By far the most famous startup born at The University of Texas’ flagship campus in Austin is Dell Inc. In 1984, Michael Dell founded the PC company in his UT dorm room, then dropped out of the university to focus solely on his startup. The company has come a long way since then—Dell Inc. racked up nearly $57 billion in revenue in fiscal 2013.
Of course, most startups hatched these days at The University of Texas at Austin won’t reach the heights that Dell Inc. has. That being said, UT-bred entrepreneurs and UT officials are determined to aim high. And from the standpoint of collective stature and brainpower, this effort benefits the entire Austin business community, including Austin-based SpareFoot (a startup that, by the way, did not originate at UT).
“Somewhere in the UT System, the next Michael Dell is at work on a patent-worthy idea,” Wei Chen, a UT technology commercialization official, told Xconomy.com earlier this year.
Those ideas, big and small, are being cranked out in Austin at a rapid pace. The 15-institution University of Texas System spun off 22 startups in 2012, with a nice chunk of those springing from the Austin campus.
Only the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of California system beat the UT System for creation of startups last year among U.S. colleges and universities, according to the Association of University Technology Managers.
“When people think about job creation, they don’t typically think about universities, but the data show that universities substantially contribute to the creation of new jobs in this country,” Sean Flanigan, president of the Association of University Technology Managers, said in a news release.
The numbers are impressive. The association’s survey of 70 institutions of higher education found school-created startups had 15,741 employees in 2012, with product sales totaling $36.8 billion. In all, the surveyed schools spawned 705 startups last year, the association said.
Rooting for Entrepreneurs
The Austin-based UT System shows no signs of its startup machine slowing down. The system says it receives a U.S. patent every two days, signs a tech commercialization agreement every three days and starts a company every nine days. Dozens upon dozens of startups—including Latakoo Inc. and M87 Inc., both based in Austin—are part of the system’s portfolio.
“As many of you know, UT Austin’s motto is ‘What starts here changes the world.’ It’s a motto that really applies to all of our institutions, and it’s not just a saying—it’s actually happening. And we see it happening daily through our technology commercialization initiatives,” Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of the UT System, said earlier this year.
The startup successes at the Austin campus and throughout the rest of the UT System give folks plenty to cheer about. The same can’t be said for the Longhorns football team, which is off to a rocky start this season. Maybe UT’s team of entrepreneurs could suit up and trot onto the football field?
“We want our entrepreneurs to be as celebrated as our athletes,” Bob Metcalfe, professor of innovation at UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering, told the system’s Board of Regents earlier this year.
We certainly can root for that to happen. But given how much UT fans treasure football and other sports, I’m not holding my breath. Nonetheless, I’m cheering on the many UT-launched startups that have joined the Austin team.
Photos courtesy of Facebook/University of Texas Longhorns and fansided.com