Tag: Longhorn Startup Lab

Circuit of the Americas is One of Austin’s Biggest Startups

Founder of Silicon Hills News

Greg Fenves, Provost of UT, Bob Metcalfe, professor of Innovation at UT, Joshua Baer, founder of Capital Factory and Longhorn Startup Labs instructor, Bobby Epstein, founder of COTA and Ben Dyer, EIR at UT and instructor at Longhorn Startup Lab.

Greg Fenves, Provost of UT, Bob Metcalfe, professor of Innovation at UT, Joshua Baer, founder of Capital Factory and Longhorn Startup Labs instructor, Bobby Epstein, founder of COTA and Ben Dyer, EIR at UT and instructor at Longhorn Startup Lab.

Don’t put too much pressure on picking a particular career in college, said Bobby Epstein, founder of the Circuit of the Americas.

“You might pivot a couple of times,” he said.

Epstein gave that advice at Longhorn Startup Lab’s Demo Day Thursday night to hundreds of people at the Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium. Bob Metcalfe, professor of innovation at UT, interviewed Epstein, who runs COTA, a Formula One racetrack and one of the largest startups in the Austin area. He quizzed Epstein about his entrepreneurial background and asked him what advice he would give to aspiring student entrepreneurs.

“The best advice you can give anyone as an entrepreneur is to be prepared to work 70 hours to 80 hours a week,” Epstein said.

It’s ok to risk everything, Epstein said. “But don’t risk more than that.”

Too many people start undercapitalized businesses.

“It’s great to be ambitious and start a business but don’t risk everything you have to start something that’s undercapitalized because that’s potentially a formula for failure,” Epstein said. “Don’t think that when you get to that next point the next dollar is going to be there. I think that’s really important before you spend it all.”

Epstein, a UT graduate, was born in New Jersey, but grew up in Dallas and spent time in Indianapolis. His father was an engineer, inventor, and entrepreneur and worked at Bell Labs.

He didn’t have a lemonade stand but he did host a carnival in his backyard. And he ran a DJ business in high school.

Epstein attended UT in 1983 and graduated with a degree in Liberal Arts. When Metcalfe asked him if he knew Michael Dell, who founded his company at UT in 1984, Epstein said no.

“He was a year ahead of you,” Metcalfe said.

“In many ways,” Epstein said.

Epstein didn’t start a company in college. But he did drop out of medical school. He ended up working on Wall Street on a bond-trading floor doing research. He created predictive and regression models on trading patterns.

“It was supposed to be a summer job,” Epstein said. He liked the job and he worked a lot of hours. He decided not to go to medical school and he continued working in the bond trading industry. He ended up working on mortgage derivatives and in 1992 he founded a broker dealer. He sold that business with 100 employees in 1995. He founded a new business, Prophet Capital Asset Management, and moved it to Austin in 1997 and has had 19 years of steady growth. His hedge funds manage more than $2 billion, according to a Forbes article.

“So this business was so successful that you were able to consider founding and financing COTA,” Metcalfe asked.

“Yes,” Epstein said.

“Can you tell us how that happened?” Metcalfe asked.

BmB4luTCIAAaq-7He met a guy who wanted to bring Formula One to Austin and Epstein thought that was a terrible idea. But he had a piece of property he bought in 2005 in Southeast Travis County that Epstein planned for houses. Instead, he pivoted. He turned what would have been a residential development into a racetrack. Today, that piece of property is about 20 percent of the land that COTA sits on. The 3.4 mile racetrack is on a 350 acre development. It also includes an amphitheater, which can accommodate up to 14,000 people.

The Circuit of the Americas got its primary funding from San Antonio Billionaire Billy Joe “Red” McCombs along with Epstein’s contributions. The state of Texas, through its Major Events Trust Fund, also pledged millions to the project.

Since COTA has been in business for a year and a half, it has had an economic impact of $1 billion, Epstein said. It has also raised the global profile of Austin, he said. And it has created lots of jobs, he said. COTA has 100 year-round employees and thousands that come in to work for events. The project costs $400 million in construction, the two Formula 1 races have generated $250 million to $300 million each in economic impact and the track has hosted more than 1.4 million people, Epstein said. And 250,000 have come in from outside Texas.

“A billion dollars in revenue in a year and half. Doesn’t that make you the biggest startup in Austin?” Metcalfe asked.

“It’s not all our revenue,” Epstein said. “That’s the only thing. We have two revenue streams. One revenue stream that goes to everyone else and one revenue stream that goes to COTA.”

“Let’s call it gross revenue,” Metcalfe said.

COTA does encourage people to come in from out of state and spend money, Epstein said.

“We get the people with the biggest pockets and have them come here and empty them out…if they have a great time they’ll come back,” Epstein said.

COTA isn’t yet profitable but it has helped the local economy tremendously, he said.

The racetrack is betting on other events such as the X-Games and concerts at its amphitheater, which will host a Jimmy Buffet concert next month, to push it into profitability.

BmB4rRICEAAZGxAMetcalfe also asked Epstein about all the technology used in the cars and said that’s one more reason COTA is a high tech startup. The criteria for a fast car, according to a Ferrari car designer, are a fast engine, aerodynamic design and high-tech wheels, Metcalfe said. He didn’t mention the driver, he said. He asked if there would a driverless robotic car race or an electric car race.

Epstein said he didn’t think the drivers were expendable. They have tested driverless cars on the track though, he said. And they have raced electric and solar vehicles there also.

Eleven Startups Launch Out of UT’s Longhorn Startup Lab

Founder of Silicon Hills News

BmBllHfCIAAUuogFor six semesters, Longhorn Startup Lab has focused on turning undergraduates at the University of Texas at Austin into entrepreneurs.

Some of the students, with companies like Burpy, a grocery delivery service, Lynx Labs, a 3D modeling camera, MSpaces, Airbnb apartment rentals, and Clay.io, HTML 5 game developers platform, have gone on to raise money and develop their ideas into thriving startups.

Many companies like Zilker Motors, which wanted to create a car that travelled 100 miles on a gallon of gas, have failed.

But that doesn’t deter Bob Metcalfe, UT professor of Innovation, Ethernet inventor, 3Com founder, Joshua Baer, specialist of computer science and founder of Capital Factory, and Ben Dyer, UT Entrepreneur in Residence and founder of Peachtree Software. The three teach Longhorn Startup Lab which involves students creating companies and working with seasoned entrepreneurial mentors and listening to guest speakers like Bert Hurt, founder of Bazaarvoice and Michael Dell.

Some day, they expect one of those undergraduates will come up with the next big thing and go on to be as successful as Dell.

On Thursday at the Lady Bird Johnson auditorium at UT, 11 Longhorn Startup companies presented their startups, including six, which had participated in the class the previous semester. And one, ShorePower, a solar power solution for marinas, announced its dissolution because of a lack of interest from its target market.

Yet, a few companies have already gotten traction.

Micromulsion, which creates microgels for cell cultures in bioengineering research, announced it has received a seed stage investment from Mark Cuban, billionaire and keynote speaker at last semester’s Longhorn Startup Lab Demo Day.

Prepify, which provides free online training for students taking the SAT, won $20,000 as the national winner of the Walmart Net Impact “Better Living” social venture competition.

Waterford Media, a mobile role-playing game developer, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $1,000 for its first game, The Runners.

Three startups targeted the hot wearables market including AirType, a virtual keyboard for tablets, Freeput, a headband device for the disabled that controls a computer’s mouse and keyboard by tracking eye movement, and Everywhere Energy, a shoe insert that harvests kinetic energy to power a cell phone.

BmBhFVXCEAABuOxAirType’s wearable bracelets allow people to type on a tablet without a keyboard using its technology.

“AirType is not a toy,” said Sidhant Srikumar, a junior majoring in computer science at UT and the CEO of AirType. “It’s a keyboard. More importantly, it’s your keyboard.”

AirType, which is expected to cost $60, learns how a person types and writes. Srikumar said.

“Welcome to the future of computing on the go,” he said.

Everywhere Energy seeks to solve the problem of dead batteries for cell phones through an insole insert into any shoe tied to a battery packet that fixes to the side of the shoe. That battery packet, charged through kinetic energy from walking around, can be removed at the end of the day to charge a cell phone battery.

“But this is not a first world problem, this is a digital world problem,” said Darla Hollander, a senior in electrical engineering and CEO of Everywhere Energy. “For example, in Uganda, its projected in 2015, 70 percent of Ugandans will have cell phone subscriptions, yet only 9 percent of them will have access to electricity.”

They have to walk to charging stations and pay to charge their mobile phones every time, she said.
Everywhere Energy’s first project, Eversole, which harvests energy as people walk, is projected to retail for $80, she said.

Everywhere Energy expects to launch a Kickstarter project soon to finance its beta product.

“So the next time you look at your phone battery, think of Everywhere Energy and be your own battery,” Hollander said.

A year ago, Michael Baumgartner got run over by a sports utility vehicle and ended up in the hospital. The devices available to him in the hospital didn’t allow him to use his computer. His disability left him frustrated. That experience convinced him of the importance of the work Freeput is doing, he said.

“Wearable technology is changing the way people do things,” he said.

Freeput’s software records electrical activity recorded by certain body movements like eye movements and communicates those to the computer to manipulate a mouse. Freeput has already tested a prototype of its product.

“We’re confident we can have our device ready for market by 2015,” Baumgartner said.
“Freeput, it’s the mouse you control with your eyes,” he said.

The other companies presenting included Basedrive, a server-based storage system for law firms, UpNext, a mobile app that gauges wait times for restaurants, SocialToast, an app which integrates with Facebook to let college students find their friends at local bars and PineCone, a system to help companies onboard new employees.

Overall, entrepreneurial activity at UT has been on a rise for the past three years since Longhorn Startup Lab launched.

The next big company could come out of Longhorn Startup Labs, a dorm room, an incubator or the Longhorn Entrepreneurship Agency’s new headquarters. The agency started a year and a half ago and one of its big goals was to get a dedicated space on campus, said Grant Heimer, its outgoing director.

“We now have our own space,” Heimer said. It’s moving into an old apartment building behind the student services building. The 600 square foot space will be called UThinkTank and it will host LEA offices, meet-ups, co-working and events.

“It’s nothing fancy. But we think it’s perfect for students to pursue entrepreneurship,” he said.

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.

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