Forty Acres
Founders Program

Program Overview and Giver's Guide

90% of all startups 
and the biggest reason for failure is a mismatch between the product and market demand. The Forty Acres Founders Program is designed to help student founders establish product-market fit for their ideas and launch businesses from a position of strength, thus increasing the number of successful and scalable businesses launched from The University of Texas at Austin.

Program Overview

This semester-long program educates student founders on the skills needed to vet an idea, understand market demand, and develop a product that addresses validated market needs. The program includes:
  • Weekly seminars led by program staff, community partners, and University faculty
  • An expert Graduate Assistant, hired to work with each founder for 10 hours/week as they conduct market research
  • A Business Mentor, providing founders with the benefits of their experience as entrepreneurs and innovators
  • A Faculty Mentor with domain-specific expertise
  • $1,000 in grant funding, towards founding costs, market research, or product enhancements
  • Competitive funding to advance their startup at the end of the program
"At the start of the semester, I was aimlessly developing an MVP for my service. However, once I entered the Forty Acres Founders Program I had the resources and mentorship to perform the research necessary to establish product-market fit."

Financial Contributions

An endowment contribution of $125,000 establishes a named seat in the program in perpetuity. Your support allows the HKEC to offer individualized support, focused on each founders’ stage of development, industry sector, and individual goals. The annual proceeds of around $6,000 from the endowment support the following:

Donor Recognition

  • The HKEC will recognize endowments with public acknowledgment on the HKEC website and in the HKEC program office
  • Donors will be invited to join the HKEC Advisory Board, for a term of five years, with board membership fees waived for the period
  • Donors will be connected to the student in their endowed seat each year, with the hope that they will establish long-term mentoring relationships with the occupants of the seat they endowed

Program Impact Metrics

Awarded to students each year
Hours of mentorship provided to each cohort
Hours of Graduate Assistant support for each cohort
Founder-conducted customer interviews per cohort
"It is because of the resources the Forty Acres Founders Program provided that I was able to build a solid foundation for my startup based around customer discovery."

Frequently Asked Questions

How are students selected to participate in the Forty Acres Founders Program?

Each cohort of 20 founders is selected among applicants representing various majors across campus based on a competitive process. Founders are evaluated on the potential of their solution, stage of development, and willingness to fully participate in all aspects of the program.

What will students learn as part of the Forty Acres Founders Program?

While studying potential customers, improving their product, establishing product-market fit, and positioning their product for success within the marketplace, founders develop skills in:

  • Identifying ways in which a product or service adds value to the market.
  • Researching proposed customers and why they buy.
  • Designing tests to validate assumptions regarding the applicability of a product or service to the market.
  • Using Minimum Viable Products to inform a startup’s path to launch.
  • Articulating the story behind a startup concept, including demonstrating for potential investors and customers the need for a proposed service or product and its ability to add value.

What are some areas in which Graduate Assistants support founders?

  • Market Entry Strategy
  • Customer Behavior
  • Market Analysis
  • Consumer Insights
  • Pricing Strategy
  • Industry Analysis

What do participants do after completing the program?

Upon completion of the program, our student founders graduate into other entrepreneurial programs at UT, or in the larger ecosystem, or obtain employment in a position that utilizes entrepreneurial skills.

What is unique about the Forty Acres Founders Program?

UT Austin has several accelerators and incubators, but none of these programs assist students with establishing product-market fit through market validation processes, customer discovery, and the creation of a sound go-to-market strategy. The Forty Acres Founders Program fills this critical gap in the ecosystem by equipping student founders with the skills needed for establishing product-market fit.