Lead Story

All three Texas A&M MBA programs earn Top 20 public ranking by U.S. News

Mays Business School, March 18th, 2020

2021 rankings highlight Mays Business School’s Executive, Full-Time, and Professional MBA degrees as top U.S. public programs.


COLLEGE STATION, TX, March 18, 2020 – Texas A&M’s Executive, Full-Time, and Professional MBA programs have been named top programs, according to the 2021 rankings released by U.S. News & World Report. For the first time ever, all three programs are ranked top 20 at the same time.

Texas A&M’s Executive MBA (EMBA) ranks as the #9 public program in the U.S. and #22 overall.

Texas A&M’s Full-Time MBA (FTMBA) ranks as the #20 public program in the U.S. and #44 overall.

Texas A&M’s Professional MBA (PMBA) ranks as the #18 public program in the U.S. and #31 overall.

All three programs are members of Mays Business School, which serves over 5,000 undergraduate business majors, an additional 5,000 undergraduate business minors, doctoral students, professional leaders through the Center for Executive Development (CED), and graduate students in Accounting, Analytics, Business, Finance, Human Resource Management, Management Information Systems, Marketing, and Real Estate.

“I want to extend my gratitude to the faculty, staff, and students that make up the Mays MBA programs at Texas A&M,” shared Arvind Mahajan, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Graduate Programs for Mays Business School. “The results of these rankings point to the fact that every day, everyone involved in our programs puts in the work to advance the world’s prosperity. I am fortunate that I get to see it firsthand because of my involvement in administering and teaching in the programs. What excites me most about these rankings is that more people across the world will know about the work ethic and leadership of the faculty, staff, and students of all three of our MBA programs.”

“I am proud to see the MBA programs office and our faculty, staff, and graduate students receive more national recognition,” shared Eli Jones, Ph.D., Dean of Mays Business School. “Our MBA program leaders and faculty focus on learning outcomes and high-impact teaching in line with our strategic plan to deliver impactful courses and experiences at the graduate level. Congratulations to all of those involved in our programs – past, present, and future.”

Applications for Texas A&M’s MBA programs are being accepted now for the class of 2022. For more information, visit: mba.tamu.edu

By Blake Parrish, Mays Business School Marketing, Communications, and Public Relations

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About Mays Business School

At Mays Business School, we strive to advance the world’s prosperity. Our mission is to be a vibrant learning organization that creates impactful knowledge and develops transformational leaders. Mays Business School educates more than 6,400 undergraduate, masters, and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing, and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its programs and for faculty research.

Media contact: Blake Parrish, Mays Business School Marketing, Communications, and Public Relations, bparrish@mays.tamu.edu.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread lockdown associated with it has been a shock to most organizations, causing leaders to adapt to the impacts of sudden changes to the way they do business with external stakeholders (e.g., customers) as well as how they manage their workforce. As we have seen, the severity of this shock has created immense challenges for even the most stable and well-resourced firms. For businesses that are resource constrained or that operate in unstable environments, which includes most entrepreneurial firms and small businesses, this unforeseen shock may pose an existential threat to their ability to stay in business.

The enormous amount of information that is being disseminated concerning the situation, much of which is contradictory, has only compounded the effect of the pandemic and lockdown on leaders’ abilities to chart a course through this crisis. At the same time, there is much more unknown than known about COVID-19. This creates a state of affairs in which there is too much data for leaders to digest, and in spite of this information overload, there is also more uncertainty about the future than most leaders have ever faced. Again, even CEOs of large organizations, who have entire teams of advisors, have admitted that they do not know how the next two to three years will unfold[1]. For entrepreneurs and small business owners, trying to balance the wave of data that this crisis is generating and plot a path forward into the murky future can be particularly overwhelming and depleting.

Fortunately for many entrepreneurs and small business owners, they are not alone in their struggle to respond to the pandemic and the lockdown. Although it is common to portray small and entrepreneurial ventures as being led by a lone individual at the top of the organization the reality is that the majority of these firms are helmed by a team.[2] In my research on new venture teams, I define these people as “the group of individuals that is chiefly responsible for the strategic decision making and ongoing operations of a new venture.”[3] While this definition focuses on firms in the early stages of the entrepreneurial process, companies at all stages of development tend to have some form of top management team that collectively guides the organization.

The distinction between the lone entrepreneur and a venture team is important. Research has shown that teams have advantages over individuals when it comes to decision making. Teams can gather more information, offer more perspectives, and develop a greater number of approaches, often leading to more creative and effective solutions than those generated by individual decision-makers. Another advantage of team-based decision making involves what happens after the decision is made. Specifically, rather than a single leader having to explain to employees why the decision was made and trying to get them to buy into that course of action when the decision is made by a top management team, the result is a group of leaders who had a say in the decision process and therefore feel committed to communicating and executing the decision.

That’s not to say that team-based leadership is all roses. As anyone who has suffered through a strategic offsite can attest, group-based decision making is far slower than having a single leader call the shots. Moreover, just because the group setting allows all team members to contribute does not mean that they necessarily will. Introverted members may be reluctant to voice their insights, and extroverts may dominate discussions even if they are not the experts on a given topic. Stalemates in which group members cannot come to agreement and groupthink in which teammates fail to critique proposed courses of action can also erase the potential benefits of team-based leadership.

For leaders seeking to take advantage of the power of teams to help navigate their venture through these uncharted waters, the question that arises is how to maximize the benefits of their leadership teams while mitigating the downsides. My research suggests three components of high-functioning teams that are particularly relevant to the challenges caused by this pandemic.

1. A climate of psychological safety.

Over time, organizations develop a system of shared values and beliefs that guide the behaviors of their employees; we call this organizational culture. The same thing happens within teams, only we refer to it as team climate. What is the climate of your top management team? Is that climate helping or hindering your ability to lead in this time of crisis? Why? Odds are that your answer to those questions will involve the presence or absence of psychological safety in your team. Psychological safety refers to the extent to which team members collectively feel that they can speak up, take risks, and be creative without fear of being punished or ridiculed for doing so.[4] Put another way, in teams with high psychological safety, team members are comfortable making themselves vulnerable to one another. A great deal of research indicates that a strong climate of psychological safety is key for high team performance, and it is not hard to understand why.[5] Think about your current team, which is currently facing unforeseen challenges that likely require creative solutions. In developing these solutions, it is critical that all members feel comfortable sharing their unfiltered thoughts and ideas, and constructively critiquing those of others, which is what happens in teams with high psychological safety. When psychological safety is low, your team is like a racecar that is running on four of its eight cylinders, because members are holding back their boldest ideas and sharpest critiques due to fear of the consequences. Fortunately, one of the best ways to develop psychological safety in teams is for the leader to model it,[6] and a crisis presents an opportune time for you to show some vulnerability to your team members, thereby encouraging them to do the same.

2. Healthy conflict norms.

The pressure and stress caused by the pandemic will undoubtedly lead to higher incidents of conflict within organizations and teams. All of us are just a bit more on edge than usual. Some leaders seem to feel that conflict among team members is good, or even necessary, to achieve high performance. Team conflict has been studied for decades, and the conclusion from this body of evidence is clear – most of the time, conflict hinders team functioning. To understand why it is important to consider the two main types of team conflict. Task conflict refers to disagreement among members regarding how to complete the task at hand. Relationship conflict also involves disagreement, but it emanates from interpersonal issues among team members, and typically includes tension, annoyance, and animosity. Although task conflict slows down team decision making, when it is present in small and controlled doses it can contribute to higher group performance.[7] Relationship conflict, on the other hand, always harms team functioning and performance. The takeaway for leaders is to observe how their team handles conflict. Often, disagreements begin as task conflict and then escalate into relationship conflict. This is where leaders need to be managers and help develop norms for “healthy fighting” within their team. If those norms do not currently exist one shortcut to harness the bright side of team conflict is to publicly appoint one group member the role of assigned critic, also known as a devil’s advocate. Because this member is tasked with critiquing the rest of the team’s ideas, they can do so and in turn generate healthy task conflict without activating the interpersonal dynamics associated with relationship conflict.

3. Balance between stars and role players.

It does not take an avid sports fan to notice that oftentimes the most successful teams are not filled with star athletes, but are comprised of a mix of star performers and lesser-known “role players.” Research indicates that teams that are balanced in this way often outperform more talented teams because teamwork requires maintenance, and while not glamorous, someone has to do it.[8] And in the face of this pandemic, this “dirty work” is more critical than ever. There is a tendency, in times of crisis, to not focus on the details as closely as usual or to let more mundane team duties pile up in the background while focusing on the immediate threat to the business. In addition, most of us are in more fragile emotional states than usual right now which can cause emotional instability within the team on a day-to-day basis. Therefore, teams that have members who are willing to roll up their sleeves and stay focused on the details, handle the mundane tasks in the midst of the crisis, and take care of the emotional needs of team members will be able to more effectively respond to the challenges that arise over the coming months and years. Put another way, in the words of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, when it comes to critical moments, leaders should “forget high flyers” and count on their consistent performers, who he has dubbed his “dependables.”[9] So consider your current team and ask yourself who is handling the dirty work while you and your star performers tackle the big problems? Who are your dependables? If the answer is no one then you are setting yourself up for failure, or worse yet, burnout as you try to lead and micromanage at the same time.

In considering these three elements of high functioning teams in light of this crisis, you may realize that you have deficiencies in your team. Indeed, perhaps strengthening some of the weaknesses in your top management team was on your “to-do” list even before this pandemic-induced crisis. As I described above, some of these weaknesses may be addressed by making changes to your leadership behavior. But correcting other shortcomings may require changes to the membership of your team. If that is the case, there is some good news. Economic downturns present the optimal time to recruit and select top managers.[10] With the current economic challenges hiring may be the last thing on your mind. However, by seizing opportunities to upgrade the strength of your venture team during this time of uncertainty, you will be positioning your firm to thrive in the future, no matter which “new normal” becomes reality.


[1] https://www.seattletimes.com/business/microsoft-ceo-satya-nadella-to-employees-on-coronavirus-crisis-we-need-the-world-to-do-well/

[2] Beckman, C. M. (2006). The influence of founding team company affiliations on firm behavior. Academy of

Management Journal, 49, 741-758.

[3] Klotz, A. C., Hmieleski, K. M., Bradley, B. H., & Busenitz, L. W. (2014). New venture teams: A review of the literature and roadmap for future research. Journal of Management, 40, 226-255.

[4] Edmondson, A. C. (1999). Psychological safety and learning behavior in work teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44, 350-383.

[5] https://hbr.org/2017/08/high-performing-teams-need-psychological-safety-heres-how-to-create-it?

[6] Coyle, D. (2018). The culture code: The secrets of highly successful groups. Bantam.

[7] Bradley, B. H., Postlethwaite, B. E., Klotz, A. C., Hamdani, M. R., & Brown, K. G. (2012). Reaping the benefits of task conflict in teams: The critical role of team psychological safety climate. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97, 151-158.

[8] Bolinger, A. R., Klotz, A. C., & Leavitt, K. (2018). Contributing from inside the outer circle: The identity-based effects of noncore role incumbents on relational coordination and organizational climate. Academy of Management Review, 43(4), 680-703.

[9] https://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/13/bill-belichick-leadership-rules.html

[10] https://hbr.org/2009/05/the-definitive-guide-to-recruiting-in-good-times-and-bad

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COLLEGE STATION, TX, June 29, 2020 – Texas A&M’s Executive MBA program has been named a top ten public program by The Economist, the international publication headquartered in London. The program, delivered at CityCentre Houston, is ranked the #1 public program in Texas, the #9 public program in the U.S., the #21 overall program in the U.S., and #37 overall globally.

The Economist survey was based on feedback from current students (classes of 2020 and 2021) and Former Students (alumni) from the classes of 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Aggie MBA faculty celebrate success with thumbs upTexas A&M’s Executive MBA program received the top mark in both “Quality of Faculty” and “Student Rating of Teaching Quality” categories above the rest of the 70 international programs ranked this year. The program ranked #2 in the “Student Rating of Faculty” and “Student Rating of Content” categories, a testament to the sentiment current and former students have for the value of the program.

“I am savoring this moment knowing we have been judged by The Economist as the #9 U.S. Public Program,” said Associate Dean for Graduate Programs, Arvind Mahajan. “This ranking is a major recognition of the incredible students we have matriculate through our program. The expertise and dedication of our faculty and the hard work and perseverance of these students results in an incredible experience and transformation for each cohort. That vast change is the true output; these rankings are an outcome that measures how our students’ entire lives are improved.”

“It’s wonderful to have The Economist recognize the hard work and dedication that the Executive MBA program faculty and staff put in every semester,” said Eli Jones, Dean of Mays Business School. “Congratulations to the faculty, staff, and students that comprise this Executive MBA program and the impact each of them makes to advance the world’s prosperity. I want to specifically thank Julie Orzabal, the director of the program, who since its inception 20 years ago, has led executive leaders and gained results like these.”

Mays Business School's CityCentre facilityApplications for the Texas A&M Executive MBA program are being accepted now for the class of 2022. For more information, visit mba.tamu.edu.

 

 

Categories: Accounting, Alumni, Dean Eli Jones, Departments, Faculty, Featured Stories, Former Students, Mays Business, MBA, News, Programs, Rankings, Staff, Students, Texas A&M

In an office park above a swanky pet store in Grapevine, Texas you’ll find the empty offices of CTRL Technologies. The desks are deserted, the 3D printers are still, and the space is eerily quiet without the constant, background hum of electronics. Taking up a large footprint in the office is a fully-operational golf simulation bay. Normally it’s teeming with activity, a place where CTRL product developers go to instantly test hardware and software updates to ensure the product is free of bugs. Now it sits blank and lifeless. CTRL, like many businesses around the world, has closed its office doors to ensure the health and safety of its staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. But just because the lights aren’t on doesn’t mean the work stops.

CTRL is 2 weeks away from officially launching its product via a highly anticipated IndieGoGo crowdsource campaign. Time is not a luxury they can afford as the team prepares for a milestone that has been 3 years in the making. The founder of CTRL, Ian Cash ’17, is a contemplative leader with a seemingly unflappable positivity. “I never thought it would be this much work” he says with a chuckle. “When you’re trying to do all of this development, and run a business, and you have 7 people to your name. That’s a lot of stuff to keep up with.”

CTRL is poised to be a major breakthrough is sports technology. Their flagship product is a first-of-its-kind bio kinetic sleeve that comfortably fits on a golfer’s arm. In 30 strokes or less the sleeve learns a player’s unique swing and then provides a hyper personalized coaching experience through the use of data science and AI. CTRL’s technology allows players to practice their game as if they were being trained by a professional coach, for a fraction of the cost. Making the game of golf more accessible to players alienated by a sport traditionally seen as cost-prohibitive. “We’re here to grow the game of golf,” said Cash.

But, what is it about the game of golf that has intoxicated Cash to the point of starting a sports technology company? According to him, it’s all about the thrill of the perfect swing. “It may not have happened to you yet but it will. You’re going to get that one perfect swing. That one swing that’s so good that you didn’t even realize you made contact. It’ll feel like butter it’s so smooth. When you can do that it’s one of the most amazing [feelings] on the planet.” Cash emphasized that every player should be seen as a unique individual, decrying the outdated practices of one-size-fits-all training programs that are common even among professional athletes and trainers. “There’s no cookie-cutter mold for humans,” said Cash. A player’s swing is as unique as their fingerprint and when you train with hyper-personalization in mind that perfect swing goes from rare anomaly to a normal part of the playing experience. “That’s why we’re so focused on consistency. We want you to have that feeling every single time. That’s 100% the reason I do this.”

The sensors in CTRL’s sleeve quickly evaluate the club face, club path, and tempo of a player’s swing in order to provide real-time insights and training recommendations. All of this consumer data could easily be sold in order to boost profit margins. However, Cash says that will never be an option for the company. “We’re never going to sell any of [your data]. From day 1 that has been important to us.” CTRL is committed to radical transparency with customers and uses strict privacy practices in order to protect consumer data. “It comes from the whole team. We really don’t like it when people use our data without our knowledge,” said Cash, “Facebook taught everyone that’s not the way it should go.”

Cash also fervently believes that CTRL should be a self-reliant company in terms of developing its technology. Many startups will outsource product development to third-party companies, but Cash said that at CTRL “we chose to do it all.” From hardware to data science and even app development, CTRL has a team of 7 employees so that all development is completely in-house. “I’m really happy we chose to do that and I think it sets us apart from our competition.” Cash has big plans for CTRL and hopes that one day the company can bring radical transparency and hyper-personalization to a number of other sports. “Golf is our first step. But as we’ve been building we’ve been focused on human motion. Down the line, we’d like to move elsewhere whether that’s volleyball, cricket, swimming, or physical therapy.”

Cash says that being the CEO of a startup is overwhelming, yet incredibly satisfying. “Every single day you get to learn and do a lot more than you ever thought you would.” Cash is an avid learner, absorbing and synthesizing every book, podcast, and webinar he can get his hands on. “That was a core thing when we built our team. Are you focused on learning? Because there’s no chance that we’re working on a problem that you’ve seen before.”

Cash has used his passion for learning to develop a fail-fast company culture built on a foundation of pre-forgiveness. “We know we’re all going to make mistakes. There’s no way around that.” said Cash, “the fastest way for us to learn and grow is to go out there and not be afraid to make mistakes. That’s core value #1 that really inspires everyone. For us, it’s never a scolding. We made a bad call, how can we improve and move forward? You don’t find a lot of places out there that encourage that.”

It’s surprising to find such a young leader who empowers his employees to take ownership of the company’s success. Even some seasoned entrepreneurs struggle to relinquish control, clinging to their titles with white-knuckled enthusiasm. But Cash repeatedly acknowledges that without his team there would be no company. “There’s no room for selfishness when everyone is making sacrifices for the common good. Everyone has really made sacrifices to be here and even more sacrifices to make sure no one left. My team has to feel like they can make choices and if they make the wrong one it’s okay.”

Cash’s passion for hyper-personalization is evident in the way he leads the company. One of the biggest lessons he’s learned as CEO is that everyone needs to be treated as an individual. “You need to find what makes someone tick. You need to understand why they do what they do and what’s on their mind. You need to truly understand them as a person. Learning your team and making sure you take the time to do so, it’ll make you so much more effective in the workplace.”

Don’t let Cash’s encouraging demeanor fool you. His journey as an entrepreneur hasn’t been all sprinkles and smooth sailing. CTRL has experienced many setbacks, pivoted more times than Cash can count, and is set to launch publicly during a global pandemic that has crushed the United States economy. But Cash won’t let these difficulties cloud his vision. “You get hit left and right and it feels like it never stops. But you don’t quit. You keep going and you’re going to get through.” A fitting message from an entrepreneur whose company is taking on industry titans such as Nike, Callaway, and Garmin. When all is said and done Cash is pursuing his dream in an industry that he loves and he tries to keep that in mind when things get difficult. “We’re working in golf. It’s the most fun you could have!”

From his leadership style as CEO to CTRL’s hyper-personalized technology, Ian Cash ’17 has built a company devoted to the individual. “We all have unique stories. This is going to sound cliché, but it’s really what I believe. Everyone is an individual with different backgrounds and thoughts and I think that should be celebrated. I think there is value in, quite literally, every person out there.” Cash is building a company that puts people before profits. A natural occurrence when a CEO wears an Aggie ring.

EDITOR’S NOTE: CTRL, formerly Alba Golf, was a client of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship’s Business Incubator and was a prize winner at Aggie Pitch 2018. If you’re interested in supporting this Aggie startup you can follow them on Instagram or share the CTRL IndieGoGo campaign with the golf lover in your life.

About the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship

Since its inception in 1999, the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship has served as the hub of entrepreneurship for Texas A&M University. Offering more than 30 enterprising programs each year, the center engages student and non-student entrepreneurs in a variety of opportunities to enhance their entrepreneurial skills. From business plan competitions to entrepreneurship certificates to the Reynolds and Reynolds Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, the center’s programs are touted as transformative and inspiring.

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SkyStations and Interwoven Collective are 2 of the 50 student entrepreneurs that will receive a $5,000 grant to focus for 8 weeks on advancing their student startup.

SkyStations, an electric air taxi service provider, and Interwoven Collective, a transparent, ethical retail company, have been selected to participate in the LaunchPad Summer Startup Fellowship during which college students from the U.S. and Ireland will be provided additional opportunity to validate their strategies and advance their businesses. During the program, student fellows will participate in coaching sessions with LaunchPad Campus Directors as well as mentoring from Blackstone Campus Ambassadors and Techstars Entrepreneurs and Advisors. Students will also have the opportunity to hear first-hand from entrepreneurs like Allbirds Co-Founder Tim Brown, Techstars CEO and Co-Founder David Brown, CareMessage Co-Founder Cecilia Corral, and SparkCharge Co-Founder (and LaunchPad Alum) Josh Aviv during the LaunchPad Lessons Learned speaker series.

SkyStations is a member of the McFerrin Center student business incubator and has been making significant progress in its business model and supply chain. Founder Daniel De Clute-Melancon also took home an Honorable Mention award at the 2019 Raymond Ideas Challenge. His startup wants to provide innovative transportation systems for individuals living in major metroplexes.

“We are thrilled to have Daniel and Mallory representing Texas A&M in the LaunchPad Startup Fellowship program this summer. Both of these young entrepreneurs are driven to change the world and during their time at the McFerrin Center, have each made tremendous progress in developing their business venture. The experience, resources, and network now available to them through the LaunchPad Fellowship will be incredibly valuable in helping them to achieve their next milestones and get even closer to realizing their entrepreneurial dreams.” said LauraLee Hughes, Assistant Director of New Ventures at the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship.

The LaunchPad Summer Startup Fellowship was developed this spring in response to a number of current challenges facing college-aged entrepreneurs: According to recent research by Glassdoor, internship opportunities dropped 52% this summer. These opportunities are crucial to informing future young entrepreneurs about their own startup ideas and helping land traditional full-time positions after graduation. Reduced professional entry-level job opportunities and strains on family finances have also increased pressure for students to ‘earn a paycheck’, and potentially postpone or forgo taking a risk on a startup idea.

Mallory Gale, the founder of Interwoven Collective, was actively engaged with the McFerrin Center of Entrepreneurship and looked forward to taking advantage of the McFerrin Center’s Mentor Mashup events and networking opportunities during the Spring of 2020. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit her plans were suddenly derailed. When asked how it felt to be selected for the LaunchPad Summer Startup Fellowship Gale commented, “When I received my acceptance email, I immediately started crying. In the weeks prior to my acceptance I had spoken to two of my partners in Ethiopia, one leader was worried about mothers in their program starving because of the pandemic and our other partner had sent all but two of her employees home during what should have been their busiest season. Receiving a $5,000 grant means that we could provide work in the most crucial time. That means women can come in and actually have a job that day. That means businesses have more runway for payroll where every $144 is a living wage for a month. This Fellowship is not just supporting my business, but providing demand for businesses that protect some of the most vulnerable groups in Adis Ababa, Ethiopia.”

In addition to coaching and mentorship from LaunchPad Campus Directors and Blackstone Campus Ambassadors throughout the 8 weeks, students will also get the chance to participate in a Techstars Mentor Week. The LaunchPad Student Startup Fellowship will conclude July 31, 2020.

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About McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship

Since its inception in 1999, the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship has served as the hub of entrepreneurship for Texas A&M University. Offering more than 30 enterprising programs each year, the center engages student and non-student entrepreneurs in a variety of opportunities to enhance their entrepreneurial skills. The center’s programs are touted as transformative and inspiring and have helped hundreds of student entrepreneurs to achieve their dreams.

About Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars

The Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship network helps students succeed in entrepreneurship and in their careers. Open to all students and recent alumni in all majors, the campus-based Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars network enables participants to access mentoring, grow their network, and access the resources to accelerate the success of their business. For more information, see www.blackstonelaunchpad.org

About Blackstone Charitable Foundation

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation was founded at the time of Blackstone’s IPO in 2007 with substantial commitments from the Firm’s employees. Influenced by the enterprising heritage of the firm and its founders, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is directing its resources and applying the intellectual capital of the firm to foster entrepreneurship in areas nationwide and globally. Through its investment expertise across several asset classes and geographies, Blackstone has a unique perspective on the global economy and a heightened understanding of how entrepreneurial activity is often the crucial catalyst in the growth of successful businesses, industries, and communities. For more information, see http://www.blackstone.com/foundation.

About Techstars

Techstars is the global platform for investment and innovation. Techstars founders connect with other entrepreneurs, experts, mentors, alumni, investors, community leaders, and corporations to grow their companies. Techstars operates three divisions: Techstars Mentorship-Driven Accelerator Programs, Techstars Corporate Innovation Partnerships, and Techstars Communities. Techstars accelerator portfolio includes more than 2,200 companies with a market cap of more than $26 billion. www.techstars.com.

For more information

Visit: https://mays.tamu.edu/mcferrin-center-for-entrepreneurship/

Contact Stephanie Burns, Communications Coordinator, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship

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Shortly after COVID-19 brought a halt to business as usual, entrepreneur and Texas A&M alum Alfredo Costilla-Reyes read about farmers across the United States having to dump produce due to supply chain disruptions. They poured gallons of fresh milk into manure piles, dug ditches to bury millions of pounds of onions, and plowed ripe vegetables back into the ground. With restaurants, hotels, and schools closed, farmers lost half of their buyers overnight. Meanwhile, grocery stores and food banks experienced shortages because they didn’t have enough equipment like refrigerators to accommodate all the excess food.

“I was reading about farmers having big problems reaching customers. They need a marketplace, and it shouldn’t be so difficult,” Costilla-Reyes said over a Zoom call, smiling brightly in front of a virtual background of a library packed with colorful books. “But for a lot of them, to try to figure out how all this online stuff works is stressful and cumbersome.”

And so the idea for Costilla-Reyes’ newest company, DayOneAI, was born. Currently in the initial stages of invite-only beta testing, DayOneAI will help farmers create an online presence in order to reach new customers. Farmers will text information like a description of their business and products to DayOneAI, which will use machine learning and AI to automate a website, online store, and social media accounts. Farmers will also receive alerts about Google and Twitter trends, so they can write targeted social media and blog posts and keep their sites optimized for SEO.

DayOneAI is a direct extension of BitGrange, the company that Costilla-Reyes founded while pursuing his PhD in Electrical Engineering at Texas A&M. Having been raised in a family of farmers, Costilla-Reyes wanted to expand his PhD research to help improve the lives of people he grew up with. This desire propelled him to venture over from the Electrical Engineering department to the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship and the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars. There, he realized he could combine his interests into a single company, BitGrange, which lies at the intersection of technology and agriculture and builds hydroponic devices so anyone, anywhere can grow produce indoors. BitGrange gained recognition in Mexico, when President Enrique Peña Nieto presented Costilla-Reyes with the Mexico National Youth Award at a reception in Mexico City.

Alfredo Costilla Reyes holding a BitGrange device with a newly sprouted plant. The device is a small cyliner and comes equipped with an individual LED light to help plant growth.When stay-at-home orders started, Costilla-Reyes realized it would be too difficult to continue developing and deploying hardware like hydroponics. He leaned on his learnings from Texas A&M to quickly pivot from hardware that grows produce to software that sells it: “What we learned through programs like Blackstone LaunchPad and the Techstars Entrepreneur’s Toolkit is that it’s not about you as much as the problem itself. You have to be able to evolve and transform in order to improve the life of as many people as possible.”

Despite the shift in focus, Costilla-Reyes sees DayOneAI as a direct extension of BitGrange. At the end of the day, as long as he’s using technology to make farmer’s lives easier and better, he’ll be satisfied — even if that means shifting to focus on helping farmers be in direct contact with customers, so they can sell food locally and earn more money. “I believe that AI shouldn’t be competing for jobs,” Costilla-Reyes explains. “It has its advantages, like looking for patterns. But growing plants, taking care of customers, caring for the environment, those are all things AI can’t replicate. With DayOneAI, farmers can do what they do best and leave the complexity of building an online presence to AI.”

Over the next few months, Costilla-Reyes will further develop DayOneAI as a participant in Rice University’s OwlSpark accelerator. By the end of the summer, he hopes to complete the private beta, roll out a public beta, pitch to investors in Houston, and start a capital raise ($250K for a pre-seed round, and $1M for a seed round). Rather than be frustrated by the way the pandemic affected BitGrange, Costilla-Reyes is nothing but excited about the new opportunity on hand. “I want to embrace this opportunity… It’s nice to be an entrepreneur and have a company that’s so small because you can switch from one place to another and you have that agility.”

LauraLee Hughes, Assistant Director of New Ventures for the McFerrin Center, home of Blackstone LaunchPad and other entrepreneurship programs, worked closely with Costilla-Reyes as he explored the school’s entrepreneurial offering. She’s unsurprised by Costilla-Reyes’ adaptability when faced with a crisis. “Alfredo is a bright young mind with a true passion for changing the world through technology. During his time as a PhD student, he pursued numerous startup ideas, engaging in almost every program the McFerrin Center has to offer. His entrepreneurial spirit, never-ending desire to learn, and eagerness to help others have made him a true asset to the Aggie entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

More than anything, Costilla-Reyes’ engagement with Texas A&M’s entrepreneurial ecosystem shifted the way he thinks about his work. “When you’re doing a PhD, people tell you that you have to compete, you have to do something that’s publishable. It’s all about I and ME. But if you go to [the school’s accelerator] Startup Aggieland and Blackstone LaunchPad, you begin to learn about other people, and that’s really crucial. I enjoyed grad school so much because I started to think like an entrepreneur instead of a scientist. At first, I wanted to build something to win a Nobel Prize. But now, I want to improve lives. It’s not about my skill, but how I can serve others with my work.”

For other Aggies thinking about entrepreneurship, Costilla-Reyes has a few pieces of advice. First, believe in yourself and don’t give up when you face a failure. “We see these big businesses and think they’re overnight success…. But being an entrepreneur you have so many ups and downs. When I first tried to use hydroponics, I thought maybe I’m not meant for this. But I kept going.” Second, build something that solves a problem — even if that solution isn’t what you originally set out to make. And third, serve others. “If I make a product and the end goal is nothing more than a research paper, I’ve failed. I want my work to be useful for other people. And there’s not a better way to do that than through entrepreneurship.”

Costilla-Reyes’ attitude about entrepreneurship has helped him remain optimistic in the face of COVID-19. “When others see hectic times, horrific economic downturn, entrepreneurs see opportunity… That’s the best way to approach crisis.”

Categories: McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Uncategorized

“Creative destruction” is a phrase used by Joseph Schumpeter, an early 20th century economist and probably the “OG” scholar in the field of entrepreneurship. Schumpeter was talking about the role of entrepreneurs in our society as agents of change. Entrepreneurs recognize opportunities that others often miss and create new markets for products and services that sometimes have the potential to disrupt or even destroy established industries.[1] In a sense, change and market disruption is nothing new to entrepreneurs. For that reason, we can anticipate that their skills and unique way of looking at the world will play a critical role in our social and economic recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many of us shy away from risk. We try to live our lives and achieve our desired goals while mitigating risk as much as possible. That’s one reason why we struggle with such unexpected and extreme developments as those set-in motion by the global pandemic. In fact, we may feel that our “risk-meter” is off the charts, with few options for bringing it back down. There are reasons to suggest that entrepreneurs, on the other hand, perceive risk very differently. Research shows that they tend to make an objective assessment of the level of risk in the market environment and then work to control or guide outcomes in the best way possible, given that degree of risk.[2] Under the current conditions, entrepreneurs may react by simply resetting their risk estimates at a higher level. With this updated information, they can start planning new strategies and taking actions to improve their likely outcomes, while many of the rest of us remain focused on, or even paralyzed by, the risk itself.

There are other characteristics and perspectives we associate with entrepreneurs that may help them face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. First of all, entrepreneurs are persistent. They find ways to thrive in harsh business environments. We have observed this in emerging markets, areas of the world often lacking financial capital, legal, regulatory, and other resources and institutions we tend to take for granted in developed economies. Entrepreneurial activity still emerges in such settings, growing organically through informal economic systems outside of the traditional institutions.[3] Entrepreneurs are also resilient. They find new paths forward in the aftermath of devastating events. Research following the 2008 global financial crisis shows that many young, entrepreneurial ventures were well-positioned to weather the storm.[4] Startups are generally smaller and may be more agile than established firms, making it easier for them to quickly react and adapt even to extreme and unexpected changes.

Entrepreneurs know how to build businesses through conventional planning, but they have other tools in their toolkit that can help them react and adapt. The business planning process we frequently teach in MBA programs involves causal thinking, the careful assessment of how current conditions and possible strategies can lead to future results. This calls for upfront resource planning, the development of market and production strategies, and the analysis of which outcomes are most likely to occur after executing the business plan. Many entrepreneurs certainly have this skill – think of the carefully constructed plans they often present to investors when seeking capital investment. This process is popularized in TV and streaming shows such as Shark Tank or Elevator Pitch. The problem we have right now is that COVID-19 has thrown everyone a curve. We don’t necessarily have the context to effectively analyze and predict future outcomes. For that reason, most causal-thinking business plans probably aren’t going to work until we get further along in this extraordinary period of uncertainty.

Fortunately, many entrepreneurs can leverage other tools to successfully identify and pursue opportunities, even under difficult conditions such as those presented by the COVID-19 crisis. First, rather than wasting time in the current market environment writing up a wish-list of resources, they would like to have (and are unlikely to get), entrepreneurs are very good at bricolage; making use of what is at hand to construct something useful.[5] The closest many of us get to using bricolage is probably when we have to scrounge something for dinner – we grab some cans from the pantry, leftovers from the refrigerator, maybe pulling the odd tomato from the plant growing on the back patio. Luckily, entrepreneurs tend to be much better at this technique.

My favorite examples of bricolage during the COVID-19 pandemic showcase creative efforts to provide products that help prevent and treat the infection. Cummins Inc. has a stockpile of materials used in producing air and fuel filters for diesel engines. With the shutdown of their engine production line, this inventory would be sitting in giant rolls, collecting dust in a warehouse. Through some creative connecting of the dots, the technical managers at Cummins realized that this material could meet the standards for producing the vital N95 masks that may soon help us begin to safely return to work. We have seen a similar process of bricolage in Ford Motor Company with their use of stock auto parts in the production of medical ventilators. Numerous breweries, distilleries, and even perfume companies are using their materials and equipment to produce hand sanitizer. We can only imagine the countless other acts of entrepreneurial bricolage that are happening all throughout the economy.

Entrepreneurs have another trick up their sleeves. Many of them show skill in effectual thinking. Similar to bricolage, effectuation starts with a look at the readily available skills, tools, and resources.[6] However, the interesting difference in this type of thinking is that it doesn’t start with any particular outcome or destination in mind. Refer to our search of the kitchen pantry at dinnertime – this might involve looking through our available supplies, and instead of preparing a meal, we find spaghetti noodles and marshmallows and decide to start a quick project to build a model of the Eiffel Tower. We had no prior intention of pursuing this project – the available materials, the situation, and our own interests may have organically led us down this path.

Our social network society makes this type of effectual thinking more effective. As entrepreneurs brainstorm various uses for their available skills and resources, they need to test and refine these ideas. This requires a sounding board to communicate their thoughts to potential customers, partners, investors, or others who can help refine and advance the project. Researchers have shown that social media platforms such as Twitter can enhance this process by allowing entrepreneurs to work through their effectual thinking more quickly, getting input from followers, and directing them toward new and unexpected opportunities.[7] Crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo provide another example of this rapid feedback process. Investors and campaign participants can preview early-stage ideas, post comments and questions, and ultimately let their money do the talking by offering financial support to worthwhile projects. These social network platforms have dramatically improved the pace and potency of effectual thinking for entrepreneurs.

As we speak, entrepreneurs are undoubtedly scanning the new environment shaped by SARS-CoV-2. They are imagining unexpected opportunities to match available resources to market needs, serving end goals that none of us (including them!) could have anticipated a few months ago. It’s hard to say what they will come up with next, but some areas of activity seem likely. As social beings, we’re all growing tired of these periods of isolation. Entrepreneurs may find new ways to balance our craving for social interaction with our need to control the risk of infection. Internet streaming and digital interaction have been the most obvious domains for these activities, but others could certainly emerge.

Through entrepreneurial thinking, we can crowdsource the restart. Businesses throughout the country face the challenge of reopening while protecting the safety of their customers. We have already seen creative solutions as restaurants and stores find new ways to provide curbside and delivery service, sometimes even offering unconventional grocery products or packaged deals. As they return to in-store dining and service, entrepreneurs will find a wide variety of ways to enable social distancing and limit the risk of contagion. The best ideas are likely to catch on, further speeding the pace of the economic recovery.

We live in unprecedented times; working to balance aggressive actions taken to limit the health impact of COVID-19 with pressures to reopen our businesses and restart the economy. This is creating risk, uncertainty, and challenges to our prior business models and ways of viewing the world. Fortunately, we have an extraordinary group of individuals in our society who often view the world through a different lens. They understand risk, thrive in conditions of uncertainty, and are uniquely equipped to handle these challenges. Fortunately, we have entrepreneurs.


[1] Schumpeter, J., 1942. Creative destruction. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, 825, pp.82-85.

[2] Sarasvathy, D.K., Simon, H.A. and Lave, L., 1998. Perceiving and managing business risks: Differences between entrepreneurs and bankers. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 33(2), pp.207-225.

[3] Webb, J.W., Bruton, G.D., Tihanyi, L. and Ireland, R.D., 2013. Research on entrepreneurship in the informal economy: Framing a research agenda. Journal of Business Venturing, 28(5), pp.598-614.

[4] Davidsson, P. and Gordon, S.R., 2016. Much ado about nothing? The surprising persistence of nascent entrepreneurs through macroeconomic crisis. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 40(4), pp.915-941.

[5] Baker, T. and Nelson, R.E., 2005. Creating something from nothing: Resource construction through entrepreneurial bricolage. Administrative Science Quarterly, 50(3), pp.329-366.

[6] Sarasvathy, S.D., 2001. Causation and effectuation: Toward a theoretical shift from economic inevitability to entrepreneurial contingency. Academy of management Review, 26(2), pp.243-263.

[7] Fischer, E. and Reuber, A.R., 2011. Social interaction via new social media:(How) can interactions on Twitter affect effectual thinking and behavior? Journal of Business Venturing, 26(1), pp.1-18.

 

Categories: Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship, Faculty, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship

On May 1, 2020, a Faculty Learning Community Showcase was held to display the Mays Transformational Leader mindsets at work, all of which add value to the teaching mission and stoke the fire of innovation at Mays. 

 

The come and go Zoom meeting hosted by Bailey Lenzen, Lecturer, and Program Coordinator, facilitated multiple breakout rooms, all of which showcased various combinations of the MTL mindsets and the innovative ways that they have been implemented. Lenzen said, “As we work to fulfill the promise of MTL development (Strategic Initiative 4.2), we continue to seek classroom opportunities for students to practice mindsets identified in the Mays Strategic Learning Framework. Creating such opportunities is best accomplished within a community of engaging, interesting, and similarly motivated peers. The MTL Faculty Learning Community invites about ten faculty members each year to develop at least one experiential learning opportunity designed to develop one or more Mays mindsets, implement and assess the learning opportunity, and present what was designed and implemented at a showcase each spring.”

 

In the Spring 2019 edition of @Mays Magazine, we focused on Academic Innovation. The magazine expressed how Academic Innovation asks the question, “what we’re doing is great, but how can we be better?” A large piece of being better is utilizing the mindsets of the Mays Transformational Leader. Taking advantage of the Analytical, Entrepreneurial, Ethical, Global, Inclusive, Social Impact, and Systems Thinking MTL mindsets, our students, faculty, and staff become innovators. 

 

The question, “How can we be better?,” is constantly being asked in the halls of Mays Business School. In the pursuit to advance the world’s prosperity, our goal is to put our future business leaders into a place to be successful. 

 

This means priming students in their undergraduate years to hit the ground running in the first few years of their career so that they, too, can be better. Akshaya Sreenivasan, Marketing Clinical Assistant Professor, learned that the students leaving Mays had a phenomenal grasp on domestic marketing markets but were struggling with international cases. Thus, the “Dunkin’ Donuts assignment” was born. Created to look at how American brands can be rebranded and positioned to fit foreign markets like India, a retail boom with high growth, this course requires students to use their Systems Thinking, Ethical, Analytical, and Global mindsets.

 

2020 has been no stranger to problems requiring Academic Innovation or the MTL Mindsets. As a pandemic threatened the world, Texas A&M was required to move an entire semester online in just one week. The extraordinary efforts of Mays Business School faculty and staff transitioned approximately 2,300 students online all while adjusting to new work schedules, new workplaces, copious Zoom meetings, and changes in home life. With the majority of the Spring semester and the entirety of Summer sessions being held virtually, the Mays Business School faculty and staff exemplified both the Aggie Core Values and the MTL Mindsets. 

 

To get a better idea of the student experience of remote/online classes, a survey was created and sent to Mays students. Nancy Simpson, a Mays Clinical Professor, Director, and Faculty Development Fellow, led the survey initiative and the showcase discussion on the feedback that was received. From appreciation for professors’ flexibility and empathy to challenges with internet and computer availability, survey respondents provided a gamut of information that will not only be beneficial in building future online courses but helpful in creating new, better, best practices for on-campus learning as well.

 

To see the presentations held at the MTL Faculty Learning Community showcase from this year and years past, please visit: https://mays.tamu.edu/strategic-plan/mtl-learning-community/

 

Categories: Faculty, News

Congrats Aggie Grads - join the celebration gradcelebration.tamu.edu

Categories: Alumni, Departments, Faculty, Former Students, Mays Business, News, Programs, Rankings, Students, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

The 6th Annual KPMG Fraud Case Competition was held on April 21-23 at Mays Business School via Zoom.

Seven teams presented case solutions culminating the semester-long fraud case competition.  Final judging of the competition was facilitated by Kelsey Wright, KPMG Advisor, with the help of several of her colleagues, representing KPMG’s US Forensic Advisory Practice.

The first-place team members are pictured below:

Sam Dawson

 

Ria Dua

 

Vincent Le

 

Darby Ramsdell

 

Candela Videtto

 

Categories: Accounting

 

Image of Young and Armstrong pitching at Aggie PITCH 2019.

Young (right) and Armstrong (left) pitching at Aggie PITCH 2019

In 2017 Stephanie Young competed at her High School science fair with SKYPaws, “spaghetti monster of wires” that would allow veterinarians to wirelessly monitor their patients post-operatively. Now, SKYPaws is led by Stephanie Young and her co-founder Brianna Armstrong. “When we started this we weren’t sure if it was something people really wanted. With each competition that we won it was another step of validation” stated Armstrong, “What is exciting, has built our confidence, and is still humbling is that the people we pitch to in the veterinary space really see this as a thing that needs to happen” she concluded. “And even people who aren’t in the vet space” added Young. “We need to make this change and shape our standard of care in this direction,” said Armstrong. 

 Animal patients will chew through wires attached to them, which requires veterinarians and their staff to visually monitor patients in order to assess their recovery and health. If there is a problem with a patient, such as a sudden drop in blood pressure due to internal bleeding, they often aren’t aware of the issue until it’s too late. SKYPaws accurately monitors veterinary patient vitals such as heart rate and blood pressure without the need for wires. Their devices saves lives and provides the means for unprecedented levels of patient care within veterinary medicine.  

Picture of Armstrong pitching SKYPaws during the 2019 Raymond Ideas Challenge, at which they won 1st place and $3,000

Armstrong pitching SKYPaws during the 2019 Raymond Ideas Challenge, at which they won 1st place and $3,000

THE RIGHT CO-FOUNDER 

It should be noted that in addition to launching a tech startup, Young and Armstrong both have part-time jobs and are full-time students at Texas A&M University. Young is a junior Animal Sciences major and Armstrong is a fourth-year veterinary medicine student. When asked how they manage such hectic livesArmstrong resolutely stated: “We have each other.” 

Young and Armstrong met in the Fall of 2018 after being introduced by a faculty member within the College of Veterinary Medicine. The two have developed a level of trust that allows them to lean on one another when life is particularly daunting. “If I were gone, I could fully trust her with the company. She can handle this and much more. Our co-founder relationship is very much like a marriage. If you don’t have the communication and trust and overall shared values that you’re both set on then it’s not going to happen.” commented Armstrong. “We met to become founders, but we’ve grown to become friends before founders,” said Young. 

Being entrepreneurs has also taught Armstrong and Young how to prioritize the myriad of responsibilities in their lives“It all boils down to time management,” said Armstrong. “My schedule is planned to the minute every day” Young stated“Now when I study I have to be productive because it’s the only time I have to study. And, honestly, it’s made my test grades a little higher. Both founders also commented that they schedule down-time to avoid burnout and to still enjoy life as studentsYoung commented, “I have my entire life to be an adult. I’ve learned a lot about don’t wish your life away too quickly”

Image of Young and Armstrong giving a presentation on SKYPaws during Season Premiere at Startup Aggieland.

Young (right) and Armstrong (left) giving a presentation on SKYPaws during Season Premiere at Startup Aggieland

MORE THAN ENTREPRENEURSHIP 

Armstrong and Young’s experience as founders have challenged them to grow as entrepreneurs, but also as professionals and individuals. SKYPaws has made Armstrong more prepared for her career as a veterinarian and has even elevated her experience at school. “I wouldn’t have gotten the same thing out of veterinary school here without having taken these opportunities. It’s shaped how I view the profession,” she commented. Because of the positive impact that entrepreneurship has had on her life, Armstrong firmly believes more veterinary students should be involved in the world of innovation and entrepreneurship. “[When you’re a student] you’re learning medicine, learning how to be a doctor, and learning how to think critically. But you aren’t getting any exposure to what is happening in this industry that you’re going to be a part of.” From legislature to novel pharmaceuticals Armstrong explains how during vet school you’re isolated from the working field and solely focused on school. “If I hadn’t gone to the Veterinary Innovation Summit and the Veterinary Entrepreneurship Academy I would not have this new-found appreciation for the industry. I now understand how a veterinary hospital is run and the business behind it,” said Armstrong. Because vet school is so rigorous many students don’t have the time to attend conferences and trade shows where one would typically learn more about industry trends. And so, Armstrong created the executive position of Innovation Ambassador within the Veterinary Businesses Management Association at Texas A&M. The Innovation Ambassador explores and learns about new trends and technology in veterinary medicine and share them with other students. There is an issue within the profession with inflexibility. My hope is that with some of these new efforts students will see that there’s more to the DVM than they ever could have imagined. The only way we’re going to change the profession’s thought process as a whole is to impact the upcoming veterinarians. Texas A&M is one of the few schools that is implementing programs that allow for this growth mindset.” said Armstrong. 

Being an entrepreneur has taught Young to never doubt her skills or allow others to tell her she can’t achieve something. “Entrepreneurship is a lot of learning on the fly and then doing it. If you fail, fine! Do it again.” said Young. In order to succeed at competitions such as The IdeaRaymond Ideas Challenge, and Aggie PITCH Young had to streamline SKYPaw’s circuitry and programming to create a minimal viable product. As an animal science major, she had a limited background in programming and had no access to soldering equipment. So, Young did what any clever student would do. She changed her minor to computer science for a semesterShe used her access to the Fischer Engineering Design Center and her programming classes to help fill the gaps in her skill set. Her new knowledge even helped her develop facial recognition software during an internship with Mars“I’m the type of person who if you tell me I can’t do something, or won’t do something, I 100% will.” said Young, I had people tell me you can’t fix this code because you’re not an engineering major. But I did and I can fix it.” 

Image of Young and Armstrong giving a presentation on SKYPaws during Season Premiere at Startup Aggieland.

Young (right) and Armstrong (left) giving a presentation on SKYPaws during Season Premiere at Startup Aggieland

BEING A YOUNG FEMALE FOUNDER 

Recent data shows that in Q1 of 2019 15% of United States venture capital investments went to companies with at least one female founder with only 2% invested in startups with all-female founders. In addition to being female founders, Young and Armstrong are young students. Because of this, they’ve faced a lot of push-back in the investment and entrepreneurial world. “There’s nothing that anybody ever does where someone doesn’t doubt them. It’s just something where you say I’m still going to do my best to make this happen. I don’t feel it from the veterinary side as much as the investment and business side” said Armstrong. “If I were [older] and a male and doing this it would be a completely different story” commented Young. Even when the two are faced with challenges they persevere and do their best to learn from their experiences. Young attended the first-ever Mars Leap Ventures Academy in 2019exclusively for women founders. After pitching SKYPaws to a panel of mock investors she was picked apart with personal questions about her age and experience“I came out of there and I was angry. I started talking with several of the other ladies and they told me that a lot of these investors aren’t saying this just to tick you off. They want you to step back and reframe what they said, and they want you to prove them wrong so that you can move on to the next step.” stated Young. Rather than view her age as a handicap, she uses the flexibility of a student schedule to capitalize on as many opportunities available to SKYPaws as possible. She pours her youthful energy into her company and the payoff is evident. In less than two years the duo has won over $30,000 in competition prize money, participated in the Leap Ventures Academy, are members of the current LaunchPad Lift cohort, and just signed with a manufacturing firm in Houston, TX to begin production of the beta series of SKYPaws devices. The team has also attended multiple entrepreneurship academies and have been keynote speakers at veterinary conferences. 

Their experiences as young female founders have caused Armstrong and Young to be even more dedicated to SKYPaws success. They hope that if their efforts will help the next generation of young, female founders find their confidence to follow their passion. “We’re creating a device that’s going to impact the industry in a positive way.” said Armstrong, If we do this, all the way and are successful people will know us. They’ll know these two women created this disruption in the veterinary space. And we’re doing it at such a young age. These two ordinary people did it so I can do it.” 

Armstrong and Young holding a large check at the 2019 Raymond Ideas Challenge where they won 1st place and $3,000

Armstrong (left) and Young (right) at the 2019 Raymond Ideas Challenge where they won 1st place and $3,000

Throughout our interview, Young and Armstrong repeatedly said “if SKYPaws is successful” rather than “when SKYPaws is successful”. When asked why their answers only further illustrated the maturity and sense of responsibility that Young and Armstrong bring to their venture. There’s always a thought in the back of my head that 3 out of 4 startups fail. And it’s again, from a place of feeling humble. I’m so grateful for everything that we’ve learned thus far and how much opportunity has come from this and how far we’ve actually gone. It’s just been incredible experience after incredible experience. Now that we’re getting into the investor phase, I’m even more conscious of the fact that we could take money from people. And still not make it. That is really difficult for me. We could do everything right, take this as far as we can get it, but at the same time that’s someone else’s money that’s in our hands. We could do everything right and still not make it. It’s a reality check for myself.” said Armstrong. Young too is humbled by the immense opportunities they have been given. She refuses to allow their current success to inflate her ego. “Every startup wants to be the one that makes it. There’s is that chance we could be one of the 3 out of 4. But we’re going to take [SKYPaws] as far as we can. We’re going to do our best to bring our gifts and attention to this company and try our hardest. A lot of my “if” comes from not being too cocky.” stated Young, There’s a difference between speaking something into existence and manifesting it. Just like there’s a difference between being positive and being cocky and thinking you deserve it. All of this stuff, I still feel undeserving and humbled to be a part of it.” With such inspiring and dedicated founders at the helm of SKYPaws, it’s hard not to believe that they will beat the odds.

About The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship

The Texas A&M McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship provides encouragement, education, networking and assistance to entrepreneurially-minded students, faculty and staff. Founded in 1999, The McFerrin Center is part of Mays Business School’s Department of Management. The McFerrin Center provides experiential learning opportunities through workshops, competitions, guest speakers, and other events and programs such as Aggie 100. Texas A&M faculty and students benefit from the center’s educational programs, extensive business community network, and entrepreneurial support services.

Categories: Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Startup Aggieland, Students