Practical Entrepreneurship: An Interview with Rubén Cantú
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I am a first-generation college graduate raised in East Austin as a son of immigrants. I hold a B.S. in Radio-TV-Film from the Moody College of Communications and an M.S. in Technology Commercialization from the McCombs School of Business, both from The University of Texas at Austin. I have founded various startups and as a social entrepreneur, and I am focused on establishing a platform through media and entrepreneurship that allows society to reflect on its condition and spur progressive change.
What are your favorite courses to teach?
I teach two multi-year long classes,Product Prodigy Institute and WIELD Texas. Both classes/programs are target to low-income, first-gen, diverse students to learn in a much more intimate setting the ins-and-outs of entrepreneurship and executive leadership. They are application and cohort based, and they build their ventures together in a team format. Students gain opportunities for internships in the their respective fields of interests such as tech, NPO’s, government, and the private sector.
Our mission is to help cultivate the next generation of diverse leaders to shape our new economy.
We also teach a new introduction course, XP3, Life, Work, Impact. It stands for Exponential Leadership, Experiential Learning, and Domain Expertise. It takes students through an introduction in Design, Global Leadership, Community Economic Development, and Management Consulting. These experiences prepare them for Product Prodigy and WIELD Texas, and are targeted to students who may not have the best GPA and are in their second year and looking to get ahead in their college career.
What does the word “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
Entrepreneurship means, the alchemist who sees problems and turns them into a profitable opportunity, where many venture away, the entrepreneur is called by the challenge and uses their intelligence and tenacity to problem solve an issue until their customer is delighted and satisfied.
When did you discover entrepreneurship and know that it was an interest for you?
I knew that I was going to be an entrepreneur for sure at the age of 14 when I launched my first radio show which then evolved into my first media group at the age of 18 years old. I had the passion for media and problem solving but I needed to know how to make a profit. I found my passion early on, and had great support around me such as my parents and teachers, and because of my persistence and believing in myself, I manifested where I am today.
What are you currently working on?
I recently co-founded and launched a community based equity focused think and action tank, this nonprofit is called Community Resilience Trust. We have been working with city and community leaders, building trust, and create systemic impact to help ensure that during this pandemic, the systems that were already inequitable to diverse communities, don’t further inflict more pain on them. From creating better back to school recommendation and polices, to vaccination equity roll-outs, to leading the community response to winter storm Uri in February. Our experience in equity, disaster response, research and community trust allowed us to move in a way most organizations could not or did not have the resources.
Do you have pointers for students looking to pursue entrepreneurship.
Fall in love with the problem, see the problem as the way through, it is not easy but it is always rewarding at the end. When you get fixated in innovation and improving for a more equitable world, your work not only becomes satisfying, but it is transformative for you and those who work alongside with you. Don’t just build stuff because you can, create companies that are regenerative and truly are needed in the world.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our community?
To the diverse, BIPOC students and community reading this, please know you are seen, you matter, your voice and thoughts are needed in this tech and entrepreneurship landscape. Your ideas and voice will shape our products of tomorrow and we need you at the decision and creative table. You deserve to be here just as much as anyone else, and our office is a stand for you to be able to do just that. See you very soon, I am but an email away.
About the Series
Practical Entrepreneurship features faculty at UT that both teach and have real-world experience with entrepreneurship. By providing insight into each individual’s journey and passions, we are illustrating the many opportunities in academics and throughout life there are to reach fulfillment and success through the pursuit of entrepreneurship.
Lightly edited by Lydia Ward