Tag: entrepreneurship (Page 1 of 2)

Kauffman Foundation’s 1 Million Cups Launches at Cafe Commerce in San Antonio

Founder of Silicon Hills News

Peter French, president of Cafe Commerce, is one of the organizers behind 1 Million Cups San Antonio

Peter French, president of Cafe Commerce, is one of the organizers behind 1 Million Cups San Antonio

Where can an entrepreneur go to get feedback about their business and to solve problems?

1 Million Cups San Antonio, which launches Wednesday at 9 a.m. at Café Commerce at the main library in downtown San Antonio. It’s a weekly entrepreneurial educational program, which features two startups sharing a short presentation on their businesses followed by a question and answer session with the audience and lots of coffee.

“The idea is about building the community,” said Peter French, president of Café Commerce. The program is industry agnostic so an entrepreneur from any kind of business can participate, he said. The organizers include French, founder of FreeFlow Research, Celina Pena, chief program officer for Accion Texas and Zac Harris, co-founder of Monk’s Toolbox.

To start off, Michael Girdley, founder of Codeup, will pitch his Geekdom-based startup, which teaches nonprogrammers how to code. French is also pitching Café Commerce, which just opened last week as a resource center for entrepreneurs.

The two-year-old 1 Million Cups program started in Kansas City by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to get to know its entrepreneurial community, said Taylor Brown, program coordinator.

The idea for the program came from an article written by Chicago entrepreneur Seth Kravitz in which he advocated sharing one million cups of coffee to foster a startup community, Brown said.

The idea is that if entrepreneurs met and had a million cups of coffee they could foster an entrepreneurial ecosystem and great things would result from the connections made, French said.

“It’s not your typical pitch asking for money,” Brown said. “It’s really talking about what you do and your story. Where you are at today and where you hope to be in the future. What problems you are facing. It’s a vulnerable environment.”

Kauffman Foundation held the first event in 2012 with 12 people. The program caught on and regularly draws 50 or more people each week. But it’s also expanded to other cities. The Kauffman Foundation didn’t intend to put a model behind the program and scale it, Brown said. It just happened organically.

On Wednesday, two more cities will join the program: San Antonio and Boulder, bringing the total number of cities with 1 Million Cups programs to 44, Brown said. In Texas, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston all have programs.

“We’re just really excited to launch in San Antonio and really glad to add a fourth location in Texas,” Brown said. “We think it’s going to serve a pretty good need there.”

So far, 1 Million Cups has reached around 2,700 startups and every week roughly 74 startups present in all 1 Million Cup Locations nationwide, Brown said.

“What makes this program work so well is that it’s weekly,” Brown said. “It’s kind of like your entrepreneurial church.”

The program provides rejuvenation right in the middle of the week when startups might need it the most, Brown said.

“The intent is that whoever comes – whatever reason they come – the intent is that they’ll be educated and meet someone new that day.” Brown said. “And also, potentially, be inspired.”

Every week about 2,300 people attend a 1 Million Cups event.

A startup that made a vegan energy bar presented at Kansas City and then presented, through the 1 Million Cups Passport program, in Denver. They found partnerships with Whole Foods and other stores in Denver and ended up moving their business there, Brown said.

“A lot of times startups will meet an investor in the audience or meet a co-founder,” Brown said. “There’s been instances where people have started a business because of 1 Million Cups.”

Michael Dell Named the UN Foundation’s Global Advocate for Entrepreneurship

Photo courtesy of Dell

Photo courtesy of Dell

To focus the globe on entrepreneurship, what better way than to put someone in charge who has been there, done that.

Last week, the United Nations Foundation named Michael Dell as its Global Advocate for Entrepreneurship.

The UN made the announcement at its Global Accelerator, an event featuring top entrepreneurs, UN leaders and other global leaders.

In his new role, Dell “will advocate for innovation, technology and entrepreneurship to solve global problems in support of UN programs. He will work closely with the Foundation and its Global Entrepreneurs Council. The vision for this new role aligns with Dell’s efforts to engage with global entrepreneurs for positive social impact, and with UN programs which embrace innovation and entrepreneurship,” according to a news release.

“Michael Dell’s entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to using technology for positive social change show what people around the world can do to help the UN address global challenges,” Kathy Calvin, President and CEO of the UN Foundation, said in a news release. “Michael has been a risk taker and change maker from the day he built a global company from his college dorm room. Now his company Dell Inc. affects lives of people around the world. We know Michael will bring this same drive and passion to his new role for the UN Foundation. He will work to maximize the power of entrepreneurship by helping people support international development and global priorities for growth, prosperity and peace.”

The UN Foundation is focusing on entrepreneurship and innovation to reduce poverty and improve lives globally.

“At this time of economic uncertainty and global challenges, it’s more important than ever that the business community work closely with organizations, elected leaders and policymakers to help our global economy grow and prosper,” Dell said in a news release. “I’m honored to accept this position and look forward to championing the growth of entrepreneurs globally.”

Dell’s Ingrid Vanderveldt on Six Trends Shaping Entrepreneurs in 2014

Dell’s Entrepreneur in Residence
Special Contribution to Silicon Hills News

Ingrid-Vanderveldt-2013B-copy-200x147We’re seeing more entrepreneurial activity in the U.S. than ever before – a result of factors including low cost of entry for startups, increased availability of funding for early-stage startups, and valuations for successful startups hitting an all-time high. With the New Year upon us, it’s the time we all start thinking about how this year will be different than last and what trends will have the largest impact on the entrepreneurial community in 2014. Some of my top predictions are as follows:

1. Social media space continues to grow ever-crowded. While not a new trend, social media has fully matured as a channel, with 73 percent of adults in the U.S. using at least one platform and 42 percent using multiple social networking sites. Every company needs a comprehensive, customer-driven marketing and communications strategy, and in 2014, that means knowing where your customers are and finding ways to have meaningful and personalized interactions. Over the last year, Pinterest became wildly popular among women and surpassed Twitter in total users, while new applications such as Snapchat stole attention from Facebook among the teen market.
Although the decline in Facebook usage among teens may be over-hyped, the truth is that all users, teens and adults alike, are using multiple platforms to suit their needs – LinkedIn for professional networking, Pinterest for social bookmarking, Instagram for photo-sharing, etc. With so many platforms, it’s important to have a strategy that doesn’t put all your eggs in one basket. Pay attention to demographics and make sure you are where your customers are. Entrepreneurs should also look to leverage their own personal and professional social networking activities to build their brand while integrating social across their enterprise. Also, consider taking a page out of Dell’s book by leveraging the passion, talent and networks of your employees by starting an employee advocacy program.

2. Marrying profits with purpose. Launching and maintaining a successful business is no longer just about the bottom line. We’re seeing more and more companies building sustainability and a vision beyond profits into their cultures from day one, and attracting customers and top talent in the process. Tesla may be a car company but its vision is to “expedite the move from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy.” Warby Parker may sell fashionable eyewear, but the B Corp aspires to “do good in the world” for its “employees, customers, community and the environment.”
I joined Dell because I believe in its vision of technology powering human potential. Supporting entrepreneurs and empowering women in business are key tenets to who Dell is as a company. Just one example of this is the Pay it Forward initiative Dell launched last year, setting a goal to track support for one million women entrepreneurs by the end of 2015.

3. It’s no longer a question of Silicon Valley or Silicon Alley. While the Valley is still seen as the epicenter of the startup universe by many, opportunity is becoming more geographically dispersed than ever before. Cities including Austin, Tennessee, Denver, New Orleans, and Detroit are all cultivating their own startup ecosystems and the number of startups founded outside of traditional entrepreneurship hubs is growing significantly. This trend is being supported by large national initiatives such as Google’s Tech Hubs and the White House’s Startup America Partnership, along with local efforts by cities across the U.S.
For entrepreneurs, the hunt for financing and top talent may make the Bay Area appear attractive but think twice before jumping on flight and heading straight to Sand Hill Road. Not only are there benefits to being a big fish in a small pond, but the competitive advantage of regional economies should also be a factor in your decision-making process. Silicon Valley may still be the right place for you if you’re in enterprise technology, as might New York City if you’re launching a media-focused startup, but know your industry and do your research as new hotbeds of innovation are emerging worldwide, and it may be easier to break through the clutter and get noticed in a less saturated market.

4. Alternative forms of payment and digital currency move into the mainstream. PayPal launched in 1999 as the first mainstream online money transfer service, creating new opportunities for merchants and entrepreneurs on the web. 10 years later, Square’s card reader made it exceptionally easy for just about anyone to accept physical credit cards at their point of sale. In 2013, a formerly obscure cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, took to the mainstream evolving into a multi-billion dollar ecosystem recognized by hedge funds and Congress. With Bitcoin BitPay processing over $100,000,000 in transactions, Bitcoins were used to purchase spots on Virgin Galactic flights to space, Lamborghinis, and OKCupid credits.
These alternate forms of payment are offering businesses a compelling way to expand their customer base, reduce per transaction costs and improve user experience. With the pace of innovation in financial transactions increasing and the desire for frictionless transactions on the rise, startups, especially those involved in e-commerce, will need to familiarize themselves with alternative currencies and payment methods. While accepting mobile payments or embracing digital currency may not be the right fit for your business, 2014 might be the right time to figure out your policy and ensure you’re taking the appropriate security measures if you do decide to try out new technology.

5. It’s time to think twice before you IPO. The nimbleness and passion that got your startup where it is today can be difficult to sustain under the watchful eyes of shareholders. Going public has been shown to zap innovation and foster short-term thinking by measuring success in quarterly earnings rather than taking the long-view.
If there’s a lesson to be learned from Michael Dell’s battle to bring Dell private in 2013, it’s that stockholders require an intense focus on short-term gains, which can sometimes be counterproductive to the long-term viability of a company. Entrepreneurs thinking about going public should take note. Will fewer companies go public in 2014 than in previous years? Probably not, but they should definitely weigh the pros and cons more carefully.

6. Women are rising to the top. Not a new trend, but, in 2014, I believe the rate at which women are taking leadership positions and “owning their potential” is going to grow at rates we can’t even fathom. For example, just yesterday it was announced that the first female law firm just opened in Saudi Arabia – something that would’ve been unheard of just 12 months ago!
With public/private partnerships such as Dell’s work with the UN Foundation, we are now in a position to create change for women on a global scale and this year we’ll continue to see increased collaboration between governments, international organizations, the private sector, and individual stakeholders to positively impact female entrepreneurship worldwide.

Ingrid Vanderveldt is an entrepreneur, investor and media personality connecting entrepreneurs to corporations. Ingrid is leveraging her business, policy and media initiatives to “Empower a Billion Women by 2020” to help provide women with tools, technology & resources. As Dell’s first Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR), Ingrid serves as the bridge from the “outside, in” connecting the entrepreneur community to the expansive resources the Fortune 50 company. Ingrid created and oversees the $100M Dell Innovators Credit Fund and The Dell Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2012, Ingrid helped architect The Federal EIR Bill with Senator Mary Landreau (LA) and Representative Mike Honda (CA), and is currently working on legislation with State Senators to bring out a State-wide EIR bill in 2013. She is also the co-founder of The Billionaire Girls Club, is a Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network Member and serves on the UN Foundation Global Entrepreneurs Council.

Mark Cuban and Cotter Cunningham to Speak at Longhorn Startup Lab

markcubanLonghorn Startup Lab started out two years ago as a way to jump start undergraduate entrepreneurs at the University of Texas at Austin.
The program run by Bob Metcalfe, UT professor of innovation, and Joshua Baer, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Capital Factory, has graduated four classes so far. Ben Dyer, entrepreneur in residence at UT, officially joined the class this semester, but he has been helping out since its inception.
During the semester, undergraduate students create business plans, assemble teams and launch startup companies. They work with a group of seasoned veteran entrepreneurs who volunteer as mentors. Some even land financing at the end of the program from angel investors or venture capitalists. Many of the student-run companies are still operating today including Lynx Laboratories, which created 3-D imaging software, Clay.io, a platform for HTML5 games and Burpy.com, a grocery delivery service.
The fifth class, featuring 14 undergraduate startups, showcase their ventures at Longhorn Startup Lab Demo Day on December 5th. Each team will give a six minute pitch.
cottercunninghamAnd this Demo Day will have two all-star entrepreneur speakers. Mark Cuban, founder of Broadcast.com and Dallas Mavericks owner and Cotter Cunningham, founder of RetailMeNot, the world’s largest online coupon and deal marketplace, will give keynote addresses at the event.
Baer officially announced the speakers on a Facebook post Sunday evening.
Metcalfe also announced the speakers on Twitter.

Previous speakers have included Metcalfe, Baer, James Truchard, who co-founded National Instruments in 1976 while a graduate student at UT and Rony Kahan, co-founder of Indeed.com.
The event is open to the public and already hundreds of people have signed up to attend.

Disclosure: Burpy.com is an advertiser with SiliconHillsNews.com

UTSA’s New Dean of Business Focuses on Entrepreneurship

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Gerard Sanders, the new dean of the College of Business at UTSA.

Gerard Sanders, the new dean of the College of Business at UTSA.

Last summer, Gerard Sanders became the new dean of the College of Business at the University of Texas in San Antonio. Sanders comes from the Rice University Jones Graduate School of Business and brings numerous credentials in management and finance, including a doctorate in management from the University of Texas. Working with Center for Innovation and Technology Director Cory Hallam, Sanders is pursuing some ambitious goals for student entrepreneurship.
In the next five years, the Business College wants to launch ten student tech startups annually. The school currently turns out two to three startups a year between its biannual $100,000 Student Technology Venture Competition and its faculty research.
Sanders and Hallam have multiple objectives in mind to accomplish this goal, starting with changes to the College of Business.
“There are a lot of good things happening here. There is a lot of potential. But we are spread a little too thin, and we need to focus,” Sanders said. “Entrepreneurship is one area that will receive that focus.”
Sanders said the college suffers from an overabundance of majors, minors, and concentrations that often overlap and drain administrative resources. By pruning and simplifying those degree plans, he hopes to allow students more class options with fewer concentrations so they can get more out of their education.
“Students can get all these same classes within a smaller program infrastructure,” Sanders said.
Administrative and financial resources will now be focused more than ever on student entrepreneurship training. The college plans to double its entrepreneur-focused faculty and all new faculty hires, regardless of discipline, will need to have an interest in entrepreneurship as well as some private sector entrepreneurial experience.
The Business College is also working on a new, more flexible curriculum structure that would allow students to learn several entrepreneurial skills required to start a business in the same three hour course.
“We want the educational experience to mirror closer to the actual entrepreneurial problems, and address the educational need there,” Sanders said.
Hallam also wants to open up graduate level Business College classes to students in other departments such as computer science – giving those students more entrepreneurial tools while also adding diverse perspectives to the classes.
“It actually builds the quality of the class because you end up with very good students from different disciplines which then expands the thought process of the class,” Hallam said.
Hallam hopes to create a similar approach with the CITE (Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship) program’s $100,000 Student Technology Venture competition, which pairs business and engineering students to create products. The goal is to expand the competition to include students in computer science, material science, physics, and other tech departments who could work with business students to launch a technology company as well. In the five years since the competition began, 650 students have participated and a total of 85 business plans have been presented. Hallam believes getting students from other departments in the mix will significantly grow the competition and result in more companies.
Of course, none of those startups will get off the ground without some financial backing. To that end, Sanders and Hallam plan to create an endowed student startup seed fund. The endowment — which is simply a large chunk of money in a bank that generates interest — would have to be several million dollars to be effective, but once established it would provide a better way to fund startups.
“Right now, if we have student startups that are struggling for money, Cory has to get on the phone and call someone and say, ‘Hey, $2000 would really help this little company,’” Sanders said.
“We need to grow that donor base and endow it so that you are not having to ask every year but now know you have built an endowment that funds this many companies a year,” Hallam said.
There are a few more ways the College of Business will boost entrepreneurship as well. This October, the UTSA student CEO organization will partner with Venturelab to hold a 3 Day Startup event on campus similar to other 3DS events held at Geekdom of San Antonio.
To facilitate long-term entrepreneurial collaboration between students, Sanders wants to create an entrepreneur-only dorm space in one of the current residence halls. The space will even be equipped with offices and a board room where students can hold meetings with clients. The Business College is still in the initial planning stages for the space but plan to have it set up in three to four years.
While UTSA’s future goals for student entrepreneurship are important, it’s also important to look where it has been. UTSA’s student CEO organization has more than 100 student owned and operated business. The Business College’s CITE program has seen more than 1000 students go through their tech boot camp. The biannual $100,000 Student Technology Venture Competition averages around 20 competing companies a semester and the exiting companies have applied for a total of 12 patents.
Multiple student startups exiting CITE have already gone on to hire experienced CEOs, create prototypes, and raise significant funding. Examples of such companies are Technophysics Solutions, Leto Solutions, Cyclosa, Lapara Medical, and Invictus – some of which have already raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Even if students do not move forward with their initial venture, Hallam is confident that they will be able to use their acquired entrepreneurial skills to start additional companies in the future.
“We are trying to unlock their inner entrepreneur,” said Hallam. “We would expect that the rest go out and work in companies and launch products or services – work five to ten years – and at that point they are in the right age bracket to understand the market niche they are familiar with, they understand the business they are in, and at that point they tap into their inner entrepreneur and spin off a company…and 10 years after that we ask them for a donation.”

UT’s Texas Venture Labs receives $6 million gift

Photo courtesy of the University of Texas by Jill Johnson

The University of Texas at Austin announced today that the Texas Venture Labs at the McCombs School of Business has received a $6 million gift from Fort Worth businessman Jon Brumley.
And the incubator will be renamed the Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs.
“This investment is a game changer that enables us to expand the scale and accessibility of the Texas Venture Labs model,” McCombs Den Thomas Gilligan, said in a statement. “It’s a vote of confidence as well, because of the reputation of Jon Brumley as an entrepreneur, a business build and a distinguished graduate of McCombs and the Wharton School of Business.”
Brumley made his money in the oil and gas industry. He founded six companies.
“Texas Venture Labs is a gem in the Texas entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Brumley said in a statement. “It provides critical, hands-on experience for aspiring entrepreneurs who learn as students the effort required to get a new venture through the financing process. For me, this gift is an opportunity to build our capacity to grow the economy of Texas, while giving a leg up to young entrepreneurs, who remind me a lot of myself at that age.”
Founded in 2010, the Texas Venture Labs has worked with 40 companies that have raised more than $25 million in investment capital. The incubator provides help to graduate students in business, engineering, law and natural sciences. Texas Venture Labs also sponsors the annual Venture Labs Investment Competition, being held this week.

Entrepreneurial Insights from Dr. T of National Instruments

Photo courtesy of 1 Semester Startup

James Truchard couldn’t find a job that he liked so he created one.
That’s what the co-founder, known as Dr. T, president and CEO of National Instruments, said last week during an interview with Bob Metcalfe, University of Texas professor of innovation and coinventor of Ethernet and cofounder of 3Com.
Unlike some of today’s technology billionaires by the name of Bill, Michael and Mark, both Truchard and Metcalfe finished college and obtained PhDs before becoming entrepreneurs.
Metcalfe interviewed Truchard at 1 Semester Startup Demo Day last Thursday evening in the Lady Bird Johnson auditorium at the LBJ Library and Museum. Metcalfe said Truchard played a huge role in convincing him to move to Austin from Boston more than a year ago.
Metcalfe quizzed Truchard on his background. He was born and raised in Austin County. Neither of his parents had a college degree. He received his bachelors and masters degrees in physics and a PhD in electrical engineering from UT. And in 1976, he cofounded National Instruments, in his garage in Austin with Bill Nowlin and Jeff Kodosky. The company makes test equipment and software including LabVIEW, a graphical development program. The company just reported revenue of $262 million for the first quarter of 2012, up 10 percent from a year ago and a profit of $18.6 million. It had revenue of more than $1 billion in 2011.
“I was always determined to be successful, I never thought of any other option,” Truchard said.
Truchard didn’t have a business plan when he started National Instruments.
“We just started working,” he said.
They also never sought out venture capital. Instead, they secured a $10,000 bank loan and they ran the company by bootstrapping operations.
Truchard also read hundreds of books on entrepreneurs including Crossing the Chasm and Thriving on Chaos. He also consulted with the IC2 Institute at UT.
“Keep as much of your capital to yourself as possible.” Truchard advised the crowd of student entrepreneurs. He also told them to make sure they have a good idea and to find as many mentors as possible. And great technology is at the base of innovation.
And nothing beats dumb luck, he said. “Don’t exclude it.”
Truchard took National Instruments public in 1995 to offer liquidity to its employees, not because they needed to raise money.
The company culture was born when National Instruments started, Truchard said. He tries to make the company a fun place to work and focuses on cultivating a leadership culture as the company grows. The company regularly makes it on Forbes’ best places to work lists.
In response to a question from a student about how he communicates the company vision to 6,200 employees.
“Well, I’m very repetitive,” Truchard said.
To share his ideas, Truchard has used 1,500 slides throughout the years in presentations to employees. His employees took all of those slides, shrunk them and then they made a portrait of him out them and presented to him as a gift.

10 Companies Shine at UT’s 1 Semester Startup Demo Day

All of the entrepreneurs presenting at the University of Texas’ 1 Semester Startup Spring Demo Day Thursday night appeared polished and professional.
The 10 company teams had solid ideas and at least one, PhotoWhoa is already turning a profit.
Josh Baer, one of the instructors and founder of Capital Factory and with UT’s Department of Computer Science, said he’s already recruiting for the next class and is looking for more mentors and motivated students.
The class teaches entrepreneurs how to write a business plan, market their products, network with other business professionals and pitch their ideas to potential investors. They also must write one single page paper a week along with two ten page papers. Baer along with Bob Metcalfe, professor of innovation in the University of Texas Cockrell School of Engineering and Johnny Butler of the IC2 Institute and the McCombs School of Business, also tells them to look out for their health.
“Doing a startup is not about staying up all night and eating bad food,” Baer said.
No one has failed the 1 Semester Startup class yet, but a couple of students dropped out, said Metcalfe. He doesn’t’ have a favorite company, because “I’m not allowed to have such things.”
He likes the smaller size of the class, but if they received an overwhelming number of applications from good companies they might expand it, he said.
For the Spring, 1 Semester Startup got dedicated space for its companies at Longhorn Camp, a 30,000 square foot building. It housed about 25 companies altogether. The others are from student entrepreneurs not enrolled in the class. But the space is going away at the end of the semester so 1 Semester Startup is looking for a new home.
“We failed to create the critical mass I was looking for,” Metcalfe said. He’s a general partner with Polaris Venture Partners in Boston. Polaris runs four incubators around the world. Whenever he visits them they are seething with energy and ideas and people running around, he said. The difference is they are all out of school and they dedicate most of their time to their startups. At UT, students have other courses and social lives, Metcalfe said. The kind of physical interactions and esprit de corps that exists in outside incubators is tough to replicate in a campus environment, he said.
Overall, UT has made a big commitment to fostering startups by students, said Thor Lund, student government president at UT-Austin.
Lund and Wills Brown, student government vice president, plan to write legislation creating a student run accelerator on campus aimed at helping students start and fund businesses. They spoke briefly to the crowd of about 300 people attending the Demo Day event at the LBJ Library and Museum.
“The student accelerator is aimed at getting students connected and empowered,” said Lund.
Nick Spiller, a junior and chairman of the UT entrepreneurship council, runs UThinkTank at the Longhorn Camp along with three other founders.
“What we really want to do next year is to reinvent Longhorn Camp to be for the students by the students,” Spiller said.
Eventually he has hopes to create a Big 12 Startup Team to collaborate with other universities.
“We want to create jobs, create wealth and clear up our national debt,” Spiller said. “We need to get the cash flowing in the right direction.”
The latest crop of entrepreneurs at UT showed Thursday night that they are serious about business. All of the companies planned to continue operating beyond the end of class. All of them are bootstrapped with some friends and family money backing them.

Photos courtesy of 1 Semester Startup

The first team to present, Agreeon created a mobile phone accounting and payment system to track and pay small debts.
Its primary revenue stream comes from a fee on all transactions and secondary streams come from a coupon portal for restaurants, leads to financial institutions and app purchases for advanced features. The company is offering a special to people who pre-register for the AgreeOn app by Friday midnight, they will waive the transaction fees. The app is in beta and is expected to launch within two months.
Photo courtesy of One Semester StartupNext up, Simeon Duong introduced beDJ in which “You are the DJ.”
Duong and four other engineering friends didn’t like the music in a coffee shop in which they were studying. They decided to do something about it. They wrote code. They created an app that lets people control the music in a coffee shop, nightclub, store and other places.
“We’re using music as an icebreaker to promote conversation on a micro specific level,” Duong said.
The beDJ app just launched Thursday in three app stores. Austin is the test market to understand how the app functions in the ecosystem, Duong said. Then, the app will expand to New York and Los Angeles.
“We’re developing a communications platform that has never been done before,” Duong said.
A veteran from the first 1 Semester Startup course, Power Smart Labs aims to reduce electrical costs for data center operators. The company’s software works to maximize efficiency at the data center by turning off servers when they are not needed.
Its competition is Vmware, MiserWare, HP, Dell and Google. But Power Smart Labs targets a data center with

Photo courtesy of 1 Semester Startup

annual revenue of $12 million. It predicts it can save that customer $115,000 a year on a $750,000 electric bill. By the end of the summer, Power Smart Labs will be installed for a data center customer.
“Put your checkbooks down, because we’re not looking for an investment today,” said Michael May. The company will most likely seek a $50,000 investment in August, May said.
Another veteran of the first class, Predictable Data seeks to fix and filter data for companies.
“People aren’t predictable but your data can be,” Smurdon said.
Every day, 230,000 people move, change jobs, get married or die, he said. “Businesses are never done cleaning their data,” Smurdon said.
Poor quality data costs U.S. business more than $600 billion each year, Smurdon said. For example, Overstock.com had errors in 25 percent of its order forms, which cost the companies millions.
Predictable Data has built a software program that is scalable and secure and relies on proprietary algorithms to clean data, Smurdon said. Its aiming its product at small and medium sized businesses.

David Isquick and Dan Driscoll, founders of ReQwip along with Jay Combs, Matt Wedgwood and Saaket Dubey.

On the consumer side, ReQwip wants to help families sell sporting goods gear that they no longer need through its niche marketplace, said Dan Driscoll, cofounder.
A recent New York Times article showed that parents spend about $500 for sports gear every year just for little league baseball, he said
ReQwip’s peer to peer marketplace first plans to sell bikes and accessories and then move into team sports. The company makes money by taking 10 percent on each sale or rental.
ReQwip has created a mobile app. Dealing with a locally based trusted source is less risky than selling on Craigslist or eBay, Driscoll said.
“We are ReQwip and we are changing the game by making it easy to buy, sell and rent sports gear affordably” Driscoll said.
In addition to Driscoll, the team behind ReQwip includes Jay Combs, an MBA student, David Isquick, MBA student, Matt Wedgwood and Saaket Dubey. The team members met each other last Fall during a 3 Day Startup weekend. They came up with the idea and then decided to apply to the class, Combs said.
“The class was inspirational,” Isquick said. Mentors like Carol Thompson, Ben Dyer, Ryan Pitylak and others helped the company tackle business problems and deal with technical issues, he said.
“The mentors were phenomenal,” Isquick said. “They gave us lots of key insights.”

Matthew Amme, Agee Springer and Pranav Desai, founders of Solspot Systems

Another veteran from the first class, Solspot Systems is creating solar charging stations for electric vehicles. It is working with Reva, an electric car manufacturer in India. By 2020, India is projected to have 7 million electric vehicles.
Solspot Systems is building a prototype at the JJ Pickle Research campus and expects to have it finished soon.
“We would like to be in production by the beginning of next year,” Springer said.
Stache Studios is also a repeat in the class.
“We make games like gentlemen” is their tag line. The company is making a game, Teknedia for PC, Mac and Linux users and another one for the IOS mobile platform.
Two of the companies zeroed in on the college market for their products.
Nowoncampus.com is an online events directory and aggregator that pulls information from Facebook to compile a weekly list of events at a college campus. The idea is to let students see the events they have not been invited to in case they might want to attend.
Personab.ly is an online registry of who like who, said Jimoh Ovbiagele, cofounder. The product is aimed at making dating simple and easy through online matchmaking. Its competition is DatemySchool.com, which has 100,000 users. It expects to release a beta version in the fall. The site is free. It makes it revenue by charging food and entertainment sites to advertise in its recommendation site for dates.
The site is even on Angellist.

Eric Yang and Kevin Tang, founders of PhotoWhoa

Lastly, Eric Yang and Kevin Tang founded PhotoWhoa. Yang had already founded a photography software business with $3 million in revenue in two years.
The market for photography gear was $68.4 billion in 2011, Yang said. PhotoWhoa sells photography software and other products at a discount on its site.
After five months, PhotoWhoa has 15,000 subscribers and all of them are photographers, Yang said.
This month, PhotoWhoa will have revenue of $40,000, Yang said.
“That’s a small drop in the bucket,” Yang said. “The photography industry is growing at 8 percent a year.”
And PhotoWhoa wants to change the way photography products are sold, Yang said.
Getting the first 1,000 customers was the hardest, Yang said. But the class helped accelerate their business, he said. They learned from mentors how to maximize their use of Google Ad words to reduce their customer acquisition costs from $5 to 75 cents. They also learned how to build a network.
“Through Josh Baer we’ve been able to connect with people to do deals with,” Yang said.
PhotoWhoa is completely bootstrapped. Each founder put in $250 to startup the company. Five months later, PhotoWhoa is profitable and growing, Yang said.
Damon Clinkscales, an Austin software developer, volunteers with the 1 Semester Startup class as a mentor. He generally spends two to four hours a week helping Personab.ly, the company he helped out.
“I guess you could put as much time into it as you choose to,” Clinkscales said. He also served as a mentor for the first 1 Semester Startup Class last fall. This class is smaller and more focused, Clinkscales said. They chose companies that were beyond the idea phase, he said.
“It is really awesome that they are getting this experience now,” Clinkscales said. “Just imagine them in a few years.”

SXSW panelists advise how to foster entrepreneurial communities

Special contributor to Silicon Hills News

Startups in Austin may forget how good they’ve got it.
A SXSW panel Sunday called “How to Build Entrepreneurship Communities” explored strategies used by other places—Los Angeles, Omaha Nebraska, New York City—to build communities for startups. In many places, key players don’t know one another or have viable opportunities to mingle and there’s no community culture to foster interaction.
Jeff Slobotski, founder of Silicon Prairie News in Omaha, talked about having tech journalist Sarah Lacy, founder of PandoDaily, give a presentation in town and watching startup owners and venture capitalists sitting feet away from one another at the bar, not recognizing each other.
The solution, panelists said, is multilayered: build a functional mentorship system; create meet ups and events centered on the needs of entrepreneurs; provide avenues for storytelling…telling the story of your business in content such as blogs and publications like Silicon Hills.
Mentorship, panelists said, is a key ingredient. But there’s a right way and wrong way. Just because a person is successful, for example, doesn’t mean he or she is good at helping others become successful, said Mark Nager CEO of Startup Weekend which brings developers, designers, marketers and others together to create a startup in 54 hours.
“One of the things we do is educate successful people how to help others and not just let anyone call themselves a mentor.”
And of course, there’s the startup owners responsibility. Nick Seguin, manager of entrepreneurship for the Kauffman Foundation said: “One thing I get really scared about is the entitled entrepreneur,” Seguin said. “Just because you’ve started a company doesn’t mean you’re entitled to someone’s time. You need to engage them in an efficient meaningful way. Mentors aren’t taking anything from us. They need to be engaged.”
Mark Davis, CEO of Kohort which provides tools for organizational management touted the advantages
of a system like TechStar’s which matches mentors and startups in terms of skills and needs. Also, he acknowledged, chemistry has to exist between the two.
The panelists all supported the idea that community must evolve organically from genuine need and interaction. Groups, for example, should solve a need. Any time you can see that the group centers on one personality you can assume it’s doomed.
“You know you’ve succeeded when you have a lot of people coming to your events who don’t know who you are,” Davis said. “If everyone knows it’s the so-and-so person show it’s not sustainable. Not community.”
Nor should the community event focus outside the community.
“We have six events in Iceland,” Nager said. “It’s the local developers and fishermen. We’re not talking about how to do trips to Silicon Valley.”
It helps, he said, to give each volunteer one task: Like throwing four Happy Hours a year, then putting their name on that task—manager of happy hours. That cements accountability and builds social capital.
One audience member suggested that startup advisors be willing to talk more openly about their failures. Again, unlike Austin, not everyone has a “fail faster” mentality. Nagel suggested that would be an excellent topic to hold an event around.
“To me, having mentorship and community events…make you feel like you’re not crazy,” Davis said. “How many of us, when we had an idea, we were working a normal job, people thought you were nuts. When you find there’s a community of folks out there who think like you it’s all about feeling normalish enough to go for it. Safe enough that you’re not going to waste your life. It’s just dealing with the fear.”

UT Entrepreneurship Week features startups and tech veterans

In 1984, Michael Dell started his computer company in a dorm room at the University of Texas and now he is one of the world’s richest men and runs Austin’s largest company.
Since then, hundreds of entrepreneurs have launched ventures while at the university or upon graduating.
To put the spotlight on entrepreneurship, a group of student leaders at the University of Texas have planned the first entrepreneurship week, from March 5 to 9, to foster further collaboration and networking among student entrepreneurs and community innovators.
Fifteen university organizations and institutions organized the event.
“We want to encourage students to network, share their ideas and help each other succeed,” Nick Spiller, co-founder and President of uThinkTank, a student startup that connects other student entrepreneurs to critical resources, said in a news statement.
Events include a stop on the SXSW Startup Crawl, a talk from Pike Powers, a big promoter of Austin’s technology industry, Bob Metcalfe, co-inventor of the Ethernet, founder of 3Com and professor of innovation at the UT, a talk from Kevin Koym, founder of Tech Ranch Austin.
For a schedule of events and to RSVP, visit UT Entrepreneurship Week. You can also follow announcements on Twitter at @TheUThinkTank and @nick_spiller.

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