The third Tuesday of November is National Entrepreneur’s Day, a designated occasion to honor those who build the enterprises that shape our world. It’s also the perfect opportunity to take action on your own entrepreneurial dreams, like many students are doing every day at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business and Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI).
Alex Weber: New Ideas, New Worlds
For Alex Weber, creating businesses seems to come naturally. While serving in the U.S. Navy, he started numerous ventures in which he did everything from pressure washing houses to cleaning the hulls of yachts to making custom cat condos. When he enrolled at UT in 2016, he began to think seriously about entrepreneurship.
While majoring in electrical engineering, Weber felt drawn to take an introductory class on entrepreneurship taught by Shawn Carson at Haslam. That class introduced him to the Business Model Canvas (BMC), a strategic management template for developing new business models. From there, he decided to add entrepreneurship as his minor.
“The BMC was really a game-changer for me,” says Weber, who is now working on his MBA at Haslam and preparing to graduate in December 2022. “It gave me a way to filter my ideas: from just an idea to a business idea and then into a business plan.”
By late 2020, Weber had developed the concept for his current venture, D3D LLC, an IT consulting and software development service that specializes in extended reality (XR). With the idea to design and develop immersive reality applications for all major platforms, he had created many different prototypes and simulations by the time he enrolled in Haslam’s full-time MBA program last year.
Some of Weber’s funding has come from business pitch competitions hosted by ACEI. He won $500 from the center’s Vol Court competition in fall 2021 and $20,000 from its Boyd Venture Challenge the following spring. He also was selected to present at two sessions of the Graves Business Plan Competition and although he didn’t win, he came away with something valuable from the contest.
“What I learned from those experiences was more than worth the effort I put into them,” he says. “Learning how to explain the highly technical work that my company does, explaining the differences between virtual, augmented, mixed and extended reality, and discussing how my company is scalable helped evolve my business from just a design studio into an extended reality solutions company.”
As Weber focuses on growing and scaling D3D, he’s excited to see how XR technology will continue to evolve. He sees great potential in the industry and spends much of his time creating new XR applications. The most common misunderstanding about entrepreneurship, he says, is that the lifestyle doesn’t necessarily lead to more personal time or at least not in the way many people think it will.
“As an entrepreneur, the line between work time and personal time becomes blurred, because you are just so invested and don’t see your work as work,” he says. “For me, creating a brand-new world and then putting on the headset to try it out isn’t just work. It’s something I have a blast doing.”
About the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI) is a university-based resource for entrepreneurship across the region and the state of Tennessee. Its mission is to foster an entrepreneurial culture at UT and across the state by developing student skills, providing experiential learning opportunities, conducting meaningful entrepreneurial research and connecting students with mentors and resources that enable them to successfully start and grow new businesses.
Stacy Estep, writer/publicist, firstname.lastname@example.org