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

  • 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

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

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

If you entered the Grand Stafford Theater on the evening of August 13, you would have been surrounded by some of the biggest proponents of entrepreneurship in Bryan/College Station. Business owners, Texas A&M University faculty, and members of local agencies such as the Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation came together around one common interest: Startup Aggieland.

The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship hosted the Startup Aggieland Reveal Party after hinting that those in attendance would have a chance to “meet the new Startup Aggieland.” Attendees were treated to canapés provided by Chef Tai Lee and enjoyed the industrial-chic atmosphere of the historic downtown Bryan concert venue. Conversations drifted among clusters of attendees, each of them buzzing about what exciting new plans the McFerrin Center had in store for Startup Aggieland. …Read more

Categories: Centers, Entrepreneurship, Faculty, Featured Stories, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Spotlights, Staff, Startup Aggieland, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

The ventures at this year’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Disabled Veterans (EBV), hosted by Mays Business School’s McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, ranged from network solutions for small businesses to artisan products to novel applications of artificial intelligence. The 21 veterans in this year’s class came from across the United States and represented nearly every branch of the military.

Since 2008, the McFerrin Center has hosted the intensive training program developed to help disabled veterans develop the competencies and skills necessary to create and sustain an entrepreneurial or small business venture. …Read more

Categories: Dean Eli Jones, Diversity and Inclusion, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Programs, Texas A&M

The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship welcomed 22 veterans to Aggieland for the 11th annual Reynolds and Reynolds Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) on the evening of Saturday, July 14.

EBV at Texas A&M University is an exceptional initiative that leverages the resources and infrastructure of higher education to provide entrepreneurial skills and small business management training to post-9/11 veterans with service-connected disabilities. Part of a nationwide consortia of nine universities offering EBV to disabled veteran entrepreneurs, the overall goal of Texas A&M’s program is to open the door to economic opportunity for our veterans and their families by developing their competencies in creating and sustaining a commercial venture.

The opening ceremonies were held at the Association of Former Students with a welcome address made by Kathryn Greenwade ’88 of the Association of Former Students and opening remarks made by David Shimek ’86 of the program’s underwriter, The Reynolds and Reynolds Company.

Honoring the past, encouraging the future

Ron Poynter, retired Army helicopter pilot and EBV Class of 2012 graduate, was recognized with the Robin ’76 & Robert Starnes ’72 EBV Outstanding Alumni Award and delivered an encouraging and thoughtful speech to this year’s participants. Poynter encouraged the 2018 class to stay focused and engaged in their industry’s trends and to be prepared for a lot of hard work.

The program consists of a 21-day online course followed by a nine-day residency at Texas A&M. During the in-residence portion of EBV, participants will spend the week attending lectures and workshops at Mays Business School’s Center for Executive Development, where they will learn about enterprise basics, lean startup methodologies and small business growth strategies. The bootcamp extends well into the evening hours with individual breakout meetings between participants and volunteer mentors from the local community. Thanks to the generosity of the program’s individual and private-sector sponsors, EBV is offered at no cost to the participants.

This year’s class includes business ventures ranging from an eco-friendly flower alternative to healthcare to drone-imaging services, with nearly every venture focused on employing and giving back to fellow veterans.

Categories: Centers, Diversity and Inclusion, Entrepreneurship, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Selfless service, Spotlights, Texas A&M

Categories: Alumni, Dean Eli Jones, Entrepreneurship, Faculty, Mays Business, Mays Innovation Research Center, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Selfless service, Texas A&M, Uncategorized