OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | WeekWise: One and Two
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WeekWise: One and Two

Welcome to #bayoustartupsummer Class 6! We’re incredibly excited for this summer and energy has been sky-high from the get-go. We have fifteen startup teams from OwlSpark and RED Labs this year, working out of Rice’s very own Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, or Lilie for short. A flexible and modern co-working space, Lilie is Rice’s new on-campus hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. It’s perfect for our budding entrepreneurs as they embark on this journey for the next three months.

Week One

Some of y’all may recall the hectic nature of Week One here at OwlSpark and RED Labs. Our startup teams were immediately set to the task of understanding their customer. Alejandro (Alex) Tortoriello, NSF I-Corps instructor, serial entrepreneur, and bioinnovation fellow at MD Anderson Cancer Center, instructed founders on identifying, contacting, and interviewing customers.

These teams move fast: on Day 2, founders spent time out of the building conducting customer interviews and later returned to present their business model canvas. Following acute advice and constructive criticism they received from our panel, founders are prepped and ready to begin the 100 required interviews for the summer. They need to reach out to other entrepreneurs, end users, influencers, and other players in their purchasing ecosystem to better understand their customers’ purchasing decisions.

For the second half of the week, we had several lectures scheduled for our founders. Steve Wilbur, a member of the RED Labs leadership team, and president and managing partner of INTX Capital gave two interactive lectures on identifying beachhead markets and creating an end user profile as well as a persona for your startup. Returning lecturer Gray Hancock, COO of Decisio Health, further engaged the founders with a lecture on evaluating market opportunities.

In true startup fashion, we rounded out Week One with a slew of lectures, discussions, brunch, interactive mentoring workshops, and volleyball. Founders had the opportunity to develop their own end user profiles and share them with returning alumni-turned-mentors. We were joined by OwlSpark and RED Labs alumni Brad Day (DermaVision), Thomas Fields (GRIND), Samantha Lewis (GOOSE Society of Texas), Anderson Ta (Open Factory), and Alex Wesley (Arovia). They shared their experiences in OwlSpark and RED Labs and dished advice to current founders for making the most of #bayoustartupsummer, and later joined members of the Houston startup community in an interactive mentoring session surrounding the end user profile and persona. In this mentoring session, founders networked and sought advice from mentors: Matthew Buckovicky (AtmoSpark), Dave Cook (Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship), Brad Day, Thomas Fields, Alex de la Fuente, Ken Jones, Tom Kraft, Samantha Lewis, Tejus Mane (AtmoSpark), Deb Mansfield, Keith Rassin (eConserve), Anderson Ta, Alex Wesley, Steve Wilbur, and Adam Wulf (Milestone Made).

We ended the week with an after-hours volleyball game at Sideout Volleybar. A rousing game of sand volleyball was a fun way to relax before the long weekend.

Week Two

Following the Memorial Day weekend, teams were back at it and ready for the next challenge on Tuesday morning. We were all super excited for all the work we have to do this week. Teams still have lectures, workshops, and interactive mentoring, not to mention getting out of the building to continue customer interviews. As one of our mentors said, “It’s going to be a #bayoublowout!”

Founders took the time to flesh out their value propositions with guidance from Mike Evans, president of Evans Consulting. Founders discussed their value propositions during an afternoon session of interactive mentoring. Our panel of dedicated mentors included: Syed Biabani (Zdaly), Read Boles (C.T. Bauer College of Business), Dave Cook, Mike Evans (Evans Consulting), Alex de la Fuente, Ken Jones, Tom Kraft, Deb Mansfield, Keith Rassin, Chris Taylor (MD Anderson Cancer Center), Alex Tortoriello, Steve Wilbur, and Adam Wulf.

Every entrepreneur will tell you that you will make many mistakes and hit many roadblocks throughout the journey. Issues like equal equity among team members, family and friends as investors, disagreements among co-founders are common. Keith Kreuer, principal at RedHouse Associates, touched on this topic during Startup Founders Series on Tuesday. Keith shared his journey of entrepreneurship in an anecdotal story of success and lessons learned.

Roberto Moctezuma, angel investor, serial entrepreneur, and Fortune 50 executive expanded on points from Tuesday evening’s Startup Founders Series. In a lecture based off the book The Founder’s Dilemma, he walked founders through common drawbacks faced by startups, hopefully helping our teams avoid falling into the same traps. This knowledge was complemented with a session from Lavonne Hopkins, an attorney from Johnson & Johnson, who specializes in intellectual property law. She went above and beyond to share legal considerations for early stage startups: incorporation, as well as protection of IP and privacy.

We rounded out Week 2 with Bryan Haardt, CEO of Decisio Health, who engaged with our founders in a talk focusing on software development. We learned some new words, like Scrum (an agile framework for managing work with an emphasis on software development) and agile development (an umbrella term for software development methodologies). All our founders are continuing to explore the possibilities their startups could achieve and all the obstacles they may face.

It’s been a busy two weeks, but the time flies and we’re already one-sixth of the way through our #bayoustartupsummer! With all that we’ve achieved in nine days, our summer bodes well for success.