Contributor: Carlos Estrada, Program Manager at 3 Day Startup


The University of Texas at San Antonio held its first 3 Day Startup program on October 26, 2013, hosted by the Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship (CITE). The organizing faculty members include Dr. Anita Leffel, Assistant Director at CITE. 35 students from different disciplines were accepted into this inaugural program. Some students came prepared with pre-built technologies, others arrived with no business ideas but eager to learn via the 3DS learning-by-doing model.


On day one, students brainstormed and pitched their initial ideas to the entire group of participants and voted on the top ideas they wanted to pursue. After teams were formed around the selected ideas, Michael Girdley, San Antonio angel investor and 3DS super star facilitator, gave the students a crash course on how to use the Lean Canvas.

On day two, students arrived in the morning with the mindset that they needed to start designing, programming, and preparing marketing campaigns without validating their markets. After a crash course in customer discovery, students realized their ideas were still unproven concepts at this point. Armed with new knowledge, teams ventured out to talk to potential customers at malls, restaurants, and common areas at the university.


After talking to dozens of potential customers, some teams were able to refine their business ideas. Others had to pivot from their original ideas as they discovered different customer pain points than they had assumed.

This was the case for Smart Bar Technologies — the team actually pivoted nine times. They jumped from an automated bartender idea to solar water heaters. This team experienced the ups and downs of startup life in two days. After realizing that customer wait time was not the issue for a bar owner, they uncovered that the real problem was inventory control. Bar owners lose profits from bartenders over-pouring drinks, so the team came up with another solution to solve this problem — a low energy bluetooth mat that helps bar owners keep track of top shelf inventory.


On day three, all startup teams continued to refine their business ideas and prototypes and prepare their final pitches. Final pitches were delivered to a group of potential investors and entrepreneurs that consisted of Mike Troy, CEO of Flashscan3D, Don Douglas, CEO and President of Liquid Networx, and Susan Burroughs, Innovation Director at St. Mary’s University.