Students learn to become entrepreneurs in Longhorn Startup course

Eunice Ali

Engineering entrepreneur Ben Dyer encouraged students to “think big and do big” during the Longhorn Startup Seminar on Thursday evening.

The seminar is part of an entrepreneurship course, which is divided into a one-hour seminar during fall semesters and a three-hour lab during spring semesters. Students listen to speakers during seminar and work on startups during lab. Entrepreneurs volunteer their time to meet with students and help them build their startups.

“Many people don’t realize that everything they do gets observed,” Dyer, entrepreneur-in-residence at the Cockrell School of Engineering, said. “You begin networking with people who have respect for you. This can be a stepping stone when you start a business and need their help to invest, be a customer or even be a partner. Get yourself known. Connection will come afterwards.”

Soon after moving to Austin in 2011, Dyer started co-leading Longhorn Startup with entrepreneur Joshua Baer and engineering professor Bob Metcalfe “to spread the gospel of entrepreneurship.”

Before instructors and guest speakers deliver their lectures in class each week, students have the opportunity to present their startup ideas targeted at consumers and investors during open pitches.

Psychology senior Jason Brown co-founded eCare Village, an online marketplace that connects babysitters to parents who care for children and young adults with special needs and disabilities.

“Currently, companies in the market provide pet sitting, elderly care, house sitting and general babysitting,” Brown said in his pitch. “Connecting parents of kids with special needs to babysitters, however, is not their specialty.”

Brown is currently looking to collaborate with PHP developers to expand his startup. He hopes to work on eCare Village full time when he graduates next year.

“This class gives a really great opportunity to student entrepreneurs,” Brown said. “As a first-time entrepreneur myself, I made a lot of mistakes. One of the best things that [keeps me going] is being able to talk to people who have been through the process and know the growing pains in starting a business.”

Sanchana Vasikaran, a business honors and finance sophomore, took the class last semester and is a teaching assistant this fall.

“[There is an] excitement in [students’] eyes when they’re talking about the ideas they have for their companies,” Vasikaran said, “If [students are] aware of the opportunities and the resources that UT can provide the entrepreneurial community with, [I’m sure] many of them would be more involved.”