3 Day Startup explores the journey of student entrepreneurs from all over the world in the first of the ongoing blog series, Born in Dorms. Universities are ripe for more innovation: the combination of bright students, open information, and accessible tech creates an environment where student companies can flourish better than ever before. These highly motivated and driven students share their successes, failures, and everything in between as they navigate the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship in their local communities. Read more about each student’s unique perspective on trying to build a viable company in and around campus.
Austin Hallock is a junior computer science student at the University of Texas at Austin. In January 2012, he found Clay.io with fellow UT students Robert Leung and Radhika Sakalkale.
Clay.io is a platform for HTML5 games and features a marketplace for game players, as well as an API for game developers. The API allows developers to build high level features in their games, such as user accounts, payment processing, leaderboards, achievements, and analytics. The market for HTML5 games is fragmented, making it difficult to find and play games that work on any device. Clay.io fixes this discovery problem as a central location for HTML5 games.
During the course of a year, Clay.io has reached some major milestones. Not only did they launch early last year — a huge hurdle that many startups never reach — they now have 4,000 members and 200 games using the platform. Hallock says, “You can get pretty far on effort alone. There are tons of startups where the co-founders just aren’t serious or motivated. Even if they have more raw skills than you — with some effort, you can hone your own and build a stronger company.” He then cites Dennis Crowley as an example of someone who learned how to program because no one else wanted to code things Crowley needed for Dogdeball.
Hallock also advises other student entrepreneurs to use their student status whenever possible, “Being in college is a double-edged sword — some will treat the company less seriously, more as a ‘project’ than a company, but at the same time — most are willing to give you things you normally wouldn’t get for free.” For example, Clay.io landed free office space, advising, hosting which would have cost $2,000 a month, a waived application fee for the SXSW Interactive Accelerator, as well as the opportunity to pitch at a hackathon without having to put down sponsorship dollars.
Besides alone time and a keyboard, all of this headway could not have been achieved without all of the resources made accessible to Clay.io. Hallock and his co-founder Leung took the 1 Semester Startup seminar, now Longhorn Startup, taught by Josh Baer and Bob Metcalfe at the University of Texas at Austin. Longhorn Startup fosters interdisciplinary startup innovation by offering three tracks that support student entrepreneurs during all stages of their growth. Through this experience, Hallock and his team made countless connections with mentors in the community such as Ken Demarest, who helped advance the state of the art in video games by developing the first 3D, texture-mapped characters first seen in a computer game with BioForge.
This semester Hallock and his team are taking another track in Longhorn Startup with goals to increase Clay.io’s revenue.
About 3 Day Startup
3 Day Startup (3DS) teaches entrepreneurial skills to university students in an extreme hands-on environment. In addition to supporting budding entrepreneurs, 3DS programs cultivate entrepreneurial communities that contribute to the growth of entrepreneurship ecosystems in the regions surrounding these university programs. This proven program provides students the tools they need to start successful companies. To date, more than 39 companies have come out of 3DS to collectively raise $9.5 million in investor capital and more than a dozen have been accepted to prestigious incubators and accelerators such as Y Combinator and TechStars.