Student Government encourages student entrepreneurship with One Semester Startup

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Student Government President Thor Lund addresses a crowd at One Semester Startup, an event where 11 different student businesses pitched their companies. Student Government launched a new agency this semester called the Longhorn Entrepreneurship Agency, which helped organize the Thursday night’s event.

Photo Credit: Ben Chesnut | Daily Texan Staff

With the help of various organizations and UT professors, Student Government is hoping to continue growing entrepreneurship support on campus.

One Semester Startup, a UT course that aims to help educate and mentor student startups, held its annual fall demo, where 10 different student businesses pitched their company to a crowd of more than 300 students, entrepreneurs and investors. Business presentations included Clay.io, a marketplace that sells games that can be played on any device and Still Open, a website and soon-to-be-released app that provides a map of nearby open businesses.

The event was put on with the help of a new on-campus entrepreneurial group, the Longhorn Entrepreneurship Agency.

Earlier this semester, Student Government created the new agency to bring together student entrepreneurs on campus and help them connect. Nicholas Spiller, the agency’s director, said the agency spent this past semester establishing itself and recruiting.

“There is a lot of interest in general with entrepreneurship right now,” Spiller said. “We’re just trying to harness that energy and make something productive.”

The agency has 22 students on its staff. Spiller said initially he planned for 10, but when he got 36 applications he expanded the number of positions available.

The Longhorn Entrepreneurship Agency is not the first entrepreneurship student group on campus. Spiller said UT has a long history of entrepreneurship groups. Some of these groups include Austin Technology Incubator, a group that counsels and provides support to starting businesses and Technology Entrepreneurship Society, a student organization focused on identifying future technological entrepreneurs in the UT community.

Spiller said he wants to bring all of these groups together for monthly roundtable discussions about what is going on in their communities. Through this, he is hoping the Longhorn Entrepreneurship Agency can be a resource of all entrepreneurial information on campus.

“It is a lot of information to take in, as of right now you have to get it from a lot of different places,” Spiller said. “We want to increase opportunities and continue to develop student resources.”

Spiller, who is the founder of two different startups, was co-author of the legislation that created the Longhorn Entrepreneurship Agency. He has been a member of the entrepreneurship community on campus before leading the new agency. Last year, he put on the first UT Entrepreneurship Week. The event will happen again this spring under the Longhorn Entrepreneurship Agency.

“UT Entrepreneurship Week is going to be a way for all the different student organizations, courses and entrepreneurship programs on campus to come together, host events all across campus and basically just try to raise awareness and get people excited about entrepreneurship,” Spiller said.

With events like that, Student Government vice president Wills Brown said he hopes the Longhorn Entrepreneurship Agency can reach out to any student who wants to start a business.

“In the years to come, I hope this agency truly helps make Austin the Silicon Valley of the South,” Brown said.

Student Government president Thor Lund said he hopes this agency can inspire innovation among the student body.

“I think we all hope that someday our student entrepreneurs will be as celebrated as our athletes on this campus,” Lund said.

Spiller said he is already working on that goal. At the One Semester Startup, the Texas Cheerleaders performed several chants for student entrepreneurs.

Later in the evening at the event, Rony Kahan, CEO and cofounder of Indeed.com, a digital job finder, offered advice to future student entrepreneurs.

“People will give you a lot of advice on business, but you have to find your own path,” Kahan said. “You just have to go out there and try. I encourage everyone, it’s a worthy journey to take.”

Printed on Friday, November 30, 2012 as: Student startups pitch ideas to digital CEO