I just completed my second year of teaching the New Ventures class for the Digital MBA program at St. Edwards University. It will be my last time to teach the class, as I expect to be out of the country next year. (More on that later.)
Serving as a professor for a University-level class has been a long-time interest of mine. I got the bug to teach several years ago, after doing one-shot lectures as a guest speaker.
So, when the opportunity to be an adjunct presented itself for this program, thanks to the support of Director Russell Rains (in the photo, at left), it seemed like the perfect fit.
I wasn’t disappointed. The experience for me, and hopefully for the students, has been great for several reasons.
First, it’s given me a chance to impart at least a little bit of what I’ve learned the past couple of decades in and around start-ups. Lessons like explaining the difference between product marketing and product management. Or focusing on the key items on a term sheet, a financial model, or a cap table.
Second, it’s provided me a platform for introducing people in my interpersonal network of professional colleagues who I think are among the very best at what they do in Austin for supporting tech start-ups. People like attorney Ryan Gravelle at KHRG and CFO services expert Dave Donovan at Bridgepoint Consulting, who came in and guest lectured for the class.
As I told my students more than once during the term, half the value of the class – by my design – was the opportunity for them to meet and hear from these and other Austin-area professionals so that the students, like me, could add the Ryan’s and Dave’s to their networks.
Third, and last, it permitted me the chance to participate, up close, with 8 three-person teams of MBA candidates, each starting from scratch, working with them to produce the most compelling, real-world venture they could imagine.
Being steeped in the mobile & app industry as I am, the one technical parameter that I required in the venture concepts they developed was that they had to embrace some aspect of mobility in their final product or solution. (The other two parameters were: had to be “real world” – no pitches to invent the Star Trek transporter – and had to target a potential of growing significantly in 3 years…no small “lifestyle” businesses allowed.)
What the students developed was great! And, for anyone that keeps returning to the start-up world, that’s the payoff – the diversity and ingenuity and passionate commitment to ideas that small teams of people display when they get excited about a product. Here’s quick list of what they came up with:
- BandLens – kind of an Instagram for concerts and other live event videos, comprised of user generated content (UCG)
- Beyond Solos – professional musical accompaniment for classical music, on the go
- Dandy – an alternative marketing option for tradeshow exhibitors and marketers at any event
- Dash n Dine – like an Urbanspoon, but for pick-up/delivery, and with more merchant value
- Filter.FM – a better music search engine, without the overhead of a Pandora
- Hello House – server and app technology that simplifies the sale of foreclosed real estate
- HomescreenTV – TV the way people really watch
- Video Voodoo – easy UCG videos for brand builders and marketers
In the final analysis, after the students presented their pitches to the seven-person investor panel that came in to score them (including, among the judges, Austin Startup’s editor Bryan Menell), the most gratifying part was to see how far they had all come in shaping their ideas over the term.
I highly encourage anyone who has an interest in sharing what you know with future generations of entrepreneurs to get involved in the St. Edwards program or others, like UT-Austin’s new 1SemesterStartup.
For me, the only alternative I’ll have for keeping involved in such a program next year will be if I can find an accommodating program in Shanghai, China. Because, as early as January, I’ll be leaving to spend the next year in Shanghai as an American member of Appconomy’s leadership team to help get our operations up and running there.
As readers may have seen in yesterday’s AustinStartup post and other media, through a combination of hard work, relationship building, and the usual intangible elements, Apponomy was pleased to announce the backing of new and returning investors for a $10 million round of funding. To make good on our investors’ commitment and belief in our model, we’re committed to rapidly “standing up” our business in China.
With every new door opened like this one, it becomes time to close other doors. In this case, one of the doors I have to close is my multi-year run as a regular columnist for AustinStartup. Thus, next Tuesday will be my final regular column.
Hopefully, I’ll still have a chance to make an occasional post from Shanghai. One thing’s for certain: China officially may be a communist state, but the entrepreneurial spirit there flows strongly, as evidenced by this write-up in The New York Times DealBook about one of Appconomy’s new investors.
So, have a terrific Christmas, coming up this weekend, and if you get the chance, come back next week during a break from the holiday feasts and football for one final mobileTechTuesday.