A Culture of Innovation: Three Programs for Entrepreneurs

The University of Texas at Austin has set goals to grow its entrepreneurial support across campus and increase commercialization of faculty and student inventions.

The university is making strides in cultivating a culture of innovation through programs aimed at both seasoned and aspiring entrepreneurs.

In just one week in October, the university hosted a 24-hour hackathon, an artist-style studio for startups and a panel with successful faculty-based startups.

Here’s a look at the new entrepreneurial efforts on the Forty Acres and beyond:

Longhorn Startup Studio
Location: Austin Chamber of Commerce

Photo of Bob Metcalfe at the OTC Conference

Bob Metcalfe, professor of innovation at the Cockrell School of Engineering, moderated a panel that included two engineering professors. Credit: Tamir Kalifa

When Cockrell School Professor of Innovation Bob Metcalfe arrived here, he was asked by the deans of the engineering, sciences and business schools to come up with ways to propel commercialization at UT and forge stronger ties with Austin.

Metcalfe’s latest effort, a new program called Longhorn Startup Studio, does just that.

Taking its cues from an artists’ studio, Longhorn Startup Studio is a casual dinner program where faculty and their research teams can present their work, exchange advice, receive challenging feedback and make business connections.

The studio — which will include a rotating cast of participants — is co-hosted by the university and the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

The first studio was kicked off by three faculty members: Yetkin Yildirim, of the Cockrell School’s Center for Transportation Research, co-founder of Terra Pave International Inc.; Computer Science Professor Dan Miranker, co-founder of Capsenta; and Chemistry Professor Eric Anslyn, co-founder of Kymyk Technologies LLC.

“It’s my belief that if we are going to increase the quality and the number of startups, then we should focus more on professor-based startups, which are much more likely to be successful,” Metcalfe said.

He also hopes to attract more entrepreneurs who are willing to share their expertise during studio sessions. The next Longhorn Startup Studio has not yet been scheduled.

Hack Texas Hackathon
Location: Student Activities Center

Photo of students at the Hackathon

Students worked on software projects at the first-ever Hack Texas Hackathon. Credit: Marjorie Smith

Proving that creativity isn’t hindered by a lack of sleep, the Technology Entrepreneurship Society and Cockrell School hosted the first-ever Hack Texas Hackathon.

For the uninitiated, a hackathon is an event where software engineers, computer programmers and others in the field collaborate on software projects, in this case for 24 hours. These types of collaborations can result in new mobile applications, software, games and algorithms.

The first-ever Hack Texas, which was open to the public, drew more than 200 students and Austin developers.

The top teams were judged by esteemed panelists — Ross Buhrdorf, chief technology officer at HomeAway; Bill Boebel, angel investor and managing director at Capital Factory; Bob Metcalfe, professor of innovation; and Chris Hyams, vice president of product at Indeed.com.

While the event was memorable for all involved, three Hack Texas teams walked away with prizes and bragging rights.

First place went to Black Lynx, a real time 3-D music visualizer on a graphics processing unit. Second place went to ProxPad, a door access hardware that secures a building with cell phone authentication. A team that goes by the name [It’s the] Flashcard Countdown picked up third place for its phone application that helps students study notecards for tests.

Office of Technology Commercialization
Location: AT&T Conference Center

The Office of Technology and Commercialization is providing education and inspiration through its “Colloquium on Commercialization” series which targets UT faculty and their research teams.  This year’s first program,  “Startup to IPO,” showcased a panel, titled “Successful university startups: put their strategies to work for you.” The panel featured Preston Wilson, associate professor of mechanical engineering; Thomas Milner, professor of biomedical engineering; and Bob Hardage, senior research scientist in the university’s Bureau of Economic Geology.

Wilson spoke about AdBm Technologies, a startup that has developed a ‘bubble curtain’ to help companies responsible for underwater noise reduce their impact on the ocean and marine life. With initial funding from Shell Global Solutions, AdBm is now marketing its noise reduction system.

Milner discussed CardioSpectra, a medical technology company he co-founded with Marion E. Forsman, Centennial Professor in Engineering at the Cockrell School. They developed a novel approach to cardiovascular imaging that allows cardiologists to provide better treatment to patients suffering from coronary artery disease.

For more information, visit http://www.otc.utexas.edu/Events/Colloquium/Colloquium.jsp