May 18, 2014: No institution has asked me to deliver a commencement address for the class of 2014, but here below is a template for the record in case you or I are picked as a last-minute replacement somewhere. That’s not been an uncommon need this spring when protestors have driven off notables like Condoleezza Rice. She’s probably fine with that; it gives her more time to work on her golf swing and be in top form when Augusta National reopens in the fall for member play.
May 11, 2014: At the Chamber of Commerce A-List event this past week, Mike Maples, Jr. of Floodgate VC challenged the community here to set a goal to create a new $100B tech company. That would be an achievement on the order of Dell, which has had a profound impact on the city’s economy and spawned countless entrepreneurs and investors along the way.
May 4, 2014: At our Longhorn Startup Demo Day on April 24, team MicroMulsion, which is developing microgels for cell cultures in bioengineering research, announced an investment by Mark Cuban. That investment came as a direct result of Cuban’s appearance at our previous Demo Day in December, where he spent time with all our dozen teams and was intrigued enough to ask to invest in this particular one. The accompanying photo shows Biomedical Engineering student Ani Sharma presenting his company on the big stage.
April 27, 2014: How many passwords do you have? As of today I have 148 that I have to maintain. I know there are some very good password management software products and apps, but I still feel compelled to keep track of my own and easily be able to change them when hacks like the Heartbleed bug come along. I’m not sure I want yet another layer of software on top of websites that I access often. Since sites have different rules about password lengths and character requirements, there’s no one-fits-all solution, nor would that be a very wise practice in any event.
April 20, 2014: “We really like you guys, but we don’t like your product.” That comment from about 1980 has stuck with me; I got to know very well the two gentlemen running Sears computer stores at that time, and that was their polite way of delivering a rejection. I think Peachtree Software has generated more profits than all of Sears in the intervening decades and is only increasing its lead today, but no one is keeping that score (except me).
March 13, 2014: An interesting event this week was a mock company formation exercise for a group of Venture Fellows from UT’s McCombs MBA program. That terminology may not evoke high anticipation like “Sunday at the Masters,” but the organizers at Andrews Kurth put together very thoughtful teaching cases and provided their deal attorneys and a supporting cast of mentors and advisors for a half-dozen teams or so. I was one of the mentors for a case with three students playing their assigned roles.
April 6, 2014: An annual event that I always find interesting at the University of Texas at Austin is ISOJ, the International Symposium on Online Journalism. This week’s 2014 edition was no exception.
March 30, 2014: Thursday was practice pitch night for the Longhorn Startup teams, with four weeks to go before our semester ending Demo Day. Much has been written on the basics of pitching, but in this post I’m going to talk about four of the nuances that I observed both in the class and at SXSW a couple of weeks ago. Here we go, in no particular order:
1. The “Science Project” Trap
March 23, 2014: We have many distinguished speakers in our Longhorn Startup program with considerable business successes on their resumes. We hope our students begin to recognize patterns and to learn behaviors that may lead to their own success stories a few years down the road. When one has been a founder of a really big win, he or she always has great justifications for that win, but, in truth, it’s hard to realize and explain the full array of forces that must have converged to make that possible.
March 12, 2014: Another year of SXSW Interactive has concluded, and I’ve reclaimed my couch from my valued guest (and son). I spent the majority of my formal event time at the SXSW Accelerator, as a coach, judge, and spectator. I look forward to this every year as the culmination of my Qualifying Committee’s work in reviewing and vetting all the 500 or so entrants when they submit their applications in November. It’s great ultimately to see the finalists and alternates in person where they can really bring their ideas to life.