And there are opportunities like this for all of you … everywhere.

I challenge all of you to focus on solving some of the world’s grandest challenges through technology commercialization. Read books like Abundance and The Second Machine Age and think deeply about them. There are literally hundreds of thousands of good business ideas in Abundance [note, not part of the speech: my summary]. And The Second Machine Age [note, not part of the speech: my summary] will give you a balanced view of the rapid innovation occurring in this new Golden Age of Technology and how it could shape society for both better and worse. I choose to focus on “for the better”.

I have a few tips for you as you embark on this challenge.

First, always live within your means. Even though I guess you would say I’m financially successful now, that wasn’t always the case. The life of an entrepreneur is not always filled with riches. After earning my Masters, I remember my fellow graduates buying homes and cars while I was earning nothing. I graduated from my Masters in 1999. I bought my first home – and it was a modest one – when I was 32-years old. I drove modest cars back then too. There is an old saying that you will always feel rich if you live within your means. I would add to this that you will always be able to pursue your dreams if you live within your means. The bottom line is that living within your means gives you the financial optionality to pursue your dreams. The best career decision I ever made was starting Bazaarvoice. But it was only because I lived within my means during my Coremetrics years that I was able to do so.

Second, always take the time to reflect on what you’ve learned and where you’re going. I took four to six weeks of vacation time each year at Bazaarvoice. It was considered unusual but it was so worth it – it was my most important space for deep reflection. During the time I was CEO, I can tell you that during this time I made the most pivotal decisions for the company. This included whether or not to keep some executives or to hire others. This included some of our biggest strategy shifts and opportunity identification. This included some of the most important cultural ideas and my recommitment to those already in place. In short, if you don’t take the time to reflect then life – and your company – have a way of running away from you. Grab life and sieze the day. Give yourself some space to do so. Don’t become a part of the hamster wheel that spirals out of control to no clear destination.

Third, don’t ever forget your family. When I started Bazaarvoice, there was something very new in my life, after eight years of an incredible marriage. That something new is here with me today – it is our precious daughter. I was very fortunate to have parents who believed in me – and who were there for my most important moments in life. I have my dear mom (rest in peace) to thank for buying me my first computer at age 7 – and learning how to program alongside me in 1979. And her to thank for keeping everyone out of my way so that I could program for around 40 hours a week from age 7 to 21. She realized I had found my passion and she knew the importance of that. My parents were there for me and I vowed to be there for our daughter, and later our son (who is now five-years old), and my wife, who I’m about to celebrate 19 years of marriage with. If you study the regrets that people have when they are on their deathbeds, the number one is that they missed their children’s best years or they didn’t spend enough time with their spouse. One of the most inspirational people in Austin that I know is Michael Dell. And I can tell you with certainty that he has not only won so big in business – he has in family as well. In short, you’ll always feel stressed and you’ll always have excuses not to spend with family. But only you can make that choice – and it really is a choice. Michael proves that you can be incredibly successful in all areas of life. If he can do it while building a Fortune-50 company, you can too.

Fourth, and finally, nourish your soul. If you find one day that you aren’t passionate about the cause your company is pursuing then you should stop pursuing it. Or if you are considering taking that job or starting that company just for the money, don’t do it! Meaning in your work is incredibly important to the nourishment of your soul. ReadMan’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, for more – it is one of the most important books that any human being should read and internalize. If you find one day that you aren’t giving back – whether that is to your community or through your company – then start doing so. As I look back on my proudest moments at Bazaarvoice, it was the establishment of the Bazaarvoice Foundation which is one of the most important to me. Yes, companies have souls that need nourishment as well – and your own soul will be nourished in the process. And it is the fact that now 23 companies have been founded by former Bazaarvoice employees that feeds my soul. The generosity of spirit in the people of Bazaarvoice was – and is – constantly inspirational to me. Generosity even became one of our seven core values. And finally, don’t forget your health. My grandfather, who grew up during the Great Depression as the oldest child of five with a father who deserted the family, always told me the importance of money. But he told me that there was one thing that was more important than family or money. And that was – your health. Because if you don’t have your health then you can’t do anything else. You can’t enjoy your family, you can’t enjoy your career, and you can’t enjoy your money. So remember to take care of you. The inner journey is every bit as important as the outer journey.

My sincerest congratulations to all of you. I wish you much success – both personally and professionally, although now you see that the two are actually the same. You are very lucky to be in the position you are in today. You are living in the most transformational time in the history of the world and you have the ultimate degree to capture the opportunities at hand. I would like to close with one of my favorite quotes from the man himself, Theodore Roosevelt. He spoke these words in 1910 while in Paris and it is about the man – or woman – in the arena.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Congratulations again, and thank you very much for this honor on this most special of days in your lives!”

You can find the original post and more here in Brett Hurt’s official blog.



How the MSTC works with your MBA

By Rod Lee CSU MBA ‘13/UTexas MSTC ‘17

I know a lot of people have considered the MSTC program, but have asked the question: “Why do I need this business degree if I already have a MBA?” Well, since we are past the halfway point in the program, I can now make an honest depiction of my MBA experience, my MSTC (to this point), and how they can complement one another. I started my MBA a year after I finished my bachelor’s degree, while still serving in the Air Force with the intent of learning business practices to start my own venture. However, what I learned was how to go about doing business in a variety of climates and in fully-functioning corporations. I learned a lot about global economies/markets, business law, operating a business, etc.

In the MSTC program we’ve learned how to go out and gauge technology value and whether or not it has a feasible business opportunity. That is something that I don’t think many get the opportunity to learn or even knew existed if they do not come from this world. My eyes were opened to a new way of becoming an entrepreneur. I always thought I would have to create something new and innovative or an improved version of something popular. While that is a portion of the MSTC, the first thing we learn about is true tech commercialization and how to make money off of others’ ideas (which sounds a lot easier than it is). From the ‘Quicklooks’ process, to building a marketing plan, to new venture creation…I feel like I’ve learned so much pertinent information that can be used in my current job as well as venturing off on my own. My MBA gave me a lot of insight and ideas of how run my business, while I feel the MSTC gave more background on how to get to that point.

Now I am not saying one is dependent upon the other or that it is necessary to have both. I am just stating that they both have takeaways that complement the other, especially if a new venture is what you are looking to pursue. I’m not sure that there is an order in which you should do them if you decide to pursue both, that really depends on your entrepreneurial spirit I guess. I know that I feel my order has worked best for me. My MBA has helped me advance quickly through my industry in the last three years, from product line rep to a Sr. Product Line Manager. Now that I have my experience, I feel that the MSTC will assist me in going out and starting a business with confidence.

My MBA colleagues ask me about the MSTC program and why I would go towards another Master’s program rather than pursuing a doctorate. I give them a tidbit of information and they are instantly drawn to wanting to apply or at least attend an info session. Many of my associates have shown interest in the MSTC now more than before. I really feel like the MBA/MSTC combo gives me an all-encompassing view of the business world and how these huge corporations that started in garages came to be. My friend and I were talking intensely about the UT EMBA program that is taught in Dallas down the street from our old office, since it was conveniently located and I felt a better in with the McCombs name to it compared to my previous MBA. After being in the MSTC program a week, I knew I was in the right place and that the 195 mile drive down to Austin would be well worth it. HOOK ‘EM!


Rod Lee is a graduate of the MSTC Class of 2017. He is an accomplished Product Manager, with proven leadership and supervisory skills in the operations, flight line, and back shop environments. He is currently managing parts procurement, trading, sales and people in numerous capacities.

SmartCities: Economic Development with Innovation

The following is an excerpt from a Mexican National Journal written by a Javier Cabrero an MSTC Alumni. You can find the full report here

SmartCities: Economic Development with Innovation

Javier Salvador Cabrero

The present study constitutes a Personal Application Project (PAP) designed as an
economic development plan based on entrepreneurship for the municipality of San Luis Potosí. This plan was developed using the experience acquired in the GeT-In program in Germany to propose a model that consists of two phases:

1) Diagnosis,

2) Implementation.

Its importance lies in laying the foundations  to make San Luis Potosí an intelligent entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Initially, an analysis of the economic and social needs of the metropolis is proposed, to generate a support system for entrepreneurs and local Potosina companies, and with that guarantee the incorporation of innovation processes and commercialization of the products and services that are offered in regional and international markets.

What benefits does the project generate? Positive and measurable economic and social impacts are expected for the people of San Luis Potosí, such as: reducing the unemployment rate, reducing talent leaks and promoting San Luis internationally as a fruitful destination for innovation and business development.  

Objective of the Personal Application Project (PAP)

The present personal application project (PAP) was created within the framework of the Professionalization of Transfer and Innovation Managers (GeT-In) program. It consists of an economic development plan based on entrepreneurship, for San Luis Potosí and some neighboring municipalities.

The main objective of the Municipal Economic Development Plan is to achieve the economic development of the city of San Luis Potosí through measurable impact both economically and socially, using the strategies of commercialization of science and technology perfected with the Contributions from the GeTIn program, which was verified in Germany.

The creation of this plan was requested by representatives of the Ministry of Development Office of San Luis Potosí to the Marketing Coordination of the Knowledge Transfer Office of the Potosino Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (IPICYT) in mid-2015.

Activities in the context of PAP

San Luis Potosí is a metropolis with little more than one million inhabitants, has conurbation zones, a very convenient geographical position in the center of Mexico, as well as a semi-desert climate.

In San Luis Potosí there are just over 54 thousand economic units. According to the National Statistical Directory of Economic Units (DENUE, 2016), economic units are understood to be commercial or physical persons in the area.  Of these, 35% are registered as economic units with 0 to 5 employees and dedicated to retail trade. The high concentration of microenterprises and entrepreneurs in San Luis Potosí is an indicator of the industrious activity in the area.

San Luis Potosi has important research centers. One of them, IPICYT, manages five lines of research focused on the exact sciences: molecular biology, environmental sciences, applied geosciences, applied mathematics, and advanced materials. It also has four national laboratories: The National Supercomputing Center (CNS), the National Laboratory of Agricultural, Medical and Environmental Biotechnology (Lanbama), and the National Laboratory of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Research (Linan); As well as the new Research, Innovation and Development Center for the Dry Areas (CIIDZA), which recently opened at the end of last year. Today, more than 60% of IPICYT’s annual budget comes from own resources generated by the link with the companies.

On the one hand, the agents that make up the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Potosi are made up of business chambers, civil associations, Incubators, accelerators, universities and research centers; all driven by public policies and resources that have been operating together to promote innovation and economic development in San Luis Potosí for several decades. On the other hand, key pieces are lacking for the optimal functioning of the entrepreneurial ecosystem such resources such as investors, private capital groups, a greater culture of entrepreneurship and innovation and other sufficient specialized human resources to facilitate the process of innovation in companies and Potosino entrepreneurs.

In addition to the primary and secondary research acquired for the realization of the project, networks are also being created with companies, academia and industry experts to generate the best economic development strategies and policies that seek to follow the established guidelines for Smart cities. The work has required constant negotiations between the stakeholders and the work we did on the communication and networking issues during the GeT-In program have proven to be valuable tools for further development of the project as the it progresses to a standstill.

Thanks to the GeT-In program, we were able to meet again with Dr. Blanca García (The Northern Border College), an expert on knowledge society issues at the last Smart City Expo Puebla. We had the opportunity to exchange experiences and collaborate on the inclusion of San Luis Potosí in the K-City Benchmarking survey of the World Capital Institute.

…..Continued in Reporte CESOP No. 98 “Derechos Sociales en México”

Building a Winning Advisory Board for Your Startup (Part 2)

The following post is written by Garrett Eastham, Co-Founder of Edgecase and Chief Data Scientist.

Step 2: Leverage your advisors correctly and efficiently

Building your advisory board is only half that battle. Once you’ve put together the best set of individuals you can find, you need to learn how to leverage them effectively in order to get the most benefit for your business. For those who have worked within a board of directors dynamic, a key thing to remember is that your advisory board is less like a board and more like an extension of your executive offsites.

  • Schedule meetings far in advance: This is important! Your advisors are likely much, much busier than you – perhaps growing their own businesses to the next phase. Remember to work with their assistants weeks / months in advance so they don’t have to dread your “Can I get some feedback?” text message.
  • Bring them well-structured problems: A benefit of having specific types of advisors is that you can do a lot of work ahead of time to segment specific problems into key areas that your advisors can tackle independently. Not only will your advisors be more effective if you bring them clearly articulated problems and desired objectives to discuss, but you will also find benefit in working to put structure on your business issues as your organization grows.
  • Consider hosting an advisory board meeting: While I do not advise trying to restrict advisory board meetings to a strict schedule; it can be helpful on occasion to get several of your advisors together for a broader, cross-discipline discussion. They also might appreciate the chance to meet and network with the other thought leaders you’ve worked so diligently to assemble.

Step 3: Empower advisors to help you both win

Inherently, your advisors have relatively low incentive to dedicate time to you and your business’ problems. The hour they spend with you undoubtedly has a high opportunity cost as they forego customers issues, sales calls, or product brainstorms to help you break through the mental barrier. Thus, it is absolutely pivotal that you learn how to create incentives that make them excited to get to that hour you’ve scheduled together on a Friday afternoon.

  • Align their incentives with yours (financial and emotional): Aside from providing equity-based incentives (make sure you do proper contracts and everything), many entrepreneurs forget the emotional motivations that most advisors have for wanting to spend time with you. For many of your industry veterans who have already built successful businesses, they will never have the same early experiences building companies again as their networks will already be in place; however, they often love sharing in your emotional ride (think of them like grandparents who get to share in the joy of helping you raise your children). Remember to capitalize on this and make every email, meeting, or text full of energy and excitement – even if it’s not good news – because great entrepreneurs love rising to the occasion and want nothing more than to share in the excitement of overcoming challenges together.
  • Make it easy for advisors to connect you to their network: A lot of what you will ask your advisors for is often email introductions to people within their network on your behalf. While this can sometimes feel like asking for handouts, you can turn this around by thinking of ways to turn the introduction into a chance for your advisor to strengthen that particular connection as well. It doesn’t take more than a strategically crafted email and an understanding of your advisor’s own goals to allow them the chance to kick off an email correspondence with an old former client by introducing them to your business while also creating a new lead / opportunity for his own sales team.

It takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to build a great business; however, I think the old adage “it takes a village” seems more apt to describe the entrepreneurial process. As an entrepreneur, you will always be focused on building the right team around you, and that process can start from day one and zero employees by focusing on building the right advisor support team around your idea.