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The Startup Journey – Phase 2

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I’m back, and entrepreneurs still run the world! As I mentioned last week, we at UT Dallas preach innovation and entrepreneurship as a philosophy, a lifestyle and a call to action. The entrepreneurial journey can be broken into four main categories: theoretical development, idea to launch, launch to growth and the innovative mindset. Over the past and next few weeks, I will continue to walk you through the life that is entrepreneurship through four phases and then tie in UT Dallas academic and nonacademic programs in order to show you what the University has to offer; you don’t even have to leave campus, yet.

Idea to Launch

Now the action happens! The startup phase, conveniently described as Idea to Launch, encompasses the very essence of entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur is not an entrepreneur until he or she has actually started something, and a serial entrepreneur is one who habitually starts companies. Entrepreneurship is like a disease, you don’t know where it comes from, and it eats you from the inside out — Wait, that’s not biologically accurate, but you get the point. The question I get all the time from wannabe entrepreneurs, affectionately called wannapreneurs, is “How do I start a company with no money and no help?” Well, that’s what I’m here to help with.

The Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship was created in 2006 (yeah, exactly, when you were in elementary school) to help students, faculty and alumni in the process of launching new businesses by providing education, resources and mentorship. The only reason our team has a job is to help you launch businesses; so please keep us employed and start a company. We offer a variety of programs that helps wannapreneurs evaluate idea feasibility, build a team, gain access to grants and investors, and connect with mentors in the idea to launch phase.

There are a variety of programs and processes designed to offer students help. First is the Business Idea Competition (BIC), where each fall hundreds of students team up to develop and submit ideas that are evaluated through multiple stages of judging for the chance to win thousands of dollars. Last year, the final event had six teams pitch in the ATEC auditorium to one thousand of their closest friends and Mark Cuban. This year applications were due October 10th, and all you need is an idea and to answer some basic business questions. The top 25 will be selected to present to guest judges in early November, and the final five will present to a group of celebrity judges (celebrity being a relative term) in the ATEC auditorium in mid-November.

The next big program to consider is Comet Accelerator (formerly Launchpad). Each semester, for 10 weeks, student teams work on their ideas (after a competitive application cycle) by developing a minimum viable product, speaking to customers and building a business case and pitch. At the end of the semester, the teams pitch for money, mentors and glory. This semester’s cycle is already under way, but stay tuned for the spring cycle of Comet Accelerator.

Finally, we have exciting news about a new space on campus dedicated to students who have ideas, need a place to work on them and meet teammates, and to host programs called Blackstone Launchpad. This space will be the home for all startup programs beginning in January of 2017 in Parking Structure 3 (think IHOP and Einstein Bagels). More to come, so stay tuned. Please join me next week as we look at the third phase of the journey, launch to growth.

Jeremy Vickers

Jeremy Vickers is the executive director of the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, where he leads a team focused on cross-campus startup activity and entrepreneurship curriculum. Prior to his arrival at UT Dallas, Jeremy was at the Dallas Regional Chamber from 2011 to 2015 as the vice president of innovation. He led strategy and program implementation to support building the North Texas innovation ecosystem. Read more articles

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