Austin Dean worked as the graduate assistant at GVSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) while earning an M.B.A. in Finance. Dean has applied his entrepreneurial skills to a number of diverse startups–a failed computer repair service, widely successful storytelling platform Failure:Lab, and a software company that collects data for social impact. He also helped write the grant that launched influential business incubator GR Current, where he currently works as the Director of Business Operations.
During his time at CEI, Dean learned about lean business principles, validating problems before creating a solution and utilizing customer feedback. This proved to be valuable when he started at GR Current as a senior analyst and was tasked with coaching clients on business modeling, setting financial models and building a customer base.
“I would say GVSU gave me that platform of confidence,” Dean said. “…now I can sit across from anyone and just dive in and feel that I am really driving value for them.”
Dean started his first company, a computer repair service while an undergrad at GVSU, an endeavor that ended up failing after a year and a half. In 2012, he co-founded Failure:Lab with Jordan O’Neil and Jonathan Williams. The idea for this storytelling platform where participants share intimate tales of failure came from growing weary of TEDx.
“We got tired of it…We were looking for something a little different, where we could connect with people a little better,” Dean said.
After the inaugural Failure:Lab sold out Wealthy Theater, other cities began asking to host. Now, the platform is globally successful–people all over the world license the brand from Dean and his partners and host their own Failure:Lab. Failure:Lab has started to use the model for company group training sessions in order to facilitate close co-working relationships, working with companies like Amway and Dell.
In 2014, Dean started Collective Metrics, a software company that specializes in data collection to help organizations track what is happening in their ecosystem and apply it in an effective way. Collective Metrics is currently working with Start Garden in order to create a data hub of entrepreneurial activity in West Michigan.
Of Grand Rapids’ entrepreneurial future, Dean says the options are many. “What is it that we are going to be known for? We really have an opportunity to say ‘this is going to be our niche’ and market the hell out of that. We finally have the ground laid, and now are in the stage where we can say, ‘okay, let’s look at what we did and improve on it.’”