Freshmen compete to win mentorship at startup accelerator

AddThis

Photo Credit: Gabby Lanza | Daily Texan Staff

Twenty freshmen pitched their business ventures to a panel of judges on Wednesday for a chance to win full mentorship and resources at Capital Factory, the largest startup accelerator in Austin. 

Longhorn Entrepreneurship Agency, a hub for entrepreneurship on campus, hosted Freshman Founders Demo Day, one of the organization’s many events that aim to foster student entrepreneurship.

“Demo Day is a great way to learn what other students are working on and bring together different pockets of entrepreneurship that exist on campus,” said agency Vice President Kelsi Kamin, a corporate
communications senior.

The venture pitches covered a scope of issues from a solution to student homelessness to a clothing line promoting self-love. 

The winning pitch was ThermaSec, a company that modernizes fire alarms through thermal imaging. Physics sophomore Isaac Laseter said he found inspiration for the idea while at home.

“There was an infrared gun in a shop by my house that pretty much measures heat from a wall, and I thought, that can be easily applied to a home or storage with fire,” Laseter said. “From there, it took off.”

Mechanical engineering sophomore Salman Charolia said observing the entrepreneurs at the event reminded him that a problem-solving perspective is practical for any scenario.

“Even if you don’t want to be an entrepreneur, just having the mindset of trying to find problems will be better for you and better for the community,” Charolia said.

Since its founding, the Freshman Founders program has guided dozens of students through the entrepreneurship process, including the development of Group Threads, a company founded by UT students that automates shirt design and delivery process, Kamin said.

Success stories such as Group Threads are leveraged to create a stronger network for members, as the company’s members are current mentors to the freshmen.

“We work extremely hard to source mentors in the Austin startup community as well as professors right here on campus,” Kamin said. “We match our freshmen with the mentors that would be the best fit for them.” 

Louise Epstein, managing director of the Cockrell School of Engineering’s Innovation Center, was a judge of the event and stressed the availability of resources for students interested in entrepreneurship.

“Here’s how serious we are: My cellphone number is on the Innovation Center’s website for students to reach out to,” Epstein said. “You can look at books, but we are the ultimate personal resource, and our goal is to help students commercialize their innovations.”