Students showcase startups at Demo Day

Lauren Florence

Startups are critical to major, established companies because they embrace risk to support new technologies and ideas, the founder of Dell Inc. said.

Students presented their own startups for products such as life-coaching apps and concussion-detecting mouth guards to investors — including Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Inc. — at Longhorn Startup Program’s “Demo Day” on Thursday.

Dell said his company has grown to be the world’s largest startup since he first began the company at age 19 in his UT dorm room. There are hundreds of businesses within Dell Inc., because the company is willing to innovate and take risks on startups, Dell said.

“Big companies, as they grow — they tend to want to not take risks,” Dell said. “Our industry is changing so rapidly. I think it’s important to be able to go back to that risk-taking and embracing new ideas as a key thing.”

Dell said people in the U.S. are blessed to have a culture that embraces risk and innovation and allows people to try things, even if they aren’t guaranteed to be successful.

Professors Joshua Baer, Bob Metcalfe and Ben Dyer have taught the Longhorn Startup course, a class where students create startups to present at Demo Day, for the last four years. Baer said the class will change in a few ways next semester — such as including open pitches for ideas and “co-founder speed dating” — as he takes over as the course’s main professor.

“The fall seminar, in a lot of ways is going to be similar to what we have now — same great speakers that are coming in inspiring and sharing their stories and teaching students about what they’re working on,” Baer said. “The big difference is there won’t be a Demo Day in the fall, we’ll just do a Demo Day in the spring.”

Biochemistry senior Yousef Okasheh, who presented his startup during Demo Day, said his app “Who’s Hungry” makes it easier for friends to meet up and eat together. Okasheh said he gained inspiration for his app from Yik Yak, an anonymous group app.

“We plan on switching this market by influencing the student leaders on campus,” Okasheh said. “This was a tactic that was used by the app YikYak … and proved to be very successful for them due a very low user-acquisition cost.”