Direct access to the talented minds pouring out from the University of Texas at Austin has been a driving force behind the growth of the Austin tech ecosystem. The school had over 51,000 students this past year after recording its highest on-time graduation rate ever at 66 percent last year.
While many students get scooped up by local companies soon after graduating, others jump headfirst into launching businesses of their own. That’s especially true for those who have just earned degrees from UT’s prestigious McCombs School of Business.
To give you a taste of the university’s impact on the city, here are 35 founders you should know who rocked the “Horns Up” before entering the tech industry as head honchos of their own ventures.
Cam Houser launched 3 Day Startup in 2008 while attending McCombs School of Business. The nonprofit provides entrepreneurial education to university students in a shortened accelerator format. Since its launch, 3 Day Startup has graduated nearly 13,000 students from 30 countries across 179 schools. Over 130 companies have launched through the program, collectively raising more than $157 million in investments.
After graduating from Wake Forest University with a degree in economics, Thomas Allen attended UT for his MBA, which he earned in 2007. In 2012, Allen launched AgileLaw, a legal tech company that develops software solutions for attorneys.
Three UT alumni joined forces in the launch of Apptronik, a three-year-old startup that’s creating human-centered robotics, electric actuators, automation control systems and robotic educational tools. Jeff Cardenas, ‘13, serves as Apptronik’s director of innovation and product development; Nicholas Paine, ‘15, is the company’s CTO; and Bill Welch, ‘15, is CEO.
Ninis Samuel graduated with a business degree from UT and worked at major tech companies like Microsoft and Lenovo before founding BarkHappy in 2015. The company’s app helps dog owners meet each other at events and places that welcome your four-legged bestie. The company also hosts regular charity events benefiting rescues across the country. Samuel is also formerly the VP of marketing at HomeAway.
Following graduation with an MBA in environmental management and entrepreneurship in 2000, Amy George founded two companies. First, she led the launch of BlueAvocado in 2008, which creates reusable zip baggies, shopping and lunch systems. In 2016, she stepped down as CEO at BlueAvocado while remaining on its board of directors to launch Earthly Labs, a startup building tech solutions that capture carbon emissions.
CURB’s CEO and founder Erik Norwood graduated with an MBA in cleantech from UT in 2012. Prior to Texas, Norwood earned his master's in mechanical engineering from University of Southern California, and his bachelor’s in science technology and society from Pitzer College in Claremont, CA.
In 2015, after collecting his MBA in entrepreneurship and risk management from UT, Charles Leonard joined UT grads Bob Barker and Mike Schultz in launching Cybernance. The cybersecurity startup provides executives and stakeholders with visibility into their organizations’ cybersecurity operations.
Liquibase’s CTO and co-founder Robert Reeves attended UT both as an undergraduate and a graduate student. Reeves earned his bachelor’s degree in economics in 2002 and his master of science in technology commercialization in 2012. Prior to Liquibase, Reeves founded Phurnace Software, which BMC Software acquired in 2009.
Texas alumnus Michael Pierce founded Equipboard in 2013. The startup provides musicians with a growing database of music gear used by professionals across the world. Prior to Equipboard, Pierce was an Accenture Venture Partner at UT, where he mentored students participating in UT’s Texas Venture Labs accelerator program.
Following nearly a decade at Dell as a mechanical engineer, Michael Garel received his MBA in general management from UT while working at Xplore Technologies. In 2013, he launched eyeQ, an in-store, tech-enabled product stand that interacts with customers and collects data.
Combining America’s love of baseball and boozing, Home Run Dugout offers an entertainment venue with gamified, digital batting cage experiences — like Top Golf but for baseball. Leading Home Run Dugout are co-founders Nick Hermandorfer, a McCombs School of Business graduate from 2016, and Tyler Bambrick, who graduated from McCombs this year. Fellow alumnus and tech leader Matt Chasen also serves on Home Run Dugout’s strategic advisory board.
Inkscreen founder Josh Bohls graduated from UT in 1997 as a Silver Spur, one of the caretakers of Texas’s beloved longhorn, Bevo. He founded Inkscreen in 2012 and leads the software company as president. He also works for Commission Express Lone Star as managing director.
Tyron Stading graduated from Stanford University in 2002 before earning his MBA from Texas in ‘04 in business. From there, he launched the patent search software platform Innography in 2006, which CPA Global acquired in 2015. Today, he serves as chief data officer at CPA Global.
A few months after securing his MBA from McCombs in 2015, Deven Hariyani founded Kwaddle. The Austin startup is building an online platform that connects parents with operators of camps, after-school programs, educational activities and enrichment organizations.
Christine Chen graduated from Rice University with a degree in economics and visual arts in 2007. She then launched the independent film production company Moth to Flame, where she serves as CEO and filmmaker. Chen returned to school in 2010 and earned her MBA in entrepreneurship and marketing from McCombs in 2012.
Naruby Schlenker, Jagath Narayan and Sangram Kadam co-founded Ordoro in 2012 after graduating together from McCombs in 2010. The company provides small and medium-sized online merchants with web tools to make shipping and back-office management easier after a sale. Narayan serves as Ordoro’s CEO, Schlenker as head of business development and Kadam as CFO.
Colin Anawaty, an ‘06 graduate of the McCombs School, co-founded Patient IO, formerly known as Filament Labs. He served as the healthtech platform’s CPO through athenahealth’s acquisition of Patient IO in 2016. Following the acquisition, Anawaty moved into the executive director of product management role for athenahealth. He also serves on the advisory board at [email protected], an organization within Texas’ graduate program that focuses on events, research, education and collaboration within healthcare.
With a bachelor’s from Georgetown University, a masters of public affairs from The University of Texas and an MBA from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rena Pacheco-Theard launched edtech startup Prepify in 2013. Prepify helps low-income high school students and members of underrepresented groups prepare for the SATs and ACTs with free, online adaptive content. The platform also provides information on how to afford higher ed and steps for navigating the college application process.
Serial entrepreneur Panos Adamopoulos has earned three masters’ degrees in chemical engineering, business and tech commercialization — the latter from the University of Texas — and founded three startups to match. His most recent venture, Seismos, delivers real-time analytics and underground fluid-flow imaging for oil and gas companies. The Austin startup is now five years old with a second office in Houston and about 20 employees total.
Erik McMillan double majored during his time at UT, graduating with degrees in management information services and information technology in 2003. Following graduation, McMillan founded a series of startups including Silent Technology, PROACE Technology Services and BestFit Mobile. In 2012, he launched Shelfbucks, which closed a $9 million Series B round of funding this year to bring its in-store merchandising analytics and engagement platform to more than 20 consumer packaged goods companies.
Paired with 20 years of consulting and startup experience, Chandra Mambapoor added a master’s degree in technology commercialization from McCombs in 2015. That same year, Mambapoor founded SigTrack, which connects data entry freelancers across the U.S. with available work.
After earning his MBA from UT in 2014, Mario Barrett launched Sockwork. The startup offers a monthly sock subscription that donates 10 percent of its profits to a different veteran-focused charity every month. Barrett graduated from West Point and served in the U.S. Army as a combat engineer before attending Texas for graduate school. Today Barrett works at Cratejoy, supporting its Cratejoy Premier service.
Spredfast co-founder and former CEO Ken Cho graduated from UT’s McCombs School of Business in 2003. Cho has since become an active investor in the Austin startup community, backing Localeur, Empresario and Criquet Shirts. He most recently founded People Pattern, a machine learning marketing research platform, where he leads as CEO.
Husband and wife duo Tiffany Taylor Chen and Leon Chen first met during their sophomore year at UT. Tiffany Chen graduated in ‘01 with a bachelors of science degree, and Leon Chen graduated the same year with a business administration degree. The idea for Tiff’s Treats came about after Tiffany Chen delivered a fresh batch of warm cookies to Leon Chen’s doorside to make up for bailing on a date. Today, the on-demand warm cookie delivery startup operates out of 40 locations in Texas, Georgia and Tennessee.
Jeremy Sapriel launched the social media travel platform TripRiff in spring 2015. The founder graduated from UT in 2016 with an MBA in entrepreneurship, corporate innovation and marketing. In addition to Tripriff, Sapriel works for edtech company Blackboard as director of product portfolio management.
A 2012 graduate of UT’s McCombs School of Business, Chantal Pittman leads Unique Influence as COO. The digital agency launched in 2011 and provides services to grow customer bases through paid social, influencer marketing, content creation, community management and social listening. Pittman is also an entrepreneur in residence at UT’s Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship, Growth, and Renewal.
A two-time Texas graduate, Matt Chasen earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from UT in 1998 and his MBA in 2004. Chasen founded uShip in 2003 and served as CEO until 2016 when he stepped down to focus on early-stage startups. Today, he is a special limited partner at ATX Seed Ventures.
Both graduates of UT’s McCombs School of Business, Travis McCollum and Ed Hemphill co-founded the IoT startup WigWag in 2011. The company’s open-source platform provides a universal location for linking up IoT devices and IP networks, enabling them to operate under one system.