By James Martinez '14 | Vol. I Issue 2
Every Friday night, America watches as everyday people present their ideas and inventions to some of America’s most successful entrepreneurs on the show Shark Tank. Some of them are rejected outright, while others are offered investments to help further their companies.
This was the inspiration behind Shark Frenzy Investor Day, where six teams of current students presented their ideas to five "sharks." Shark Frenzy Investor Day was aimed at cultivating entrepreneurship and getting new investors for student start-up companies.
The five sharks were no less intimidating than those you watch on TV: John D. White of Houston, current member of the Board of Regents; Dr. Bob Metcalfe, co-inventor of Ethernet; Steve Leach, former Dell Venture Manager; Ray Rothrock, Forbes Midas List venture capitalist; and Rod Canion, co-founder of Compaq—all successful founders, CEOs, venture capitalists, advisors and entrepreneurs.
The student teams pitched their ideas in creative and entertaining forms, and afterward the sharks bombarded them with questions regarding their businesses. Most surprising to witness was that the teams, while nervous, fired back answers without hesitation.
The opportunity these six student teams had was all thanks to Startup Aggieland, a peer-led program that fosters collaboration and mentoring to student start-up companies. Managed by Professor Don Lewis, a successful entrepreneur and award-winning faculty member, Startup Aggieland is a resource and facility that all students can utilize. The program offers co-working spaces, free business counseling and networking opportunities. Texas A&M takes no equity stakes in the companies and ensures that students who are involved have full rights to their intellectual property.
"At Startup Aggieland, we help you to turn your passion into a project that can be built into a real business while you are enrolled at Texas A&M University," said Shelly Brenckman, marketing coordinator for Startup Aggieland. "Startup Aggieland helps students to leverage state and private resources ranging from $24,000 in free Rackspace web hosting to free provisional patent preparation and entity formation by leading Aggie partners at prestigious law firms. Students have an opportunity to improve their résumés and stand out from the pack by showing that they can start and complete something meaningful that generates revenue, hopefully improves life in some way and may possibly lead to a great job after graduation."
SHARK IN TRAINING
Focused, driven, intellectual and creative all describe Chris Findeisen '17. He is the youngest member of Startup Aggieland and also the first freshman accepted into the program as a student Entrepreneur-in-Residence. Findeisen, a computer science major from San Antonio, has been involved in developing companies over the past two years. While some have failed, he thinks he has found a winner in StudyOnBoard.
StudyOnBoard provides free online study rooms where students can collaborate. Findeisen founded StudyOnBoard last June with University of Texas at San Antonio student Roberto Talamas, after discovering a lack of online study tools available to him and others like him.
"Our main thing is just providing a collaborative workspace for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students," said Findeisen. "STEM students are receiving their assignments and readings online, but then there is a lot of collaboration that is expected to happen. The only place where that can happen is the library or a coffee shop. You can’t get on Google documents and draft up math equations."
Findeisen was recently given the opportunity to speak at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, and he also found himself in front of five investors pitching StudyOnBoard during Shark Frenzy Investor Day.
After talking to Findeisen, it is hard not to root for him. His passion for helping STEM majors is evident. He has seen a void in collaboration, and with hard work and help from Startup Aggieland, he intends to fill it with StudyOnBoard.