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25 Years, 25 Profiles-Michael Koetting

It’s been 25 years since the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI) launched as the first business incubator in Austin.  Over the years, we’ve worked with hundreds of companies and thousands of individuals that have helped transform Austin into one of the most respected technology communities in the world.  We’d like to share some of the stories from past directors, community partners, member companies, and even former associates in a new series we call “25 Years, 25 Profiles.”  Look for our next installment coming soon!

Facebook has been a chronic time-burglar for students over the past decade.  In 2010, three UT students decided that Facebook could be used as a study tool, rather than as a tool for procrastination.  The result was Hoot.Me, a Facebook application that allows students to crowd source study sessions and collaborate through video conferencing, math chat, doodling, and screen shares.  Hoot.Me participated in 3 Day Startup and became a member of ATI’s Development Portfolio, which focuses on businesses started by UT students or faculty.

What value does ATI provide to your company? What made you decide to join?

Mentorship and community are the biggest things ATI provides. Mentorship is especially important because, as first time entrepreneurs, we lack experience.  ATI’s mentors allowed us to combine ambition with foresight, which together, becomes vision.

How difficult was it to start a company while fully enrolled as a student at UT? Launching a startup as a fully enrolled student is something I highly recommend. Being a good student often involves knowing how to ask the right questions; the same applies to entrepreneurship. Building Hoot.Me allowed us to learn by doing, so it was an invaluable part of our college education.

What advice would you give to other students looking to start their own venture?

The hardest thing for me in starting Hoot.Me was learning when to listen. I discovered 90% of advice is circumstantial, including that statistic.

Why did you decide to work in education?

I’m not sure I set out to work in education. As a student, education was doing its work on me, and I saw a way to improve things. Sid and Gaurav (Hoot.Me co-founders) saw the same opportunity, so we teamed up to do something about it.

How do you think technology will change that industry?

Technology is simply a toolset. It enables us to change everything or nothing depending on how we use it. For education to remain the great equalizer, we need to ensure the individual and societal returns on education are greater than the investment. It’s a simple equation, but the challenge lies in achieving returns at a scale large enough to meet the demands of a knowledge-based economy. Technology can continue to empower us; however, knowing when to use the edtech equivalent of hammer versus a screwdriver will be key in the road ahead.

Hoot.Me was acquired by Civitas Learning in August, 2013.  Michael continues to work for Civitas in transforming the education industry.