UT’s First Student Startup Fund Gets a Major Boost

Less than two days after the Genesis Program launched it’s Hornraiser campaign, it is already 98 percent of the way toward its ambitious goal of $1,200,000—thanks in large part to an anonymous gift of $1 million. The gift, which was announced Thursday night at Longhorn Startup Demo Day, helps to cement the startup fund’s place and future on campus.

The Genesis Program grew out of a simple question: Why were there so few startups on the Forty Acres? According to a 2015 year-long study led by the Longhorn Engineering Advisory Delegation (LEAD), the answer wasn’t a lack of motivated student founders or ideas, but something more tangible—a lack of funding. With that in mind, LEAD (a group of recent alumni who work with Cockrell School of Engineering leadership, faculty, staff and students to identify areas of growth) teamed up with Forty Acres Scholars Program scholars Katherine Allen and Jeff Auster to launch what has become UT’s first startup fund.

The idea isn’t just to give student entrepreneurs pre-seed capital. Genesis also gives students the experience of actually being investors by having them invest in startups funded by their peers and partnering them with alumni to mentor the companies they fund. “It’s the ultimate experiential learning platform,” says Auster.

Since its launch, Genesis has invested in 16 different student startups from across campus, including ventures like Krew, an app aimed at reshaping long distance ride-sharing founded by  UT freshmen Kush Singhand and Tanuj Girish. Diversity of leaders and ideas is a big part of the Genesis mission: students from any college, year, or degree level are eligible are to apply for funding or a role on Genesis’ investment team.

Alumni aren’t only a major part of the guidance student entrepreneurs receive through Genesis—they  have been equally important to Allen and Auster as they’ve worked on fundraising these past 12 months. “When we came in as Forty Acres Scholars,” Allen says, “We immediately realized how impactful the UT alumni network would be, and when we founded Genesis we took that with us.” With Thursday’s $1 million donation, Auster and Allen are seeing how powerful those networking skills can really be. After their initial excitement, Allen says, they let the news of the gift really sink in and began to realize all it could do for Genesis, including enabling them to fund more prizes, increase the size of funding, and potentially increase the number of the ventures they fund.

“We’re so fired up about the entrepreneurship on this campus because we think that [UT is becoming] the best university in the world to start a business,” Allen says. “We’re really helping students make their business real. In the next five to 10 years, hopefully one of these founders we invest in will be the next Michael Dell.”


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