Validate your


Forty Acres Founders Pre-Accelerator Program

Research shows that a key factor in startup failure is a lack of understanding of product-market fit.

The Forty Acres Founders Pre-Accelerator Program at the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship offers undergraduate student founders the opportunity to study potential customers, improve their product, establish product-market fit, and position their product for success within the marketplace.

Students will learn to vet their ideas, develop skills for researching and understanding customer needs, and develop tools for building a product/service that appropriately fit a market need.

For any questions, email

Bank of America + Herb Kelleher Center for Entreprneurship

The Forty Acres Founders Pre-Accelerator Program is sponsored by the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship in partnership with Bank of America.

Info Sessions

The Spring 2021 Bank of America Scholars are:

Alexis West
Hometown: Cedar Creek, Texas
College: College of Natural Sciences
“As an emerging entrepreneur, I am aiming to establish foundational knowledge in achieving product-market fit to strengthen the choices that I make for building my fashion startup company, Floral Sea LLC, into a viable business opportunity. To achieve my aspirations, I have realized that the Forty Acres Founders Pre-Accelerator Program will serve as a foundational pathway in fulfilling my goals in becoming a successful, multidisciplinary entrepreneur and innovator.”

Brianda Fernandez
Hometown: El Paso, Texas
College: College of Liberal Arts
“I hope to gain experience in ways that I can continue to expand my business in the music industry and a sense of direction for how to launch my startup venture successfully.”

Fabrizio Mata
Hometown: Mérida, México
College: McCombs School of Business
“Through completing the Forty Acres Founders Pre-Accelerator Program, I hope to gain a more complete, quantitative view of our potential customers along with finding ways to optimize the products we offer. I am also looking forward to interacting with other founders and learning from them.”

Justin Rogers
Hometown: Pearland, Texas
College: College of Liberal Arts
“In the Forty Acres Founders Pre-Accelerator Program, I hope to gain insight as to how ideating and prototyping are done. Additionally, I am looking forward to working with a Graduate Assistant to assist with market research to help validate my concepts. I am ecstatic to be welcomed into this program because it serves as the next step in my career.”

Starr Martin
Hometown: Houston, Texas
College: McCombs School of Business
“I am hopeful to gain knowledge that will help me move forward with my startup idea and provide me with the tools I need to one day run a successful business. I am excited to learn how to take a business concept from ideation to establishment and develop my leadership skills for future endeavors.”


Male student, seated at desk and smiling. Culture Summit hosted by the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship at McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. "The program and its resources allowed me to advance my startup exponentially further than I would have been able to on my own." Ian Rodenbaugh MANAGEMENT INFORMATION SYSTEMS

Program Roles

The Spring 2021 Cohort Application will open September 14, 2020 and closes October 5, 2020 at 8:00 a.m.

Over the course of the program, founders will:
– Fully understand and establish product/market fit of business idea
– Study and learn from their potential customers
– Position product or service for success in the marketplace

As members of the program, founders will receive:
– Up to $1,000 in financial support for program activities over the course of the semester
– A dedicated graduate student to provide relevant expertise and work with the founder
– Access to experienced mentors and entrepreneur coaches
– Opportunity to pitch at the end of the semester for seed grants

Admission to the Forty Acres Founders Pre-Accelerator Program is based on:
– Demonstration of a plan for sustainability beyond program completion
– Potential impact on the identified market
– Time horizon to realize the market impact

Sponsorship:Bank of America is sponsoring four seats in the 2021 Forty Acres Founders Cohort with the aim to increase diversity and inclusion within entrepreneurship.

Note: Students can elect to enroll in an independent study course to earn 3 credit hours of coursework upon completion of the Forty Acres Founders Pre-Accelerator Program. There would be additional requirements for students to complete in order to obtain course credit, including writing a paper at the end of the program outlining the student’s experience and lessons learned.

DISCLAIMER: Financial awards will be paid to an individual student, not the startup listed in the application and will be awarded for the Spring 2020 semester. An increase in resources, including a financial award as a result of performance in the Forty Acres Founders Pitch Competition, may result in a reduction or cancellation of financial aid funds or a requirement to repay awards already released to me. Finally, Financial awards may be used to pay outstanding payments owed to the university. If you receive financial aid or owe money to the university, you should reach out to the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships or Students Accounts Receivable to determine how winning a cash award through the Forty Acres Founders Pitch Competition would impact money owed to UT or my financial aid status.

The Forty Acres Founders Pre-Accelerator Program is a unique opportunity for graduate students to interact with undergraduate startup founders. As a Graduate Assistant, graduate students will gain experience in the process of determining product-market fit for a startup idea/service/product by supporting undergraduate founders as they test the viability of their startup by conducting tests related to market validation and customer discovery.

– Provide on average 10 hours of support a week to assigned program participants
– Periodically attend formal check-in sessions with participants and advisors
– Manage the relationship with participants and guide them through the market validation process by utilizing program resources
– Co-develop go-to-market strategies with undergraduate student founders
– Assist with the development of the demo day pitch deck and refinement of presentation

Potential Focus Areas
– Market Entry Strategy
– Consumer Behavior
– Market Analysis
– Consumer Insights
– Pricing Strategy
– Business Planning
– Industry Analysis
– Competitive Analysis
– New Market/Channel Opportunities

– Must be currently enrolled graduate student (taking at least 9 hours)
– Proven organizational skills and strong interpersonal skills
– Excellent written and oral communication skills
– A desire to work with undergraduate students to build their entrepreneurial ventures
– Other experience/skills as relevant to specific position responsibilities


The role of the mentor is to provide guidance to undergraduate founders as they work to discern if a valid market need exists for their startup idea/product/service. Mentor meetings can occur in person or remotely and will be scheduled based on the availability of the founder and the mentor.

– Commit to supporting two founders for 10 weeks
– Provide 30 minutes each week to each founder (1 hour total each week)
– Provide feedback and guidance to assigned founders in areas related to testing product-market fit

– Experience with customer discovery process
– Previous involvement with product management/product launch
– Experience gaining and implement market feedback

Program Cycle

Identify a problem that is worth
Define your customer and develop a discovery strategy
Get out of the classroom and meet your market
Evaluate your findings
Validate product/market fit
Prepare your idea to become a venture

Get to Know the Program's Alumni

Each 20-strong Cohort of the Forty Acres Founders Pre-Accelerator Program, spends a semester rigorously establishing if a market need existed for their product or service. Some continue their projects with FAF-gained tools and funding, while others are use their entrepreneurial skillsets to develop new ideas.

Our founders have represented colleges across the university, including the McCombs School of Business, Moody College of Communication, Cockrell School of Engineering, and the College of Liberal Arts.