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Upcoming Info Sessions

In-Person Sessions
Wed, Sept. 28 | 12:00pm
Thur, Oct. 6 | 9:30am

Virtual Sessions 
Mon, Oct. 3 | 10:00am
Tues, Oct. 11 | 6:30pm
Fri, Oct. 14 | 12:00pm

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Forty Acres Founders Program

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

The Forty Acres Founders Program at the Herb Kelleher Entrepreneurship Center offers undergraduate and graduate 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 fits a market need.

2023 Graduate Assistant Applications will open on Nov 7, 2022 at 8:00am.

Graduate Assistant Applications are now open. Priority deadline: Sunday, Nov 25, 2022

Forty Acres Founders Community

2021-2022 Corporate Sponsor

Bank of America 2020 Enterprise Stacked Primary Color
Bank of America + Herb Kelleher Center for Entreprneurship

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

Upcoming Info Sessions

In-Person Sessions

Wednesday, September 28 | 12:00pm

Thursday, October 6 | 9:30am

Virtual Sessions

Monday, October 3 | 10:00am

Tuesday, October 11 | 6:30pm

Friday, October 14 | 12:00pm

Program Overview


Program Roles

The Spring 2023 Cohort Application will open Monday September 26, 2022 at 8 a.m. CST and closes Friday, October 14, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. CST

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:

– $1,000 in financial support distributed upon successful completion of the program

– 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 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

Note: Students can elect to enroll in MAN 337 (Forty Acres Founders Practicum) to earn 3 credit hours of coursework upon completion of the Forty Acres Founders 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. Course is approved to contribute toward McCombs Practicum course requirement.

DISCLAIMER: Financial awards will be paid to an individual student, not the startup listed in the application and will be awarded for the Summer 2023 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 Program is a unique opportunity for graduate students to interact with undergraduate and graduate 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 and graduate founders as they test the viability of their startup by conducting tests related to market validation and customer discovery.


– Work up to 10 hours a week with assigned program participants

– Periodically attend formal check-in sessions with participants and advisors

– Manage the relationship with participants and support them through the market validation process by utilizing program resources

– Co-develop go-to-market strategies with 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 students to build their entrepreneurial ventures

– Previous experiences with Entrepreneurship, Product Development/Management, Marketing, Consulting, or other related fields preferred

– Other experience/skills as relevant to specific position responsibilities




The role of the mentor is to provide guidance to undergraduate and graduate 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 1-2 founders for 10 weeks

– Provide 30 minutes to one hour each week to each founder (2 hour total maximum 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

Find answers to frequently asked questions about the program here. Don’t see what you’re looking for? Contact us at

What different topic areas will the program cover?

Through participation in the Forty Acres Founders Program, students will develop a better understanding regarding the importance of:

  • Identifying ways in which a product or service adds value to the market.
  • Knowing who the startup’s proposed customers are, why they buy, and ways to encourage their adoption of a new product or service.
  • Designing tests to validate/invalidate previously generated hypotheses regarding a product or service’s applicability to the market.
  • The role of a Minimum Viable Product in informing the startup’s path to launch.
  • Highlight story of startup concept, including demonstrating for potential investors and customers need for product or service and its ability to add value to customers.

What are some examples of the ways Graduate Assistants may support Founders?

Some examples of tasks Graduate Assistants completed previously, include:

  • Conducting market and competitor research
  • Assisting with creation of semester work plan
  • Attending customer discovery and validation interviews
  • Drafting/Reviewing customer interview questions
  • Analyzing collected data to assist in determining next steps
  • Assisting with pitch creation and submission
  • Creating and providing feedback on surveys or other tools created by founders

I have a co-founder. Can they participate?

No. Only one founder is able to apply and participate in the program, including attending seminars and pitching at the end of semester competition. However, your co-founder or team members can help you execute your identified customer discovery strategy.

My startup concept is past the idea stage, am I still eligible to apply to the program?

Yes! However, all founders participating in the program, regardless of the stage they classify their concept in at the beginning of the program, will be required to complete the steps related to customer discovery. For those products or services that are beyond the idea stage, completed this process can identify possible weaknesses early, allowing founders to address areas of improvement prior to launch.

How are finalists for pitches at the end of the semester determined?

Founders wishing to be considered for participation in the final pitch competition will be required to submit a preliminary pitch application. Preliminary pitches will be judged based on the founder’s ability to support the assertion that the problem they are solving is a true pain point in the market and that the solution they have identified adds value to customers. Participation in program and attendance at seminars will also be considered when choosing finalists for the pitch competition.

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 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.