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

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

Put the phone down, earn prizes.

That’s the premise of SAFE 2 SAVE, a mobile app that rewards users for staying off their phones while driving. Since its launch in Fall 2016, it has grown to attract more than 70,000 users. And its founder Mays former student Marci Corry ’01 is continually working to improve it and increase its reach.

While having a conversation with a Texas A&M University student, Corry noticed everyone around them was on their phone. “As I reflected on that and the dangers of texting, especially while driving, it hit me that I should start a positive app that targets adults as well as teens that would encourage people to be hands-free,” said Corry.

The tipping point came when she heard the news of a 19-year-old student who lost his life after he was struck by a driver who was texting. “That’s when I knew I needed to start this company to help grow the awareness and prevent distracted driving as much as we could in Aggieland,” said Corry.

…Read more

Categories: Alumni, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Former Students, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Spotlights, Startup Aggieland, Students, Texas A&M

The world of 3D printing is no longer an unattainable dream; 3D printers have been set up in Startup Aggieland, a facility operated by the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship at Mays Business School. These 3D printers can be used by any students who want to print out their innovative new ideas, but as a 3D model and not just as a 2D image.

Charles Hinton, I-Corps Director and Startup Aggieland veteran, is facilitating the startup process for these new 3D printers. As a Texas A&M graduate, Hinton understands the importance of students expressing their ideas in creative ways. According to Hinton, these printers will serve as the beginning of the development of a makerspace in Startup Aggieland, where students and faculty can come to design, experiment, and learn.

These 3D printers will give students the opportunity to build a touchable “first look” at the ideas and gadgets they have created in their head or on paper. This is an incredible feat for students who are looking to become entrepreneurs or students who just want to know if their idea could have any commercial value.

Users of the printer must first generate a model of the product they want to manufacture, which they can do on a 3D modeling software called Solid Works that can be acquired for free from the university. The students then bring their design to Startup Aggieland, where a different software will slice and convert the design to a printable format. The 3D printer can then get to work by adding layer upon layer of raw material fed into the printer to create a final product. …Read more

Categories: Centers, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, I-Corps, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Startup Aggieland, Students, Texas A&M

App acts as social media address book

Mays Business School’s focus on the entrepreneurial mindset is personified in the success of Mays marketing senior Dylan Secrest ’17, the CEO and creator of SyncLink.

Dylan SecrestSyncLink is a new iPhone application that allows users to consolidate friends on all social media platforms, as well as store other forms of contact information, in one place. His vision was to “simplify the way the world connects, and essentially create a social media address book.”

Once a user has downloaded the app and created an account, he can sync social media profiles onto the SyncLink account and share it with the world. From there, the user can connect with other SyncLink users on social media with the click of a button.

Secrest has released the app locally, and has garnered more than 400 users and plans to expand further. He and his business partners – Noah Kaplan of Cornell University and Jay Dickey ’17, who graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in political science and is now a prospective law student – recently joined Startup Aggieland, a business incubator on campus. They are working with several entrepreneurs-in-residence and software mentors, and have applied to MassChallenge Texas.

…Read more

Categories: Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Spotlights, Startup Aggieland, Students, Texas A&M

The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship at Mays Business School reflects the values of excellence revered by its namesake – Artie McFerrin, a long-time supporter of Texas A&M University and the name behind the $10 million gift that secured the center’s future.

An intimate group that included Artie McFerrin’s wife Dorothy, their daughter Jennifer, and a gathering of family, friends and university leaders attended a recent reception to celebrate the official naming of the center. The event at the Founders Club at Kyle Field served as a tribute to Artie McFerrin, and a thank-you to his family, who have supported Texas A&M for years.

Dorothy and Artie McFerrin Jr. ’65 (2016 photo)

“If you strive for success, if you dream of venturing into the unknown and emerging smarter and stronger, if you want to grow yourself so you can grow others, you not only have a place to go, but also a name forever attached to it,” Tyson Voelkel, president of the Texas A&M Foundation, said at the event.

The center, which serves more than 3,000 students and more than 1,000 former students through 27 programs, is an international leader in entrepreneurial education. It aims to enhance entrepreneurial student education by providing training, networking, and assistance to enterprising students, faculty and alumni. With the support of a volunteer network, corporate supporters, faculty, and staff, the McFerrin Center has been able to provide business start-up acceleration, competitive opportunities, work experiences, and financial support to aspiring entrepreneurs in the Aggie community and across the world.

…Read more

Categories: Centers, Dean Eli Jones, Donors Corner, Featured Stories, Management, Mays Business, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Programs, Selfless service, Startup Aggieland, Texas A&M

Dayana Hansley ’18 had an eventful freshman year. She struggled in her engineering classes during the first semester. At the same time, the Abilene native and her team took first place in the 2014 Aggies Invent competition, a 48-hour engineering innovation competition.

The combination of these two occurrences altered Hansley’s trajectory in both college and in life. She changed her major in order to earn a university studies business degree with minors in leadership studies and communications. The winner of Aggies Invent also transferred to Mays Business School’s Startup Aggieland, where she gained guidance in entrepreneurism and the resources to figure out how to bring her team’s invention, the Motley Tool, to the marketplace.

Coming back to a childhood dream

Hansley’s interest in entrepreneurship started at an early age. “I’ve always dreamed of owning my own company,” she said. “Even as a child, I would make handmade cards to give to my parents and family members for holidays. I would always write ‘Dayana Inc.’ on the back, hoping that one day I would have my own company.”

That dream eventually faded away. “As I grew up, I didn’t think it was realistic and I put the idea of entrepreneurship to the side,” she said.

However, winning Aggies Invent put her back on the path that she dreamed about in her youth. “Startup Aggieland opened my eyes to entrepreneurism,” she said. “I learned that owning my own business is possible and it is not as crazy as people make it seem.”

Hansley quickly tapped into the business incubator’s mentoring and resources, including free legal assistance. In addition, she worked with Startup Aggieland’s staff to patent the Motley Tool.

She also found that Startup Aggieland offered a nurturing environment that helped her juggle the opportunities she was being offered while remaining focused on her classes and own self-care. “When they pull you in, they make sure you are taken care of,” said Hansley, who is president of Texas A&M’s Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization. “They also make sure you are doing well in school because Startup Aggieland does realize that you’re here for school.” …Read more

Categories: Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship, Mays Business, News, Startup Aggieland, Students, Texas A&M

3 Day Startup event is a 72-hour, hands-on workshop experience for Texas A&M University students of all majors. Within this three-day period, students are coached, mentored and begin executing on the critical first steps necessary to make any business idea grow successfully. Beginning on Friday afternoon, students pitch their own business idea, and teams are formed around the ideas most highly-supported by the other student participants. Then these student teams will work day and night to prepare for their final pitches on Sunday in front of a “Pro Panel” of entrepreneurial experts who have launched successful businesses across a wide array of industries. The constructive criticism and advice provided by volunteer mentors and entrepreneurs throughout the weekend provide the students with a framework and path to work toward launching a new business.

…Read more

Categories: Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship, Mays Business, Startup Aggieland, Texas A&M

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Startup Aggieland Entrepreneur-in-Residence Nathan Day, a retired founding CTO of SoftLayer and Texas A&M former student who lives near Austin;
  • Startup Aggieland Entrepreneur-in-Residence Brian Kralyevich, a VP UX for Amazon in Seattle and a Texas A&M former student;
  • Dave Manzer, an Aggie mentor for Startup Aggieland who owns Manzer Communications in Austin;
  • Shelly Brenckman, a student co-founder and marketing coordinator as well as manager of the CNVE Mentor Network and Startup Aggieland’s Dormcubator.
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Burnt gear from the firefighters who died in February 2013 is used to demonstrate how important safety is on the fireground.

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

entrepTexas A&M University is on The Princeton Review’s 11th annual survey naming the 25 undergraduate and 25 graduate schools best for entrepreneurship studies for 2017, The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine announced Wednesday. Texas A&M was 20th on the undergraduate list and 21st on the graduate list.

About 250 startups were launched by Texas A&M graduates in the last five years. Mays Business School is a leader in entrepreneurship on the Texas A&M campus, and has 900 students enrolled in entrepreneurship classes.

Entrepreneurial thinking aligns with Mays Business School’s vision to develop transformational leaders who possess the qualities of an entrepreneur: responsible leaders with vision and strong business competencies, exemplify selfless service and value diversity and inclusion.

…Read more

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