Monday, March 16, 2009

Thomas Finsterbusch of 3 Day Startup Talks about His Group

Thomas Finsterbusch of 3 Day Startup Talks about His Group

Where are you from originally?

I was born in East Berlin and moved to the US when I was 16.

What university did you go to?

I studied Computer Science at UC San Diego in beautiful La Jolla, with frequent internships on the beach.

What brought you to Austin?

After finishing my undergrad, I jumped straight into the Computer Science PhD program here at UT. My other choice for grad school was UMich. I visited both Ann Arbor and Austin in mid-March. Both have great programs, but only one did not have snow on the ground...(tongue in cheek).

What is the idea behind you’re the 3 Day Startup group?

The idea behind 3 Day Startup is really simple: we get 40 of the most passionate student entrepreneurs together for three days to start a technology company. We provide high-quality work space, cater food and drinks, and invite mentors from the Austin venture capital, angel, legal, as well as local tech communities. The goal of the event is to build enough momentum and a network of motivated people to sustain the company beyond the weekend.

What need does it fulfill?

There are two pains we are addressing. First, we see a lot of entrepreneurship talks on campus that invite speakers who have done successful startups. This is a great learning experience, but at the same time, people are just sitting back and passively absorbing material. We are at the exact opposite of this spectrum: the weekend is intense, deadline-driven, and above all, is grounded in execution.
Among other things, we develop a working prototype, incorporate the company, and elect a board of directors. Second, we know a lot of people with great ideas that never actually get implemented for whatever reason: not enough time or money, no access to people with complementary skill sets, or lack of confidence. Our response is to provide a platform that has all the resources necessary to start a venture. At 3 Day Startup, students pitch their ideas, one will be picked, and 40 highly motivated people bring it to life.

What exactly does your group do?

On Friday at 1pm, the 40 people meet at ATI and split up into groups of 5 to brainstorm ideas. They each prepare a pitch to everyone else. Out of these 8 pitches, the participants vote to select the top 3. Now, they split up into these three groups to refine their pitch and to prepare for an intense grilling on why their idea should be picked. Finally, the participants decide on which idea (or multiple ideas) to run with. Then, throughout Saturday and Sunday, the software engineers build a prototype, our graphic designers develop a corporate identity,
and the business folks engage customers, validate the market, and write a business plan. The final highlight is the pitch to a panel of investors and local entrepreneurs to get candid feedback on the project.

Who is it for?

Passionate students at UT who want to execute ideas. We are recruiting from a wide variety of majors, including Computer Science, business, engineering, law, graphic design, PR, advertising, journalism, etc.

What was the most challenging aspect of starting up the group?

Time management. All of the organizers are full-time students, they serve as TAs, do research and publish papers, or they have already graduated and are working at startups already. Also, there is tons of noise in the process. Students have a phenomenal commitment problem, and it's surprisingly hard to find people who are aligned with the project's vision and who are ready to invest the same amount of sweat, blood, and tears. I'm extremely happy to work with a core group of people that all share the same high quality standards.

What is the next step for you and your group?

We're starting to reach out to folks at other universities with strong entrepreneurial programs, including Stanford, Berkeley, and MIT, to host similar events. Also, we have received inquiries from students in Israel and the UK to partner on 3 Day Startup events around the world.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

Follow your goose bumps.

Best regards,
Hall T.

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