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Unlocking the Inner Entrepreneur
UTSA business students aren’t just studying entrepreneurship in the classroom, they are also putting their newfound entrepreneurial skills to practice and developing real businesses as part of the college’s newly revamped entrepreneurship program.
As part of a holistic approach to entrepreneurship, students majoring in entrepreneurship combine academic rigor in business fundamentals such as accounting, business law, economics, finance and marketing with contextual applications in entrepreneurship. They learn how to identify opportunities, make a business plan, launch a venture and distinguish between social and for-profit entrepreneurship.
“Our areas of focus in entrepreneurship include global, social and technology entrepreneurship,” said Dr. Cory Hallam, director of the Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship. “Our goal is to unlock the inner entrepreneur in students and faculty through education and experiential learning.”
Enrollment has tripled in the program with more than 150 students now majoring in entrepreneurship. In addition to the undergraduate program, the college now offers a graduate business certificate in technology entrepreneurship. The 12-credit hour program equips graduates with fundamental technology entrepreneurship and management skills.
In addition to the comprehensive academic offerings, the college has developed two unique centers focused in this area: the Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship and the Center for Global Entrepreneurship.
The Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship (CITE), an interdisciplinary center in the colleges of business and engineering at UTSA, was established in 2007 to create a pipeline for UTSA faculty, students and the surrounding business community to develop new technology ventures.
“Through a process of education, experiences, resources and support, CITE is focused on fostering the growth of new technology-based ventures as a catalyst for the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Hallam, an entrepreneur who holds a doctorate and master’s from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in engineering and technology management and policy.
The educational component is developed in the classroom as well as through guest lectures and a Technology Entrepreneurship Boot Camp that is hosted each semester for students, faculty and community members. The daylong event covers the A to Z’s of starting a high-tech company and is sponsored by Jackson Walker. The event culminates with a keynote address featuring local entrepreneurs. More than 800 individuals have participated in the boot camp program.
Infusing academic knowledge with experiential opportunities, entrepreneurship students experience the challenges of starting a business as participants in the college’s $100K Student Technology Venture Competition. The competition pairs engineering teams with entrepreneurship majors. Engineering students develop a working technology prototype, and business students prepare the business plan and company pitch. The joint team presents the final plan to a panel of judges at the end of the semester in a venture capital presentation. The end result is that students are developing marketable technologies and forming viable companies based on those ventures.
The teams are mentored by volunteers from the Harvard Business School Club led by William Tolhurst, ’85, president of the San Antonio club. The Technology Venture Mentor Program, in its third year, pairs local entrepreneurship and business leaders with the student teams to provide mentoring and guidance through the competition.
“It is personally rewarding to give students a view into the world of entrepreneurship,” said Tolhurst. “Working with students and helping to channel their energy, excitement and passion is a powerful experience.”
Winners receive $100,000 in services and prizes including consulting, marketing, legal and patent services, office space and other benefits. More than 450 students have participated in the $100K competition.
Competition participant and business alumnus Matthew Jackson, ’10, used the competition as a springboard to launch his student project into a growing company, PREE. “I’ve always wanted to own my own business,” said Jackson, chairman and chief financial officer of PREE.
The PREE technology was developed and patented at UTSA. It harnesses and converts energy from wireless local area networks as well as solar energy to create a sustainable charge in cell phone batteries. Teammate Amanda DeKay, ’10, continued on with PREE as well and now serves as its chief operating officer.
PREE has grown to become a technology development company that focuses on the strategic development, marketing and commercialization of innovative new technologies. They recently raised $500,000 in capital through an accredited investor offering and licensed the BabyM.A.T. System, a noninvasive monitoring solution for parents, from UTSA as well.
“It’s been quite a ride through this process,” Jackson said. “The education and training that I received at UTSA was invaluable.”
The competition is sponsored by the Texas Research and Technology Foundation, Cox | Smith, Harvard Business School Club of San Antonio, San Antonio Technology Center and Startech.
Following participation in the competition, students are provided with additional resources and support to help them make the transition into a fully operating business. Companies are allowed to join the Venture Lab, an incubator for early stage companies at UTSA. Five student companies are currently housed at the incubator.
“A vital component of our program is our ability to patent and protect the intellectual property of our students,” Hallam said. In the course of the program, five patent applications have been filed.
Several CITE-started companies are now progressing into the next stage of growth. Invictus is the first UTSA student start-up to apply for funding from the State of Texas’ Emerging Technology Fund. Beldon Enterprises licensed the IceGuard technology as a potential new product. And PREE has now licensed two products from UTSA.
Combining elements of both global and social entrepreneurship, the college’s Center for Global Entrepreneurship (CGE) was established to meet the educational and career needs of emerging market entrepreneurs and those who support them.
“Entrepreneurs drive economic development,” said Dr. Lynda de la Viña, dean of the College of Business and executive director of CGE. “This is especially true in developing and transitional economies, where 30 million active entrepreneurs are becoming a principal source of sustainable economic growth.”
The center promotes and advances the cause of global entrepreneurship through the support of student entrepreneurship study programs, educational programs and sponsored research.
This summer, a team of business students participated in an inaugural Global Venture Competition in the Canary Islands, conducted in partnership with CGE and CITE. (See story below). And students have participated in a semester-long global social entrepreneurship competition that tasked them with developing a business plan utilizing a green ammonia absorption refrigeration device to improve the cold chain process for storing vaccines in Africa. The winning team presented their research at an academic conference in the Canary Islands that addressed technology and social welfare issues in emerging economies.
“We are building the ecosystem to help support entrepreneurs,” said Dr. Anita Leffel, assistant director of CITE. “Many of our students are interested in the social aspects of entrepreneurship.”
Social entrepreneurship focuses on solving social issues locally and globally. Entrepreneurship is not just about for-profit businesses, but can also involve creating social enterprises.
As part of a class project, Davin Gutierrez,’10, developed Graffiti Foundation, a social enterprise created to support graffiti artists by connecting them with other venues for creating and displaying their art. One year following graduation, the venture is still operating.
In addition to support received from local businesses and organizations, UTSA alumni have also stepped forward to contribute to the success of this program. Last year business alumnus Bill Morrow ,’86, a serial entrepreneur and chairman of CSIdentity, pledged almost $100,000 to the program.
And, in a gift uniquely suited for a program of this nature, EMBA alumnus Dr. Paul Castella, ’05, managing general partner of Incyte Venture Partners, pledged 100,000 shares of stocks from four companies that he has established in the fields of bioengineering, life sciences and medicine. The gift was received from the Paul and Kelly Castella Family Limited Partnership.
The shares are from Aeon Bioscience, Inc.; BiO2 Medical, Inc.; ViroXis Corporation, Inc.; and Xenotope Diagnostics, Inc. Castella, who holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology and genetics from Cornell University Medical College, is chairman of the CITE advisory board.
“While we’ve seen unprecedented growth in our entrepreneurship program, our goal is to continue to expand the breadth of our entrepreneurship programs,” said de la Viña, who serves on the board of directors of the Center for International Private Enterprise. “These plans include creating a graduate program in entrepreneurship, establishing a new academic department in this area and building a seed fund for start-up companies. I will not rest until we’ve built the most comprehensive academic programs for our students.”
Students Compete in Global Venture Project
The College of Business launched a new Global Venture Competition this summer with the Universidad de las Palmas in the Canary Islands. The international technology entrepreneurship competition paired 12 UTSA business students with 10 engineering students from the Canary Islands.
“The goal of the program is to strengthen UTSA’s ties with strategic partners through participation in an international business immersion student competition in global technology entrepreneurship,” said Dr. Lynda de la Viña, dean of the UTSA College of Business and executive director of the college’s Center for Global Entrepreneurship. “The program provides students with the academic and practical global business immersion experiences that they need to become confident, successful international entrepreneurs.”
UTSA students attended three class sessions before embarking on the trip. During those meetings they learned about international trade and how to conduct research internationally. They also conducted a video conference with their engineering counterparts in the Canary Islands.
Once arriving in the Canary Islands, the groups had only four days of preparation to write the business plans and develop the presentations for the commercialization of six technology prototypes. The competition concluded by crowning winners for the best business plan, best pitch and best venture.
“Although I didn’t have any previous experience in writing business plans, I saw the trip as a great opportunity to challenge myself. I learned a semester’s worth of information in a week,” said Rebecca Oliver, a senior majoring in finance.
Oliver’s team developed a strategy for Morph, a piece of furniture that could transform from a cabinet to a bookcase to a table and a chair. “I wanted the chance to meet people whose culture was significantly different from my own, and I learned a lot about the current economic unrest that is affecting Spain,” said Oliver, whose team won for the best business plan. “Just discussing our cultural differences taught me a lot about the European society as well as how they perceive the U.S.”
The competition was led by Dr. Cory Hallam, director of the Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship (CITE), and Dr. Anita Leffel, assistant director of CITE.
“There is no word for entrepreneurship in Spanish,” Leffel said. “It was an invigorating and rewarding experience for all students involved. I can’t wait to expand on what we’ve learned and continue this partnership in the future.”
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