New Businesses Emerging From Startup Aggieland
Startup Aggieland is Texas A&M University’s student-run business accelerator where Aggies can find the guidance and resources to launch their own businesses. This cross-college, collaborative community invites students from all majors and classifications to explore entrepreneurship, and provides valuable resources including workspace, mentoring and networking opportunities, free of charge. These Aggie students have taken advantage of all Startup Aggieland has to offer and are now pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams.
Taking the Core Value of Service and turning it into a business – what could be more quintessentially Aggie? Andrea Batarse ’17, an international studies/French major from Houston, Lexi Carley ’17, an International Studies/Spanish major from Kingwood and Namrata Khanijow ’17, a chemical engineering major from Austin, have done just that with their startup company Refuge. “Refuge is a socially responsible, for-profit company that provides child refugees from war-torn, politically unstable or natural-disaster stricken countries with a quality education through the sale of backpacks and totes,” Batarse explains. “For every bag you purchase, you support a child refugee’s education.” Founded this past May, Batarse says the company was inspired by volunteer experience with LifeCycles, an organization that helps refugees assimilate to the U.S. “Our involvement with LifeCycles exposed us to the insufficient education programs and education materials in refugee camps.” Refuge is currently headquartered at Startup Aggieland’s facility in Research Park on the western edge of campus; Bartase notes she discovered the accelerator at a 3-Day Startup event, where students attempt to start a company over the course of 72 hours. “At the event, I was exposed to all the incredible opportunities, networking, and mentorship that Startup Aggieland has to offer,” Bartase shares. “It has provided us with tools and guidance on developing our business model canvas through weekly classes as well as outside meetings with our mentors.” She adds she’s hopeful to continue along with the company “and see it change the world one bag at a time.”
Co-founders Kyle Levers ’15 from Shamong, N.J., and Fego Galvan ’15 from League City, Texas, both fourth-year doctoral students in exercise physiology, have taken their passion for health and exercise and turned it into KYGO Systems, a company with the goal of developing a comfortable and sleek, wearable device that can wirelessly monitor blood pressure during movement and exercise. “Manual blood pressure measurement during exercise, particularly during inclined treadmill walking or running, is highly difficult and can be very cumbersome when attempting to collect accurate data,” Levers explains. “We initially set out to streamline and standardize this process. Our target population and features have since expanded to bring this technology to the cardiovascular-at-risk and health-conscious markets.” Levers and Galvan founded the company this past January and are currently working to build a prototype of their product; they’ve partnered with 11 Texas A&M engineering students to help create the prototype, which they aim to present by May 2015. He credits Startup Aggieland as an invaluable resource for the cultivation of the product and company, especially considering his and Galvan’s lack of business experience. “We have no business background, so Startup Aggieland provided us with the fundamentals of business development and structure, while challenging us to understand the needs of our target customer,” Levers notes. “They’ve connected us with product development and engineering experts, and to a multitude of business development resources for intellectual property protection, entity formation, branding and financial backing.” Levers encourages engineering and other specialists interested in joining their team to contact KYGO Systems. “We also plan on launching a Kickstarter campaign in the near future,” he adds. Look for KYGO Systems on Facebook, @kygoLLC on Twitter, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Defy Matter/Lynx Toys/TrevaTech
Ask the men of Defy Matter about their company mission and they’ll tell you, it’s “solving the universe.” With a lofty goal like that, it’s no wonder that in only six months, they’ve created two startups – Lynx Toys and TrevaTech – each with a patented product. Matt Kinsel ’14, a marketing major from Cotulla, Texas, Madison Jones ’13, an ocean engineering major from Willis, Texas, and Jared Knowles ’14, an industrial distribution major from Dallas, founded their consumer products company in June and have already begun manufacturing and online sales of one product, Lynx Toys, which are connectors that allow ordinary pool noodles to be snapped together to form an endless array of shapes for water sports and games, or just for fun. TrevaTech, Kinsel notes, is set to begin production in 2015 of the “MultiRag,” an eco-friendly cleaning rag with multiple layers of fabric for multiple purposes and surfaces. “We want to add value to our customers’ lives by problem-solving and innovating in unique and revolutionary ways,” he says. The trio is currently headquartered at Startup Aggieland which they say is very useful for meeting and working. “But I’d say the most valuable component of Startup Aggieland’s resources is the networking and mentorship,” says Kinsel. “Being able to surround ourselves with like-minded, driven individuals has definitely contributed to our growth.” He says entrepreneurship is about more than just ideas. “Ideas are a dime a dozen; in most cases, it comes down to execution. Successful people will find a way to be successful no matter how many times they fail or how many avenues they have to pursue. Entrepreneurship is as equally challenging as it is liberating, and I love both aspects of it.” Find Defy Matter products at facebook.com/MultiRag and facebook.com/LynxToysLLC or lynxpooltoys.com.
Chase Millis ’15, a construction science major from Sugar Land, shares Startup Aggieland’s “ugly baby” philosophy, saying it’s what pushed his business, Millis Remodeling, to the next level. “If we have an unsuccessful business or bad idea – i.e. ‘ugly baby’ – we tend to think it’s perfect and our friends will compliment our ugly baby, even if it’s a bad idea,” he explains. “This leads to minimal improvement and average quality output. But the leaders and mentors at Startup Aggieland give us 100 percent honest feedback and constructive criticism.” Founded in January 2012, Millis Remodeling provides a wide variety of commercial and residential remodeling services throughout Bryan/College Station. Millis employs six part-time employees and “we have more than tripled our yearly revenue every year since our inception. We have completed over 120 jobs this year,” he notes. He says all universities should have business accelerators such as Startup Aggieland. “Depending on your field of study, growth and development outside the classroom is just as important, if not more, than learning inside the classroom,” Millis asserts, adding, “I believe students who immerse themselves in a business accelerator culture will be more prepared for the curveballs of the business world.” In the future, Millis hopes to hire a full-time manager to run his College Station operations while he focuses on investments. Find Millis Remodeling online at mwremodeling.vpweb.com, generalcontractorcollegestation.com, or on Facebook.
Startup Aggieland is a cross-college collaboration between Texas A&M’s Office of the Vice President in the Division of Research, Mays Business School’s Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE), the Dwight Look College of Engineering, and the College of Architecture, and welcomes continued participation with all university entities. To learn more about Startup Aggieland, visit their website or find them on Facebook and Twitter.