UT Entrepreneurship Week (March 4-9)

Each year in the Spring a party happens in Austin. There is music, drinking, films, and startups. People come from around the country. So many people come that Austin hotels sell out in November. What I’m talking about, of course, is the annual SXSW conference. 

However, most UT students don’t even notice SXSW ever being in Austin, because each year they plan to have it during UT’s spring break. 

Therefore, my co-founder and I decided to assemble a committee of entrepreneurship community leaders around campus and organize the first ever UT Entrepreneurship Week. A week packed full with different events focused on inspiring, empowering, and promoting student entrepreneurs. 

The happenings will take place the week before SXSW all over UT campus (March 4-9). Including events at the new Longhorn Startup Camp. The main event will be uThinkTank’s 2nd Annual Student Entrepreneurship Symposium on March 7th at 6pm in the SAC building at UT. (RSVP HERE: http://bit.ly/Ag4GTw) 

Other events will be put on by entrepreneurially focused student organizations at UT. 

For updates on UT E-week follow: @theuThinkTank @nick_spiller @johnnyhvan

Also check out uThinkTankNick.wordpress.com


A recent blog from our Co-founder

Wake up. Startup.

Last Saturday my friend and I had a serious problem. We were watching Billy Madison for about twenty minutes when we were suddenly struck by a serious case of the munchies. There was no chance we were walking all the way to the corner store for snacks during the middle of our movie. Stuck in a catch 22, I remembered that Munchy Man had moved to West Campus that week.

Munchy Man is the Santa Claus of MunchyMart.com delivering snacks, drinks, supplies to students who don’t wish to make a trip to the store. So we logged onto MunchyMart.com, ordered the Marley Sack, and 15 minutes later Munchy Man arrived at my door with a bag filled with water, candy (1), chips (1), gum, a lighter, and a mini-axe spray bottle. I completed the transaction through the site on my debit card. Problem solved.

Munchy Man isn’t going to stop…

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Executive Summary Year Founded: 2011 Industry: Business Creation

uThinkTank was part of the inaugural 1 Semester Startup class, and has been actively tackling the problems first proposed by Dr. Metcalfe concerning the UT entrepreneurship ecosystem. Additionally, we have been a part of the NCIIA VentureLab, and have been endorsed by Larry Chiang. We are working in partnership with UT’s IC2.

Rob Adams and Bob Metcalfe clearly recognize the problem with spurring wealth creation within the university ecosystem as they have been addressing it with their New Venture Creation, Texas Venture Labs Practicum and One Semester Startup courses. While they have had a great deal of success with these initiatives, I believe we can take these to the next level by building a social network, business creation & funding platform for entrepreneurs. uThinkTank is an idea collaboratory and virtual incubator platform helping university students collaborate for ideation, team matchmaking, acquiring free professional help, funding, and getting educational resources in all things entrepreneurship. It will empower students to commercialize IP and turn their own ideas into successful companies. Undergraduates and graduate students who number around 5000 will benefit most from this platform that drives innovation and commercialization of ideas. Successful business people within the community, including subsidiaries of IC2 can use it to find promising students and companies to mentor or possibly take in. Members of CTAN and other investment organizations will also have one more place to review companies and watch for up to date developments. Business Model – Our online platform will be sustained by lead generation using an advertising model. Additionally, to keep members active, a form of freemium will be available. Members will either be active within the community, or pay a fee to stay on after a certain amount of time.

Management Team 

Jonathan Van – Since before 1 Semester Startup, I have been researching the entrepreneurship ecosystem. I am relentlessly resourceful. As CEO, I see that it is my mission to set the strategic vision and give my team all the tools necessary to be successful. I find the best options possible, and my team executes. I am committed to watch the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem develop and grow.

Nick Spiller – Soon after Nick heard Dr. Metcalfe speak about the issues regarding setting up a thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem in Austin, Nick went to work hosting the first uThinkTank symposium to gather entrepreneurially minded students . Simply put, Nick delivers.

Matt King – He has an eye for what works and what does not. After spending an entire semester working on designing and implementing social media strategies to enhance uThinkTank’s online presence, Matt is eager to develop uThinkTank to its fullest.

For more details please call me at 2142801589 or email JonathanHuangVan@gmail.com

Series – Rick Gross: From Project Blue Light to Project Millionaire

Today is about Team Building (which is essential for a successful startup) Whatever problems come your way, if you have a good team, you will all get through it, adapt, and succeed.

Rick Gross’ biography is nothing short of a mouthful and if there’s a theme throughout his professional career, it is “challenge”.

He was one of the tiniest boys in high school. Hell, he graduated at 120 pounds. Knowing this, I don’t think anyone would believe that he was a member of the Special Forces and one of the first members of Project Blue Light, which was a precursor to Delta Force.

What he learned from his Special Forces experience and entrepreneurial journey was distilled to myself along with 30 other young professional and ROTC students in today’s AYC Leadership Luncheon Series hosted by Lt. Colonel Kopser and John King http://www.austinyc.org/event/ayc-ut-rotc-leadership-luncheon-series/

The Carrillon out of the AT&T Executive Center provided a delicious buffet as well.

Back to the point though: Practical wisdom & How to from a guy who has really BEEN THERE and DONE THAT.

His preference can be controversial to some: “My preference is to avoid external investor financing and when necessary — minimize it! I prefer internal or self funding – it is ok to start small, make it work first! We internally or self-funded Texan Media, Taran, Vindicator Technologies and Vo-Mack. I have an MBA 

As a combat engineer who passed both HALO and Scuba school sequentially, he literally got bored after he retired from the military in 1980. Nothing could give him the same challenge as being in Special Forces, except starting his own company. Since then he has flipped 2-3 companies. He won’t admit he has money to burn, but he’s living comfortably to say the least. He told us a few of his practices today.


Team Building: 

Talent is overrated – When you find a new employee, make sure you set the expectations high and make sure they deliver. Performance REQUIRES deliberate practice. No matter how talented or knowledgeable they are, if they can’t finish, then either they change or change companies. He worked with the “best” PhD’s at MIT and Stanford and they couldn’t get anything done, so they were let go and he was put at the helm. After the hard years, the company was successfully acquired.

Intelligence – Avoid the talker or the “smartest guy” in the room. Once the talking is finished, someone still needs to make it happen. Fortunately, no one is indispensable. That “smart guy” can be let go, and will be missed for…less than a day.

Money and Knowledge – Larry Chiang would agree with this: “they are very similar, and too much will make you do stupid things” (1up for street smarts)

Responsibility & Empowerment – “it is hard to be responsible when you aren’t empowered.” Empower your people. It means you are their to coach them, and build trust. Your job is to give everyone a direction, and resources they need to get to an end goal however possible within certain parameters. You WILL NOT micro-manage, because that builds distrust and disrespect from top to bottom.

Business Plan – The Executive Summary means everything, because clarity is power. The plan is not only for investors, but for employees! The rest is just “good to have”.

Sales – Know why a customer buys – generate leads first (if possible aka sell-design-build), because it is far easier to raise money when you have market pull on your side. Test the market and ADJUST not only the product, but the approach (positioning). Having a tangible product or solution means everything…NO MORE FLUFFY IDEAS.


Rick Gross says he never gives straight up cash bonuses on a check as a reward for excellent work or going the extra mile. Instead, he gave out cash that can be turned into a very memorable experience, and he did it in front of everybody. For example, he’d give an employee $150 to bring their spouse or family to a nice dinner. They can remember the experience, the handshake, the pat on the back, and the office applaud. The best gift I heard he used to give to excellent employees was a Rolex watch. He didn’t cheap out on the watch either. He wanted to make sure that everyday that man or woman put that watch on, it was a point of pride and they remembered everyday how special they are. VISUAL REWARDS! —> status matters!

It made sense.

Today is a big day at uThinkTank. We’re putting forth an idea that we truly believe will change the landscape of college students and entrepreneurship.

Starting up any type of business, while enrolled in college, is not an easy task. The stress of balancing school work, finding right-fit co-founders, and becoming aware of appropriate resources is quite a challenge for students.

And so we thought to ourselves… what if we could deliver a network to college students – an entrepreneur-focused, peer-matching, resource-finding ecosystem of ideas? We’d like that. You would too.

So we did. We created a network and technology that enables students to become entrepreneurs. It helps students build a one-on-one connection with their peers and brings us all a little closer to the value of entrepreneurship and education.