DisrupTexas awards $35,000 to UT Entrepreneurs

Will Kosinski

Mechanical engineering senior Katherine Allen and Atreya Misra, electrical and computer engineering graduate student, won the DisrupTexas Undergraduate Pitch Competition and received $20,000 Friday to help grow their business Flo Recruit, an online job recruitment tool.

“We feel great right now,” Flo Recruit co-founder Allen said. “A lot has been going well for our business lately, and it took a lot of hard work and losing competitions to get to this point.”

Twenty-five undergraduate student teams from six Texas universities competed for a total of $40,000 in start-up cash. The five highest-scoring teams, four from UT-Austin and one from UT-Dallas, advanced to the final round, where a final pitch determined which team would receive the largest rewards.

Ranging from a group-oriented event planning app to a literary peer review website, finalists presented their ideas to four judges who scored the pitch’s content and quality. UT’s Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship, which hosted the event, intended to offer undergraduate students entrepreneurial practice and reward money to execute the best ideas, said Luis Martins, the director at the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship.

“Our mission is to support entrepreneurship in all its forms at the University of Texas and beyond,” Martins said. “This competition fulfills our educational mission of providing instructional experience and supports the most promising measures.”

The judges, consisting of professional startup founders, advisers and strategists, heard a 10-minute pitch and had five minutes to ask questions. They also offered constructive criticism to the students’ businesses and pitching abilities. 

Computer science sophomore Owais Raza pitched Mysterious Media, an Instagram marketing service, but did not advance to the final round. Raza said he still valued the experience because it strengthened his skills in pitching, networking and business planning.

“This is part of the process of taking the feedback, fixing what’s wrong and trying again,” Raza said. “You feel upset for a brief moment, but then you realize this is what everyone has to go through in order to eventually win.”

Raza said he received help with Mysterious Media through membership in the Longhorn Entrepreneurship Agency, a branch of Student Government that supports student entrepreneurs. Allen also said UT’s support greatly helped her company’s success in competing against many qualified teams.

“Working in the entrepreneurship community here at UT taught us how to avoid mistakes,” Allen said. “We’ve made some, but having founders, mentors and other employees at the University to help has been amazing.”