Unlocking Entrepreneurship with the First Ever Startup Fund at UT Austin
At The University of Texas at Austin, entrepreneurship has been a focus of many initiatives on campus. Over the past two years, a team of students and alumni, known as the Genesis Program, has catapulted the entrepreneurship ecosystem on the 40 Acres to a completely new level.
The Genesis Program was created following the results of a year-long study conducted in 2015 by the Longhorn Engineering Advisory Delegation (LEAD), UT Austin’s young alumni engineering advisory board. LEAD had one overarching question: at a University with over 50,000 students, why were there so few startups on campus?
Their extensive research compared the entrepreneurial ecosystem at UT Austin against benchmark universities like Stanford, MIT, and Columbia.
LEAD found the biggest roadblock was not a lack of motivated student founders or ideas, but a lack of funding. UT Austin student entrepreneurs had no dedicated source of pre-seed startup capital, and students interested in Venture Capital (VC) and startup investing had no place to go on campus for hands-on learning.
Fundamentally Changing Entrepreneurship on the 40 Acres
The Genesis Program at UT Austin places students on both sides of the investment table.
Through Genesis, not only do startups get the funding they need, students also learn the analysis that drives venture capital investing. Because of Genesis, students get firsthand experience that prepares them for a lifetime of success as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist.
Instead of limiting them to lecture halls for their education, students immediately take a leadership role in finding deals, conducting diligence, and investing in startups founded by their peers. Student leaders also partner with alumni to mentor the companies they fund, guiding student founders through the challenges of entrepreneurship.
Making Innovation Accessible to Everyone
A little cash can go a long way for a student trying to launch a business. Raising money is often the difference between success and failure for entrepreneurs, and some never get to bring their ideas to the world because of a lack of capital. Building a startup should be an experience accessible to all students, not just a luxury for those who come from financial means or have wealthy personal networks.
With Genesis, a student from any college, any year, and any degree level is eligible to apply for funding or a role on the investment team. And, Genesis is a growing team of students from all corners of campus supported by active alumni who work in venture capital. At each step in the process, students are learning what it means to be an entrepreneur and venture investor with the help of dedicated alumni.
Since launching 2 years ago, Genesis has invested in 16 student startups from across the 40 Acres. Genesis portfolio companies are working on numerous projects such as renewable energy systems, advanced drone technologies, medical products, and software applications and platforms. Genesis, by design, is a campus wide, interdisciplinary resource for all of UT Austin, and many teams have members from more than one college.
Meet a Genesis-funded Student Venture: Krew, reshaping long distance ride-sharing
We met UT freshmen Kush Singh (Finance ‘21) and Tanuj Girish (Electrical Engineering ‘21) in the fall of 2017. The two launched Krew Rideshare during their senior year of high school. Riders who use Krew can book a ride a few days ahead of their trip using a mobile-app. Apart from its focus on long-distance rides, Krew functions like any other ridesharing application.
Mirroring the process of a venture capital firm, Genesis Partner Jeff Auster conducted due diligence and found a clear demand for Krew by students unhappy with the quality of bus services and the cost of air travel. By contrast, a Krew ride between Austin and Houston can cost as little as $30.
With Genesis funding, Krew has built significant traction, earnings thousands in revenue and completing dozens of rides. As Krew looks to its future, alumni Genesis team members have mentored Kush and Tanuj as they evaluate different fundraising paths and strategic partnerships.
Join us in unlocking entrepreneurship for every Longhorn. Your support of this HornRaiser means the next student with an idea to change the world will have the resources to make it a reality! Thank you, and hook ‘em horns!
Startups funded by Genesis
Interested in learning about the types of ventures Genesis Program has funded? Take a look at our Portfolio here and read about what students are building on campus!
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Over 200 ventures have applied to Genesis for funding, and the 16 funded companies are working on big data, artificial intelligence, drones, biotech, materials, and consumer packaged goods.