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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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

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

Blake Petty ’98 was recently announced as the new Executive Director for the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. He joined the McFerrin Center in 2014 but has spent over 20 years working in commercialization and entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University.

Petty grew up on his family’s farm outside of Waco, Texas. During his time as an undergraduate and master’s student at Texas A&M, Petty studied ecosystem sciences and pursued his passion for the inter-relation of all things of nature. “I always thought I would go back to the family farm and live the agricultural lifestyle. So that’s what I studied. I never really considered business as important to any of that.” he said. Petty was almost through with his Master’s research when he came to a sudden realization. He did not want a career in agriculture. “I came to a real, serious panic moment,” he said.

With graduation fast-approaching, Petty had to quickly pivot and explore new opportunities for his life and career. Fortunately, during his time as a graduate student, he’d built a strong network within the University. “Because A&M is such an amazing school, the people in my degree program actually opened doors for me. I found the licensing job at the commercialization office specific to agriculture,” said Petty.

Petty’s first job after graduating with his Master’s in 2000 was in the Texas A&M Vice President for Research office where he worked on efforts to commercialize technologies and products developed faculty at Texas A&M University. “I remember walking into that job, maybe even in the interview process, and admitting I don’t know how to commercialize these things. I love the science behind it. But you’re talking about business and transitioning from a lab to a marketplace and that is all very confusing and nebulous to me.” said Petty. Although he had only minimally explored the world of commercialization and entrepreneurship prior to his role, he ended up being the perfect fit. He entered the role with zero pre-conceived notions on what could or would succeed in the market which proved invaluable. During his decade long tenure in the position, Petty’s passion for entrepreneurship bloomed. He was enamored by the process a good idea must go through in order to transform into a viable business. He also discovered a serendipitous connection between his life-long passion for ecosystem science and his new-found love for entrepreneurship. “I unexpectedly fell in love with that entire process. I began to recognize components of the entrepreneurial ecosystem inside the University and in the broader local ecosystem” he said. Petty believes the biggest misconception when it comes to being an entrepreneur is that only business-minded individuals can be successful. “I’m living proof that’s not true. Take it from somebody who had no interest or passion in studying entrepreneurship as a student.”

While in his role at the Vice President for Research’s office, Petty received an invitation to serve as a judge at the MBA Venture Challenge, at the time called the Tech Transfer Challenge. He had never heard of the hosting organization, Center for New Venture and Entrepreneurship; which was renamed the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship in 2018 after a generous endowment by the McFerrin Family Foundation. After volunteering as a judge for that one event he knew he wanted to be more involved with CNVE in whatever way he could.  “That one program introduced me to the other things that CNVE was doing,” said Petty. Petty later became a member of the CNVE Advisory Council, assisted in the founding Startup Aggieland, and became an active volunteer at CNVE events and programs all before he was formally employed by the Center in 2013. “I wanted to do more with students, which just wasn’t part of my job. I genuinely remember thinking If I ever get the chance to do this work that CNVE is doing; work more with students, do more for the veteran entrepreneurs, I would love a job like that. I never thought that would be a possibility or a career track for me” said Petty.

Petty says that there’s something special about student entrepreneurs that makes them particularly inspiring. “There is untold potential with these students” he commented, “I don’t know if it’s their youth or their passion. They envision themselves launching, growing, and owning a business around what they love. If I can help them through the process…I can’t even begin to imagine where they’re going to go with it. It’s not just exciting. It’s inspirational, it almost makes me feel lazy”. This says a lot, considering Petty is not only the Executive Director of McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship but also serves as the Executive Director for the Aggie Angel Network, and a lead faculty for NSF I-Corps.

Now, in 2020 Petty has achieved what many people hope to find in their career. “I’m doing what I love.” he stated.


Within the past decade and a half, there has been an entrepreneurial gold-rush in the world of higher education. Where there once were few to no resources for student entrepreneurs, it seems now that nearly every campus in the nation has a center, maker-space, or opportunity for innovative students to explore entrepreneurship. When asked where he thinks this boom came from, Petty stated quite matter of fact: the students. “It’s all driven from the students themselves. It’s from the entrepreneurs on campus saying hey, I’m going to keep creating and by gosh I’ll do it on my own if you’re not going to help me.”

Students now have a variety of ways to grow their skills as entrepreneurs while they pursue their degree. Gone are the days where you had to decide between continuing your education and starting your business. When students have a plethora of options around the country, what is it that makes the McFerrin Center special? And furthermore, what makes Texas A&M an exceptional choice for young entrepreneurs? Petty commented that there are 2 reasons Texas A&M stands out for entrepreneurs: shared values and that entrepreneurship is a part of Texas A&M’s history.

“We’re drawn to entrepreneurs of our type. Which boils down to Aggie entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs who are attracted to Texas A&M because they felt an intrinsic connection with the University’s culture and core values.” said Petty. “I think we can all agree Aggies are unique. We operate differently. We think differently. We even behave differently whether that’s in business or otherwise. Entrepreneurs with a pedigree from Texas A&M don’t have to focus on maintaining the core values. If they did it right as students here, those core values are instilled in them.” Petty also commented that entrepreneurs who are involved with the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship are challenged in more ways than their counterparts at other schools. “We’re requiring that you not just be entrepreneurial but also think about how you are a leader as an entrepreneur and how you show respect as an entrepreneur. We’ve built a uniquely Aggie center for Aggie entrepreneurs.”

Texas A&M has a rich history in agriculture and engineering which has inadvertently attracted innovative individuals to the University. “Somebody told me once that A&M has entrepreneurship in its blood.” said Petty, “We were the agricultural school in Texas. The earliest classes of students coming here were leaving the family farm, and coming and learning more, probably farming skills, and going back and having to take over and run the family farm. Much like the path I thought I would take.” Petty went on to note that although these young farmers didn’t call themselves entrepreneurs and didn’t take traditional business courses they sought out the education of Texas A&M to make their livelihood better, more efficient, and more lucrative. These inaugural Aggies refused to be held prisoner to the constraints that their forefathers operated under. “I think you could argue that our DNA has entrepreneurship from the very first class of 1876. We had entrepreneurs on this campus, whether they called themselves that or not.”

Although the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship coaches entrepreneurs that they can’t “boil the ocean” meaning they can’t lose focus on the present and try to tackle everything at once, I asked Petty to take a moment and imagine what he hopes McFerrin Center will accomplish within the next 10-15 years. Petty imagines the McFerrin Center serving not just current students, but former students, prospective students, and even non-students who have a connection to Texas A&M. “If this is a business and they are seeking out resources, why wouldn’t we play a role in facilitating their success?” Petty stated. “The principles we teach, the skills we impart, and the network that we’ve automatically built amongst a very unique set of Aggie entrepreneurship experts. That’s something unique to us. That’s our value proposition. But that should not only be available for students, trying to launch a business, while currently enrolled at Texas A&M.”

In addition, Petty hopes that McFerrin Center can help to better educate students about what it actually means to be an entrepreneur and the value that entrepreneurship can provide them, regardless of the career path they plan to pursue. “Entrepreneur is a mysterious, confusing, even sometimes hard to spell word.” said Petty, “What it actually means is a problem solver. There are tremendous skills taught to people at this school. And if students are using those skills to solve a problem then they are being entrepreneurial. You don’t have to have the title of founder or entrepreneur. I tell the students who say “I’m not an entrepreneur”. It’s fine if you want to think that. However, if you are a problem solver, if you aren’t comfortable working under the constraints given to you, and you’d rather make things easier, better, cheaper, faster, and not live with the status quo then you have an entrepreneurial attitude and we can help you express that in whatever way you want to.”

Petty firmly believes that Aggies are sought after upon graduation because the university attracts entrepreneurial individuals. “To be honest companies, big companies, want to recruit Aggies because Aggies make great workers and I think Aggies are naturally more entrepreneurial.” Petty also comments that it’s up to you to decide if you want to act upon your skills as an entrepreneur. “If you’re sitting in a cubicle in a huge organization you can choose to be entrepreneurial or not through the way that you solve problems, through the way that you capture value, through the way that you bring value to others. Or, you can choose not to.”

More than anything, Petty hopes that the McFerrin Center can introduce entrepreneurship to more students, more individuals, and more Aggies. This is not a goal for vanity metrics or to increase the McFerrin Center’s rankings among the nation, but because he himself is a testament to how entrepreneurship can shape your life in unexpected and powerful ways. He hopes that regardless of a student’s major, background, or pre-conceived notion of entrepreneurship they find a community and common ground in the entrepreneurial ecosystem at Texas A&M. “Entrepreneurship research for decades has proven that a blend of skills, backgrounds, and interests is a critical component of a successful organization. That’s why our programs are open to the entire campus. We get so excited about the collisions that we create between students of different majors, who may have never interacted with each other. I’ve heard students tell each other I didn’t know that was a major. If they’re doing that in an environment that allows them to collide, collaborate, and even fail together and to come up with other ideas and pursue other interests. That’s entrepreneurship to me.”

Categories: Uncategorized

EDITOR’S NOTE: These reflections were completed by members of the Titans of Investing (FINC 427/669) class at Mays Business School. The Titans of Investing class is taught by Britt Harris, President, CEO, and CIO of UTIMCO. This class provides a broad perspective on both financial markets and global developments, focusing on longer-term context and current market conditions. On February 20, 2020, Tony James, Executive Vice Chairman of The Blackstone Group visited campus to talk with the 29th cohort of the Titans of Investing course to share his wisdom and experience.


Brooks Ragsdale
Industrial Engineering

Tony James is the Executive Vice Chairman of The Blackstone Group, the largest alternative asset manager in the world. As of October 2019, The Blackstone Group manages $554 billion in assets and has a hand in private equity, debt financing, hedge fund management, and real estate acquisitions across the globe.

This past Thursday, Tony James made the trip to Aggieland to interact with the current class of Titans and visit the Blackstone LaunchPad in the entrepreneurship program here at Mays Business School. Following his discussion with Dr. Eli Jones and other professionals at the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, James conversed with Lazarus Solutions—a biocompatible ammunition startup on campus—about their incubation through entrepreneurship in Mays. After completing his time at the McFerrin Center, Tony James visited the most famous class in the nation, Britt Harris’s Titans of Investing.

During this class, Tony James presented what he believed would be the biggest headwinds the current generation of students would face in their careers. The headwinds Mr. James listed were technology disruption, inequality, deglobalization, demographic shifts, climate change, and low interest rates. Furthermore, he challenged us to make our own decisions with the guidance of facts and instincts. He also challenged us as a Titans class to be leaders who define reality and bring hope. Using the wisdom imparted to us by Tony James and Britt Harris, I will be conscientious of the headwinds as I begin my career while having a clear definition of success with altruism in mind.

Titans of Investing is a group of 19 high caliber, high character individuals who are unusually likely to be successful at an early stage of life. These interesting and fully engaged people participate in a semester-long class where they interact with successful leaders around the globe, such as Tony James and Ray Dalio. Titans of Investing is currently in the 29th session and has over 600 people in the Titans Network.

 

Hannah Link
Undergraduate in Accounting and Business Honors
Graduate – PPA — Financial Management Track

This past Titans class had the honor and privilege to hear from Tony James, one of the top 10 most successful and influential people on Wall Street. James is a brilliant leader in finance, a dedicated philanthropist, and an influential author. He currently serves as the Vice Chairman at Blackstone and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Costco Wholesale Corporation. Blackstone is a leading global investment business and financial services firm serving clients through private equity, credit, and hedge funds with hundreds of billion in assets.

Tony James gave generously in his time and energy to join us for class in College Station, TX. James’ visit to the Titans program was significant in the incredible knowledge and experience he had that he was willing to share. He was able to share his views of the world with advice for our generation in an intimate room beaming with energy. Also, I believe we were able to adequately welcome this Harvard alum to Aggieland, with Britt honoring James as an “Honorary Titan” before the night was over.

Some of my key takeaways from James stemmed from six headwinds facing our generation. The six headwinds we will be facing include technology disruption, inequality, deglobalization, demographic changes, climate change, and very low interest rates. James also shared how he was able to find success by finding a job he was passionate about and could pour into his work.

After hearing from Tony James, I think he has opened my perspective on how to adapt to change. Through his six headwinds advice, I realized the imminent changes and disruptions in the economy and society that are quickly surfacing. However, James framed these ideas in an empowering way allowing our generation the opportunity to face these headwinds straight on to create a legacy of our generation. Even in the little disruptions in my life, I feel inspired and confident to face them head-on without hesitation.

 

Kyle Fenner
MIS

Tony James is an executive vice chairman of Blackstone, a multinational corporation that manages over $500 billion in assets. They operate in many aspects of global finance, the main four being private equity, real estate, hedge fund solutions, and credit. They get their money via large pension funds and other institutional, and invest that money on behalf of their clients.

The fact that Tony James came to Mays is significant for many reasons. For one, schools from the northeast have dominated top private equity, banking, and strategy consulting firms. Mays has gained substantial credibility across the world and continues to do so more and more every year. As that happens, it is vital that leaders from these firms recognize Mays and the students it is producing. Tony coming to visit shows students that Mays is a top tier program in the world, and business leaders recognize that.

There was a lot to take away from Tony’s conversations. He talked about factors that are changing for our generation that will produce significant headwinds for us going forward. These factors are significant in itself, but they also show the need for vigilant flexibility at all times. We cannot always simply examine the past to determine the future.

A tactical step that I want to take after our class is to reach out to those around me to let them know how grateful I am for them. We talked a lot about gratitude and the importance of being thankful for everything in life.

I am extremely grateful to be in the Titans program. We learn extensively about capital markets and finance, but we learn a lot more about the importance of living a meaningful life for others. My peers are amazing individuals, and we get to learn a ton from each other and everyone that visits our class.

 

 

Frances Andrews
PPA and Business Honors

Tony James is the Executive Vice Chairman of The Blackstone Group, the world’s largest alternative investment firm. Mr. James has been with Blackstone since 2002 and is largely responsible for its massive success. Mr. James was joined by Ram Jagannath, who leads Blackstone’s Global Healthcare efforts. Both men attended the Blackstone LaunchPad event, where Texas A&M students can pitch their ideas and potentially gain funding for their entrepreneurial ideas.

When asked what Mr. James looks for when considering career opportunities, he encouraged our class to find what we love and find a place where we can grow. He said there should always be a steep learning curve because growth prevents complacency and encourages gratitude.

Having heard Mr. James speak, I plan to live by my principles. As a board member of many philanthropies, Mr. James lives out his own principles by taking on leadership roles where he believes he can make the biggest difference. I hope that one day I can offer my expertise and support and live out my core values in such a tangible way.

The Titans of Investing course attempts to infuse high-achieving students with wisdom and put them on a path to success. Students in the class commit to becoming life-long friends, are especially likely to be unusually successful early in their career, are fully engaged people who have the character to do good with their success, and they love to eat!

 

Danielle Harding
PPA and Business Honors

Tony James is arguably one of the most influential finance leaders of our time. He currently serves as the Executive Vice Chairman of the Blackstone Group, which is the largest alternative asset management firm in the world. Outside of Blackstone, Tony is passionate about serving philanthropies where he believes he can make a difference and leave a legacy, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He has also co-authored a book called Rescuing Retirement about possible solutions for the retirement crisis the country is facing.

We had the privilege of hosting Tony, Ram Jagannath, Erica Lock Munsky, and Lee Cochran for Titans this week. It was a great opportunity for us to learn about Blackstone’s commitment to entrepreneurship during our visit to Startup Aggieland and hear Tony’s perspective on the issues our generation will face. Six of the issues that Tony believes will be particularly important were: technology disruption, inequality, deglobalization, demographics, climate change, and interest rates.

Looking back at Tony’s career, it is clear he has become very successful, so I asked him, “What is your definition of success.” He answered by saying that he evaluates his success by determining whether or not he was able to make a difference in the situation. He also expressed how important it was to always stick to guiding principles, which for him are integrity, respect, trust, and gratitude. At dinner, he also suggested we try to find a career that we loved because that would make the “burdens” light.

It was a truly unique experience to learn from the man Britt Harris called an “Honorary Titan.”

 

 

Matthew Galvan
Finance & Business Honors

Tony James, a modern-day titan of the business world, serves as the Executive Vice Chairman of Blackstone among many other leadership roles for impressive businesses and philanthropic organizations. To host such a prominent leader was a great honor to Texas A&M University and the Titans organization. Aside from his visit to the Titans class, Mr. James attended presentations from student-created businesses, such as Lazarus Solutions, that have been cultivated through the Startup Aggieland and Blackstone Launchpad organizations. Mr. James’s trip to Texas A&M serves as a testament to the environment created through these organizations and classes like Titans and how they have captivated the attention of the world around us.

In his time with us, Mr. James conveyed some of the most important principles that have helped him successfully navigate his career and various involvements. Some of the most impactful lessons shared included the importance of maintaining your integrity, making your own decisions, and being thankful. According to Mr. James, there is no such thing as costless integrity, and you will only find out the strength of your integrity in a moment of desperation when your back is against a wall. Furthermore, while it is necessary to be analytical and gather the opinions of trusted advisors, it is important to trust your instincts and make your own decision. Lastly, Mr. James convicted each of us that there are probably 4 billion other people in the world that would gladly trade places with any of us on any given day. Because of this, we clearly have much to be grateful for.

 

Oluwademilade Oyeniyi
Chemical Engineering, Business minor

Tony James is a revolutionary and contemporary businessman. Tony James currently serves as the Executive Vice Chairman of The Blackstone Group and the Chairman of Costco. He is an innovative businessman who achieved extensive and unprecedented success at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, before his appointment as President and Chief Operating Officer at The Blackstone Group. Tony’s influence extends beyond the business realm, as he serves on the board of various arts and conservation philanthropies, such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Wildlife Conservation Society. Tony James’s wisdom and knowledge are valued in both the business and political realm. Tony co-authored “Rescuing Retirement,” a bi-partisan solution to the retirement savings challenges in the US.

The Titans of Investing titans had the privilege to acquire wisdom from Tony James. Tony James’s address to the Titans of Investing class focused on addressing the headwinds (approaching opposition) the millennial generation should anticipate in the business world and life advice to young professionals. He discussed six headwinds: (1) technological disruption, (2) inequality of relevance to society, (3) deglobalization, (4) shifting demographics, (5) climate change, and (6) low interest rates. Under these enumerations, he explained the economic and social implications of these headwinds, commonly highlighting values that will be challenged.

Tony’s advice was pivotal because he emphasized that young professionals find opportunities for growth while trusting the power of instincts, exercising the practice of gratitude while honing on the power of luck, and prioritizing integrity at the center of business decisions. My belief in the future of our sociopolitical climate was reaffirmed due to Tony’s optimism about the capacity of students at Texas A&M University.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Irvin Ventura ’21 traveled to Chile in January of 2020 as a part of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship’s study abroad program. This program supports Mays Business School’s Strategic Mission and Grand Challenges. Below is his reflection on his time in Chile and the impact it had on him as a student, entrepreneur, and Aggie.

Learn more about study abroad experiences offered through the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship.


Traveling abroad indisputably challenges your notion of reality and exposes you to a new understanding of consciousness and human existence. I have had the privilege of traveling to multiple Latin countries during my time at Texas A&M, but I can honestly say that visiting Chile has had the greatest intellectual impact on my appreciation for nature and understanding of entrepreneurship.

The geographical sights of Chile are truly breath-taking. The country has an array of natural landforms to be captivated by, from the snow-covered Villarrica volcano to the crystal-clear waterfalls in the Huilo-Huilo Biological Reserve. Witnessing the different landforms in Chile left me astonished by the beauty that nature is capable of producing. As Americans, it is very easy to forget about how mesmerizing the creations of nature can truly be, as we are often focused on our work, school, and other implications of Western civilization. Chileans pursue many of the same things that Americans do as far as entrepreneurial aspirations, but they don’t forget about the beauty and power of nature; they embrace it. Environmental conservation is something that has become a widespread concern in America since about the 1960s, but in Chile, it is a lifestyle that has been passed on for generations. The Mapuche tribe, which is an indigenous group in Chile, is largely responsible for the passing of these principles. When conversing with locals, many of them explicitly expressed to me how important environmental preservation is for their culture. From a more observant perspective, I was able to see that they truly practice what they preach. The streets of Santiago are relatively free of litter, and the fields of Villarica will not hold a speck of litter either. This was one of the most inspiring parts of the trip.

The intriguing aspects of Chilean culture stretch far beyond their environmental concerns. Due to Chile’s unique history, its culture is influenced by many different backgrounds. For example, many schools in Villarica actually teach German as a result of early German colonization. Many small businesses have German-influenced names and architectures as a result of this, too.

Meeting the entrepreneurs was definitely a highlight of the trip. I had the opportunity to work with an array of businesses, from wood-craft shops to jewelry shops. Each of these businesses had their own unique obstacles they were looking to overcome, but nevertheless they were all extremely grateful to be meeting with students from Texas A&M. They were very open to the suggestions we gave them, asked insightful questions and even fed us. I was a translator for my group, which was definitely a bit of a challenge at times, but it was well worth it when I was able to see how much the entrepreneurs appreciated everything we did for them.

From an entrepreneurship standpoint, I gained a new perspective on a few things. Entrepreneurs in Chile served as problem-solvers for the community, just as American entrepreneurs do here. One of the main differences is that they generally want to make enough to get by and provide for their families; scaling their business is not much of a concern for them. Here in America, entrepreneurship is often associated with scaling-up and becoming the next Amazon or Google. However, most Chileans define success as being able to provide for their families year-round on a consistent basis. This is an idea that I found surprising initially, but after conversing with the entrepreneurs I began to understand why. Scaling means more costs, time, resources and much more energy that the entrepreneurs would rather use to spend time with their families.

Another new perspective I gained was the importance of competitive advantages. In American entrepreneurship, one of the early stages of starting a business is developing a competitive advantage. Business owners strive to create a competitive advantage for themselves to rise above their peers. In Chile, markets are very homogenous. Everyone in markets essentially sells the same thing for the same price, thus the idea of competitive advantage is not something people think about. We found that the lack of competitive advantage was holding many ambitious entrepreneurs from reaching the next level of their business. Many of them were exhilarated when we introduced them to these ideas.

The McFerrin Global Entrepreneurship trip to Chile has been one of the biggest highlights of my college career. I am certain that I will look back on this experience many years into my professional career and still appreciate every moment of it. I fell in love with the Chilean culture and have enthusiastically shared aspects of it with my peers back in College Station. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people while over there and am ready to explore other countries who seek help from Aggies!

Categories: Entrepreneurship, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Students, Uncategorized

On a muggy, February morning the Memorial Student Center was bustling with business and community leaders serving as judges for the 2020 MBA Venture Challenge. February 17, 2020, marked the 19th year of the competition, at which 12 teams of Full-Time MBA students competed for $5,000 and bragging rights as the winners of the 2020 MBA Venture Challenge.

In preparation for the annual competition, each team is tasked with developing a financial and competitive analysis of current and future market and growth strategies for real-world companies. The Full-Time MBA students only have 3 weeks to complete their analysis and the companies are not required to provide any documents or information to the students. Most companies will hand over financials, business plans, and private information. However, many ask that the students form their own conclusions independent of how the company is currently operating.

Before teams could present their analyses, they first had to deliver an elevator pitch that would hopefully convince the judges that their presentation was worth watching. Each team was allotted a hard 2-minute time limit on their pitch. No slides, videos, or other technology was allowed during the Elevator Pitch round. After watching all 12 pitches, the judges self-selected which judging group they wanted to join. In total, the day-long competition includes over three rounds of judging by an audience of experienced judges from McFerrin Center’s network of business, academic and entrepreneurial community leaders. Each round required the teams to present a concise yet in-depth analysis of the start-up and provide meaningful recommendations for future company success. By the Final round of judging the number of competing only 6 teams were left with a chance to win cash prizes.

“Our 19th annual MBA Venture Challenge established new records in the number of companies applying to participate and the number of volunteers judging the competition,” said Blake Petty, director of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. “The Challenge has clearly set the standard for high-intensity and high-impact interactions between student teams and startup ventures, and the analysis provided by these outstanding MBA students has proven to be immediately and immensely impactful to the participating companies.”

In the end, team Kappa 6 who carried out an analysis of Moto Cinch, LLC earned first place at the 2020 MBA Venture Challenge. Company applications for the 2021 MBA Venture Challenge will begin circulating in November 2020. Individuals interested in judging at future MBA Venture Challenges are encouraged to join the McFerrin Center Mentor Network.

2020 MBA Venture Challenge Winners

1st Place: Chris Compton, Madhur Gupta, Madi Heck, Nick Iconos, Guiselle Parker, Moto Cinch, LLC

2nd Place: Ahmed Ellahi, Brian Ellis, Wade Emmons, Saif Gul, Peter Wang, Mach1 Services

3rd Place: Benjamin Adams, Luis Bodero-Bullon, Chris Brown, Supriya Dara, Shique Singleton, ScriptlyRx

1st Place Elevator Pitch: Sophie Curie, Jiashan Lang, Ryan Pugh, Tyler Miller, Christopher Nettles, Bondwell Technologies

Categories: Uncategorized

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Mays Business School Team Named Regional Winner of Deloitte’s Audit Innovation Campus Challenge 

Students advance to national innovation competition to take place in April 2020

 

Dallas, Texas  — The six-member student team from Mays Business School was named as one of two regional winners of Deloitte’s Audit Innovation Campus Challenge (AICC). Teams representing 50 colleges and universities across the country participated in the regional competitions Nov. 21 and 22 in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and Minneapolis.

Hosted by the Deloitte Foundation and Deloitte’s audit innovation and talent acquisition groups, the AICC is a nationally driven program that accelerates innovation in education by helping both students and educators keep pace with the rapidly changing marketplace and evolving technologies. The AICC program engages students and faculty from campuses across the country, providing an educational experience designed to help students develop skills for success in professional services and share the culture of innovation at Deloitte with academia and the talent of the future.

Mays Business School had five weeks to respond to a challenge statement released in October. The six-person team, supported by a Deloitte adviser, innovation subject matter leaders from Deloitte’s Audit & Assurance services practice, and faculty adviser, presented its response to a panel of Deloitte judges in [INSERT CITY] and was declared one of two regional winners. The students from the finalist teams each received a cash award.

Twelve teams total will advance to the finals and compete at the 2019 National Audit Innovation Campus Challenge April 4, 2020, at Deloitte University in Westlake, Texas. The national competition grand prize is $10,000 for the first-place school and $2,000 for each student on that team, $5,000 for the second-place school and $1,000 per student, and $2,500 for the third-place school and $500 per student.

Last year, the University of South Carolina was awarded first place for its idea to develop and streamline an active user validation assurance process for social media, e-commerce, streaming, and network applications.

About Mays Business School

At Mays Business School, we step up 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 6,200 undergraduate, master’s 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.

 

From left to right:  James Flagg; Marissa Miller (Deloitte); Paul Brittain, Carlie Aguilar; Jenna Donnelly; Diane Harrison; Kara Kennedy; Jay Nam; and Jeff Buhr (Deloitte).

 

About the Deloitte Foundation

Deloitte Foundation, founded in 1928, is a not-for-profit organization that supports education in the U.S. through a variety of initiatives that help develop the talent of the future and their influencers and promote excellence in teaching, research and curriculum innovation. The Foundation sponsors an array of national programs relevant to a variety of professional services, benefiting middle/high school students, undergraduates, graduate students, and educators. Learn more about the Deloitte Foundation.

 

About Deloitte

Deloitte provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax and advisory services to many of the world’s most admired brands, including nearly 90% of the Fortune 500® and more than 5,000 private and middle-market companies. Our people work across the industry sectors that drive and shape today’s marketplace — delivering measurable and lasting results that help reinforce public trust in our capital markets, inspire clients to see challenges as opportunities to transform and thrive, and help lead the way toward a stronger economy and a healthy society. Deloitte is proud to be part of the largest global professional services network serving our clients in the markets that are most important to them. Our network of member firms spans more than 150 countries and territories. Learn how Deloitte’s more than 312,000 people worldwide make an impact that matters at www.deloitte.com.

 

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 Contacts

 

Kiri Isaac ‘14

Brand Content Writer

Mays Business School | Texas A&M University
979.845.3167

kisaac@mays.tamu.edu

 

Sofia Barbieri

Public Relations

Deloitte Services LP

+1 212 436-3073

sobarbieri@deloitte.com

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) does not provide services to clients. In the United States, Deloitte refers to one or more of the US member firms of DTTL, their related entities that operate using the “Deloitte” name in the United States and their respective affiliates. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting. Please see www.deloitte.com/about to learn more about our global network of member firms.

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