Entrepreneurship group brings RECESS to campus

Abigail Zeitler

The Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship and UT Longhorn Entrepreneurship Agency will bring RECESS to college, letting students on campus “play” in the business world for a day. 

RECESS, an entrepreneurial festival, will come to Austin on Friday for the first time. RECESS at UT will contain a full day of events including a pitch competition, a networking fair and a speaker series featuring exclusive keynote speaker Mike Dinsdale, chief growth officer of DocuSign, and Aislinn Murray, assistant Marketing Manager for L’Oreal Paris. 

“There is so much to learn from students and their ideas,” Murray said. “And schools that facilitate creativity and idea generation really reap the benefits from students that go on to do big things after their years on campus.”

RECESS originally began as a college music festival at Indiana University in 2010. Co-founders Jack Shannon and Deuce Thevenow sent Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and Landmark Theaters, an email to ask for his thoughts on their idea to make the festival into a hub for college entrepreneurship. He responded with an offer to invest which started the partnership that turned RECESS into what it is today.

“We wanted to help college students who are like us that have an aspiration to start their own businesses,” Thevenow said. “We were a college startup ourselves and know the struggles firsthand, so RECESS was formed in 2013 as a platform and resource to help college entrepreneurs.”

Thevenow said 23-year-old student, Jay Perkins, became a successful entrepreneur after the RECESS pitch competition in Las Vegas in 2014. He built an automated alcoholic beverage machine for use in bars and restaurants as a senior design project at Purdue University in 2014. He sent an email to Cuban to ask if he would invest in the company, and Cuban ended up investing in the company for 25 percent equity. Perkins quit his job at a Detriot-based HVAC company to become the owner at TendedBar. 

“If the student had not come across RECESS that story would not have happened,” Thevenow said. “He found the article in the newspaper and applied to the competition. I hope that students from UT see this article and apply to The Pitch.” 

Other sponsors include Softlayer, an IBM company that is giving $1,000 a month of hosting credits to each team that applies to Pitch and up to $10k a month in hosting credits to the winning team from each school. Pivot, a TV network, is also sponsoring the Social Entrepreneurship Special Pitch Category which will choose a team to meet and pitch with their executives. Violina Rindova, director of the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship, said these resources will help students looking to start their own careers in the entrepreneurship field. 

“UT provides so many opportunities for our students to become entrepreneurs,” Rindova said. “RECESS will provide our students with an integrated experience of learning, developing social relations, feeling challenged and inspired, and having fun in the process of considering their own paths to entrepreneurship and innovation.”

The Pitch, a college version of the ‘Shark Tank’ competition, gives students the opportunity to take their business ideas and turn them into startups. The winning team will attend RECESS Field Trip in Los Angeles, California, with free flights from Southwest Airlines. Teams will pitch to investors, receive feedback and meet successful entrepreneurs. Groups have gone on to raise over $12 million in funding from investors. 

“My hope is that an engaging event like this will spark many sparks,” Rindova said. “And will help the rest of the resources on campus catch fire.”