Many people believe an entrepreneur is someone who starts a business, but at their core entrepreneurs are simply problem solvers.

While studying to receive a degree in International Studies, Bryce Watson ’16 was invited to travel to China to aid a local non-profit. During his time there, Watson heard countless stories of the harsh working conditions that factory employees faced every day. Employees worked 80-hour weeks in dangerous environments for little pay, and many had been seriously injured on the job. By the end of his trip Watson had heard enough. He returned to Texas A&M University determined to find a way to improve workers’ rights in developing nations. “I wanted to do something about this,” Watson said. “I didn’t just want to learn about it, I wanted to solve the problem.”

Watson quickly realized he was attacking a complex issue. “We started to discover that these multi-national corporations have hundreds of sub-contractor manufacturing facilities that are only audited once or twice a year,” he said. “They have very little incentive to make sure their operating procedures are safe for their employees.”

Watson decided it would be much more effective to empower the local workforce rather than wrestle with giant corporations. “I wanted to attack this problem from the bottom-up rather than the top-down.”

Vize provides a two-fold solution. First, they connect top-rated factories with qualified individuals looking for jobs. In addition, Vize provides a platform for workers to anonymously rate and review factories without fear of repercussion. “Factories are in desperate need of employees due to the global labor crisis,” Watson said. “There’s an abundance of jobs but not enough workers to fill them all. Now workers have power over their lives.”

Watson explained that workers will leave jobs that treat them poorly, but often move from factory to factory until they find a fair employer. Vize helps to educate the local workforce on which factories to avoid with the hope that poorly-rated facilities will be forced to improve working conditions in order to recruit employees.

“Glassdoor has the most similar business model to Vize, but we’re in a completely different market,” Watson said. “No one is focusing on emerging markets.” When asked why this is Watson simply responded “because Startups come from Silicon Valley and these issues aren’t in Silicon Valley. If you aren’t aware that these problems exist you’re not trying to solve them.”

If you have an idea, go do it

Vize isn’t Watson’s first adventure in entrepreneurship. During his time at Texas A&M he co-founded both a non-profit and a student organization, and was always interested in solving big problems. Eventually these ventures fizzled-out but he learned from every failure. “If you have an idea, go do it. Like, right now! You’re almost certainly going to fail, but that’s OK. It’s worth at least trying, especially if you believe in it.”

Watson knew Vize could make a real impact and was determined to make his startup a success. He leveraged student resources such as Startup Aggieland and Blackstone Launchpad to connect with fellow student entrepreneurs and mentors. “Being an entrepreneur is hard. Build a team of people who make up for your weaknesses.”

Watson also began taking classes focused on entrepreneurship. That’s how he met Richard Lester, Executive Director of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. During his time as a graduate student, Watson enrolled in Lester’s “Foundations of Entrepreneurship” course and developed Vize’s business model as a part of the course’s final project.

“Bryce was always really creative,” Lester recalled. “He found a student organization on campus, a type of coding club, who would help develop his prototype.” When asked about Watson’s progress throughout the course Lester said that “he pivoted a lot.”  But that he was always focused on the workers he was helping. “He’s trying to do the right thing. [Vize] maintains the anonymity of workers so they can freely discuss issues that can be taken to the factories and hopefully be addressed. He wants to improve working conditions for people who are powerless.” Dr. Lester currently serves on the Vize Advisory Board.

Being an entrepreneur is hard work, especially when you’re a student, but Watson insists this shouldn’t deter one from going after an idea. “Use the resources you have while you’re in school,” said Watson. “Take classes to help your idea grow. Tailor your courses to work with professors whose expertise aligns with your project. There will never be another time in your life like this.” Many entrepreneurs hesitate to launch their venture because they don’t believe it’s the right time, but not Watson. “I realized I don’t have to wait until XYZ happens, I should start right now.”

Watson graduated with a Master’s of International Affairs in May of 2018 and serves as the CEO of Vize. Several of the other founding members of the company are current students. Vize just completed a successful crowd-sourcing campaign on IndieGoGo. They officially launched their mobile app in October; available for download in the Google Play store. They’ve already received positive feedback from communities in Mexico and have several factories who are major advocates for Vize.

Categories: Centers, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Former Students, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Students, Texas A&M

The Memorial Student Center at Texas A&M University was bustling on Feb. 18 with business and community leaders serving as judges for the 2019 MBA Venture Challenge. Fourteen teams of Full-Time MBA students eagerly awaited their time to shine in front of the judging panels with the hope that they would take home 1st place at this year’s competition.

The MBA Venture Challenge is an annual competition held in partnership between the Mays MBA Program and the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. The 2019 MBA Venture Challenge wrapped up its 18th year with three winning teams going home with a total of $10,000.

The winning teams – announced at a networking and awards reception immediately after the Venture Challenge – are:

  • First Place: Hasan Ahmed, Ahad Azimuddin, Hang Quan, Shelley Ruohonen, Jordan Williams; Medicinbox LLC
    • $5,000 sponsored by the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship
  • Second Place: Mark Dearden, Ahmed Ibrahim, Korbin King, Michael Reasor; VoCo
    • $3,000 sponsored by the Aggie Angel Network
  • Third Place: John Buancore, Cole Dietz, Clyde Fomunung, Chris Raman, Koki Tobita; Krueger Labs, Inc.
    • $2,000 sponsored by Fibertown
  • Elevator Pitch: Mark Dearden, Ahmed Ibrahim, Korbin King, Michael Reasor; VoCo
    • $500 sponsored by Mays Business School

…Read more

Categories: Entrepreneurship, Faculty, Featured Stories, Mays Business, MBA, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Students, Texas A&M

By Kiera Merritt ’19

The United States Department of Labor predicts, “Today’s learners will have eight to10 jobs by the age of 38.” A majority of these future jobs do not even exist yet. For instance, people interested in both robotics and law could become robotics ethicists to mitigate issues such as ownership of and culpability for decisions made by machines. Because of modern technological innovation, once unimaginable opportunities are becoming new careers.

On Jan. 25, Christopher Bishop – a nonlinear, multimodal careerist – provided students at Texas A&M University with insight into succeeding in these fields of the future. Throughout his life, Bishop continuously redeveloped his skills and created new jobs for himself.

He toured internationally as a musician with artists such as Robert Palmer and Chuck Berry; wrote advertising jingles, including the original “Gimme a Break” Kit Kat jingle; turned a conversation on a commuter train into a 12-year career at IBM; and now delivers presentations on the future of work around the world.

Each time Bishop switched careers, he focused on three fundamental tools for success:

  • Voice. Identify your own brand. Invest in what makes you stand out. Frame your persona on your own uniqueness.
  • Antenna. Connect your interests to events in the world. Seek sources based on your values and interests that help you stay informed. These sources include magazines, newspapers, blogs, YouTube videos, podcasts, or other forms of media.
  • Mesh. Share yourself with those who value your skills. LinkedIn is a valuable tool. Expand your network by adding at least five people each week. Reach out to others who share your interests and goals, and join groups to expand your connections. This puts you on the radar of people you would otherwise miss.

While creating new jobs can be a daunting process, the trepidation behind progress is nothing new. In fact, in 1589, Queen Elizabeth I refused to issue a patent for a mechanized knitting machine, “for fear it [would] put [her] poor subjects out of work.” However, the new workforce should look to the future without hesitation because, as Bishop stated, “As long as there are problems, there will be jobs.”

The Mays Innovation Research Center hosted this event.

Categories: Centers, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Jobs, Mays Business, Mays Innovation Research Center, News, Research, Spotlights, Students, Texas A&M

  • Texas A&M undergraduate students join founders from Cornell University, New York University, and others for inaugural cohort
  • Each venture will receive $10,000 grant and participate in 10-week development program with Techstars mentors and support from Blackstone

The team of Ben Omonira ’20 and Elise Hackney ’20, students of Texas A&M University College of Engineering, was selected as one of seven startup teams to join the “LaunchPad Lift” program. Their startup, Lazarus, provides a specialty ammunition that penetrates a threat while minimizing blood loss post-penetration to preserve life.

Ventures were selected after the second annual LaunchPad Training Camp, an event hosted by Blackstone and Techstars designed to supercharge top collegiate entrepreneurs from the LaunchPad global network. Lazarus attended the conference on behalf of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship and Texas A&M’s Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars . Hosted in New York City, the 2018 LaunchPad Training Camp brought together a group of top performing student ventures, who, over the course of two days, heard from experts on entrepreneurship topics and received mentoring from Blackstone employees and members of the Techstars global mentor network.

As part of Blackstone and Techstars partnership to support collegiate entrepreneurs, Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars “LaunchPad Lift” program identifies top-performing student teams from across the LaunchPad global network and pairs them with resources and opportunities to help their ventures succeed.

…Read more

Categories: Centers, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Students, Texas A&M

On a Saturday morning, during their 9 a.m. classes, students from the Professional MBA Classes of 2019 and 2020 were prepared to debrief a typical case assignment for their respective accounting course. The class of 2019 was in Mary Lea McAnally’s Financial Accounting course, and the class of 2020 was in Mike Kinney’s Managerial Accounting course. Both cohorts thought this would be a typical class discussion.

Moments into each separate class, the respective faculty announced that the student teams in both classes had a good start analyzing the case – but were incomplete in their analysis. McAnally told her Financial Accounting students, “To understand the complete picture of this company, the results they’ve generated, and the options in front of them, your team needs information from the managerial accounting team in Kinney’s class next door.” Kinney simultaneously announced to his Managerial Accounting teams that they needed to immediately partner with teams from financial accounting to complete a full analysis and generate valid recommendations.

The faculty said, “go,” and the teams from each class paired to complete a new “Combined Case” assignment in 90 minutes. After the 90 minutes, the combined teams presented their analysis and recommendations to a group of faculty who were assuming the role of the case company’s board of directors.

…Read more

Categories: Accounting, Entrepreneurship, Faculty, Featured Stories, Mays Business, MBA, News, Programs, Spotlights, Texas A&M

In 2017, the average Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopper spent just over $400 purchasing gifts online for the holiday season. Cyber Monday alone broke a record with $6.59 billion in online sales. At the same time, the average online gift to a nonprofit organization has remained steady at just over $100. In response to this difference, Giving Tuesday was established as an international day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities, and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide.

Giving Tuesday is a valuable opportunity for individuals and nonprofits to come together under the banner of generosity and philanthropy. On November 27th, people will make decisions, both large and small, to impact their communities. It is a powerful reminder that small acts of generosity can add up to significant change. The numbers provided above often make us think that generosity and philanthropy are words retained for the Bill Gates and Warren Buffets of the world. However, generosity can, and likely will, begin in smaller increments.

…Read more

Categories: Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Programs, Selfless service, Staff, Texas A&M

In a nationwide search, Texas A&M University has been ranked as a top university for graduate and undergraduate students interested in entrepreneurship. It was part of the Princeton Review Top Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Programs 2019.

Coming in at #22, Texas A&M boasts a dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem that includes the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Startup Aggieland, Blackstone Launchpad, and the Texas A&M I-School.

More than 300 schools reported data about their entrepreneurship offerings and rankings are based on entrepreneurial curriculum, student, faculty and staff entrepreneurial ventures, extracurricular offerings, and scholarships and aid provided to students pursuing entrepreneurship.

Categories: Centers, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Students, Texas A&M

Sometimes brilliance in marketing and merchandising takes the shape of a beaver. Texas travelers know when they see billboards with quirky slogans telling them to “Buc-ee’s or Bust!” that clean restrooms, beef jerky, 79-cent fountain drinks, and beaver nuggets soon await them.

Arch “Beaver” Aplin ‘80, the co-founder and current president of Buc-ee’s spoke to almost 400 students, faculty, staff and local business leaders as part of the 20th annual M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Lecture Series hosted by the Center for Retailing Studies. To excel in this industry, Aplin said, “I must exceed the customer’s expectations.” Buc-ee’s differentiates itself from the general convenience store category by building enormous “travel centers.”

The recently opened Katy store boasts 53,000 square feet of retail space stocked with interesting one-of-a-kind items, like pickled jalapenos. Typical convenience locations are about 3,000 square feet.

Aplin says Buc-ee’s is “always looking for products that get customers exclaiming ‘whoa, who would have thought they carried that!’” …Read more

Categories: Alumni, Entrepreneurship, Executive Speakers, Featured Stories, Former Students, Mays Business, Texas A&M

Competition is no stranger in the SEC. Whether it’s athletic or academic prowess, students at each university are driven by the desire to be recognized as “#1.” The 2018 SEC Student Pitch Competition boasted an unrivaled level of innovation, skill, and grit that could only be found in the Southeastern Conference.

This year’s competition was hosted at Texas A&M University by the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. …Read more

Categories: Centers, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Students, Texas A&M

  

October Startup Spotlight

When YouTube was founded in 2005, no one could have foreseen that the video sharing platform would become an entrepreneurial hot-spot. Professional YouTube creatives generate a product, work with key strategic partners to achieve business goals, develop healthy revenue streams, and engage with their customers to better direct their products and brand. Sounds a lot like running a business, doesn’t it? A professional YouTuber is now, well, a thing. Not only a thing, but a legitimate commercial venture for hard-working creators.

Tyler Anderson ’19 is one such creator. His YouTube channel, TylersReelFishing, has more than 112,000 subscribers, and he’s uploaded more than 800 videos that have garnered 15 million total views. Did I mention he’s done all of this in just five years?

…Read more

Categories: Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Students, Texas A&M