Former City Council member appointed managing director at Cockrell’s Innovation Center

Christina Noriega

After being appointed managing director of the Cockrell School of Engineering’s Innovation Center on Thursday, Louise Epstein plans to make entrepreneurship a bigger part of the school.

The center, launched in 2011, provides support to students and faculty, primarily from the engineering school, through the process of establishing a startup company. The center offers a variety of programs, including seminars, labs and mentorships. 

“What started out as a class and a lab has grown to [a center with] businesspeople and faculty,” said Epstein, former City Council member. ”I’m just here to take it to the next level.”

Bob Metcalfe, engineering professor and faculty director of the Innovation Center, said the center created the new managing director position to ease the expansion of ongoing programs. Metcalfe, who is also a co-inventor of Ethernet, said Epstein will be responsible for managing staffing, budgeting and fundraising for student and faculty startup projects.

“We’re scaling up,” Metcalfe said. “We’re developing new programs, and we need more horsepower, in particular someone who can run things as opposed to someone who is mentoring and teaching students.”

Epstein hopes the center helps to turn UT into a major entrepreneurial campus on par with Stanford University or Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to Epstein, the growing entrepreneurial community in Austin and the support from UT are vital to the success of the center. 

“South By Southwest isn’t anywhere else,” Epstein said. “The people in this community who are actively promoting entrepreneurship and innovation is unbelievable.”

As managing director, Epstein said she will help with future programs at the Innovation Center and will be responsible for the management of the Innovation Center’s flagship program, Longhorn Startup. 

Epstein served on the Austin City Council in the early 1990s. In 1997, she founded Charge-Off Clearinghouse, a company that collects and sells portfolios of charged-off debt. In 2010, Epstein served as the entrepreneur in residence of the McCombs School of Business and later worked as a fellow at the IC2 Institute, a University think tank aimed at developing theories and practices around entrepreneurial growth.

Ben Dyer, the entrepreneur-in-residence at the Cockrell School of Engineering and a mentor for the Longhorn Startup program, said the center has started to explore new ideas for programs, although none are ready to be revealed to the public.

“[Epstein] is the first step toward a bigger vision,” Dyer said. ”We have a lot of thoughts on the chalkboard and lot of opportunities.”