Startup Aggieland | Mays Impacts - Part 2

The Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE) has recently been restructured. Don Lewis has been appointed as director of the Blackstone LaunchPad Initiative at Texas A&M University.

Chuck Hinton, who works with the NSF I-Corps program at Startup Aggieland, will assume many of the responsibilities of the assistant director of Startup Aggieland. He will also continue to serve the National Science Foundation’s Innovative Corps (I-Corps) program.

Earlier this year, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation expanded its campus entrepreneurship program to include Texas A&M University along with the University of Texas at Austin and The University of Texas at Dallas. Established by the foundation’s three-year, $3 million grant, the partnership between the three institutions will introduce entrepreneurship as a viable career option and offer opportunities to the universities’ 130,000 students, regardless of major, with a network of venture coaches and an entrepreneurial support system. The CNVE was tasked with leading the initiative across campus.

The goals of the initiative are to identify 10 percent of the student body and engage them in a meaningful way in the entrepreneurial ecosystem on campus, from one-on-one mentoring to entrepreneurial-oriented events and more.

Categories: Centers, Departments, Management, Mays Business, News, Staff, Startup Aggieland, Texas A&M

Applications for 3 Day Startup are open until Sept. 14.

3 Day Startup is a learning-by-doing campus workshop designed to teach students entrepreneurial skills within 72 hours in a hands-on environment. This year’s workshop will be held Oct. 14-16 at Startup Aggieland, a business incubator located in Research Park.

Students are encouraged to use the weekend’s risk-free environment to work on business ideas for which they have a passion and may want to pursue after the program has ended. Mentors and professors from Texas A&M University will be available throughout the weekend to help students fine-tune their businesses.

Accepted participants will also attend a boot camp two weeks before the event, where they will learn key entrepreneurial principles and best practices for maximizing their experience in the program.

Texas A&M’s 3 Day Startup program is affiliated with 3 Day Startup, Inc., a nonprofit that helps teams run 3 Day Startup events by providing tools, resources and consulting. Learn more.


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

lynx with nooodles

Startup Aggieland client Lynx Toys has announced a licensing deal with Swimways, the world’s number one pool toy company. Lynx Cofounders Madison Jones, Jared Knowles and Matt Kinsel, former students at Texas A&M University are Young Entrepreneurs-in-Residence at Startup Aggieland, powered by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE). The three entrepreneurs have helped out around Startup Aggieland while continuing to work on their venture.

For the past few months, they also have traveled out-of-state for several meetings with prospective manufacturers and distributors. Ultimately, Lynx opted to license Lynx Toys to Swimways, which has products in nearly 50,000 retail stores nationwide, including Walmart, Target and Toys R Us. Swimways will manufacture, retail and develop the Lynx product line for distribution to major retailers by 2017.

“We were so impressed with the professionalism and creativity of the Lynx Toys team that we knew we had to license their product from them. The fact that they came to us with a major sporting goods retailer already on board really sealed the deal. We look forward to working with Team Lynx for many years to come,” said Monica Jones, vice president of marketing, Swimways Corporation.

Swimways is a leader in the outdoor recreational category with offices in Hong Kong, Virginia Beach and Tarbooro, NC. The privately-owned company has an exclusive partnership with Disney and Marvel to feature classic characters. Swimways was also named “Vendor of the Year” by Toys R Us and Target.

“We owe so much to the leaders of CNVE and Startup Aggieland, as well as our mentors Shelly Brenckman, T. Getterman, Burl Haigwood, Kelli Hollinger, Justin Burgdorff, Russell White and Harlie Frost,” said Matt Kinsel of Lynx Toys. “The guidance we received and relationships we made as students at Texas A&M have proven invaluable to our journey as entrepreneurs. We are honored to partner with such a successful and reputable company as Swimways, and we look forward to watching the growth of Lynx Toys.”

From kiosk to commercialization

Less than a year ago, Lynx occupied a free retail space in Post Oak Mall – generating national headlines for participating in a pilot collaboration between CBL Management in Waco, Mays Center for Retailing Studies and Startup Aggieland. The “UPC” or University/Post Oak Mall Collaboratory gave Team Lynx an opportunity to validate their market at a free kiosk last summer that became a popular attraction for young children who played while their parents shopped.

Lynx is a subsidiary of Defy Matter, a limited liability company launched last year by Kinsel, Knowles and Jones with the goal of commercializing patented technologies. Defy Matter currently owns two patented products: Lynx and MultiRag.

“Through our IP commercialization company, Defy Matter, we will continue to help inventors bring products to market,” added  Knowles. “We have several projects in the pipeline, and we look forward to evaluating more in the near future.”

CNVE Executive Director Richard Lester and recently retired Academy Sports + Outdoors CEO Rodney Faldyn facilitated introductions to Swimways for Lynx Toys. Faldyn was a frequent speaker last year in Lester’s graduate management classes and at Startup Living Learning Community’s MGMT 289 class for freshmen.

“I am excited to see the innovation and future success of the Lynx Toys brand come to market as they enter into a licensing agreement with Swimways,” Faldyn said. “The agreement will allow access to a vast array of retail to get the product to market quicker and into the hands of families for some family fun.”

lynx box

Professor Don Lewis, assistant director of Startup Aggieland, has had a strong influence on the young founders through his business advice and by making sure they participated in the entrepreneurial ecosystem that supported them by representing the business accelerator and CNVE. He provided them with speaking opportunities on campus, as well as at meetings of the Federation of A&M Mothers Clubs and A&M Clubs statewide. Professor Lewis allowed the team to remain in their office after graduation.

Retired Supercuts Southwest CFO T. Getterman has served as an advisory CPA for Lynx and has been instrumental in getting the team’s financial reporting in order. Lynx Toys’ Lead Mentor is Startup Aggieland Marketing Coordinator Shelly Brenckman, who brought the team together in summer 2014 and arranged funding for their company’s patents, travel and EIR appointments. The team also was coached in 2014-2015 by former mentors Burl Haigwood and Justin Burgdorff; and assisted by Kelli Hollinger, executive director of the Center for Retailing Studies at Mays Business School.

Hollinger and David Wesson, founding chairman of Aggie Angel Network, made it possible for the three Lynx founders to travel to and participate in the National Retail Federation Conference in Seattle. Financial investments from Russell White, Harlie Frost and David Heath greatly contributed to the team’s success.

“We’ve been in the loop and trying to provide a little guidance and assistance all along. The guys did a great job and they learned a lot,” said White. “Harlie and I are glad the experiment was so successful for A&M, provided such a wonderful opportunity for the students and gave Startup Aggieland a great story to tell its’ stakeholders and prospective students.”

Other important advisers include Chris Westfall, official pitch coach for Startup Aggieland; and Startup Aggieland Associate Chris Valletta, an Aggie 100 member and Cofounder of Mission Athlete Care. Aggie IP Attorney Kevin Klughart with the Law Firm of Carstens & Cahoon and Bryan Bulte of Seed Sumo.

In all, 15 of Startup Aggieland’s mentors worked with Defy Matter over the course of two years to help the cofounders with their two patented products – Lynx Toys and MultiRag. Lynx Toys will be sold in 214 Academy Sports + Outdoors stores by summer 2017. MultiRag is ready to go into production.

“This has set us on a path we are very excited about,” noted Madison Jones, inventor of MultiRag and several other inventions that Defy Matter is working on from their office in Startup Aggieland. “None of this would be possible without the advice and encouragement we received through Startup Aggieland.”

Categories: Mays Business, News, Startup Aggieland, Texas A&M

Mays Business School hosted an inaugural visit to Texas A&M University of distinguished faculty from The University of Havana in Cuba. After meeting with Mays Professor Don Lewis, assistant director of Startup Aggieland, and with Professor Richard Lester, executive director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE), through Mays’ Center for International Business Studies, faculty were invited by CNVE to visit Lewis and Lester this summer in Aggieland. Lewis and Lester met the faculty in January while leading Texas A&M’s first study abroad trip to Cuba.
Three professors from The University of Havana accepted CNVE’s offer, including Anicia Garcia Alvarez, Jose Luis Perello Cabrera and Humberto Blanco Rosales. Alvarez and Rosales are expert economists, while Cabrera is a tourism expert. The cadre arrived in Texas from New York on May 31, but not without challenges as airplanes were late or diverted to different airports and required last-minute, late pickups.

During their first day on campus, Lewis introduced his Cuban guests to representatives with the Association of Former Students (AFS). The AFS provided a tour of campus, including visits to the George Bush Presidential Library, Kyle Field and Memorial Student Center. On the second day, Cuban faculty toured Mays Business School with management faculty members, including Department Head Wendy Boswell and Professor David Flint. Katy Lane with the Center for International Business Studies also joined the tour.

“This inaugural visit by faculty from The University of Havana is the start of a new global collaboration for Texas A&M with a country that has been closed off to Americans for a half-century,” explained Lewis. “The opportunities for both universities are endless and exciting. We look forward to sharing research and innovations with the Cubans and helping each other through joint initiatives.”

Former AFS Chair Jorge Bermudez, a retired Citibank executive and Cuban-born immigrant to the U.S., hosted Cuban faculty on a tour of the Federal Reserve Bank. Lewis’ students from his 2015 study abroad class and Startup Aggieland joined the visiting faculty membesr in Downtown Historic Bryan for the monthly “First Friday” event. AFS President-Elect Phil Miner, founder of The Miner Corporation in San Antonio, hosted the visitors on a tour of NASA and the Port of Houston – then attended an Astros game at Reliant Stadium.

The Cuban faculty members toured the Engineering Innovation Center on June 6 with engineering faculty Magda Lagoudas and Rodney Boehm, then enjoyed dinner at Christopher’s. The next day, they visited the College of Architecture, where Dean Jorge Vanegas hosted a tour of the Live Lab and Viz Arts programs, in addition to the BIM Cave. Faculty later visited the Corps of Cadets Museum and Miramont Country Club, then celebrated new faculty friends from architecture and Mays at Sodolack’s Original Steakhouse, where Rosales was surprised with a “Texas-sized” steak that hung over the serving platter.

On June 9, the day before the end of their 11-day visit, visiting faculty delivered presentations on tourism and the economy in Cuba for a classroom of Texas A&M University faculty, students and former students after a breakfast at Startup Aggieland. Upon their return to Cuba, Cabrera wrote Lewis a note:
“Dear Don. I want to thank all (for) their attention and efforts on the days we were there, where we learned the ways to achieve greater development. The days we stayed, were exploited to the maximum, at least for me. Convey my thanks to all (who) shared their time and chores: Shelly, Abby, Phil, Richard; and others. It is painful for us not to correspond with the same attention. At least for now…see you soon!”

Lewis will return to Havana in January 2017 with another group of students from Texas A&M for a two-week immersion experience in Cuban culture and entrepreneurship. Students will stay mostly in hostels. For more information about the trip, email Lewis at or go to

Read a past student participant’s blog here:

Categories: Centers, Departments, Faculty, Mays Business, News, Programs, Startup Aggieland, Texas A&M

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation has expanded its campus entrepreneurship program, Blackstone LaunchPad, to three Texas universities: Texas A&M University, The University of Texas at Austin and The University of Texas at Dallas. The Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s three-year, $3 million grant will establish a partnership between the three institutions to introduce entrepreneurship as a viable career option and offer opportunities to the universities’ 130,000 students, regardless of major, with a network of venture coaches and an entrepreneurial support system.
Blackstone photo2“Texas has a strong business environment and is a hub for entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Stephen A. Schwarzman, Blackstone’s chairman, CEO and co-founder. “As universities look to the private sector to expand their capabilities and provide experiential opportunities to their students, we are pleased to help meet that need and deliver the tools and resources to build strong enterprises rooted in the state and connected to a global network of entrepreneurs.”
The announcement was made at the UT Dallas Visitor Center Atrium, and speakers included Blackstone Chairman, CEO and co-founder Stephen A. Schwarzman; co-founder and CEO of Vengo Labs (a Blackstone LaunchPad venture) Brian Shimmerlik; and executive director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation Amy Stursberg. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Britt Harris, chief investment officer at the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, were also scheduled to deliver remarks, but were unable to attend due to severe weather.
…Read more

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

Forty students from across the Texas A&M University campus convened at Startup Aggieland April 15 to experience a high-impact, fast-paced entrepreneurial experience over a 72-hour period.

3 Day Startup, hosted by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE) at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School, connects student entrepreneurs with mentors. It challenges students to work in diverse teams of students from various majors, classifications and backgrounds. Budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas on Friday, hoping to be chosen by the other participants as one of six teams to participate in the weekend event. From the 22 pitches, six were chosen for the three-day adventure.

26432293002_5460a3e264_zThe teams formed on that Friday afternoon to work on business models, customer validation and prototypes of their infant businesses. On that Friday evening they researched their idea through the night, hoping to understand their concept and their customers. With the Lean Canvas business model as their guide, they focused on the problems, solutions, key metrics and competitive advantages.

Team leader Austin Thompson ’19 said he found the Lean Canvas model helpful in developing the idea. I felt as though it really made us not only evaluate the design, but go into depth as to why our idea was going to be successful.”

To help with student business ideas, mentors from the local community came to give feedback, input and pivot points to teams. Mentors included business professionals, attorneys specializing in intellectual property and Texas A&M faculty and staff. 3DS team leader Hannah Cartwright ’19, said, “I learned so much from the mentors at 3DS. They were all so willing to help and guide us in the right direction. I value all of their advice so much.”

On Saturday the teams went out into the field to discover what potential customers thought about their idea. Thompson led a startup that ventured to create the best coffee maker on the market. He says, “At first I felt very awkward walking up to random people and asking them about their coffee-drinking habits. Most people were very happy to help, however, which made me more comfortable with the process.”

Overall, 3 Day Startup gets students to be creative, start something new and dig deep into their entrepreneurial roots.

The weekend culminated in a showcase of the six startups, in which they each gave a 15-minute pitch to six pro panelists. The pro panelists consisted of businessmen, entrepreneurs and startup enthusiast from the surrounding area. Startups ranged from integrated home audio solutions to a healthy sweets company offering cookie dough balls for consumers with a desire to eat a healthy, all-natural sweet snack.

There isn’t any monetary prize involved. The winners have earned the opportunity to work with mentors in the business world to further advance their ideas.


Categories: Mays Business, News, Startup Aggieland, Students, Texas A&M