OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | TeamWise: Wise Guys
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TeamWise: Wise Guys

When we wake up in the morning and roll out of bed to get ready for OwlSpark, we aren’t thinking of work or boredom, but of silly jokes and watching really cool technologies evolve. OwlSpark and our close friends, RED Labs, have hardly made this internship a job. Despite the tough nature of accelerators, they’ve ensured a fun program for us and the startup teams. Utilizing sharp wit, ample curse words, and inexhaustible amounts of ingenuity, founders have worked tirelessly this summer to find their success. It’s sad to think that some of these fledgling companies will fail, as most startups do, but if there was ever a batch of ideas and group of founders to find success, it’d be these 14 teams.

Hello, we’re Andy and Ben, a.k.a. Antern and Bentern, officially known as OwlSpark’s “Wise Guys.” We’re the smart-!@#$* who have been keeping y’all in the loop this summer. Like our official title and the role specified on our business cards, Andy and I are called Wise Guys every day, whether or not we’re actually being wise guys. As you may know, you’re usually called a ‘wise guy’ if you’re being a smart-!*@. But our title, stemming from the Owls of Rice University, has come to mean a lot more this summer. From the beginning of the program, this sassy innuendo was a strong omen of what was to come.

Now that the summer is almost over, we’d like to explain what Wise means to us.

If we’ve learned anything over a summer of interacting with entrepreneurs, it’s to be ready for sarcasm. Heavy doses of sarcasm have opened each day, sustained it, and then been the final words. Because of this, having a thick skin is just as necessary as having a good sense of humor, for founders and mentors alike. Hardline honesty and sarcasm flow like water here and miraculously, it creates a very helpful community.

OwlSpark is steeped with kind, resourceful mentors who all seem to also know their way around a good sense of verbal irony. Perhaps it’s this ability to speak as we please that helps mentors and advisors say the difficult things that need to be said, like ‘your pitch sucks’ or ‘you don’t have a viable market.’ Perhaps they use biting humor to keep their mind off the stress of worrying if their company will make it, or perhaps it’s just because being an entrepreneur keeps people young and arrogant. Likely it’s all three, but what we’ve found is that no one — mentors, speakers, or founders — would give it up for anything else.

We’ve spent the summer interviewing and learning from some of OwlSpark’s biggest supporters — entrepreneurs who have found success as well as failure. Each of their stories was very different, but they all had one thing in common: they were stumped when asked what they’d be doing if they weren’t in the business of starting companies. Not one of them seemed to have an answer — at least not one that convinced us there was anything else that they love as much as entrepreneurship. Their attempts ranged: some said they’d be getting bored by retirement; some thought for a while and then mentioned a childhood dream. All, however, were stumped by the question and many weren’t able to see themselves anywhere else.

Our theory is that these entrepreneurs, speakers, mentors and investors are addicted to the community here. They like the high stakes, the stress, the networking efforts, but most of all the interactions and the community.

And that’s what we love. The atmosphere of passion, sarcasm, ingenuity, curse words and laughs is what will keep us coming back time and time again. It’s what keeps us from concentrating on the difficulties or the failures. In entrepreneurship, everything is tough, nothing is ever guaranteed, and there’s never a clear path. To us, Wise doesn’t just mean smart, it also means doing what you love to do.

Wise Guys out.

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