In today’s microwave society, increasing numbers of young professionals and college-aged adults dream of owning and operating their own companies. They imagine a rapid rise to success as customers flock to their boutique businesses. Careers such as real estate, photography, interior design and wedding planning offer what appear to be easy paths toward entrepreneurship. And, in a community like Aggieland with rich sources of technology innovation, there are an abundance of big ideas just waiting for the right enthusiast to take them to market. But, in reality, getting to market requires time, resources and an understanding that entrepreneurship very rarely offers a quick path to success.
To capitalize on the enthusiasm and innovation abundant in Aggieland and help move students, faculty and area entrepreneurs from idea to actual business operations, local leaders both on campus and off are working to provide the resources to turn dreams and enthusiasm into business plans and operations that can stand up to the real work and often long road to entrepreneurial success. McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Startup Aggieland, Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) Product Development Center, the Texas A&M School of Innovation, and the Innovation Underground are working to ensure innovators and entrepreneurial dreams have the support they need to start and grow businesses here in Aggieland.
The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship in Mays Business School was established in 1999 and has been enhancing entrepreneurial student education ever since, all they while contributing to a growing local innovation economy. McFerrin Center provides training, networking, and assistance to enterprising students, faculty and alumni through unique programs such as Startup Aggieland and competitions like the Ideas Challenge and 3-Day Startup, as well as certificate and degree programs in entrepreneurship. With the support form a volunteer network, corporate supporters, faculty, and staff, the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship has been able to provide business start up acceleration, competitive opportunities, work experiences, and financial support to aspiring entrepreneurs in the Aggie community and across the world.
Caleb Holt and his team at the TEEX Product Development Center often support activities of the McFerrin Center and are frequently a gateway into the Texas A&M University System for private enterprises needing specialized expertise. By working through a product development process called “think.build.sell,” Holt and his team move technologies toward revenue generation. Using this method, the TEEX Product Development Center assesses ways to efficiently deliver products to the global market and along with managing The Aggie Angel Network deal flow. “If anyone is interested in funding a great startup business and bringing it to the market, come join the group of accredited investors,” he says.
Jose Quintana, President of Advent GX and founder of the Innovation Underground business incubator often work with both the McFerrin Center and the Product Development Center. He believes that supporting small businesses is important because “there is a need to create opportunities for the bright people of Bryan-College Station.” In its seventh year of operation, the Innovation Underground is an independent, privately owned business incubator and is currently serving 58 active members. These innovators are serving a multitude of industries, including aerospace, gaming, and animal health. Advent GX is the parent company of Innovation Underground, which hosts several special events each month to facilitate relationships between entrepreneurs, investors, local leaders and executives to foster valuable connections and grow the areas innovation ecosystem. Among these special events are First Fridays at the Grand Stafford Theater lounge, and bi-monthly SEAD Gallery art receptions, Software Developers Cartel, Pecha Kucha nights with the Institute for Applied Creativity.
The TAMU School of Innovation (also called the “I-School”) serves the entire TAMU student body and fosters an environment for interdisciplinary education and training. It acts as a haven for collaborative, student-led passion projects, ranging from app designs to research-based projects. Dean Andrew Morriss and Program Manager for Student Engagement Sonia Jiménez metaphorically describe their move from the TAMU School of Law to the I-School as a move from a swimming pool to an ocean: larger setting, more bodies and greater areas for development. “President Young wants to connect ideas from students of all skill sets, levels and majors,” says Dean Morris. The I-School presents an atmosphere where students are empowered to take ownership of their learning—a place where they are encouraged to “discover their own vision.”
As made evident by these three thriving organizations in Bryan-College Station, there is an abundance of opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovative activity in our community. Take advantage of these resources and share your idea of the “next best thing” with the rest of the world! Don’t be silenced by naysayers.
You can support or meet with each of these local entrepreneurial and innovative endeavors by visiting their websites and inquiring further.