By Jessie Minks ’16

On the morning of Feb. 17, the Cocanougher Center was filled with an audience of business and community leaders serving as judges, anxiously waiting to learn the mission and goal of 16 start-up companies that teamed up with the first-year students from the class of 2017’s Full-Time MBA program. Held in partnership between the Mays MBA Program and the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE), the 2017 MBA Venture Challenge wrapped up its 15th year with three winning teams going home with a total of $10,000.

The day kicked off with the first round: the elevator pitch competition. Pitches ranged from a simplified physical fitness booking app and streamlined water purifying approaches to emerging drone security system technology. Elevator pitch winners Eric Jensen, Matt Larsen, Zain Hanif and Ellen Schott took home $500 after impressing the judge and company representative audience with their interest-sparking and comical pitch for InfinitySoft, a scalable data analytics platform provider for the oil and gas industry.

This year’s MBA Venture Challenge contained 68 first-year MBA students tasked with assisting applicant companies with business advice and financial/competitive analysis on current and future market and growth strategies. Each year the MBA Venture Challenge creates high-stakes competition between teams, for both sponsored cash awards and significant bragging rights. Additionally, the competition provides networking opportunities as well as high-value insights for participating firms.

The Venture Challenge asks the MBA student teams to provide a clear, unbiased and business-oriented evaluation of their selected firm’s market and financial viability. The start-up firms are invited to apply from throughout the Aggie Entrepreneurship Ecosystem, and the MBA teams selected their favorite firm, based solely on a short summary provided by the applicants. The program operates through partnerships and sponsorship from the Aggie Angel Network, JB Knowledge and the Texas A&M University Division of Research. The original 26 business applicants came from a wide variety of industries, including human tissue engineering and ecommerce, adventure media and consumer products.

While the MBA teams were allotted only two weeks of direct contact with their assigned company representatives, they were provided feedback and direction from industry and university mentors, including the MBA program faculty and volunteer entrepreneurs. Full-Time MBA Program Director Shannon Deer explains “the MBA Venture Challenge encourages our students to integrate what they have learned across the business disciplines” and allows each team to “demonstrate the ability to navigate ambiguity and intellectual curiosity – two critical skills our employers seek in our students.”

The MBA Venture Challenge consisted of a full-day competition over three rounds of judging by an audience of experienced judges from CNVE’s network of business, academic and entrepreneurial community leaders. Each round required the teams to present a concise yet in-depth analysis of the start-up and provide meaningful recommendations for future company success.

“Now in its 15th year, the MBA Venture Challenge has clearly set the standard for high-intensity and high-impact interaction between student teams and startup ventures,” said Blake Petty, director of the CNVE. “The analysis provided by these outstanding MBAs has proven to be immediately invaluable to the participating companies, and there is simply no better way to expose our students to the real-life challenges of entrepreneurship than to immerse them into a startup…even if only for two weeks.”

For those companies or judges interested in participating in the 2018 MBA Venture Challenge, be on the lookout for application information to begin circulating in November 2017.

The winning MBA teams were announced Feb. 17 at a networking and awards reception immediately after the Venture Challenge:

$5,000 – First Place (sponsored by the Texas A&M Division of Research) – Brent Carter, Nick Cheng, Philip Spencer, Jana Soares; CelaCare

$3,000 – Second Place (sponsored by the Aggie Angel Network) – Mario Coll, Thomas Dowlearn, Eclair Lehmongkol, Ankur Soni; IntuiTap Medical

$2,000 – Third Place (sponsored by JBKnowledge) – Meagan Altman, James Cochran, Lia Rojas Unamo, Rahul Sharma; FireDisc

Learn more about the results of previous MBA Venture Challenge competitions.


Categories: Centers, Entrepreneurship, Mays Business, MBA, News, Staff, Students, Texas A&M

Ten Mays Business School students were given the MBA Scholar Award Dec. 1 – a new award designed to honor 4.0 graduates from the MBA programs. The celebration at CityCentre Houston was attended by Mays Dean Eli Jones, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs Arvind Mahajan and Assistant Dean for Graduate Programs Michael Kinney celebrated with the Executive MBA and Professional MBA Program Class of 2016 graduates.

Scholars enrolled in the Executive MBA Program were Rajee Hari and Santiago Velasquez. Scholars in the Professional MBA Program were Kenza Bouzaher, Brad Burgess, Lane Cooper, John Doolin, Shelly Fuhrman, Ashley Gibson, Tyler Stegeman and Paul Urane.

The idea for the award came from Bala Shetty, who previously was Interim Associate Dean for Graduate Programs.

MBA Scholar Award winner Brad Burgess said afterward, “The program has done so much for me and opened up many new opportunities. I look forward to helping this program grow and prosper in the future.”

To view photos of the Class of 2016 Scholars Awards Dinner visit

Categories: Alumni, Dean Eli Jones, Featured Stories, Mays Business, MBA, News, Programs, Students, Texas A&M

andrew-jarrettA startup that competed in the annual MBA Venture Challenge at Mays Business School in February was recently admitted to Startup Aggieland as a client company. It joined the campus-based accelerator program’s Lifestyle group, exclusive for early-stage ventures that generate revenue.


ResponderX is a team of technical, non-technical and emergency service providers who are dedicated to engineering safety solutions for firefighters across the nation. Volunteer firefighter Andrew Jarrett formed the company team to promote the use of TaskForceTracker, his patent-pending technology consisting of small device attaches to the top of firefighter helmets and is able to provide critical information such as location and condition of the personnel on the scene.

He said he was inspired to create TaskForce technology to save lives after two local firemen lost their lives during a Feb. 2013 rescue at the Knights of Colombus hall. “Someone got lost in the fire and we had to go search for him,” Jarrett recalled. “When the dust settled, we realized that the guy they came to rescue was very close to an external door to the back building. That’s when it came to me that there is a better way to do this.”

ResponderX founders Jarrett and Jerry Lozano participated in the annual MBA Venture Challenge through Mays Business School at Texas A&M University in February 2016. Over an intensive two-week period, they worked with two Texas A&M MBA students whose task was to complete an in-depth analysis of the business and market segment of Jarrett’s startup company, ResponderX.

“Armed with the research provided to ResponderX by the MBA team, we were able to approach serious investors for the first time with a truly accurate depiction of our business valuation and well-documented market research,” said Jarrett.

The information helped Jarrett raise almost $200,000 in funding.

“The MBA Venture Challenge may have been one of the single most important things to happen to our startup in the past year,” Jarrett explained. “The research, projections, and recommendations provided to me by the student team we were partnered with were priceless, and we continue to use the materials they created to help us in our projections to this day.”

As a client company of Startup Aggieland, ResponderX has been assigned three mentors:

  • Startup Aggieland Entrepreneur-in-Residence Nathan Day, a retired founding CTO of SoftLayer and Texas A&M former student who lives near Austin;
  • Startup Aggieland Entrepreneur-in-Residence Brian Kralyevich, a VP UX for Amazon in Seattle and a Texas A&M former student;
  • Dave Manzer, an Aggie mentor for Startup Aggieland who owns Manzer Communications in Austin;
  • Shelly Brenckman, a student co-founder and marketing coordinator as well as manager of the CNVE Mentor Network and Startup Aggieland’s Dormcubator.

Burnt gear from the firefighters who died in February 2013 is used to demonstrate how important safety is on the fireground.

Categories: Centers, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Management, Mays Business, MBA, News, Startup Aggieland, Texas A&M


The Mays Full-Time MBA Program at Mays Business School ranked 18th overall and 4th among public schools in the “Best full-time MBA programs” rankings by Bloomberg Businessweek. The placement was up from last year’s ranking of 22nd overall and 8th among public schools.

The rankings were based on data for the class that graduated in December 2015 and from feedback from students who graduated between 2008 and 2010. Former students ranked the Mays program favorably – 13th out of 81 programs ranked. Mays also fared well in the employer and job placement categories.

…Read more

Categories: Alumni, Dean Eli Jones, Mays Business, MBA, News, Texas A&M

30475321610_1698025dc3_oWomen should relish their roles and not try to behave as men, an energy industry leader told a group at an Oct. 26 reception at Mays Business School’s CityCentre Houston campus.

And they should never resurrect the fashion statement of the 80’s, when women wore neckties. “Be a woman, and you CAN succeed.  Don’t try to be a man,” said Amanda Brock, who is founder and CEO of Water Standard, a global water treatment company.

The fall Women’s Leadership Initiative provides female current and former Mays MBA students with a series of women-only seminars to create connections and practice networking skills for their professional development. About 60 women gathered to hear Brock speak on “Leading with Purpose: Resilience, Power and Collaboration.”

Brock said women need to consider facts, context and self on their journeys. “For a very long time, men have had a real dissonance with women in the workplace,” she said. “Women were sisters and mothers, not equals in the office. This new generation looks to be breaking down the barrier where previous generations did not.” …Read more

Categories: Alumni, Centers, Featured Stories, Mays Business, MBA, News, Texas A&M

Julie Orzabal, director of the Executive MBA program at Mays, got the experience of a lifetime recently! Selected under the Navy’s Key Influencers program, Orzabal was able to fly as a backseat rider in the Blue Angel’s Jet Number 7 with Lt. Tyler Davies. She posed mid-air with the Executive MBA Class of 2018 Class Coin.

The Blue Angels celebrate their 70th anniversary this year and were in Houston Oct. 22-23 for the Wings Over Houston Airshow.


Categories: Featured Stories, Mays Business, MBA, News, Staff, Texas A&M

trifusiondevicesTriFusion Devices, the winner of the 2016 Rice Business Plan Competition (RBPC), the world’s richest and largest student startup competition, was invited to ring the opening bell Monday at the NASDAQ Stock Market in New York City. Cofounders Blake Teipel and Brandon Sweeney participated in the morning ceremony, along with representatives from RBPC and Texas A&M University, including Philippe Hercot, executive professor and director of Aggies on Wall Street at Mays Business School.

TriFusion Devices was the first Texas A&M team to win the Rice competition, the world’s largest student-centered business plan competition. The team received checks totalling nearly $400,000.  

The team illustrates a collaboration between several colleges at Texas A&M, and it bolsters the arena of health care – a priority at Texas A&M and at Mays. “So many faculty and staff members invested in these young people. The team’s success is a beautiful example of collaborating across the university and beyond,” said Mays Dean Eli Jones. “It aligns nicely with our primary mission of advancing the world’s prosperity by developing such areas as entrepreneurship and health care.”

Their project was based on breakthrough additive manufacturing products and services aimed at simplifying and expediting the process of manufacturing custom prosthetic devices. The team applies a revolutionary, patent-pending process that fuses together 3D printed parts to next-generation biomedical devices. The result is a durable, lightweight, custom-fit prosthetic device created within 48 hours, saving time, labor, and materials by eliminating the residual limb plaster-casting process and the current need for test-fit sockets.

TriFusion Devices got their start through Startup Aggieland, a globally recognized, award-winning business incubator and accelerator program at Texas A&M. Through the mentorship and experience provided by Startup Aggieland and other university initiatives, such as the National Science Foundation I-Corps program, TriFusion’s founders were able to incubate their ideas and prepare for the commercial world. In addition to the Rice University Business Plan Competition, TriFusion Devices has received several other top honors, including winning the 2016 Baylor New Venture Competition, the Raymond Ideas Challenge at Mays Business School’s Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, and the SEC Entrepreneurial Pitch Competition.

Don Lewis, the team’s mentor and coach at Startup Aggieland, said the team has a promising future. “Be on the lookout for this company,” he said. “They are a team to watch because of what they do. They’ve created a revolutionary way to 3D print plastics that are extremely durable and strong, and they are crafting them into very useful objects, like the prosthetics.”

The students plan to open a manufacturing production facility within the next few months in the Bryan-College Station area, Lewis said. Britton Eastburn, a Mays Business School MD/MBA student who was on the team at the time of the victory, has resumed medical school.  

TriFusion Devices competed against more than 750 applicants  on 42 teams from the world’s top universities before 300 judges over a three-day period to emerge as the top startup company at RBPC.

“We are grateful for the support, guidance, and encouragement that we’ve received from the Texas A&M University and Rice University programs,” Teipel said. “The experience and coaching we have received as we’ve launched our venture have proven immensely valuable to our success.”


Categories: Centers, Entrepreneurship, Health Care, I-Corps, Mays Business, MBA, News, Programs, Students, Texas A&M

Mays Business School’s Full-Time MBA team, representing Texas A&M University, tied for first place with the University of Central Florida at the Prospanica Case Competition.

To fulfill its mission to empower Hispanic professionals, Prospanica hosts an annual conference and career expo attended by MBA students across the nation. The students’ hard work researching and compiling their solution were recognized at the Prospanica Gala in Houston at the end of the conference and career expo on Sept. 30.

The competition was hosted in partnership with PepsiCo. The students were tasked with helping PepsiCo leverage new and emerging technologies to drive consumer engagement, sales and improve operating efficiencies in global markets.


Teams from across the country were given the case in advance and prepared a written solution that was sent to the judges. The Texas A&M team was among the four finalists, selected from the written submission, to present during the conference and career expo. The other finalists were Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Houston. The finalists presented before a panel of judges from PepsiCo.  Team members from Mays were Arko Basu, Emily Klein, Alec Krance and Thomas Sovereign.

The Mays MBA program started several initiatives this year focused on problem solving. Mays students participated in two internal case competitions this year – one at the end of orientation and one focused on specific functional areas in mid-September. Through rigorous career management preparation, Mays MBAs have received 18+ hours of case training from MBACASE and will sit for a case certification exam at the end of October.

Program Director Shannon Deer said, “We are excited to see our students excelling in the problem solving, team work, presentation, and technical skills our faculty and staff work so hard to deliver. Our students had an excellent opportunity to represent Mays and themselves in front of many national employers and we are so proud they rose to the occasion as Aggies are known to do.”



Categories: Faculty, Featured Stories, Mays Business, MBA, News, Students, Texas A&M

Mays Professional MBA graduate Brett Garbs feels like anything is possible after starting his own business. Two years of researching, planning and working toward what often seemed like an unfeasible goal finally came to fruition when he and his wife Laci launched their company VaryActive in March 2016.

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Brett and Laci Garbs founded VaryActive, a mobile app that helps users easily book seats in a variety of fitness classes.

Garbs is a Mays Professional MBA Class of 2015 graduate. He is now also co-founder and CEO of VaryActive, a free mobile app that allows users to search and book seats in a variety of fitness classes from CrossFit to Yoga, to Krava Maga and Piloxing, without having to sign membership contracts. His wife Laci is a Class of 2016 Mays Professional MBA graduate and president of VaryActive.

The Professional MBA program is offered at the CityCentre campus in Houston.

VaryActive is just one of many entrepreneurship endeavors generated by recent Mays Professional MBA graduates. Professional MBA Program Director Mike Alexander said many students have taken an increased interest in entrepreneurship. “Our students want to make a difference in the world – in the lives and well-being of themselves, their families, their business associates, customers and communities,” Alexander said.

Businesses like VaryActive start as class projects in the Mays Professional MBA Capstone course.The course is designed to encourage students to use their prior knowledge, their new knowledge and skills gleaned from the Mays MBA and their critical thinking and problem-solving skills to tackle a real-world business challenge. Some students turn their ideas into businesses, while others apply the knowledge and skills gained to other people’s startups.

A mobile app to add variety in your workouts

In the Capstone project, Brett Garbs collaborated on VaryActive with Marcos Mendez, a fellow Class of 2015 graduate. Brett Garbs and Mendez spent two years researching and planning their concept of a mobile app before partnering with local Houston app developer Whole Wheat Creative to launch VaryActive on all iOS devices. …Read more

Categories: Alumni, Mays Business, MBA, News, Texas A&M

The fall is a natural time to assess the status of the programs at Mays Business School. Two of the three MBA programs at Mays have grown in size over last year, with enrollment in the Full-Time MBA is up 16 percent to 74 students and the Executive MBA is up by 5 percent, to 46 students. Enrollment of underrepresented minorities is up from 9 percent in 2015 to 19 percent.

Students in the Professional and Executive MBA programs hail from a cross-section of industries, including petroleum/energy, consulting services, consumer products, manufacturing and pharmaceutical/health care.

Beginning this semester, Mays MBA programs have two top academic leaders for the first time. Finance Professor Arvind Mahajan was named associate dean for graduate programs and Accounting Associate Professor Mike Kinney is assistant dean. Both positions began Aug. 1.

Mahajan said he is optimistic about the future of the MBA programs. “Notwithstanding the challenges facing the MBA market nationwide, Mays stands ready to meet these challenges successful and with confidence.”

Patti Cudney, director of MBA Recruitment and Admissions, said Mays is pleased to welcome such strong and diverse groups of students this year. “Our new students bring a wide variety of educational, professional and personal experiences into our classrooms to share with and influence one another through the learning process,” she said. “We look forward to the contributions they will make during their time at Mays and as they impact their communities in the future.”

Full-Time MBA

Shannon Deer, director of the Full-Time MBA program

Shannon Deer, director of the Full-Time MBA program

The Full-Time MBA is renewing its focus this year on problem solving, which was integrated into the program starting the first day of orientation. For the first time this year, orientation culminated in a case competition hosted by FTI Consulting and Mays. The purpose of the case competition is to help students get accustomed to problem-solving earlier in the program. On July 29, 74 students competed in their academic teams. They had limited time over two days to research the case, but their orientation focused on preparing them to solve problems, tackle cases in class, and excel in case interviews common in the MBA job search. On their first day of orientation, they did several problem-solving activities.

The current students of the 18-month program have an average of 4.5 years of professional experience.

Executive MBA

Julie Orzabal, director of the Executive MBA program

Julie Orzabal, director of the Professional MBA program

Mays welcomes 46 members of the Executive MBA Class of 2018 to the Texas A&M University campus Aug. 1-4 for Residency Week. Residency Week kicks off the program with a series of foundational modules focusing on problem solving and data analytics as well as professional competency modules that include business communication, team building and management, leadership and relationships.

The 18-month program is held at CityCentre Houston. It targets mid- to high-level professionals with a minimum of 10 years of experience, with preference given to candidates who have at least seven years of progressive and significant organizational responsibilities. Preference is given to applicants who are innovative leaders with potential for contributing to the learning experience and the ability to balance multiple commitments within a team-oriented environment. This year’s class has an average of 15 years of experience.

Professional MBA


Michael Alexander, director of the Professional MBA program

Students in the Professional MBA are taking on the world as their classroom, and those between their first and second years of study are on a trip to Marrakech, Casablanca and Madrid. Last year, program participants traveled to Vietnam, and the previous year they visited Budapest, Bratislava and Prague. This is the first year the group’s travels will cover two continents.

“The students in the Professional MBA program go out of the country to learn, to bond, and to potentially be transformed,” said program Director Michael Alexander. “The world is getting smaller, but there are still significant local differences – cultural, political and certainly business differences. We want students to become more aware and familiar of how to best conduct business globally as a key part of their MBA education.”

In addition, he said, the students continue to solidify their Aggie Network within the cohort by spending time in cultural events in each destination. At the end of the week, the students exemplify the Aggie value of “selfless service” by giving back to a local NGO (non-governmental organization) – learning, participating and reflecting.

The 22-month program targets students with at least two years of professional work experience and current full-time employment. Classes are held at CityCentre Houston. This year’s class members have an average of 6.4 years of professional experience.

The MBA programs continue to receive national recognition. Mays is ranked as the 5th best business school for networking, while the Full-Time MBA Program is ranked 8th among U.S. public schools by Bloomberg Businessweek and Financial Times, and 9th among U.S. public schools in U.S. News & World Report and Forbes.

The Professional MBA Program was ranked 18th among U.S. public schools by U.S. News & World Report. The Executive MBA program was ranked 1st among public schools in Texas and 4th among public schools exclusively in the U.S. by Financial Times.

Categories: Mays Business, MBA, News, Students, Texas A&M