University of Texas cheerleaders turned out to celebrate a group of student entrepreneurs at 1 Semester Startup Demo Day Thursday night.
“We want our entrepreneurs to be as supported and celebrated as our athletes,” said Bob Metcalfe, a 1SS professor, co-inventor of Ethernet, founder of 3Com and the Cockrell School’s Murchison Fellow of Free Enterprise.
That’s why, in part, 1 Semester Startup has changed its name to Longhorn Startup Lab. They’ve also added Longhorn Startup Seminar for students and Longhorn Startup Studio for faculty, Metcalfe said.
Metcalfe teaches the class for undergraduate students interested in entrepreneurship, along with Joshua Baer, co-founder of Capital Factory, serial entrepreneur and professor of computer science and Johnny Butler of the IC2 Institute and professor in the McCombs School of Business.
The program is about mentors, inspiring speakers and course credit, Baer said.
So far, the class has graduated more than 35 startups in three semesters.
At Demo Day, 11 student-run startups pitched their companies to more than 300 people.
The companies included Beehive, Book512, Caysun,, CrowdRx,, Lynx Labs, Predictable Data, Servuss, StillOpen and Team Pi.
Lucas Holt, a senior in engineering at UT, has taken the 1SS course for two semesters. Last semester, his group launched BeDJ, an app that let people change the music at a café, but it didn’t take off.
“People just weren’t grasping the concept of this new type of jukebox,” Holt said.
That’s when the five engineers behind BeDJ decided to pivot and turn the company into a marketplace for DJs called Book512. They even found the DJ for the reception event at Demo Day.
“We’re trying to create more gigs for them,” Holt said. “If we can make it cheap enough and simple enough for people they’ll use it.”
Book512 takes a small percentage of each transaction booked. The site has already booked several gigs and generated cash, Holt said.
“One thing that 1 Semester Startup has done for us – our team we’re all engineers – is it taught us that if you’re going to make a product and a startup company, you really need to do the research first,” Holt said.
Damon Clinkscales, a software engineer who has served as a 1SS mentor in the past, liked, a platform for HTML game development and Team.Pi, an algorithmic trading and crowdfunding site. He also liked Lynx Labs, which developed a handheld 3-D camera that captures 3-D models of an environment.
Lynx Labs grew organically from a research lab in the electrical engineering department at UT into a commercial company, said Chris Slaughter, its CEO. The company received some initial funding from the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA.
“1SS has provided us a cocoon by which we can grow this technology and develop this company,” Slaughter said.
The company just received notification that it has been recommended for a Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research grant for $150,000. In addition, the five-member team at Lynx is seeking $350,000 in seed stage funding. And in January, they plan to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise awareness about their product, Slaughter said.
The class has provided valuable connections and advice to Lynx Labs, Slaughter said.
“Josh Baer and Bob Metcalfe aren’t just figure heads,” he said. “They sit down and help us. They’ve been so valuable.”
Lynx Labs shows what’s possible with spinning technology developed at UT into startups, said Kyle Cox, director of wireless and IT at the Austin Technology Incubator and a 1SS mentor. Lynx Labs also helps ignite Austin’s hardware industry, he said. The city’s startups have traditionally been focused on enterprise software, he said.
“They’ve also done a lot of really hard work at assessing multiple marketplaces,” Cox said. They’re focusing on entertainment and architecture marketplaces, he said.
“Longhorn Startup Labs is just a fantastic farm system for the UT and the Austin startup communities,” said Rudy Garza, founder of G-51 Capital Management.
Several of the companies spun out of the program will go on to become viable companies and those entrepreneurs will come back and help the next generation, he said.
“They don’t just have one semester to be successful,” Garza said. “They have a continuum of time to pivot into a commercial company.”
Some of the companies that pitched at the Demo Day will get funded, Garza said.
“The exciting thing is in Austin we have a more developed investment ecosystem,” Garza said. That includes angels, investors, micro-VCs like G-51 and big VCs like Austin Ventures, he said.
“You’re going to see companies get funded and UT’s investment go up,” he said. “We hope to build a better Silicon Valley here in Austin.”