The university hosted its first-ever 3 Day Startup program from Sept. 22 – 24. The event, which spanned three days, was an open call for students of all majors to apply and “activate entrepreneurial potential” through “experiential education and a global entrepreneurship ecosystem,” according to the company’s website.
On Friday students and 3DS facilitators gathered in Mabee Ballroom and came up with potential business ideas. Then they took a blind vote to narrow the field and broke into groups to begin work on the idea of their choosing. On day two, the students moved out into the Austin community to engage in customer discovery, a concept central to the 3 Day Start Up mission.
“These students took their ideas literally to the streets,” said Nancy Schrieber, Dean of the Bill Munday School of Business.
The focus for each startup group was providing “proof of concept, according to Maia Donohue, lead facilitator for the program. Engaging with the community and investigating the real-world workability of each idea are paramount to success in the startup community, Donohue explained as he addressed the students.
Cam Houser, CEO and co-founder of 3 Day Startup, echoed these sentiments when asked about what makes a startup likely to succeed.
“No one can recognize good startup ideas,” Houser said. “Execution is what matters.”
After directly engaging the Austin community, participants crafted their pitches and worked with mentors in order to refine their ideas and address problems with each idea. Mentors helped each group improve by asking questions designed to flesh out each pitch, such as: Is there anyone that doesn’t want this to succeed? Who are your competitors? Is there a real problem being addressed by this business?
“They gave us some serious, abrasive questions,” student Isabella Medford said.
Groups fired off questions for each mentor in an attempt to maximize their time with each professional. Startup ideas underwent several iterations each day, owing to both the advice of mentors and continued brainstorming from students.
“[The mentors] made us rethink our weaknesses,” student Nick Boulanger said.
The final six groups gave their final, three-to-five minute pitches to a panel of judges at the end of the program on Sunday. Local, one of the final groups, wanted to create an “AirBNB for people,” according to group member Dominic Del Fierro.
According to Boulanger, Local is an app that tourists can use to hook up with locals in a city to experience authentic events and locations “that only a local would know.”
The panel of judges was composed of regional venture capitalists and business professionals. Gordon Daugherty, Managing Director of Capital Factory, a startup incubation firm with which St. Edward’s has a partnership, explained his goals in providing feedback to each group.
“I have a feeling that some subset of these students will actually pursue their idea,” Daugherty said, “So I feel an obligation and an opportunity to give them some feedback and some honest advice so if they do go to the next step they’ve gotten some feedback from a professional that lives in that world.”
The entrepreneurial focus of 3 Day Startup fits directly into the goals of the Bill Munday School of Business, according to Schrieber.
“Our goals are to amplify entrepreneurship on this campus and across this campus, not just for business students,” Schrieber said. “We think the best business education is interdisciplinary.”
Still, some students voiced concern over the diversity of majors represented among 3DS participants.
“I wish I would’ve had more CS [computer science] majors to talk to,” sophomore Oscar Parra said.
“That way, we could have been building something rather than just creating an idea,” Del Fierro said.
Despite the final pitches and feedback session on Sunday evening, Katie Finney, an outreach coordinator for the Bill Munday School of Business, assured that the 3 Day Startup program is meant to be a beginning, not an end, for these students.
“Our goal is to provide a platform for some of the other startup events that are coming up [in future months]” Finney said.
“This creates a much more in-depth pipeline” to accomplishing startup goals and attending events such as the iChallenge on the Hilltop event later this semester, Schrieber said. Schrieber also emphasized that participation in the 3DS program is not a prerequisite to competing in iChallenge on the Hilltop.