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.

Categories: Uncategorized

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

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sobarbieri@deloitte.com

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Categories: Uncategorized

Courtesy: Alyssa Powell/Business Insider

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are around the corner. So, what should we expect from this year’s holiday retail shopping season and the Thanksgiving period? Similar to the past few years, this year will also be a blockbuster holiday season. Retail holiday sales will be a substantial chunk of the expected 2019 retail sales of $5.5 trillion. The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts retail holiday sales to grow by about (3.8-4.2)% to $730 billion. e-Marketer and Deloitte Consulting are even more optimistic, pegging expected holiday sales at $1.0 and $1.1 trillion, respectively, growing by (3.8-5.0)%. Holiday e-commerce sales are anticipated to range from $144 to $149 billion (Deloitte Consulting). But returns will also likely be higher this year at almost 39% (Tinuiti).

The expected higher holiday sales this year is remarkable given that the holiday season is shorter than the past few years because of the late occurrence of Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, a record number of about 165 million people are expected to shop during the Thanksgiving period. 114.6 million shoppers plan to shop on Black Friday, while 68.7 million intend to shop on Cyber Monday (NRF). However, the average spending per shopper will likely be $313, down from $335 last year (NRF). But more than a quarter of the shoppers are likely to spend over $500 (Tinuiti). Cyber Monday sales will continue to outstrip Black Friday sales this year and may touch a record $9.5 billion.

Amid the expectation of this upbeat sale, the most interesting trend is how shopper habits are changing. The number of shoppers likely to start shopping in stores (47%) and online (41%) are comparable (NRF). Surprisingly, brick-and-mortar stores are popular across age cohorts, including Gen Z. Shoppers expect retailers to be omnichannel, with more than two-fifths of them planning to buy online and pick up in-stores (Tinuiti).

Academy, Costco, Ikea, Lowe’s, Nordstrom, and Sam’s Club remain closed on Thanksgiving day. But two major retailers, Bed Bath & Beyond and GameStop, have reversed their course from past years and will open on Thanksgiving day. These retailers may want to cash in on more people wanting to shop on Thanksgiving day this year (58%) than the previous year (45%) (MiQ).

What items are likely to be hot during the Thanksgiving weekend and how are shoppers going to get their holiday gift ideas and deals? As always, the iPhone is a coveted item. Nintendo Switch Lite, Sony PlayStation PS4, Amazon Echo Buds, and Apple’s Airpods Pro and Airpods will be popular. All shoppers will be on the lookout for the best gifts to buy for their loved ones. Millennials are twice as likely to learn about holiday gifts from social media than baby boomers and Gen X’ers (Qualtrics).

What are the best days for getting the best deals and on which items? The hot deals will be on the day before Thanksgiving for apparel, Thanksgiving day for jewelry, appliances, computers, tablets, TVs, and sporting goods, Black Friday for X-mas décor, devices, kitchen items, and other expensive items, Cyber Monday for gadgets and toys, and Giving Tuesday for furniture and bedding.

The Thanksgiving shopping experience is becoming almost a weeklong affair. There is something exciting for everyone every day. Whether you are a touch-and-feel consumer at a physical store, a desktop clicker, a mobile shopper, or an omnichannel buyer, you have plenty of choices. If you are a retailer, there are ample opportunities to gain through omnichannel retailing. If you are an analyst and researcher like me, it is fun monitoring, analyzing and predicting shopping behavior and sales.

Categories: Uncategorized

SKYPaws, LLC, founded by Stephanie Young ’21 and Brianna Armstrong ’20, was awarded first place and $3,000 at the 2019 Raymond Ideas Challenge. The idea behind SKYPaws came to Young while she was working at a Veterinary Clinic in her hometown. “We had a dog named Charlie that came in for a routine procedure and passed away shortly after due to improper monitoring. The entire mission of SKYPaws is to equip Veterinarians with the accurate information that they need to know about their patients when they need it most” said Young.

Veterinary clinics must visually monitor patients post-operatively as animals will often chew through wires and tubing, or remove other monitoring devices. Unfortunately, this means that veterinarians and their staff don’t receive accurate information regarding a patient’s blood pressure, heart rate, and other vital signs that typically alert physicians of critical issues during recovery. SKYPaws provides veterinary clinics with a wireless monitor that provides them with accurate, real-time data to better monitor patient recovery. “Right now, SKYPaws is in the process of working with a professional engineering firm. This prize money will allow us to continue our discussions with them until we get Angel investment in the next 4-6 months” stated Young. Young encourages students who are interested in entrepreneurship to “take the plunge” and get involved with campus resources such as McFerrin Center, Startup Aggieland or Aggies Invent. “These resources will gradually allow you to get your feet wet in a structured way, so you don’t feel lost or helpless! Entrepreneurship is a major portion of my life and I feel as if my college experience would be lackluster without it” she added. Young is a sophomore Animal Sciences major and Armstrong is a 4th-year student in the Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine Professional Program. SKYPaws is a client of the Startup Aggieland Business Incubator.

Over 130 industry professionals judged this year’s 40 finalists. Recent Texas A&M graduate Rhett Bruck competed as a finalist at the 2018 Raymond Ideas Challenge and returned in 2019 as a judge. When asked why he decided to serve as a judge he commented on the impact that McFerrin Center programs had during his time at Texas A&M and his desire to help aspiring student entrepreneurs. “I thought it would be fun and I wanted to give back,” said Bruck “Startup Aggieland and the McFerrin Center put me on this amazing track where I can use the skills I developed everywhere.” The 2019 Raymond Ideas Challenge awarded $10,000 in prize money to student entrepreneurs at Texas A&M University. Second place winner Luke Raglin of SimpleSeat is the first Texas A&M Corpus Christi student to place at a Raymond Ideas Challenge. In addition, Axle Box Innovations has awarded all 40 finalists with access to their brand new “Fab Lab” that will open in January 2020. Raymond Ideas Challenge is held annually each fall semester. For more information visit mcferrin.tamu.edu.

2019 Raymond Ideas Challenge Winners

  • First Place: Brianna Armstrong, Stephanie Young; SKYPaws, LLC.
  • Second Place: Luke Raglin of Texas A&M Corpus Christi; SimpleSeat
  • Third Place: Shreedevi Arun Kumar, Kaivalya Deo; 3D Bio-Printed Pancreas

Best Video

  • Bruce Kelly, Stephen Lorenzen; Lit Seating

Honorable Mentions

  • Daniel De Clute-Melancon; Changing the World by Providing Local Access to Urban Air
  • Seth Polsley; Accessible Fitness Tracking for People with Disabilities or Injuries
  • Mary Chandra, Molly Coon, Elizabeth Matthews; G-Sense
  • Hassan Anifowose; Chronos 360
  • Nash Porter; Kisby Virtual Lifeguard

AXLE BOX Award

  • Nash Porter; Kisby Virtual Lifeguard

Categories: McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Uncategorized

Venky Shankar, Coleman Chair Professor in Marketing and Director of Research, Center for Retail Studies (CRS), was recently invited as a Thought Leader at the Thought Leadership Conference hosted by the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He worked with an expert team of academics and practitioners and made a presentation entitled “How Technology is Changing Retail.”

The presentation started with a typology, or classification, of technologies that are impacting retailing.  Shankar presented different theoretical frameworks for a better understanding of the role of technology in retail. He covered technology adoption by shoppers and retailers, and presented some interesting future scenarios and concluded with research questions for scholars to pursue.

Shankar covered a gamut of technologies starting with 5G telecommunication, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain, drones, robots, and 3D printing with many powered by artificial intelligence (AI), and how they are changing shopper experience and retailer business model. He discussed different organizations of technologies by stakeholder type (customer-facing, employee-facing, and supplier-facing), information technology (IT) versus non-IT, incremental versus radical, facilitating versus disruptive, and commoditizing versus value-adding. Among the drivers of retail technology adoption, his team identified advancement in core technology, consumer push, competitor innovation, and regulation as the main factors. His presentation highlighted customer and partner adoption, customer outcomes (e.g., satisfaction, purchase), supplier outcomes (e.g., on-time delivery) and financial outcomes (e.g., revenues, profits, shareholder value) as the key consequences of retail technology adoption.

From a retailer standpoint, Shankar discussed the “what, when and how” of technology adoption, management of technologies, and strategic versus tactical elements of technology. He presented different theories, including innovation adoption, technology acceptance, technology management, and option value theories.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the presentation was the articulation of possible future scenarios. Shankar presented his team’s ideas under four areas: retailer disintermediation, hybrid bundles, sharing economy, and retailer types. He speculated a scenario in which all consumables such as laundry for washers are replenished by AI in the machines directly ordering with the manufacturer and retailer becoming more of a repair agent—a possibility being tested by Proctor and Gamble. Another scenario he depicted involved consumers sharing or renting almost everything including, housing, clothing, and transportation. He discussed the near future possibility of, in addition to pervasive omnichannel retailing, smaller format stores for quick replenishment and instant gratification, stores that exclusively demonstrate new products, pop-up stores, repair stores, large experience stores, and community retail outlets, will start to dominate the landscape.

An article based on his presentation is being prepared and will be featured in a forthcoming special issue of the Journal of Retailing.

Categories: Uncategorized

It is extraordinarily fitting that the 2019 Mays Scholarship Banquet was held in the Hall of Champions at Kyle Field. Everyone who attended the banquet is a champion in their own right. Whether the champion was a student blazing new trails for their friends and family or a champion for students to attend Mays Business School by giving their time, talent, and treasure, all 1,000+ people at the banquet were stalwart members of the Mays Family.

Dean Eli Jones ’82, the emcee for the night, noted how the banquet was hosted in a month ripe with gratitude. “November is a month synonymous with gratitude. While Thanksgiving is still two weeks away, tonight, we give thanks. We give thanks for the generous supporters of Mays who make a difference in the lives of students. We give thanks to the dedicated students of Mays, who will be our future leaders. Finally, we give thanks for the ability to gather this Mays family for an evening of thanksgiving.”

Keynote speaker David Shimek spoke about his gratitude to be there after his humble beginnings in a very small town. Shimek is now the Senior Vice President for Hardware Operations at Reynolds and Reynolds Company. He spoke about the Reynolds and Reynolds Sales Leadership Institute and how selling is a critical piece of their career. Shimek mentioned not just selling products, but themselves as well. To sell themselves, he gave them two responsibilities. The first, to be a good steward of their scholarship by striving for success and being involved in their school and community. The second responsibility was to give. To be a donor and give monetarily when the time is right, to give physically through mentoring programs, and to give corporately by championing for their future companies to give to Mays.

The night was full of exchanged handshakes and stories. Donors were able to spend time with their scholarship recipients, and students were given a chance to update some of their biggest champions on their activities and ambitions. Three students, in particular, shared stories with the banquet about their scholarships. However, rather than listing their numerous accolades, Hannah Grubbs ’20, Nicholas Menchaca ’20, and Gabrielle Orion ’20, shared stories of how the scholarships are about more than the money. The students told how scholarships grant students the ability to persevere through hardships and give them access to experiences and opportunities that would otherwise be impossible.

Grubbs shared how her family fell apart in her first semester of college, and her mom and brother moved across the state. Because of her scholarship, the money she earned from her part-time job could help her family move without the fear of not being able to pay for school. Also, because of the scholarships she received, she could move through school with urgency, not haste, as she uncovered her passions.

Menchaca told the audience how he was raised by a single father who worked hard. Despite his father’s best efforts, Menchaca grew up acquainted with financial insecurity and with a slim chance to attend a higher education institution. Menchaca said, “Financial insecurity is a towering barrier that consumes your every thought. Growing up, I didn’t have time to chase passions because I needed to help pay bills. These scholarships give students like me the ability to knock down those barriers and an opportunity to put education first.”

Orion spoke of the donor impact she’s felt. Her family was affected by Hurricane Harvey. For six months, her childhood home in Houston was unlivable, and she worried about her family and their mounting bills, but never once did she have to worry about pausing her education, because of the generous donors at Mays.

Grubbs wrapped up their time on stage imploring everyone to have the seemingly hard conversations about just how much scholarships mean to those receiving them. “For most of us in this room, the money you so graciously give back to our school allows us financial freedom from hardship both now and in the future. Your generosity gives us the freedom to find passion and pursue excellence. In that pursuit, we aim to someday sit in your chair as scholarship donors.”

Categories: Mays Business, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

SIA Solutions has been ranked as the #1 Aggie 100 Company for 2019 with an astonishing growth rate of 284.88%. At the helm, Dr. Srini Neralla, CEO of SIA Solutions, LLC, leads the company with an entrepreneurial attitude that seamlessly incorporates his academic background. His innovative and solution-oriented mindset lends itself to an uncanny ability to poignantly serve clients in a way that benefits their local community and the surrounding environment.

Dr. Neralla credits the growth of the company to their client-first attitude which serves as the foundation for SIA Solutions’ company culture. “Our culture is based around a client-first attitude,” he said, “if we can take care of our clients and we can take care of our people there’s nothing better than that.”  Dr. Neralla believes that SIA Solutions is able to successfully deploy a client-first culture because “[We] focus on understanding the needs and challenges of our clients and providing them solutions as appropriate.  We help them navigate through the maze of technical, regulatory and funding challenges, which makes our clients successful and hence we are successful.”  SIA Solutions believes in building strong and trusting relationships with their clients. In fact, approximately 95% of their clientele are repeat customers. “Our philosophy is establishing ourselves as a trusted advisor to our clients. That is the key to our success.”

Although SIA Solutions is a small-sized business they aren’t afraid to take on challenges that many firms their size may shy away from. “Because of our client-first philosophy, we’re willing to take on tough challenges and deliver. It’s in our culture. It’s natural to us. We put together strong teams comprising of firms our size or larger, including universities, in order to deliver what our clients want,” said Dr. Neralla. SIA Solutions is constantly pushing boundaries, including their own core business lines. One such example is a project that SIA Solutions is working on right now for the US Army Corps of Engineers. The project’s mission is to support and protect the mainline levees across the Mississippi River in order to keep excess material out of the channel and maintain a favorable channel alignment and depth. “This is currently done through the use of a Mat Sinking Unit (MSU) which, due to its age, requires significant upgrades to its infrastructure and health and safety of its operations,” said Dr. Neralla. SIA Solutions was selected to develop and field a full-scale prototype system that employs modern technologies to automate the processes of handling, assembling, and placing articulated concrete mat on the banks of the Mississippi River.  The system is purposefully designed to utilize robotics to help ensure the safety of the USACE employees and/or contractors implementing the program.  This modernized system will also help to reduce the time it takes to place the mats and increase the operation’s cost efficiency. SIA quickly recognized the unique opportunity for the company to take on one of their client’s biggest and most challenging projects in a way that has never been done before. “We put a team together that included Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) to develop a process that includes robotics that will allow this project to be automated. We are willing to take on challenges and we’re willing to deliver.”  SIA’s willingness to think and work outside the box paid off and they were recently awarded the next project phase during which they’ll build the actual robotics system on a barge and begin placing the mats.

A large part of SIA Solutions’ portfolio includes their infrastructure asset management services where they deploy sophisticated strategies and processes to help solve complex asset management challenges for government and industry clients. Many times, this requires innovative solutions to existing assets such as underutilized property or facilities that are beyond their useful life. Dr. Neralla recalled one project where a Department of Defense (DoD) base had invested in a state-of-the-art water/wastewater treatment plant, but a few years later the base was downsized due to BRAC actions. Although DoD didn’t need the full capacity of the plant moving forward, the plant still had a high market value. The surrounding local communities needed additional water treatment capacity because of their own population growth. “We were able to assess the value of the plant and basically marry the local communities’ needs with the excess capacity of the DoD plant. This is a “win-win” situation for everybody, by providing a solution and reducing costs for both government agencies through the transfer of the asset! At the end of the day, anything we do has an impact on the community and an impact on the environment. Whether it is disposing of radiological waste properly or providing increased energy efficiency within a community around a military base.” SIA Solutions is a multi-faceted company that is able to identify innovative opportunities regardless of the project size or scope.

Dr. Neralla says that a key component in providing clients with unparalleled service and solutions is building the right team at SIA. He humbly expressed the integral role his staff has had in the growth of SIA Solutions. “You need to hire the right kind of people with the right mindset and right mentality,” said Dr. Neralla “You need a good staff that believes in your culture and believes in your vision. We could not have been as successful without the wonderful staff that we have at SIA.  Our clients have given us the opportunity to do what we do best and helped us in our growth and success”. “If you can develop solutions to address client needs in an efficient manner, that helps the community and helps the environment then it’s a win on all fronts,” said Dr. Neralla.  SIA Solutions has also developed a robust teaming network that allows them to leverage the resources of partner corporations. “There are a few small and large businesses that we team with that have helped us in our delivery to our clients. Such mutually beneficial relationships are possible due to a similarity in culture and values.”

Dr. Neralla stressed that entrepreneurs need to surround themselves with a supportive network, “hire quality staff that believes in your company culture, values and vision; surround yourself with a network of individuals and resources to guide the success of your company.” He believes that patience, persistence, and perseverance are key elements for success, and he has even woven these characteristics into the culture of SIA Solutions. He also noted that his success, and the success of SIA Solutions, would not be possible without the continuous support of his wife and family. Dr. Neralla is a truly inspiring Aggie entrepreneur and it comes as no surprise that his leadership and hard work have led SIA Solutions to new heights of success. Congratulations to Dr. Neralla and the team at SIA Solutions for being awarded the 2019 Aggie 100 #1 ranking.

Categories: McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Uncategorized