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Alumni Bragging Rights: Top-Performing CEO, Swimming With the 'Sharks,' Presidential Fellowship

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McCombs School of Business alumni have been stealing the spotlight lately and we couldn't be more proud. This week we are celebrating recent awards and recognitions received by a few of our many outstanding alumni.

Among the 100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World

Randy Hogan Pentair's chairman and CEO, Randall J. Hogan, MBA '81, was recently recognized by Harvard Business Review (HBR) as being among the "100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World."

"It is an honor to be included in the HBR top CEO ranking," says Hogan. "It is a testament to Pentair's strong consistent performance and the long-term value our shareholders have received. It's also gratifying to see Pentair's ranking with regard to measures beyond financial performance — including our innovation, workplace, governance, and citizenship."

Harvard Business Review says its ranking aims to provide an objective look at which CEOs delivered solid results over the long run based on hard data, rather than reputation or anecdote, by specifically looking at the increase in total shareholder return and market capitalization.     

McCombs Alums Hit It Big on 'Shark Tank'

BeatBox Beverages, run by a group of MBA graduates from the McCombs School of Business and a previous Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs Accelerator company, had the opportunity to pitch its product on a recent episode of the television show "Shark Tank."

Beatbox Beverages, founded by McCombs alum, on the set of Shark TankBeatBox Beverages struck a $1 million deal for 33 percent of the company with "Shark Tank" investor Mark Cuban, up from his original offer of $600,000 for 33 percent, all before the other "sharks" could make an offer.

"The conversation with the sharks was intense," says Aimy Steadman, COO of BeatBox and MBA '13. "They had a million questions, but they gave really good feedback and were generally supportive. They asked us about our families, our backgrounds, what we care about. You can tell they really care about the people behind the ideas."

Justin Fenchel, MBA '13, and life-long friend Brad Schultz developed the idea for BeatBox Beverages in late 2011. Fenchel and Schultz recognized the market opportunity, and Fenchel recruited several of his MBA classmates (Steadman, Jason Schieck, MBA '13, and Daniel Singer, MBA '13) to help turn his idea for boxed wine targeted at the millennial generation into what it is today, BeatBox Beverages.

MSTC Grad Named Presidential Innovation Fellow

Jeff MeiselJeff Meisel, MSTC '12, has been selected for the Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program. He will carry out his fellowship working with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Census Bureau on  open data initiatives.

"I was both honored and excited to have the opportunity to serve my country in this capacity," says Meisel.

The PIF program is administered as a partnership between the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the General Services Administration (GSA). The fellowship is a 12-month program in Washington, D.C., during which time fellows are allocated within a specific federal agency and considered full-time employees of the federal government.

Before finally being selected as a PIF, Meisel went through multiple rounds of interviews with program leaders, government agency representatives, and subject matter experts.

"What is really exciting to me, and where I hope to play a role alongside my teammates at the Census [Bureau], is in providing data for entrepreneurs that are looking to start new businesses," says Meisel. "I plan to work closely with startup incubators, business owners, and software developers who want to use digital content and public APIs from the Department of Commerce and U.S. Census Bureau to build new products and services."

Winner of National Black MBA's Whiteboard Innovation Challenge

Brian WilliamsPurchase Black founder and CEO Brian Williams, MBA '13, took home first place and a $10,000 cash prize from the National Black MBA Association Inc.'s (NBMBAA) Innovation Whiteboard Challenge with his pitch for his online e-commerce website, PurchaseBlack.com.

"Winning the 2014 National Black MBA Whiteboard Innovation Challenge was an amazing experience," says Williams. "The prize money will go a very long way in getting PurchaseBlack.com closer to its goal of being the home for African-American online shopping."

Williams began working on PurchaseBlack.com while also working towards an MBA degree from the McCombs School of Business. He was one of three finalists — from an initial pool of hundreds of applicants — who had five minutes each to sell their business idea to a panel of angel investors, academic instructors, and successful entrepreneurs — only using a white board marker, according to BlackEnterprise.com.  

Williams credits his success in the competitoin to McCombs and Venture Fellows, a program that provides select MBA student the opportunity to work with venture capital and private equity firms as part of their curriculum, for teaching him how to position his messaging in a way that resonates with investors.

"McCombs has been instrumental towards preparing me not only for the challenge, but for business success overall," says Williams.

Alumni Companies Accepted into Texas Venture Labs Accelerator

Since 2010, Texas Venture Labs (TVL) has worked with over 100 startups from various industries. The TVL Accelerator admits 14 companies each fall and spring semester. Companies must be based in Austin, have full-time management whose primary focus is their startup, be in the process of or have already completed development of a prototype or product, and have completed basic market research.

Hrvst, Inkscreen, Rainseed, and ENTvantage logosThis fall, a strong number of companies founded by McCombs alumni have chosen to take their talents back to McCombs and have been accepted into the Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs Accelerator:

  • Hrvst, co-founded by Brad Lawler, Texas MSTC '14 and Jason St. Peter, Texas MSTC '14, who also serves as the company's CEO.
  • Inkscreen, founded by Josh Bohls, BBA '97
  • Rainseed, founded by Jim Nelson, Texas MSTC '14
  • ENTvantage, run by President and CEO Joseph Skraba, Texas MSTC '03

"Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs plays an important role in the entrepreneurial ecosystem at McCombs, through our practicum courses as well as New Venture Creation," says Logan Robinson, TVL venture partner. "We're proud of the brand TVL has built among the MBAs and excited when alumni choose to remain part of the McCombs community by joining the accelerator as a company."

McCombs MBA Awarded the 2014 Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education

Sara Martinez TuckerSara Martinez Tucker, MBA '79, was recently awarded the 2014 National Leadership Prize by the McGraw Hill Financial Research Foundation. Tucker is the CEO of National Math + Science Initiative (NMSI), a Dallas-based nonprofit. Through NMSI, Tucker seeks to improve teacher effectiveness and student performance in STEM fields.

Established in 1988, the Harold W. McGraw Prize in Education honors innovators in education. This year's focus was on those who have found ways to narrow a particular achievement gap in a broadly replicable manner.

"We are very proud of this year's exceptional winners," Ted Smyth, vice president of McGraw Hill Financial Research Foundation, said in a press release. "We congratulate each on the significant contributions they have made in helping close achievement gaps."

The honorees are chosen by a distinguished board of judges from the education community. Each of the three 2014 award recipients were presented with a $50,000 award at the New York Public Library this past September.

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