Ecosystem of Innovation

UGA Entrepreneurship studies the infrastructure supporting innovation in Austin
UGA Entrepreneurship students on a river cruise during a domestic Field Study in Austin

Austin, Texas, has always been a capital of music and art, but in the last two decades, the city has become a hub for tech startups and entrepreneurs.

Although its free-wheelin’, artsy past seems at odds with serious business, the city’s dual personalities make sense once you visit, said Adrienne Lincoln, a senior studying finance and international business at the Terry College of Business. Both rely on a community of dedicated people supporting each other and celebrating their success.

“What’s been able to keep Austin at the epicenter of innovation is the culture of Austin, where people support each other,” Lincoln said. “It’s less ‘Oh, you’re a startup. I’m a startup, so we’re competing.’ And more ‘Oh, we’re both startups, we need to both improve the economy. Here’s my venture capital contact, why don’t you go talk to them?’ It’s everyone working together to build the economy up instead of tearing each other down to be number one.”

Lincoln was one of a dozen UGA students participating in the UGA Entrepreneurship Program’s inaugural domestic field study in Austin over spring break.

The course was part of UGA’s Domestic Field Study Fellows program, launched in 2023 to increase the number of courses featuring place-based, site-specific active learning opportunities across the U.S.

The course “Study of Global Innovation Ecosystems” covered how innovation hubs form organically and local business communities foster their development. Austin, home of the University of Texas flagship campus and thriving venture capital and incubator communities, serves as a perfect living case study, said trip organizer and instructor Don Chambers, a lecturer and associate director in the UGA Entrepreneurship Program.

“Austin epitomizes a global innovation ecosystem,” he said. “Solid government support, great industries, especially in tech and a thriving institution of higher education. The 12 students showed great character in giving up their spring break to immerse themselves in the amazing culture.”

In addition to visiting coworking space and startup incubator Capital Factory and the city’s economic development agency Opportunity Austin, students met with Terry alumni working in venture capital or at startups. 

“We were meeting huge angel investors, VC managers, and it wasn’t like ‘He’ll show me slides,’” said Garrett Stigall, a UGA civil engineering and entrepreneurship student and cofounder of Pool Protection Technologies. “They gave us two hours of their time to answer all of our questions. It was a much more personable experience than if we were just to go to South by Southwest.”

Students also toured UT-Austin’s Harkey Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, met with students and faculty, and showcased the UGA Entrepreneurship Program.

“The community this trip brought together was one of the best things about this trip,” Stigall said. “We all learned from each other. I’ve been in this entrepreneurship space at UGA for four years, but I think I only knew three of the 12 people who went to Austin. So seeing all the new faces and meeting new people from UGA was great. Also, getting to know the UT-Austin students who made the trip. They understood where we wanted to go and what we wanted to know. The university collaboration helped make it a great trip.”