Startup experts advise McCombs students on entrepreneurship

Zach Caldwell

Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs, an initiative by McCombs School of Business that teams with startup businesses to help MBA students gain first-hand experience, hosted an entrepreneurial talk Wednesday night to advise UT MBA students on careers in startup companies. 

The event, entitled “Navigating Entrepreneurship @ Texas,” featured a keynote speaker with startup experience along with two separate panels — the first focusing on launching a startup and the second on how to join one. TVL also includes the TVL Practicum, which pairs students with local businesses and gives them the opportunity to pitch to real-world investors, as well as a student investment competition awarding $10,000 to student entrepreneurs. 

Hall Martin, a UT MBA alumnus and former director of corporate development for National Instruments, an Austin-based technology company, delivered the keynote address. Martin is also an adjunct faculty member at the MBA school for McCombs and founder and CEO of Texas Entrepreneur Network. He emphasized the need for student entrepreneurs to cast a wide net for funding through funding sources like Kickstarter.

“It’s very, very rare to go to one place and get all of your money,” said Martin. 

He pointed out the differences between ‘rewards’ crowdfunding campaigns, such as Kickstarter and accredited campaigns, also known as ‘angel networks,’ which are funded by individuals with a net worth over $1 million.

Martin also said that grants are an under-utilized source of funding in Texas. 

“Texas is about 10 percent of the [US population], but it only represents about 2.5 percent of grant funding,” Martin said. 

Will Mitchell, founder and CEO of Renovate Simply, a business that advises homeowners on renovations, spoke in the first panel and gave students advice on their education and business. He said that MBA students must decide individually whether grades or building their business would be their top priority. 

“It comes down to priorities, right,” Mitchell said. “I focused on what would be valuable.”

During the second panel, a student asked how to market oneself without a science or technology-related degree. Eric Burleson, an Austin product manager for Invodo, an online video firm, said students should market their skills specifically for the job they’re looking for. 

“Until you can demonstrate that you can handle the problems that company is facing,” Burleson said. “They don’t really care that you have an MBA.”

Burleson also encouraged students to apply for various internships and aggressively pursue careers, rather than talking themselves out of opportunities.

“Make people tell you no,” Burleson said.