On a Friday evening in the Jones Global Events Center, hands rise and fall to the sound of startup ideas announced one-by-one. It’s voting time, and 40 St. Edward’s University students are deciding which six ideas they will be working on over the course of the weekend.

After voting, the students disperse. They divide into teams and begin to shape their initial business concepts. With just over 50 hours until the final pitch to local entrepreneurs and investors, these students are taking the evening by storm. Their work is all part of 3 Day Startup, a program that gives participants the hands-on experience of starting a company.

Student presenting her idea at the podium.
Students seated in an auditorium.
Student team sitting on the floor brainstorming a business idea.

During the first night, students map out the problems their business ideas address and the solutions they will provide to customers. Concepts range from an app that helps college students meal plan and cook, to software that tracks children’s mental health and academic performance.

“Our students come up with ideas that impact our communities and our neighbors,” says Katie Finney, outreach coordinator for The Bill Munday Business School of Business. “It’s a safe environment to fail. There are no winners and losers in the end. You can really push yourself.”

An Austin-based nonprofit, 3 Day Startup (3DS) “provides colleges and universities the tools they need to cultivate student entrepreneurs,” and offers students the experience of building a startup from scratch. For one weekend in the fall, The Bill Munday School of Business hosts the program for interested St. Edward’s University students, regardless of major.

Student working while seated on the floor, laughing.
Student team brainstorming business ideas outside.
Student team seated at a round table and brainstorming a business idea.

Jacob Alexander Gonzalez ’20, an Entrepreneurship major, spent the weekend working with his team on Above the Cut, a startup that connects barbers and hair stylists in Austin with customers looking for unique cuts. “In Austin, we have so much diversity,” Gonzalez says. “We all better each other and strengthen each other. Plus, we all learn from each other at the same time.” The capital city has become a real-world laboratory for students to not only test ideas but also make connections.

“Students need to understand Austin’s business ecosystem, and only way is to get them out of the classroom,” says Tony Alvarado, executive-in-residence in The Bill Munday School of Business. “3DS is the out-of-classroom experience. Much like practice for a sport or rehearsal for play.” Students leave the building on Saturday to survey potential customers, they meet with mentors to analyze feedback, and ultimately, they incorporate these varying viewpoints into their final pitches.

Student team presenting their idea.
Executive-in-residence, Tony Alvarado, presenting.
Student team member presenting their idea.

The investment in 3 Day Startup is something that grows and deepens past the weekend experience, as well. “Austin is very much a community where people want to help you and want to see you succeed,” says Marissa Nicholas ’18, a Graphic Design major. An alumna of last year’s 3 Day Startup program, Nicholas returned to campus to mentor students on the aesthetics of their final presentations. Currently, she works as a digital graphic designer for the City of Austin.

Nicholas came into 3 Day Startup last year looking to take a risk and get out of her comfort zone. “As a Graphic Design major, I saw that I didn't necessarily have to be studying entrepreneurship to consider myself an entrepreneur. It really helped me see how can I use the skills that I am learning and put that into working with entrepreneurs. And within that, I began to see myself as my own entrepreneur.”

Students spent the majority of the weekend prototyping their startup ideas, and while the product was the final goal in the students’ minds, the process of innovation is an aspect they will not soon forget. “You can learn everything in the classroom,” says Gonzalez, “but until you interact and put yourself under the pressure...then you realize this is why I’m here. This is something you can’t learn in a classroom.”

Three Day Startup group photo.

By Samuel Griffith ’19, Writing and Rhetoric