What Questions Will an Investor Ask You? Lessons from Texas Moot Corp

“Are you in the manufacturing business or the technology business?”

The Texas Moot Corp finals were last week.

Congratulations to Solavicta, the winning team, who want to produce a low cost solar power generation system. They made a great presentation and I’m not surprised they came away the winner, even though there were other teams who had terrific ideas and solid presentations.

I took notes of the questions asked by the judges, to shed light on the thinking process of the evaluators. Of course, these questions were specific to the ventures being pitched, but they give a hint of what an investor might ask in a similar situation:

– How will the product hold up over time?
– What is the projected lifetime of the product?
–Have you identified the designers who can solve some of the functional issues?
–Did you search for pre-existing IP? Are there others doing the same thing?
–How did you determine the performance factors upon which this product was designed?

Financial Model
– Explain the fixed and variable costs in your model
–Won’t you run out of money too fast?
–Why are the legal fees so high in your proforma?
–I’m worried that you could grow too fast and go out of business. Is your cost structure right?

Continue reading What Questions Will an Investor Ask You? Lessons from Texas Moot Corp


Research Lends Insight on Audi’s “Green Police” Spot: Making Eco-Friendly More Acceptable to Consumers?

“People are unwilling to openly admit they think sustainable products are not strong.”

This article is inspired by a blog post written by Elayne Crain for McCombs TODAY.

One of the most talked about commercials in this year’s Super Bowl collection was this spot from Audi, the “Green Police” drama which shows someone escaping from (or complying with?) a group of environmental enforcers while driving the new Audi A3.

Oddly, the commercial seems designed to both confuse and/or offend nearly everyone on any particular side of the environmental movement. But what was the real intent? David Roberts wrote on The Huffington Post:

To scratch one layer deeper: what is Audi’s message to these guys who want to be good but find the effort anxious-making? Here’s a way to meet your green obligations and still have a bad-ass car! The Audi A3 is both green and desirable — indeed more desireable because it’s green. Buried deep in this ad, in other words, is a bright green message: prosperity, pleasure, and sustainability can be achieved together.

Why does Audi feel such a message needs to be told? Look to a recent study by two researchers from the marketing department at The University of Texas at Austin, Julie Irwin and Raj Raghunathan, who point out that while 40 percent of consumers SAY they are willing to buy green products, only four percent actually follow through.

Continue reading Research Lends Insight on Audi’s “Green Police” Spot: Making Eco-Friendly More Acceptable to Consumers?

More Entrepreneurial Grab Bag: Moot Corp and Other Tidbits at UT Austin

Is it any wonder my head is spinning? Here is more fun stuff going on…

  • Didn’t get invited to TEDxAustin this Saturday, Feb. 20th? No worries, all the cool people are watching the live feed and talking about it on Facebook and Twitter. Here is how. Tickets were hard to come by, with less than 300 seats available in the KLRU studios, and lots of people were left wishing for a chance to participate. I did get a ticket (can I sell this thing on Craigslist?) but I’m seriously considering staying at home and watching the live feed, because the feed page lets you discuss speakers via Twitter or Facebook while they speak. Being a bit ADD I would enjoy that. So if you didn’t get a TEDx ticket, lets get together on the live feed page this Saturday. [The feed is possible thanks to Shannon Chapman at the McCombs Executive and Working Professional MBA programs at McCombs. Is an MBA in your future? See Shannon.]
  • Fast Company says you should start a company in Austin. Lots of good bragging details, but wait till you hear what Rob Adams is cooking up at The University of Texas at Austin. His public Continue reading More Entrepreneurial Grab Bag: Moot Corp and Other Tidbits at UT Austin

The Brand Called Charlie: Thoughts on the Passing of Texan Charlie Wilson

He understood regular folks, even while he led a life that would leave many of his constituents wide-eyed with shock.

[Looking for Charlie Wilson’s TV Campaign Spots?]

Former Texas Congressman Charles Wilson (District 2) passed away today. I heard the news from Kerry Tate, who wrote to ask if I wanted to drive to his funeral together.

Many people knew Charlie personally much better than me, and millions more know of him thanks to a captivating book entitled Charlie Wilson’s War by George Crile, which was turned into the movie of the same name starring Tom Hanks as the congressman. I can’t verify every detail of Crile’s account, but I can testify to the accuracy of his portrayal of the man, his characteristics and persona. The book fascinated me, because it gave context to many of my personal encounters over the years with Charlie.

I first met Congressman Wilson as a young television director working for KTRE-TV, channel 9, in Lufkin, Texas, the home of Charlie’s district office. I don’t know the details, but apparently he wanted our help producing a couple of inexpensive TV commercials for his campaign. I was a nobody, and certainly not involved in politics, and I’m sure the congressman barely knew I was involved in writing and directing the commercials. I remember being very concerned that the congressman would be happy with the commercials, after all most of our work was for local car dealers and banks. This seemed Big Time to us.

As usual, Charlie won the election, and we went back to working on the car ads, but during the next two years I left KTRE and launched a small advertising agency in Lufkin (and that’s a whole story of its own). Two years later it was campaign time again, and I went calling on the congressman to see if my little firm could handle his advertising. To my pleasure and surprise, I walked out of his door with the account. He was the most famous client I’d ever dreamed of capturing!

Continue reading The Brand Called Charlie: Thoughts on the Passing of Texan Charlie Wilson

The Front Lines of Student Entrepreneurship: Texas Moot Corp Semi-Finals

“This is the largest size offered by Victoria’s Secret. Most women will not fit into this size.”

Update on Texas Moot Corp Finals here.

What is it like for student teams to pitch a new venture at Texas Moot Corp? To see for myself I sat in on the semi-finals in division III, watching four student groups doing their best for 30 minutes to convince a panel of expert judges that their brilliant new idea should survive to the next level of competition. At stake is real opportunity, as Texas Moot Corp winners have an amazing record of obtaining actual funding dollars as opposed to getting a gold star and a pat on the back.

My focus was the last group on the agenda, Mentionables (photo), who shared with me some of their experiences getting ready for the pitch.

Here are my impressions from that day:

What are the Judges Looking For?

Judges for the session were Pat Mercado, Isaac Barchas, Rudy Garza and Terry Sadowski.

Sadowski is a managing partner at LGE Execs, Inc. He has served as a mentor with student teams, and before the competition he carefully reviews their business plan. “I’m always wary when I hear a team say that no one else does this, or they have no competition.” First and foremost, Sadowski looks for the market opportunity in a pitch. “Many teams fall in love with their technology,” he explained. “It may seem credible, and the problem they are solving is vast, but they spend 75% of their time romanticizing the problem and making hyperbolic statements about their solution. But without a market there is no business.”

Continue reading The Front Lines of Student Entrepreneurship: Texas Moot Corp Semi-Finals