UT Austin Announces Entrepreneurial “Rocket Pack” to Speed New Venture Creation

Texas Venture Labs is a big, green GO button.

UPDATE March 11, 2010

Wednesday evening entrepreneurship was given a coming out party at The University of Texas at Austin. That was the spirit of the evening, and from the jovial and animated discussion after the formal announcement, it was clear that many from across the university and within the venture community in Austin were enjoying the moment.

Speaking to a packed audience of invited guests that looked like a Who’s Who of  Venture Hotshots in Austin, Dean Thomas Gilligan of McCombs School of Business formally announced the launch of Texas Venture Labs. It was a full crowd in the amphitheater at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center as Rob Adams explained the details of the program, followed by guest remarks by entrepreneur Daniel Nelson and Texas MBA student Randall Crowder. From there it was cocktail hour in the outdoor courtyard where the night air was just the right temperature for a night of celebration.

This will be fun to write about in the months and years ahead.

My original post:

This evening at 6:30 in the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, Dean Thomas Gilligan will take the microphone to announce a breakthrough initiative that promises to propel forward new business creation at The University of Texas at Austin. Entrepreneurs, strap on your rocket pack.

Over 300 guests have responded to the invitation to get a first-hand look at Texas Venture Labs, a campus-wide program designed to make it easier for students and faculty entrepreneurs to start businesses from the university environment. Texas Venture Labs is designed to simplify and give structure to the process for engaging with the myriad of start-up resources across UT Austin, from Moot Corp to I2P, IC2 to the Austin Technology Incubator, and everything in between. There are ideas bubbling up constantly around the university, in engineering and science labs, venture startup competitions, and from bright, imaginative students and faculty members who’ve figured out a better way to serve a market. The problem has always been knowing where to start, and Texas Venture Labs is a big, green GO button.

Formalizing what has been a skunk-works style operation.

If you’ve read any of my previous blog postings you are already familiar with a key figure in the labs, Rob Adams [right], who will be the director. Adams is also head of the highly respected Moot Corp competition hosted at the McCombs School of Business. With Adams at the helm, Texas Venture Labs promises to be the real thing, given the record of more than eight start-ups that have raised multi-million dollar rounds of funding already. “We’ve been running a skunk-works version of this approach for years,” he explained. “This is the model we are expanding.”

Upside for students and researchers who participate in the program is they get direct experience with the intricacies of launching a viable business from point zero. During the first year, the program will be open to graduate students from the Cockrell School of Engineering and the McCombs School of Business, but plans call for opening it up to students from all disciplines.

From their announcement:

Venture Labs works closely with other schools, including the Cockrell School of Engineering and the School of Law, and campus-based organizations, such as the Austin Technology Incubator and the Office of Technology Commercialization. It will guide entrepreneurs to the business, technology and legal resources available on campus and in the Texas entrepreneurial community. Students, faculty and researchers will also draw upon these resources as they mentor, guide and evaluate innovative ventures.

In addition, Texas Venture Labs has finalized its first business relationship with the Central Texas Angel Network (“CTAN”). Under this relationship Venture Labs will help CTAN identify start-up companies that have outside investment potential.

“This is an exciting example of the networking power Venture Labs can bring to the business community and the university” said Randall Crowder, the Master of Business Administration student president of Venture Fellows and CTAN’s executive director, who spearheaded the partnership. “With this beginning we can easily add other capital providers to the Venture Labs network, opening the door for even more opportunity for campus entrepreneurs.”

More from this morning’s Austin American-Statesman article by Lori Hawkins.

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