The UT Dallas Computer Science Department in collaboration with the UT Dallas Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE), will be offering UT Dallas Computer Science and Software Engineering undergraduate students aiming to venture into software-based startups, the opportunity to enroll in the newly developed Software Launch Track. The Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship exists to support on campus entrepreneurship through providing education, training, mentorship, and resources with the goal of helping students, faculty, and staff in launching new businesses.
This past April, Mr. Jeremy Vickers, Executive Director, Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Co-Founder of Dallas Entrepreneur Center and Addison Treehouse, and Dr. Gopal Gupta, UT Dallas CS Department head, held a luncheon introducing and encouraging undergraduate students to learn more about the Software Launch Track Program. The Software Launch Track program provides opportunities to undergraduate students who are interested in customizing and supplementing their academic experience with needed tools and resources as they prepare to launch a new venture startup. During his talk, Mr. Vickers gave insight into what students would be doing throughout their academic careers once enrolled in the program, starting with their freshman year and ending with their senior year as well as post graduation.
Mr. Vickers also spoke about the 2015 Business Idea Competition, where Nearly 300 students participated in a competition where undergraduate and graduate students are given the opportunity to develop and present their business ideas while competing for $20,000 in cash and scholarship prizes. UT Dallas Computer Science freshman Raviteja Lingineni won the undergraduate competition with his company called WeBe, which uses an electronic tag to provide preferences and information to various smart devices. Lingineni also won a $5,000 award.
“The Business Idea Competition was a great way for me to get started — to get my hands dirty and learn now to run a business,” Lingineni said. “I think a competition like this is very valuable. Without this event, it could have taken a couple of years for me to have been on a stage like that, presenting to so many people,” he said.
The software entrepreneurship track aims to engage interested students right from their freshman year, though sophomore and juniors can also join, and get them to think about launching a startup by the time they graduate. During the freshman year, students will be introduced to the program through a series of seminars that explain the process and requirements needed for acceptance into the track. Once students have been accepted, they will form teams and relationships where they will work on building a concept that has the potential for commercialization. Students will also be introduced to student groups and organizations that promote and support campus entrepreneurship (e.g. E-Club, HackUTD, and HackDFW).
In their sophomore year, the course will become more hands-on. Students often will be invited to join selected networking events, startup community programs, and accelerator pitch events over the course of the sophomore year. Undergraduate students will be required to formally apply to the launch track in preparation for a junior course in entrepreneurship. During summer months, students are greatly encouraged to work with the IIE to find a summer internship with a startup so that they may further their experience in understand the world of entrepreneur and its process.
Students will be encouraged to reserve electives for a junior year course in entrepreneurship, prior to their senior capstone or senior design course. This course encourages students to join a team so that they may be involved in the Business Idea Competition, where they will gain experience in developing a business concept, forming a team, and presenting to their peers. In the fall of students’ junior year, students will be enrolled in ENTP3301 Innovation & Entrepreneurship and based upon their business concept they will conduct feasibility analyses and basic due diligence of the business concept. This will culminate in a formal business presentation. Students also will be required to apply to the Business Idea Competition to compete for seed funding for their business concept. It is also required of the students to apply for their team to participate in the Spring Launchpad program where for 10 weeks teams will begin the process of engaging customers and preparing a Minimum Viable Product.
By their senior year students will be prepared to begin their senior design capstone project where they will focus on developing the technical product from the work they have been doing while in the customer development phase. Upon successful completion or progress toward completion of their senior project, students will be admitted into the Venture Development Center (VDC) for the remaining balance of the academic year where they will be provided access to physical space for their team and professional mentors to support their business growth. Students will also be able to use VDC facilities for no charge up to six months after their graduation. Students may also be eligible for funding from the Startup Launch Program valued between $5,000 and $10,000.
“Many CS alumni have started successful companies and the CS Department’s track record is very good with respect to entrepreneurship; however, I would like to see the CS Department play a more active role in creating the next generation of software entrepreneurs,” said Dr. Gupta. “The DFW area has all the ingredients needed to create a thriving software entrepreneurship hub, and the CS Department would like to add its efforts to those of the IIE and the VDC to realize the dream,” he added.
In the course of the informational luncheon, Mr. Jeremy Vickers introduced students to the multitude of academic and co-curricular programs that the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) offers students, faculty, and staff in their endeavors to launch new businesses. Included in these programs are the following:
- Entrepreneurial Development Series: The IIE provides formal training programs for students, faculty, staff, and the entrepreneurial community. These sessions comprise the Entrepreneurial Development series and are focused on tactical training that prepares entrepreneurs, innovators, and inventors for the launch of a new business.
- Launchpad: Launchpad is a ten-week, experiential program that pulls faculty, staff, and students into an environment to incubate ideas and engage prospective customers in preparation for the launch of a new business concept.
- Spring Quick Pitch Competition: The UT Dallas Quick Pitch Competition is held in the spring and brings to the fore creative business ideas. Students teams are asked to submit a business concept and prepare a 3-minute presentation, using only one slide that describes the problem in the market, how their business solves it, what key value their solution brings, and the estimated size of the market.
- Startup Package: UT Dallas students, faculty, and staff may apply to have access to discount and free resources that helps reduce costs and barriers to launching a business.
- Venture Advisory Services: The UT Dallas Venture Advisory Services program is designed to leverage external mentors, guest speakers, and resources into a hub of information that can be mobilized to help student, faculty, and staff startup teams in the launch of their businesses.
ABOUT THE UT DALLAS COMPUTER SCIENCE DEPARTMENT
The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 1,600 bachelor’s-degree students, more than 1,100 master’s students, 160 PhD students, and 80 faculty members, as of Fall 2015. With The University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.