On November 2, 2011 Texas Venture Labs (TVL) hosted a visit to the McCombs School of Business by Beth Comstock, CMO of GE. The visit was part of a tour of the core schools from which GE recruits in order to boost awareness of its Experienced Commercial Leadership Program (ECLP).
Given that the theme of GE’s visit was entrepreneurship and innovation, TVL was an obvious choice to host the visit. Texas Venture Labs delivers the intellectual horsepower to promote new venture creation at UT Austin through education and mentoring; market and business plan validation; team-building and networking; and providing direct links to resources and funding. TVL has worked with 30 companies over the last three semesters, which have raised over $20MM in funding.
Max Broadsky, a GE ECLP member within GE capital and McCombs MBA graduate said, “My roommate joined TVL as an engineering masters student and after his second semester he became so fluent in the concepts of market validation and the language of entrepreneurship that he could’ve sat in any MBA class discussion and you wouldn’t have known he was not an MBA.”
During the visit, TVL representatives presented the selected group of portfolio companies below as they met three criteria: a balance of early and late stage technologies, an interesting mix of market problems and alignment with industries in which GE already participates.
- Nanohybrids: a technology developed at The University of Texas that can eliminate the need for biopsy through nano contrast agents.
- Zilker Motors: an emerging Austin car company that is developing a vehicle that can achieve both high performance and high efficiency through a unique modular transmission technology.
- Akimbo: a financial services company that provides prepaid visa cards to university students and other individuals who need them. The card provides the ability to transfer money between cards instantly and for no cost online.
- RayDyne: a commercial concentrated solar power production technology that is installable on rooftops. It is significantly more efficient in terms of energy capture than standard thin film technology.
- Waldo Health: a complete telecare health monitoring solution that connects doctors to patients on an ongoing and as needed basis.
Many of Comstock’s comments regarding the presentations compared TVL with GE’s own internal incubator. She was very impressed with the speed in which TVL turns around projects for its portfolio companies. “Even in an academic environment, TVL is very deadline driven, something our internal program could benefit from,” she said.
Moreover, Comstock observed that GE has no problem producing technological innovations, but could apply TVL’s attention and discipline regarding market validation. That is one of the reasons Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, created the ECLP program, to infuse commercial leaders into every part of the organization to promote market driven innovation. TVL follows the principles of market validation espoused by Rob Adams, the program’s faculty director and teacher, in his book If You Build It Will They Come: Three Steps to Test and Validate Any Market Opportunity.
With TVL starting to emerge from its infancy and establish itself as a hub for technology commercialization and entrepreneurship, companies such as GE are reaching out to build relationships and get ideas on how to better model their internal innovation centers. Comstock’s visit is a clear indication that The University of Texas and Texas Venture Labs are taking the right approach to creating innovation.
To learn more about Beth, visit http://www.facebook.com/ElizabethComstock or follow @bethcomstock on twitter. Interested in learning more about GE’s ECLP program? Read about the experiences of program members from around the world at www.eclpblog.com.