In the Red McCombs End Zone Club, undergrad students, many dressed in suits, are clustered together hovering over laptops with a sense of urgency and nervous energy. Outside the window the club’s occupants can see the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium’s video board. But this time, it’s not sports on the screen, it’s the 1 Semester Startup logo— entrepreneurial athletes. These undergrads are feverishly going over the pitches for their startups that they are about to deliver in front of a room full of classmates, professors, mentors and potential investors. All of the work they’ve put in over the semester has lead to this moment—Demo Day.
Just about every startup at Demo Day and in the One-semester Startup class has a computer science influence, if not completely orbiting around computer science. The startup teams are interdisciplinary, bringing together engineers with geologists, computer scientists with educators, business majors and biologists, for example. Let’s look at a few examples of this marriage between different disciplines.
Andrew Miller, a Computer Science major, and Ian Beckham, a Business major, teamed up to create Homeroom. Homeroom fills the gaps left by software like Blackboard, Moodle, and Sakai that are used by thousands of colleges and universities to help their professors and students manage their coursework. Unlike the competition, Homeroom has easy to use features including live online chat, automatically generated agendas, and collaboration tools. Homeroom is being developed with the input of professors and students by facilitating communication and helping students organize their busy academic workloads.
PurpleSight is another example of this interdisciplinary partnership. Computer Science major Bryant Son and Economics major Tony Mataya developed PurpleSight - a startup focused on building technology that will make consuming, aggregating, and analyzing political news more efficient for its users. Their vision is to modernize the way political campaigns operate by creating innovative, turn-key solutions.
Computer Science major Duy Tran has partnered with Business major Jonathan Van to develop an online hub for entrepreneurs. uThinkTank is making it easier for student entrepreneurs to start a company by connecting them to cofounders, free professional guidance, and all the resources possibly needed to go from idea to company. They are currently building the online hub for the IC2 Institute at The University of Texas at Austin.
Nick Johnson, a Computer Science major who graduated three days after Demo Day, and his partner Justin Callan, a Business Economics major, presented their pitch for Beagle Capital. Beagle Capital builds technology that uses genetic algorithms to find successful stock market strategies. They combine machine learning and quantitative finance techniques to evaluate millions of potential stock market strategies. Nick and Justin are currently talking to local Austin trading companies about potential partnerships.
These are just a few examples of the innovative startups the students presented at Demo Day as a wrap up to their semester in 1 Semester Startup.
About Demo Day
Twenty undergraduate student startups from The University of Texas at Austin presented five-minute investor pitches to the Austin entrepreneurial community on Thursday, December 1st. The startups were part of the first 1 Semester Startup (1SS) class at the university.
Demo Day sponsors: the Murchison Chair of Free Enterprise, Capital Factory, the Kauffman Foundation, Austin Ventures, G-51 Capital and S3 Ventures
About 1 Semester Startup
1 Semester Startup (ISS) is a new practicum course designed to accelerate UT undergraduate students’ startups for degree credit. It allows undergraduates to experience entrepreneurship first-hand while learning from some of the most successful entrepreneurs in Austin. Computer Science Chair Bruce Porter, inspired by the weekend-long entrepreneurship event 3-Day Startup (3DS), collaborated with Josh Baer and Bob Metcalfe to create the innovative course.
“I decided to take 1SS because I was already starting a business around this technology I had built, and I thought working with the professors and mentors would really help expand my network. It has helped me far beyond anything I was expecting. It accelerated the progress of my business substantially, and helped me to focus my efforts.” – Nick Johnson of Beagle Capital
Instructors Joshua Baer of Capital Factory and the Department of Computer Science; John Butler of IC2 and the McCombs School of Business; and Bob Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, founder of 3Com and the Cockrell School's Murchison Fellow of Free Enterprise, all bring their own perspective, experience and insights to the class.
“This class has been an amazing opportunity to explore entrepreneurship. Professor Metcalfe, Baer, and each of the great mentors who spoke to our class inspired us all to dive in headfirst and really experience startup culture. We are very lucky to have had them offer their time to us undergraduates, and I hope that the university will continue to realize the value of fostering innovation among its students.” – Andrew Miller of Homeroom
Students from across disciplines, including computer science, engineering, education and business, advanced their startup companies during ISS. Students had to find co-founders, develop an elevator pitch and talk to customers. They also heard from local entrepreneurs including: Michael Dell, founder of Dell Inc.; Jason Cohen, founder of WPEngine; Ash Maurya, founder of Spark59; and Frank Moss, former director of MIT's Media Lab and former CEO of Tivoli System.
“I simply loved the fact that I had an opportunity to meet and to compete with some of the best students from the School of Natural Sciences, McCombs Business School, and Cockrell School of Engineering.
I also loved how they invited actual CEOs and senior leaders of the startup companies to become our instructors, mentors, and speakers.” - Bryant Son of PurpleSight
The class is also made possible by Teaching Assistants Joel Hestness and Jonathan Spillman, volunteers like alumnus Jason Nolasc and the many mentors that dedicated their time and energy to support these students.
The Austin small business community has been very supportive of 1SS. Local businesses Bazaarvoice, Capital Factory, HomeAway, Indeed.com, OtherInbox, Silverton, and Spiceworks even had pizza delivered to the classes to help support their efforts.
1SS is looking for mentors - successful entrepreneurs in the Austin community who can donate one hour a week to guide the next generation of entrepreneurs. If you are interested in becoming a mentor or volunteering your time, please contact 1SS.