UT partners with Austin-based company Sputnik ATX to help student entrepreneurs

Savana Dunning

UT ranks among the top universities in producing the most startup founders, and thanks to a new partnership, it will be easier for students to turn their startup ideas into reality.

UT and Sputnik ATX have created an online curriculum available in the coming weeks designed to guide those unfamiliar with the business side of entrepreneurship.

Sputnik ATX is an Austin-based accelerator, a company run by venture capitalists that guides potential startup companies on how to successfully market their business and get funded. Sputnik ATX is partnering with UT’s Office for Technology Commercialization, a department that helps UT researchers turn their technological discoveries into commodifiable goods, to create an online startup business curriculum designed exclusively for UT students.

Sputnik ATX CEO Oksana Malysheva said the curriculum will include the advice given to the startups that applies to Sputnik ATX’s program, but it is made exclusively for UT students.

“We take this content that is typically quite exclusive to our startups, and we tailor it to the students and make it exclusively available to them,” Malysheva said. “If you’re thinking about starting a startup, you could read about it in a book or you could hear about it from the people who are venture capitalists and who actually write the checks.”

Some of the topics covered include “how to decide if entrepreneurship is right for you,” “how to improve your ability to sell to customers” and “how to get funding from investors.” 

Les Nichols, interim director of the Office for Technology Commercialization, said this collaboration will allow industry professionals to guide students with startup ideas.

“In starting a company, there are a lot of different things that need to be done, and a lot of people don’t really understand that when they get the idea that they want to start a company around their cool idea,” Nichols said. “These folks are uniquely capable — because they’ve done it before — of guiding people through that process.”

According to a new report by Pitchbook, a venture capitalist data-tracking company, UT ranks among the top 10 universities that produces the most startup founders. Malysheva said Sputnik ATX wants to increase collaboration with UT students because the University is part of why Austin has become a big hub for startup companies.

“It’s a very big decision to become a startup entrepreneur. It’s very exciting, but it’s not right for everyone, and it’s not as glamorous as it’s depicted in the media,” Malysheva said. “We would love most students to do that, but we would love for them to do this educated and with their eyes wide open.”

Ashley Jennings, Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship program manager, said collaboration between Austin-based startups and UT student entrepreneurs has increased over the years, and this deal with Sputnik ATX is just another good source for students looking into founding a business.

“It’s a really exciting time as we watch Austin’s entrepreneurial ecosystem team up even more with the 40 Acres, with all the companies being produced and the problems we’re solving,” Jennings said. “It’s really incredible, and I think we’re going to continue producing those quality founders and problem-solving companies.”