Two years ago, UT MBA students Marcos Fernandez, Jon Sherr and Russell Myers invited some of Austin tech's leading entrepreneurs to come speak with them for a new podcast series.
Brett Chikowski, a first-year MBA student at the time and a fan of the podcast, also jumped on board and was responsible for recording it, editing it and posting the session online.
It was informal and a bit scrappy, but the idea of inspiring students to learn more about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur was something the group of students were passionate about. And in its second year, members of the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship took notice, offering to sponsor the show while suggesting to formalize the layout by making it a live event with food, drinks and better recording equipment.
Now called TEX Talks, the series has posted over 20 interviews with some of our area's top startup and tech founders sharing everything from when they thought about quitting and specific challenges they faced along their journey.
The idea was inspired by a class and podcast offered at Stanford University that interviews local entrepreneurial thought leaders.
“These entrepreneurs are fascinating,” said Chikowski. “I’ve been around people my whole life who follow this path of growing up, go to college, earn your degree then get a job. But these entrepreneurs, you hear their stories about how they had nothing more than an idea, and they still went for it.”
Some big names TEX Talks has featured include Will Davis, co-founder of Able Lending, Jason Cohen, founder and CTO at WP Engine, William Hurley, founder and CEO of Honest Dollar, Gay Gaddis, CEO and founder of T3, and Brett Hurt, co-founder and CEO of data.world.
Last year, they welcomed Andy Tryba, co-founder of the ridesharing nonprofit RideAustin, to shed light on the Uber and Lyft Austin exodus. During the interview, Tryba revealed he was part of the crew trying to keep both ridesharing companies in town — but what Chikowski said he was most intrigued by was Tryba’s attention to time management.
“He mentioned that he took some time earlier in his life when he had a few friends pass away, and it made him conscious of how little time he has here,” Chikowski said. “So he went in and wrote down every 15 minutes what he had done for the past 15 minutes and realized how much free time he actually had throughout the day. He said it helped him to be so much more efficient and productive.”
Months later, when Chikowski was actually in a RideAustin vehicle while chatting with the driver, Chikowski discovered that this driver was practicing the same time management practices as Tryba mentioned in the podcast.
“He actually pulled out his notebook, and he was writing down every 15 minutes what he had been doing,” said Chikowski. “It was incredible to see that we had reached a complete stranger.”
In anticipation of Chikowski's graduation this May, the TEX Talks team has lined up younger students from the MBA program to take over the podcast next year.
“The plan is to have this going for as long as possible,” Chikowski said.
The next podcast will be recorded on April 19 at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, featuring Xuan Yong, RigUp’s CEO and co-founder.
All 24 podcasts are available to listen to from iTunes and the TEX Talks website, including their Minipod series which features entrepreneurs who have recently launched or are about to launch a startup.
“Our overarching theme is how can we encourage students to go for their idea, to take a leap, and get the stories from these entrepreneurs so we can ask them what was it that allowed you to start your company,” said Chikowski. “You had a job, you had obligations, you had fears. What was your story like and why were you able to do this? There’s a ton of people out there that want to start things, and we’re always curious to learn what is in the DNA of an entrepreneur that allows them to take these big risks.”
Image provided by TEX Talks.