Lead Story

Getting funded

Allison Kornher, February 27th, 2017

As a student entrepreneur here at Texas A&M, I get the opportunity to meet a plethora of new people and discover great new ideas. Generally, one would expect to hear about innovative startups or ways to get funding at a pitch competition and not from their next-door-neighbor. However this time, I heard about an interesting new way to help fund startups from my neighbor, Chris Gillett.

Chris is also a student entrepreneur who is involved in Startup Aggieland. He said, “though Texas A&M has a very robust entrepreneurial infrastructure, one aspect of starting a company is quite difficult. Despite the resources available to students and the historically tremendous potential of university startups, students still find it very difficult to raise money from venture capital funds.” I know Chris does not feel alone when it comes to the difficulty of finding funding. Plenty of student entrepreneurs struggle to find the funds to get their businesses off the ground. Currently, the best options for students are to look for university grants, university seed funds, or hope to find investors at events. Although all of the former options are great, it never hurts to add another way to find funding to the list.

The new source of funding that Chris told me about is a startup that is a decentralized, university focused startup seed fund. I had never before heard of a startup with the goal of funding startups. This just goes to show that there are more places to find funding than the typical venture capitalist. So next time you are at an event and looking for funding, don’t just talk to the investors, you never know who will be the one to lead you to funding.

 

 

 

 

As a student entrepreneur here at Texas A&M, I get the opportunity to meet a plethora of new people and discover great new ideas. Generally, one would expect to hear about innovative startups or ways to get funding at a pitch competition and not from their next-door-neighbor. However this time, I heard about an interesting new way to help fund startups from my neighbor, Chris Gillett.

Chris is also a student entrepreneur who is involved in Startup Aggieland. He said, “though Texas A&M has a very robust entrepreneurial infrastructure, one aspect of starting a company is quite difficult. Despite the resources available to students and the historically tremendous potential of university startups, students still find it very difficult to raise money from venture capital funds.” I know Chris does not feel alone when it comes to the difficulty of finding funding. Plenty of student entrepreneurs struggle to find the funds to get their businesses off the ground. Currently, the best options for students are to look for university grants, university seed funds, or hope to find investors at events. Although all of the former options are great, it never hurts to add another way to find funding to the list.

The new source of funding that Chris told me about is a startup that is a decentralized, university focused startup seed fund. I had never before heard of a startup with the goal of funding startups. This just goes to show that there are more places to find funding than the typical venture capitalist. So next time you are at an event and looking for funding, don’t just talk to the investors, you never know who will be the one to lead you to funding.

 

 

 

 

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ukeleleFinals week makes everyone ready to go home, but after about a week we all get bored and get into some type of winter break slump. In my case, I got stuck while working on prototype improvements for my business. I kept working on them without making progress. Sometimes when you get stuck, the best thing to do is take a break. So during my winter break slump, I decided to learn something new just for fun.

I occasionally go on campouts with my friends to Lake Bryan or just enjoy a nice night outside. At these events, someone always has their guitar to play. People will start singing along to the music and we all have a great time. I thought it would be fun to play guitar, but those things are not cheap, so why not a ukulele? It is a much smaller, lighter, and easier-to-learn instrument. So I went to the guitar store and purchased my very own ukulele.

When I got home, I pulled up some YouTube tutorials on how to play. It was really hard at first. In the beginning, my fingers thought that they all had to move together, I couldn’t strum in time, and if I tried to sing, everything would just get worse. But within a few days and hours of practice, I could play multiple songs. In fact, most popular songs use the same six chords in different orders.

I have only had the ukulele for about a week, but it is a lot of fun to play with the whole family. I had my mom pick songs and sing along as I played. Sometimes my dad would make up random lyrics and we would just have fun playing nonsense songs.

Taking a break from school and my business has let me have even more time to come up with new ideas. There is something about having fun and letting go of all the deadlines, stressors and social requirements that inspires creativity. Maybe next time you are in a slump, try something completely new and different. You may make more progress than you thought possible just by having fun.

 

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Sometimes, especially around finals, we tend to forget that the point of a class is not just getting a good grade, but also actually learning the material to prepare for our future careers. I sat down and got pointers from Alaina Huls, an MIS major, who truly understands that learning doesn’t stop in the classroom.

Alaina told me: “Technology is always changing and we will have to keep learning it even in the field. Going back and doing more on my assignment will help me in the long run.” The assignment she is referring to was building a web scraper using Python. She started the project trying to extract data from Spotify to create a playlist generator based on keywords in song listings. Along the way, however, she ran into some technical security issues. After discussing the problems the professor, she decided to make a simpler web scraper for the class.

For most people, the work stops there – they receive the grade they wanted and continue on with life. But that is not what Alaina did. She didn’t abandon her initial project idea and is continuing to work on it now. It is this type of drive that really sets her apart from other students. For Alaina, it isn’t the grades that matter, but rather the knowledge that she gains in the process. “If you just give up on a project you will not be able to fix the problem in the future.”

As finals approach, it’s a good idea to follow Alaina’s example. Start studying now so you can actually learn the information rather than just commit it to short-term memory for an exam.

Here are Alaina’s top tips to prepare for finals week:

  1. Find someplace quiet to study. During exam times, the libraries can get loud, so get creative with study places. Find places in buildings that are empty or study in an apartment with a friend who can hold you accountable and help you focus.
  1. If you have accomplished no work within the hour, try moving to a different surrounding. As Einstein said – “Doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.”
  1. Don’t study only in a group. Although study groups are great for essay-type questions, sometimes you need to find a quiet place, turn off your music and focus on memorizing terms.
  1. Paper flashcards are time-consuming and easy to lose. Try using an online program such as Quizlet to make your flashcards. You can study some terms on your phone on the bus ride to class and before you know it, you will be ready for exams.
  1. Don’t forget to take breaks, but don’t take them too often or too long. Each time you take a break set a timer and when it goes off, go back to studying –  don’t just keep pushing it off.

Good luck to everyone and BTHO finals!

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I was excited as I boarded the tiny jet out of College Station last Wednesday. This was the first flight on my way to Tampa, Florida for the CEO conference and the national pitch competition. Three Texas A&M students qualified for the national pitch round and we were ready to BTHO… ALL the other schools!

I learned 3 things on this trip:

1. You can bring PVC pipe on airplanes

2. Contact solution is expensive in hotels and

3. Aggies are awesome! Our CEO chapter placed in the top 3 across the nation and my previous suitemate, McCalley Cunningham, won 2nd overall in the pitch competition!

The competition was incorporated into a conference for students across the country to attend. All of the speakers at the conference were highly successful entrepreneurs and some were even household names. Two recurring pieces of advice that they gave us were to raise your profile and write a book. Raising your profile makes sense — the more people you have access and exposure to, the more likely you are to find an investor or a business partner. Writing a book, on the other hand, seemed odd. The speaker said writing a book makes you an expert in your field and gives you instant credibility.

I also met another pitch competitor named Morgan Barse who, in my opinion, gave one of the best pitches at the conference. She has an amazing product that converts shoes between flats and heels. I must say I really want this product to work well because I could really use it! The best part of her pitch was when she took her high heels off and threw them on the floor. I think almost every girl has wanted to do that at some point, but she actually did it, and it really grabbed people’s attention.

Although I did not place at the national level, I still learned some valuable information about how to become a successful entrepreneur and I made some great connections. I was lucky enough to get contact information from some of the speakers so we could keep in touch. One of them, who founded a company that everyone knows about, agreed to discuss more of their advice and experiences with me. I will be writing a blog with all of the advice that he gives me, so keep an eye out to find out who this person is. After missing three days of classes for the conference, I have also realized exactly how much we really learn in a day of class at school.  Unfortunately, I need to get back to homework now, but I will share more about the speakers in upcoming weeks.ceo-conference

 

 

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The music was softly playing when we saw the flashing lights ahead. We slowed down, but the car behind us did not get the memo. Everything was so surreal; I don’t remember being hit, but I do remember we went off the road and the car started to tip. The only visible thing in our windshield was grass. I was positive that we were going to roll over, but we were caught by the guardrail and went spinning in circles to the other side of  I-45. Disoriented, I closed my eyes and 12th-manwaited for it to be over and for the car to stop. When it finally did, I tried to open my door to get out, but it wouldn’t budge. I couldn’t think straight – it never even occurred to me to go out the other door.

Suddenly three moms came running towards us yelling “Get away from the car!” They had witnessed the crash, saw the puddle of spilled gas on the road and were worried the car would catch fire. They made sure we were OK and talked to us while we were waiting for the ambulance and police to get there. As we waited, the truck that had hit us continued to smoke and people continued to drive by. Always looking, but none stopped.

The ladies, who cared enough to stop, helped us when we were scared and hurt in the middle of nowhere. They guided us, comforted us, took pictures of the crash and even talked to our parents on the phone. It wasn’t until I saw an Aggie ring on one of their fingers that I knew they were Aggies – Aggies who truly embodied the spirit of the 12th Man! Now, sitting in the hospital waiting for my parents to come, I realize that these three complete strangers went above and beyond without even knowing that we were part of the Aggie family. Tons of other cars drove past; continued on their way leaving two teenage girls, a car that was scattered for a mile down the highway and a lady sitting in her smoking truck who had been too distracted to even put on her brakes before she hit us.

Aggies were there to help us in our time of need when things were messy, dangerous and no one was watching. These women really embodied the Aggie Spirit and I want to thank them! I now know that no matter where I go, there will always be an Aggie ready to help even when everyone else keeps passing by.

 

(NOTE: Allison and her friends have minor injuries but walked away from the accident.)

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We were supposed to have turned our video 30 minutes ago and we still didn’t have it in the correct format! Dressed half in suits and half in college clothes, running around to get everything finished before our 48-hour deadline — this is what my team looked like just an hour before we gave our presentation and won Aggies Invent!

snap-deskAggies Invent is an event in which teams of students are given 48 hours to create a new solution to an existing problem. Before it began, we were warned that it would feel like only four hours, but I think they were wrong, it felt like only three. Once all of the ideas had been pitched to the room and everyone had some pizza, we immediately began splitting off into teams to work on the project we found the most interesting.

Imagine having to learn sitting hunched-over on the floor with dim lighting. This is what many students in developing countries have to do every day, and it is the problem my team chose to tackle. We created a product called Snap Desk. With Snap Desk, students will have a sturdy portable desk and chair that doubles as a backpack to hold their supplies, but is still lighter than a MacBook and easy for a child to open.

Throughout the weekend we went through many iterations of building and designing the desk. After doing some initial brainstorming, we made a low-fidelity model (cardboard and duct tape).  The next morning, the team members split up to work on a CAD model, the presentation and the business plans and to build a full-scale model of our backpack. By the end of Saturday night, we left around 1 a.m. with the 3D printer still running, and a PVC frame for a backpack with some cut-up fabric. Sunday morning was a mad rush to finish the presentation and the full-scale model. Everything was coming together well. The presentation was almost done, the 3D model and the full-scale model were working great and the video was finished.

All that was left was to format the PowerPoint, embed our video and change into suits. When we transferred our video to another computer we realized our one big mistake: The video was in the wrong format and no one had the software on their computer to reformat it! That is how we ended up running around half in suits, half in college clothing just an hour before our presentation to a panel of judges.

Aggies Invent was a crazy and fun experience! There are many Aggies Invent competitions throughout the year. The topic of the next one is “Internet of Things” and is happening in October. I would suggest that you apply to these competitions. Not only are they fun, but they also give you a chance to work with people from different majors and see what difference you can really make in just 48 hours.

 

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Impressions can be made in subtle ways.  Differences in regional or cultural norms can send messages we aren’t aware of, so it is important to be aware of these as we meet people who may be influential in our careers.

caution

In honor of the Mays Retailing Career Fair on Tuesday at Wehner and the Business Career Fair Wednesday at Reed Arena, here are some tips:

  1. “Yes, ma’am.” While attending a business competition in another state I was called out for calling a lady “ma’am.” Although in Texas this is a sign of respect, in other states it can be considered rude because it’s like calling someone old. Keep in mind recruiters come from across the country.
  2. Although cowboy boots with business casual and professional is quite common on campus, it may not be received as well all over the country and should be worn with caution.
  3. Don’t forget to express your personality. Recruiters are looking for people who are not only academically qualified, but also interesting and fun to be around.  They need to build organizations with individuals who will help make the workplace interesting and will contribute to a team atmosphere. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people put on a suit and forget their entire personality. They become straight-faced and “business only.” Make sure you still let some of yourself show through.
  4. Don’t forget the Wehner suit closet. If you don’t have a suit or if your suit doesn’t fit, check out one from the suit closet. http://mays.tamu.edu/undergraduate-career-services/
  5. Recruiters don’t bite. Many people have a fear of speaking to recruiters at the career fair, but I can tell you from experience they are normally really nice. I went first semester freshman year and just asked recruiters questions and they were more than happy to talk with me. Even if you think it’s too early to look for a job or internship, knowing recruiters and feeling comfortable in the recruiting environment will make your life easier when you are actually looking for a jo
    b.
  6. Don’t forget to create and keep up with your LinkedIn profile. Although it is not as fun as Facebook, keeping up with your connections can make the prospects of career fair a little less intimidating.

Although the Career Fair sounds scary, make sure that you go. Meet at least one recruiter or find a class speaker who is recruiting for a company. Make sure you get a business card from them and send a follow-up email to keep in touch. Although you may never end up working at that company, simply getting to know a recruiter will show you they really are just humans, which will make the whole recruiting process a little less intimidating.

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If someone can list all of the Texas A&M University schools, they win a $100 bill.

Let me tell you, the speaker who started with this had the entire room’s attention. I attended the MSC Fall Leadership Conference during Gig ’Em Week, and I learned about more than just leadership. The theme of the conference was inclusive leadership and was based on the book Leaders Eat Last, but the important thing I learned from the conference was the power of passion.

It is my opinion that anyone can be a leader. Leadership is also something that cannot be taught, but needs to be experienced. The speakers at the conference focused on leadership as the message of their speeches, but by simply paying attention to more than just the words they said, I realized they had much more to offer. I have always been intrigued by public speaking. It is amazing how some people can capture a room no matter what they are saying.  I witnessed this at the conference. Some people used money to gain student’s attention, others simply spoke and hoped we listened, but still others drew in the entire room simply by speaking.

One of the last speakers at the conference grabbed everyone’s attention. She sucked the room into what she was saying with such force that afterward we all talked about her. Although she was not the funniest speaker, she didn’t have the most interesting topic in the world and she didn’t give us a bribe for our attention, she still captured our attention because she spoke with passion. When I think back on her speech what I remember is not only what she said, but the way she believed in what she was saying with her entire body. Every word she said came from the heart and powerfully impacted people.

This is why the most important thing I learned at a leadership conference was not leadership, but the power of passion.

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As we enter a new semester, I wanted to share a short list of things I wish I had done and known about before college.

  1. Download GroupMe. This is a group messaging app that lets you communicate with your friends and classmates no matter what type of phone they have. It is a great resource to bring together hallways in dorms, create study groups or just chat with your friends.
  2. Get rain boots. Before I moved to College Station, I had never experienced real rain. When it rains in College Station, it also floods – and wet socks are the last things you want to be thinking about during class.
  3. FLOs (Freshman Leadership Organizations) are not the only organizations to join on campus. FLOs are highly advertised, but also highly competitive. There are more than 1,000 clubs on campus and I would strongly encourage applying to some non-selective clubs also. That way you are guaranteed to get into an organization.
  4. Organize how you like to organize. No professor is going to tell you to purchase a 2-inch green binder and have graded binder checks. I personally never liked having binders, so I moved to folders in college. I use one per subject and file my old papers away in my dorm room so I can reference them later. This is your time to be organized in your own way. Just make sure you keep track of old notes and papers to review before tests.
  5. Quizlet is great not only for making flashcards, but also for finding premade flashcards. For some of my classes, I took notes directly into Quizlet and this helped me stay organized. If you spend 20 minutes every day reviewing the cards, you will be well prepared when it is exam time.
  6. You can meet people anywhere. I remember waiting in line to get my mailbox for last year. I ended up talking to the people who were in line around me and found out they were pretty awesome! We ended up getting lunch and going to the Puppy Station that day, and I am still friends with them today.
  7. Read cooking instructions twice. This one is for my amazing suitemate who put pizza rolls in the microwave for 20 minutes! We spent the rest of the year with pizza roll instructions being repeatedly taped to our door. If it is late at night and you are not sure how to cook something, wait until the morning. Your entire dorm will thank you for not setting off the fire alarm at 3 in the morning.
  8. “Hard work beats talent that hardly works.” Enough said.
  9. Don’t forget to have fun, too. My friends and I like to go to Harry’s or just play a movie at someone’s apartment. Having fun with friends can be cheap. There are a lot of apps that will reward you for not using your phone during class. For example, Pocketpoints will give you a free skating session if you don’t touch your phone during class!
  10. Think about who you want to be. College is a great time for you to become exactly who you want to be. Do you want to be the mom of the group? The partier? The smart one? It is all up to you, just don’t forget about school.
  11. You can get more than just books from the library. I recently discovered that the library has a green screen room! You can check out cameras, calculators and movies – even new releases! If you need something, check if the library has it. You may be surprised what you can check out.
  12. If you are having trouble with the busses, here is a quick rundown: Bus 27 gets you to HEB, Target and the mall. Bus 12 gets you to Blinn. Bus 4 will take you from West Campus to east campus (it stops near Fuego!). Bus 6 is known as the bus to Wehner, but Busses 4, 8, 3, 9, 1 and 5 go there, too. If bus 6 is full in the morning, try one of the other buses – they are normally less crowded.
  13. Need more money? I like to do the economic research studies and use the cash I earn for spending money. It is easy, painless and a great way to meet more people! You can get to the building on bus 5.
  14. Leave some Band-Aids in your backpack. If you are a girl, you may need them when you wear heels for events. If you are a guy, a girl will love you for having them when she is wearing heels for an event.
  15. Sweat is real, so get a good antiperspirant. Walking half a mile in the Texas heat will make anyone sweat. Antiperspirants block sweat and deodorants mask odors. Keep an extra in your backpack just in case.
  16. If you are searching for something at A&M, just type _______.tamu.edu and chances are it will come up.
  17. Textbooks can be expensive! To save money, you can purchase them used. Check your class Facebook page for people selling books. There are also free apps such as LiberWave to help you buy and sell used books.

Allison blog 8.18.16

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Are you crazy enough to wander into the deep depths of the entrepreneurship world? One group of students at Texas A&M took the plunge this summer.  The summer program at Startup Aggieland, run by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship and Dwight College of Engineering, entails discovering product market fit and perfecting how your product will benefAllison Kornher 8.16.16it your customer segment. The program focuses on entrepreneurship, but everything learned can be applied to virtually any job.

If you ever venture out to Startup Aggieland and look in the Think Tank (our
classroom) you will not see an ordinary classroom. The workspace is a collaboration of engineers, business students, and liberal arts and agriculture majors. All of these students have been brought together due to their entrepreneurial spirit, and organizations such as 3 Day Startup, Aggies Invent and more.
If you search across the country you will be hard pressed to find an entrepreneurial workspace that strives to include all majors, support their students, and not expect any portion of the business. You will also find dedicated mentors who generously offer their time to help students without any monetary gain. These mentors are the heart and soul of Startup Aggieland. Most of them are former Texas A&M students who have started a successful business and have come back to the school to help younger generations succeed.

I have been part of Startup Aggieland since I first started college, and the people and the program have become my home away from home. At Startup there is always a person who wants to help you and make sure you are on your way to success. We welcome all students to join us in our crazy world of entrepreneurship.

 

 

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