On Sept. 27, StartUp Aggieland, a program in the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, hosted its first event introducing new business pitches and network opportunities.
Blake Petty, director for the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, said the event was the first look at the teams that applied for StartUp Aggieland and the first time they could pitch their business ideas.
“So it’s important to note that yes, we are based out of the Mays Business School, but we are charged with assisting, supporting and marinating all entrepreneurs all across campus, no matter if they have an idea, if they have a business, an existing business, or if they are just curious about what it means to become an entrepreneur,” Petty said.
Petty said that the McFerrin Center is the hub for entrepreneurship here at Texas A&M.
“Startup Aggieland is one of the programs under the McFerrin Center … it is our accelerator for new companies,” Petty said. “It is the spot where entrepreneurial students can come meet, meet each other, test their ideas, change their ideas, build their business, build their teams … you can literally launch and grow your business while you are a student.”
The McFerrin Center and Startup Aggieland is not just a place to proof the hundreds of business idea that come through them, it is a place where the staff goes beyond that and teaches the students to proof their own ideas before pitching them, according to Petty.
“So we help students understand the principle of fail and fail fast, so that you don’t waste your time on an ideas that never is going to make it to market,” Petty said. “What we do is teach them the skills to evaluate which ideas they should continue pursuing.”
Jose Quintana, Class of 1986, helped restore the Ice House on Main where the event was hosted. Quintana is the president of Advent GX, a community development and historic innovations company.
“We have a business and technology incubator where we help about 52 companies grow, you know baby companies,” Quintana said. “So this happens to be one of our buildings. We rescue old buildings and make them accessible to the community.”
The 107-years-old Ice House is located in the north end of historic Downtown Bryan.
JT Natenstedt, engineering freshman and Caleb Feste, business administration freshman, started their own business called HighFive Protection and were invited to join StartUp Aggieland. They created a glove, called it the Stun Gun, that acts like a taser, however they have redesigned it to fit and function better.
“What it is it’s a glove that is comfortable and aesthetically pleasing, and it houses a powerful but discreet stun gun in the knuckles,” Natenstedt said. “And so what it does is it allows anybody, regardless of technical training or physical ability, to protect themselves in a moment’s notice, which is something that other products on the market lack.”
Their idea began approximately a year ago in their business incubator classroom at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas. They had 38 teams and only two were awarded $3,000 for their idea. Feste and Natenstedt won.
Rusty Burson worked for The 12th Man Foundation from 1996 to 2014, and is the author of “The Entrepreneurial Spirit of Aggieland,” which is a collection of entrepreneurial and business stories from people all over Aggieland.
“I had student workers who were so bright and ambitious, and I always wanted to figure out is there a way that I can connect these great entrepreneurs who I met and was raising money from and so forth, with the students,” Burson said. “Then by chance, and this is a God thing, a total God thing, I picked up The Battalion one day and there was an article about a new organization called StartUp Aggieland.”
Burson has written 22 books, most of them relating to The 12 Man Foundation, and was ready to publish something different.
Burson met with Startup Aggieland and shared his vision of the book about the entrepreneurial spirit that flowed through A&M, and all he asked for in return was their support and said that he would give 100 percent of the proceeds to Startup Aggieland.
He was inspired from a book called Traveler’s Gift, by Andy Andrews, that expressed that there is more learned from other people than from experience.
“If we can learn from people without having to make the same mistakes … that’s true knowledge, that’s why I kind of got this vision,” Burson said. “All of these [entrepreneurs in the book] went through amazing hardships and difficult times … So I just wanted to try and inspire students that if you [have] a business idea don’t wait, and go for it.”