It was an honor on Saturday to be the commencement speaker for the Class of 2015 MSTC (Masters of Science in Technology Commercialization) graduates at the University of Texas at Austin. One of the graduates, Rainya Mosher was kind enough to summarize her takeaways from my speech in her blog post and the full text of the speech follows:
When I was an undergrad student at the University of Texas at Austin I very much wanted to become an entrepreneur. During those years (1990-1994), however, there was almost no support for entrepreneurship at the University. I didn't feel "developed" enough to pursue my dream, so I decided to go into consulting instead and became an entrepreneur a few years later, while I was earning my MBA.
In September 2013, I began my tenure as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Texas at Austin. I was proud to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather, who taught at UT Austin his entire career. Instead of imposing what I thought the community would be need during my time as EIR, I took a lesson from building Bazaarvoice and Coremetrics. I created a team of four very influential and entrepreneurial student leaders and asked, “What does the student entrepreneur community need?”. The four were Taylor Barnett, Verick Cornett, Dan Driscoll, and Jonathan Van. We became the “Office of the EIR”. Nick Spiller joined our team later and right after graduation he joined UT to continue the charge as an entrepreneurial catalyst across the school.
I joined the McCombs Business School at the University of Texas at Austin as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the beginning of the 2013-2014 academic year. Yesterday marked my last day in this role. I kicked it off with a speech to the entering MBA class about the top-ten lessons I wished someone had taught me when I was beginning my MBA. I loved serving the University and it's students in this capacity. The entrepreneurial energy on campus is really fantastic and very encouraging for the future of both Austin and our nation at large. There is no doubt a huge trend towards entrepreneurship at most top-ranked universities and U.T. Austin is leading the way in one of the most entrepreneurial cities and states in our nation. Consider that Texas has created 70% of the new jobs in the U.S. since 2005, as reported by BBVA Compass, and you start to tune in a bit more into what is happening here. Compared to when I attended U.T. Austin from 1990-1994, where entrepreneurship was hard to find, every major college at U.T. now has its own entrepreneurial club and initiatives. In my Office Hours, I met with hundreds of students who have either launched their own business while at the University or they are actively planning on doing that at some early point in their career (I didn't become an entrepreneur myself until I was 24 and beginning my MBA, so I tell them I was a "late bloomer").
For all of us Austin fans, I'm talking about Cotter Cunningham, the founder and CEO of RetailMeNot. Last night, Cotter was one of our keynote speakers, along with Mark Cuban, at the University of Texas for Longhorn Startup Demo Day (the event was just fantastic, by the way, and Josh Baer, Ben Dyer, and Bob Metcalfe deserve a huge round of applause for it).
As of today, RetailMeNot is worth $1.33 billion as a public company (it went public in July and just filed for a follow-on offering). It is just four years old - for a value creation of $333 million per year. Who says Austin can't do B2C now? HomeAway is another one of our five tech IPOs in the last five years. It is worth $3.4 billion today as a public company (it went public in 2011). It is just nine years old. Yes, we haven't produced a Facebook or Twitter size outcome - there needs to be a higher volume of failures (entrepreneurial experiements) to do that, but don't forget we did produce a Dell, a National Instruments, and a Whole Foods.
Well, what a week it has been. Speaking of my last Lucky7 post on entrepreneurship being all about the journey, this week has been a one giant leap for Austin mankind (and womenkind, of course).
First, the week started out with an amazing Austin City Limits taping with the band Phoenix playing. Debra and I are annual donors to KLRU and attend these tapings regularly. Debra was out of town for this one, though, and I took Garrett Eastham, co-founder and CEO of Compare Metrics, a company that I proudly serve as their independent Chairman of the Board of Directors. You'll be hearing a lot about this company soon (it is currently in mostly stealth mode, taking a page out of my book - see my Lucky7 post on the weighing whether to be stealthy or not), and I'm having a blast working with them. Here is a photo of Garrett and I at the show. Phoenix was one of the best tapings I've seen - right up there with Pearl Jam, Arcade Fire, and The Lumineers.
Lori Hawkins, the business reporter for the Austin American-Statesman, interviewed me last week for an article that ran in the Sunday newspaper. I spent a lot of time with her on this - she is typically very diligent, and that is something that I've appreciated as an entrepreneur and now entrepreneurial catalyst and investor in Austin. She probably spent four hours with me on the article she wrote about my school-of-hard-knocks journey at Coremetrics to get it right.
This interview was full of advice for entrepreneurs and got a lot of attention. However, it had to fit the space constraints of the newspaper and came in around 1,000 words. So here's what you missed - a Director's cut, or a b-side if you choose. I've pasted the article in full below with quotes and filled in the additional content, which is not marked by quotes.
SXSW has long come and gone in this beautiful city - that was, like, weeks ago! Like years past, it reached more epic heights this year and companies and investors were spending more on gaining attention than ever before. And with SXSW, the typical, "how is Austin doing at tech entrepreneurship?" question was asked again and again. But out of all of the articles written, the one that I personally heard the most about was this one by PandoDaily: "Will the Austin startup ecosystem ever live up to its promise?"". It stirred me up to read it, no doubt. And it lead me to write this post to share my own thoughts - as an insider - on the state of tech entrepreneurship in Austin.
Reading Abundance is like going to TED - the main TED, in Long Beach, CA. I first went in February of 2011, and I cannot wait to go again in February of 2013 (only my second time to go). Later in 2013, I'm also going to TED Global in Edinburgh for the first time. Going to TED is a life-changing experience. It was especially moving in 2011 because my wife, Debra, and I had just visited Africa - also for the first time. Africa was life-changing too, but in a very different way. Going to Africa gives you incredible perspective on humanity and what really matters in life. Debra and I went to see the high school we helped build, via the Pipkins, the incredible leaders at The Nobelity Project. Seeing how we had directly helped a small village in Kenya was a game-changer for us. In Africa, you see some of the most beautiful landscape and animals of your life, coupled with the depths of the most pressing problems for humanity. It is overwhelming and when you return there is a thought of, "the problems are too big for humanity to overcome". Going to both - Africa and TED, side-by-side - was especially thought provoking. TED, and the brilliant book Abundance, address this unproductive "too big to try" thought head-on, and that stokes my optimistic entrepreneurial energy in a big way. I think it will do the same for you.