OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | WeekWise: Seven and Eight
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WeekWise: Seven and Eight

Week Seven

We are officially in the second half of the #bayoustartupsummer! On Monday, the founders celebrated Independence Day early and came dressed in their most patriotic outfits. Steve Wilbur kicked off Week Seven with Startup Founders Series. The theme? Unintended opportunities. Steve shared his story of unintended opportunities that led him to where he is today. From his humble beginnings, to his graduation from West Point, and his current venture at INTX Capital, Steve encouraged founders to make the most of and appreciate the opportunities with which you are presented. Lunch was an all-American favorite, hot dogs and hamburgers, to match the festive vibe all around OwlSpark. After lunch, and way too many hot dog puns, the founders attended office hours with Steve, Kaz Karwowski, and Tom Kraft.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were all customer discovery days, and a holiday of course. The founders stayed safe during the Fourth of July while Houston flooded, and some made it in Thursday for a round of namestorming—our fancy word for startup name brainstorming.

Friday wrapped the week up with office hours with the leadership team. Founders went over a draft of their pitch scripts for Bayou Startup Showcase and their progress over the past week with scripts was obvious. They are chugging along toward the end of summer and looking forward to crushing the pitch at Bayou Startup Showcase! By the way, have you and your colleagues registered to attend yet?!

Week Eight

Week Eight kicked off with Leadership Lunch with Kaz Karwowski who discussed the topic of leadership. He went into depth about the makings and characteristics of a leader, and asked for founders for their own definition of a leader, leadership, and helped them differentiate between a leader and a manager. As the leaders of their businesses, the founders learned the importance of being more than just a figurehead and realized how much a leader can affect an organization. Like Kaz says, “Leaders lead people. Managers manage processes.”

With this in mind, founders took on team presentations in front of panelists Alex de la Fuente, Kaz Karwowski, and Steve Wilbur. All three panelists have been thoroughly involved with teams throughout the summer and noticed the progress that founders have made with their value propositions, business model canvases, and storyboards. Further, they also encouraged them to keep digging into their business models—and to keep talking to customers. This feedback is so crucial to founders with Bayou Startup Showcase just around the corner. Tuesday was all about technology and tamales! We started off the day with some teams meeting with Jim O’Sullivan, former CEO of Technip, for office hours.

We were treated to a Startup Founders Series from Drs. Jacques and Smriti Zaneveld later in the day, detailing their journey building Lazarus 3D, a company that builds customizable soft 3D models of organs for doctors and medical students to rehearse surgery on. They’re making real differences in the medical field with an innovative product and they even gave us a hands-on demo! Founders learned about the journey of building a startup in the medical industry, a detailed Q&A session, and saw the impact that a startup could make in its field.

Founders are continuing to work hard in preparation for the Bayou Startup Showcase, and made the most of their Wednesday conducting customer interviews and chipping away at their pitch scripts. Thursday, we gathered in Lilie for Founders Lunch and a cohort photo (check us out!). While munching on a Thai buffet, teams shared their biggest achievement, biggest learning, next steps, and how the cohort can help them.

Finally, teams spent Friday in meetings with designers for their slide decks. These slide decks aren’t the typical PowerPoint presentations we see everyday—they’re much more visual! Founders are conveying their story to an audience of over 400 people so their slide decks need to visualize all of that in a clear way. This week the teams will continue working with our graphic designers to hone and draft their storyboards. It will be an ongoing collaboration until the final slide deck, which the teams will use to pitch during the Bayou Startup Showcase. There’s only have a few weeks left and our teams are working incredibly hard to make their dreams a reality. We can’t wait to see how they progress and succeed!

It’s better to fail at something really hard than to succeed at something really easy. — Dr. Jacques Zaneveld, Lazarus 3D