Entrepreneur talks about keys to building successful companies

Ariana Guerra

In order for startup ideas to become a reality, entrepreneurs need a strong foundation, according to Tony Ayaz — serial entrepreneur and chief revenue officer of Founder.org — who visited the University on Monday to discuss key components of building a billion-dollar company.

Founder.org is a company that invests in student entrepreneurs around the world to help them build companies. Ayaz said the company looks for ideas and startup teams it feels it can work with.

“We have our operational, financial focus that helps you develop a five-year business plan with very concrete details,” Ayaz said. 

The two key components startups should think about are the startup team and the customers, according to Ayaz.

“Those things are really gonna make it,” Ayaz said. “The technology will eventually come together, but [the company] won’t come together without the right team and customers that want to buy it.”

UT computer science students — senior Sidhant Srikumar and recent graduates Michael Pfister and Ai Liu — founded the startup hardware company Noki, which is part of Founder.org’s class of 2015.

Noki is building a wearable device that slips over people’s hands to allow them to type without an actual keyboard, according to Pfister.

“We’re [trying] to make typing [become] on-the-go and more productive,” Pfister said.

The Noki cofounders said they believe their involvement with student outreach companies provided their startup with access to helpful resources. 

“With entrepreneurship, you have to do a hundred different things — you have to be good at selling, recruiting talent and managing projects,” Srikumar said. “They just don’t teach you that at school.”

Top UT teams pitched their startup companies and received personalized feedback at the event Monday night. Among the students who pitched ideas was Mitch Chaiet, a radio-television-film freshman in Founder.org’s Launchpad program. He presented ConcertCam, a program that enhances video from professionally recorded audio.

“[ConcertCam] allows you to enhance your concert experience,” Chaiet said. “Once we get a lot of people on board, you’ll be able to take a video at a concert and have something you can actually watch.”

Ayaz said he was impressed with the startup pitches from students.

“We’re finding student entrepreneurs are coming up with crazy, disruptive ideas but are lacking the execution,” Ayaz said. “We try to provide them with the other elements to be successful.”