In the first decade of the 2000s, I was fired up about the potential for an energized entrepreneurial scene to emerge in Austin, which was famously on the map as a city for new business, but didn’t really have the kind of creative entrepreneurial scene you see in, for instance, Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. I worked with Bijoy Goswami at Bootstrap Austin, and managed the Wireless Future project at IC2, as well as flying formation with the clean energy and sustainable business communities that seemed to have traction here. However, busy myself with a couple of startups, I became less focused on that scene. It kept evolving… Bijoy started an entrepreneur community via his work with the ATX Equation, and local entrepreneur Josh Baer started something local, similar to Y-Combinator, called Capital Factory. Gary Hoover, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of entrepreneurial history, has been teaching classes for entrepreneurs at the McCombs School of Business. There’s much better support for entrepreneurs in Austin today than there was a decade ago.
Now Josh, John Butler (of IC2) and 3Com founder Bob Metcalfe are teaching a cross-disciplinary course at the University of Texas called 1 Semester Startup. I attended a meeting last night of potential mentors for the class, in which students will form actual startup companies and try to make them fly. Mentors will be on call to answer questions and help the budding entrepreneurs avoid pitfalls and deal with inevitable mistakes and missteps. Several people (including yours truly) signed up for these mentorship roles.
There’s much wrangling about the lack of jobs in the U.S., and the economic crisis we’ve brought on with a complex combination of bad business, bad government, and outright fraud in some of the more abstract markets. To me one of the best solutions to the fix we’re in economically is to get better and better at building business and creating new markets, and that’s the promise of entrepreneurial creativity. So this course is just the sort of thing we need – more and more of it. (I’d also like to see a strong emphasis on ethics in entrepreneurial training, but that’s another rant for another day).