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:

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


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.

Building a Winning Advisory Board for Your Startup (Part 1)

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

When I left my full-time job as a product manager at one of Austin’s fastest growing companies to pursue my life dream of building a successful enterprise marketing technology company, I knew next to nothing about how to go about doing such a thing. I had about twenty grand to my name and a personal runway of less than 10 months to figure it out. In less than a year, I had raised $3.5 million in venture backing, built a team of seasoned ecommerce executives, and signed on our company’s first IR100 client. None of it would have been possible if I hadn’t spent most of that year developing a winning advisory board.

As a new entrepreneur (especially if it is your first venture), the single highest leverage task you can perform with your time is identifying, pitching, and developing key advisors. An advisory board serves several purposes, however, all too often entrepreneurs treat them as names on slides and people to hit up for investor contacts when it’s time to fundraise. The best advisory boards – ones that are carefully crafted and honed – will function as an extension of your executive team (and if done correctly, one you probably could never afford at market rates).

A winning advisory board will serve multiple purposes. They will help you evolve both your business idea and your business model in ways you would have never imagined. They will introduce you to your first cohort of potential customers (who will close at a statistically above average rate). And they will help connect you to that rockstar engineer who otherwise wouldn’t even respond to your tweets. But for this to be possible you must build your advisory board wisely.

Step 1: Seek the right mix of advisors for your problem domain

One of the most common mistakes I see young entrepreneurs make is naively asking the first notable entrepreneurs who take their coffee meeting to join their advisory board. While these folks will most certainly be flattered, the best ones will advise that you first consider the particular skillset and make-up that you want at your table.

Above all, let your problem domain dictate the requirements for your advisory board. All lasting businesses solve real, tangible problems for customers, and much of what you accomplish from building a business comes from learning how to adjust to the needs of a particular market’s response to how you solve these problems. Once you identify the core problems you want to (someday) solve, focus on building a mix of types of advisors.

  • Industry Leaders / Veterans (Ideally Entrepreneurs): Some of your best advisors will be existing successful entrepreneurs within your target industry. At Edgecase, I have had the immense fortune of working with many of the early Bazaarvoice executives – including Brett Hurt, Sam Decker, Michael Osborne, and several others. As a young entrepreneur attempting to build a SaaS company selling to the enterprise ecommerce market, I could not have asked for a better set of minds to debate ideas with and learn the inside secrets from. If you’re concerned about whether a seasoned entrepreneur will take your call, just remember – aside from being boldly persistent – these types of people are typically personally invigorated to meet impassioned entrepreneurs as it can often remind them of their own personal experience in starting their businesses.
  • Technical Experts: Depending on your problem domain, it will likely be necessary to seek particular expertise when building your product or offering. As a business trying to solve a particular market problem, you will need to bring some new insight or IP that does not exist; therefore, you can get significant leverage by seeking out key product managers, designers, developers, or data scientists. You will likely not be able to afford them at the start (or possibly ever) and therefore, landing these types of people can help bring your product into a different competitive landscape. Great examples of this type of leverage are notable scientific advisory boards – like the one that has been built at Helix – where the difference between solving a market problem and successfully selling that solution depends on your ability to convince the market that you are technically capable of pulling it off.
  • Customers (Existing & Potential): Every business founder will engage with customers at some point – ideally every chance they get if they’re doing their job correctly. Adding customers to an advisory board is a great way to get honest feedback that might be held back otherwise in the traditional customer relationship. For those selling into the modern enterprise, it’s great to have high-profile potential customers on your side (such as a key executive for the top brand in in your industry); however, do not think that doing so guarantees that company as a client. In fact, you will most likely not have the big fish customers on board early on – it’s often just too risky for a large enterprise to trust their assets with an unproven enterprise, no matter how strong the executive champion. Don’t worry though, you’ll spend plenty of time courting and closing those big fish while trying to move from Series A to B.
  • Market Thought Leaders: Many entrepreneurs get so focused on customers or product development that they forget there are often extra-market factors that reside outside of that otherwise important interaction. Every industry – whether consumer, small business, or enterprise – has market thought leaders that its constituents respect: analysts, famous bloggers, celebrity Instagrammers, etc. While having these individuals on your advisory board does not guarantee you a place in the next Gartner Magic Quandrant, it can go a long way in showing providing an important 3rd party voice in customer / product interactions.
  • (Possibly) Investors: While it might seem like a straightforward benefit to have folks that could write you a check when the times comes on your advisory board, keep in mind that these individuals are already strapped for time running from one board meeting to another. Also, most investors are spread across different product categories and industries (typically because they invest in patterns of business models versus specific markets); therefore, their impact will not be as significant when you are in the formation phases of determining just how to win at a given market (read – finding product market fit). On the other hand, if part of your problem domain is to figure out how to apply a new business model to a legacy market problem (think Uber / Lyft on consumer transportation), it can be invaluable to find an investor that has a particular passion around certain kind of new / emerging business models – like on-demand, SaaS, PaaS, etc.

(Stay tuned next week for Building a Winning Advisory Board for Your Startup :Part 2)

Four Tips for Start-up Businesses Seeking Private Equity

Originally posted on McCombs Today by Samantha Grasso

Austin skyline (Credit Flickr user: byeagle)

In a rich startup hub like Austin, young entrepreneurs are constantly looking for strategies to logistically shape their company to the competitive business world, and also make their product stand out to consumers. Alan Cline, principal for Vista Equity Partners, echoed this notion when he spoke on how his private equity firm selects their investments.

“The strategy is…find a business that fits our criteria, which is mission critical enterprise, software data, and technology enabled services. Find it with a very strong value proposition that is different from your competitors,” Cline said.

On Oct. 7, Cline was joined by Bill Wood, founder of the venture capital firm Silverton Partners, for the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship speaker series. Moderated by the center’s Laura Kilcrease and co-sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the presentation focused on Wood and Cline’s experiences in the industry. Together, they divulged advice on catching the attention of a venture capital or private equity firm.

  1. Be mindful of size, metrics, and the market  
    When considering a company for venture capital investment, Wood said the first thing he looks at is the company’s market, how their product fits in the market, and initial metrics of the company. Among those details, Wood said he questions if the market is interesting in size, growth rate, and competitive structure, if the product is innovative or proprietary, and what the company’s competitive positioning is like.”Even though [the data] is embryonic and early, we want to see the right things in terms of traffic, emergence, customer acquisition cost, long term value,…[and] monthly growth rate,” Wood said. “We’re kind of looking for indications that, ‘Hey, this is an interesting business.'”
  2. It’s all about “machine-based decision-making”According to Wood, taking advantage of available data can help entrepreneurs make stronger company decisions. If the data doesn’t exist, then develop a method to obtain it. Wood said that under this type of decision-making, marketing for startups is no longer strategized through guessing and estimations, but based on A/B testing.

    “Broadly speaking, I don’t care what you do in your life: Decision-making is dramatically changing, and if it isn’t, you’re behind. You can increasingly make better decisions based on data…If you don’t have the data, you create it,” Wood said. “We’re moving into a phase of machine-based decision-making, and it’s incredibly powerful.”

  3. Take advantage of modern business modelsBusiness models have become more important, real, and predictable. Wood said while business models used to be “people folding out assumptions,” models can now be built mathematically, and tested for reliability.

    “You can look at every assumption, you can test every assumption, and you can know pretty quickly whether you’re on track or not, and then you can start correcting,” Wood said. “They tell you, ‘Will it work?’…’Is it working?’ ‘How do I need to tweak and turn things to make it work?'”

  4. The culture of private equity funding is changingJust because a business is being sold from one equity firm to another, it doesn’t mean the business is failing. Cline said this previous notion has evolved over the last seven years, and he now knows a change of firms happens more often because the fund lifecycle has ended, or the vision of the next firm better fits the company at that point in time.

    “When we’re kind of passing the baton from one firm to another, those are the real great winning situations, because we get involved at a stage where we see opportunity…We take it as far as it makes sense for us to be involved, and then someone else says, ‘Hey, great asset, I love what you’ve done with it, now we’re going to take it global,'” Cline said.

Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Donna Kidwell, MSTC 2007

Dr. Donna Kidwell is a member of the Texas MSTC Class of 2007. We invite you to read on to learn about her experience in the Texas MSTC Program.


Name: Dr. Donna K. Kidwell
Year of MSTC Graduation: 2007
Education Background:
BA History, UT Austin 1992
Doctorate Business Administration, Grenoble Ecole de Management, Grenoble, France, 2012 on the commercialization of science and research out of universities into industry.
Pre-MSTC Job:
Innovation Manager, Keller Williams Realty International
Post-MSTC Job:
Co-founder and President, Webstudent International AS, a Norwegian based startup creating innovative eLearning solutions between universities and industry.
Favorite MSTC Class:
Just one?! Kate Mackie’s Marketing course.
What technology did you work on during the program?
Virtual worlds and virtual world currencies.
How did the Master of Science in Technology Commercialization change your outlook on entrepreneurship and business?
The MSTC gave me systems and processes that I employ daily to develop my business. From learning and validating markets, creating new revenue models to launching international businesses: I use those lessons daily.
What is the most valuable thing you learned in the MSTC program?
There is systemic work behind entrepreneurship. It isn’t magic or happenstance – it’s actual work that you can do: decisions you can make, risks you can analyze, and models you can prove and build.
What advice do you have for prospective MSTC students?
As an MSTC student, you have a unique opportunity to explore areas of interest and open doors. That is much harder to access and create time for later on. In each trimester you have a framework for developing expertise and insight into a technology field you are passionate about. Plunge in and dive deeply!