Robert Metcalfe

Students listen to a discussion between aspiring student entrepreneurs and organization leaders at the SAC, Monday. The discussion kicked of the first ever UT Entrepreneurship Week, developed to help assist aspiring business leaders.

Photo Credit: Gabriella Belzer | Daily Texan Staff

Before students dive into their spring break week, student entrepreneurs will have the chance to dive into a week of events aimed at building connections and receiving professional and peer guidance for their future businesses.

The first UT Entrepreneurship Week kicked off Monday with a discussion between aspiring student entrepreneurs and campus entrepreneurship organization leaders that will be associated with UTE Week. uThinkTank, creator of UTE Week, is a networking site that allows student entrepreneurs to get feedback on their ideas, connect to mentors on campus and in Austin and build their general business plans, said marketing junior Jonathan Van, co-founder of uThinkTank.

Van said the idea of UTE Week is to merge the entrepreneuring nature of Austin with the University in order to provide city resources to students and expand the entrepreneurial culture on campus.

“We want students to go from their idea to where the rubber meets the road,” Van said. “Students that attend the events can start talking to other students and professors that might be able to help them and as well as possible stakeholders for their companies.”

Rhetoric and writing junior, Nick Spiller, co-founder of uThinkTank, said his ideas for UTE Week originated from listening to his current mentor, Robert Metcalfe, electrical and computer engineering professor and co-inventor of Ethernet, speak about connecting the Austin and UT entrepreneurial communities.

“This week is for students to push this snowball of a movement of entrepreneurship over the tipping point at the University,” Spiller said. “We think that if we can get enough people on board and make sure everyone meets the right people, we can basically change the metrics of how your college experiences at a large public research university can be judged.”

Management senior Neil Lloyd said he attended the kickoff event Monday to find out about the resources that are available for him. Lloyd said his business idea is in its rough stage but eventually wants to create a networking tool for the martial arts community.

“I’ve been an aspiring entrepreneur for a long time and I guess I’ve never been able to get my ideas into action because I was never able to find the right people,” Lloyd said. “I’m hoping to make some connections and bounce ideas off each other.”

Electrical engineering senior Aaron Sanchez, vice-president of the Technology Entrepreneurship Society, said the organization’s monthly meeting is a part of UTE Week in order to offer student entrepreneurs the opportunity to learn about applying to local startup-assistance groups.

“We want students to share their ideas and thoughts and expose them to information that can compliment those thoughts,” Sanchez said.

Economics and finance senior, Kanish Mehta, president and founder of the University Entrepreneur’s Association, said the organization wants to connect student entrepreneurs from all disciplines together in order to share their ideas and form teams for new start-up companies.

The association will present the “Austinpreneur Panel” event on Tuesday at the SAC Blackbox Theatre that will feature a panel of speakers from Austin who will discuss the relationship between entrepreneurship and the community, Van said.

uThinkTank and Austin Technology Incubator will present the second annual Student Entrepreneurship Symposium on Wednesday in the SAC Ballroom.

“The symposium is going to give students the chance to see people that are highly successful, such as Robert Metcalfe, and allow them to make connections with their peers and possible mentors,” Van said.  

Printed on Tuesday, March 6, 2012 as: Budding entrepreneurs receive advice

Dr. Bob Metcalfe, co-inventor of Ethernet and UT Cockrell School of Engineering professor, answers a question at a lecture held at the AT&T Center last night. Dr. Metcalfe was there to discuss Startups, giving students useful advice concerning the creation of innovative companies.

Photo Credit: Andrea Macias-Jimenez | Daily Texan Staff

Innovations that start at UT are central to the way the University changes the world, said engineering professor Robert Metcalfe. Through University startup companies these innovations can materialize to have maximum impact, he said.

Tuesday, the Austin Forum on Science, Technology and Society hosted Metcalfe, who spoke about innovating with University startups.

“The Austin Forum is a premier monthly speaker series on the topic of science and technology,” said Faith Singer-Villalobos, spokesperson for the Texas Advanced Computing Center. “All of our speakers are thought leaders in their fields. We have a wide range of subject matter, experts and topics.”

The forum has hosted a variety of speaker topics ranging from gaming to a clean energy economy, she said.

“[We chose the issue of University startups because] the foundation of this topic is innovation, which UT endeavors to foster across the University,” Singer-Villalobos said.

Metcalfe is a new professor of innovation at the University. He has worked as an engineer, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, journalist and now a professor. He received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2003 for inventing Ethernet, today’s local networking standard.

“Innovation is what happens after invention and discovery,” Metcalfe said. “Invention is carefully cultivated and tended, but innovation grows like a weed.”

He said that networking is especially crucial in establishing successful startups.

“[Some of the main factors in university startups] are innovation and the lifecycle of startups, startup competition, university research, students and successful networking.”

Metcalfe listed what he considered the six species of innovators: research professors, graduating students, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, strategic partners and early adopters.

“Universities are the best bet for innovation,” he said. “It is important to continue combining teaching and research at UT [for continued success].”

Metcalfe discussed the position of UT as a top 10 research university in the U.S. He said this was due in part to the endowment, the scale of research and also the commitment to research at UT.

Catherine Polito, executive director of the Center for Lifelong Engineering Education, and the CLEE encouraged student attendance of the forum. She said that Metcalfe teaches a one semester class on startups and that CLEE sponsored the event and publicized it with engineering students on campus.

“This is the group that [Metcalfe’s] message really resonates with,” she said about UT graduate students.

Metcalfe said he considered students to be the vehicles for the innovation that he discussed.

“Students already come here with great knowledge and ability,” he said. “At UT, we cultivate the talents that they already possess.”

Printed on Wednesday, October 5, 2011 as: Forum discusses innovating within University startups

A principle inventor of Ethernet joined the Cockrell School of Engineering this month as its only professor of innovation.

Robert Metcalfe brings years of private sector and large-scale commercialization experience to the University. He said he hopes his future research here will connect other work at the engineering school to the entrepreneurial system of start-ups and investors in Austin.

While working for the Xerox corporation and working on his doctoral dissertation at Harvard in 1973, Metcalfe developed Ethernet along with other researchers, although he is credited as its principal inventor.

Metcalfe then left Xerox and founded 3Com, a network technology company. He said the company standardized and introduced the Ethernet commercially and merged into a part of Hewlett-Packard Co. last year for more than $7 billion.

Ethernet provides a basic layer of the Internet — the connection between computers, which are often in the same building, on Local Area Networks. When developing the Internet, computer scientists organized it in layers, Metcalfe said during his first public lecture at UT on Thursday. Physical structures, such as a personal computer, make up the first
layer and applications, including websites such as Facebook and YouTube, make up the top layer.

“There are wired and wireless ethernets,” Metcalfe said. “It is the pipeline of the Internet.”

Metcalfe’s presentation, which he said was his first PowerPoint presentation even though he was part of the company that developed and sold PowerPoint to Microsoft for $14 million, addressed one of his newer interests — energy. Metcalfe applied lessons from the development of the Internet to problems facing the development of “clean and safe energy.”

This semester marks the start of Metcalfe’s fifth career, sixth if he counted his 23 years as a student, he said. Since completing his doctoral dissertation at Harvard University which laid the basis for the Ethernet, Metcalfe said he worked as a journalist, entrepreneur and venture capitalist. He said he has given many lectures but has never worked as a teacher.

“I have to learn to be a real professor,” Metcalfe said. “I’ve had an audience before but not students.”

Metcalfe will teach one class next fall. He said he has until February to design the course and right now only knows he will teach about innovation.

Gregory Fenves, dean of the engineering school, said Metcalfe’s arrival will bolster the college’s ability to commercialize the research already going on.

“Bob is bringing research and private sector experience in developing and identifying research problems and solutions that will be successful in the marketplace,” Fenves said.

After attending Metcalfe’s talk, electrical and computer engineering graduate student Debarati Kundu said she is excited about the experience and knowledge Metcalfe brings to the school.

“While I won’t pretend I followed everything he said [in the talk], I was very impressed with the way he said energy can be approached as another network,” Kundu said.