Longhorn Entrepreneurship Agency hopes to establish student workspace

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LEA director Xinyi Wang is working to create a collaborative workspace for student entrepreneurs.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Xinyi Wang

The Longhorn Entrepreneurship Agency (LEA) proposed Assembly Resolution 17 on Tuesday to build a collaborative workspace for student entrepreneurs to begin changing the world, one startup at a time.

Xinyi Wang, director of LEA — a student government agency designed to provide resources for student entrepreneurs — said UT does not have the infrastructure to support these students. 

“Many other schools such as A&M, Harvard and MIT have a co-working space to collaborate on their startups, and it’s a bit crazy that we don’t have a space for student entrepreneurs,” said Wang, a business and psychology junior.

Wang said a collaborative workspace for student entrepreneurs would facilitate conversations and allow students from different colleges to build a community.

“The reason we think it’s necessary to have this co-working space is because we want to build a community around entrepreneurship,” Wang said. “We need a physical space to anchor that community and foster that culture. Without that space, [the community] is very fragmented.”

Xavier Rotnofsky, student body president and co-author of the resolution, said LEA has made it a goal to create a collaborative workspace since its inception. 

“This is the next level for the agency to run successfully,” Rotnofsky said. “The purpose of this space is to bring students from across campus and disciplines to work on the startups they’ve created. It’s an environment for self-incubation.”

Because Austin is the home of many startups, Rotnofsky said LEA hopes to build this space with support from local sponsors. 

Wang said the biggest obstacle in proceeding with the resolution is the issue of space.

“We’ve talked to administration, and they say they would love to have this, but the University is so packed that it’s hard to find space,” Wang said. 

Mitch Chaiet, radio-television-film sophomore and student entrepreneur, said he thinks the space will provide an alternative to the corporate business atmosphere.

“There’s a stereotype about [entrepreneurs] — college kids starting businesses in dorm rooms — but having actually done that, it’s not a very conducive place to do that,” Chaiet said. “Having a centralized co-working space where I could have gone and met other freshmen my age starting startups — not in a classroom or program setting, just people getting together having fun and working on their own stuff — is the best organic way to find a co-founder.”

Chaiet, who created an app called ConcertCam, said he would use the space to find co-workers for his business.

“I’d hope to use it as a place to interview people who might want to work on my startup with me,” Chaiet said. “You can rent a room in the library, but it’s just not the same as it would be to talk in a space made for entrepreneurship.”

Wang said the venue they are hoping to create would feature open spaces for networking and creative collaboration.

“There would be no cubicles — mostly open space with large tables, a couple of offices along the walls if people need more privacy, and a conference room,” Wang said. 

Wang said LEA is in the process of talking to UT administration to figure out logistics, but said the entrepreneurship workspace would ideally be open before freshman orientation is held in the summer.