2023 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Outmore Living, University of Texas (McCombs)

Outmore Living

University of Texas at Austin’s 

Industry: Furniture

Founding Student Name(s): Kevin Long ’23 and Alex Duncan ‘22

Brief Description of Solution: Outmore Living is the first technology-enabled outdoor furniture company in the world.  Our first product line, The Solerno Collection, delivers not only bespoke design and unparalleled quality but also the world’s first battery-powered heated cushions.

Funding Dollars: $1M

What led you to launch this venture? After spending six years working for Target, two of which spent buying outdoor furniture, I decided to quit my job so that I could pursue an MBA and start a consumer product company. In between being accepted into business school and starting my first day at McCombs, I was sitting around a fire watching all my friends head inside because they were too cold. In that moment I realized that, all too often, outdoor moments end early because of a lack of comfort,and I started to dream of heated outdoor furniture.  After incubating Outmore Living at McCombs, including meeting my Co-founder Alex, we are excited to launch a product that will deliver lasting comfort so we can enhance and prolong special moments with friends and family outdoors.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? Watching an idea turn into an actual product is by far our team’s biggest accomplishment so far. We often say to say that building one of something is easy but building multiple products is hard. After completing our first prototype in Alex’s garage in May 2022, our team spent a year and a half redesigning, sourcing, and manufacturing our final product. This included countless rounds of prototypes and samples, traveling all over the world to find the perfect manufacturing partners, and raising the necessary capital to get our company off the ground.

What has been the most significant challenge you’ve faced in creating your company and how did you solve it? Being able to successfully implement an idea as cost intensive as heated outdoor furniture required a significant amount of upfront capital, so for almost a year, the biggest portion of my job was spent trying to close our seed round. This included countless calls, coffees, meetings, and pitches to accredited investors and venture capital firms. The key for our team was to never let capital slow down what we needed to do to maintain our company’s momentum, which at times meant committing to spend before we had the capital in the bank to pay for it. To build a startup, you must have thick enough skin to take some risks. However, we learned that the more momentum and progress you can show, the easier it becomes to raise capital.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? Outmore Living would not exist without The University of Texas at Austin and the McCombs School of Business. At the beginning of my MBA experience, all I had was the idea for heated outdoor furniture and little sense on how to turn that idea into a company. By my second semester of my first year, I met my co-founder Alex while fine-tuning Outmore Living’s business plan in our New Venture Creation class. That summer, we incorporated, raised our first outside capital, and further incubated Outmore through the Student Entrepreneurship Accelerator and Launch (SEAL) program. By the time I graduated, Outmore Living was a venture backed startup that employed three McCombs MBAs. Between the countless classes we spent incubating our company, to the professors who have consulted us along the way, and the students who have now joined our team, it is safe to say Outmore Living may have never existed had it not been for McCombs.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you?  The most impactful entrepreneur in my own journey was Jeffrey Raider, Co-Founder of Warby Parker and Harry’s. When Harry’s launched at Target, Jeffrey came and spoke at a town hall about his own entrepreneurial journey. Up until this point, I had several product ideas, but felt that I lacked the skillset and entrepreneurial network to turn an idea into a company.  Jeffrey shared his own experience of attending Wharton and co-founding Warby Parker with three other classmates, and it clicked to me that an MBA program was a place that aspiring entrepreneurs could successfully launch a venture. I went home, started researching top entrepreneurship MBA programs, and never looked back.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Considering I met my co-founder Alex in New Venture Creation, it would be hard to find another class that was as valuable to our company’s success thus far. The biggest lesson we took away from that class is the value in talking to customers as much as possible during your product journey. We spent the semester interviewing countless customers and potential partners, and the feedback we learned impacted our go-to-market and product strategy.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Since I met Professor John Doggett the summer going into the second year of my MBA, he has served as one of the most impactful mentors to our company. Professor Doggett has a track record leading and advising some very successful startups. As a constant sounding board to our team, Professor Doggett does a great job pressure testing our assumptions, offering new perspectives, and helping us improve our strategy.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? One of the reasons McCombs is such a great entrepreneurship focused MBA program is because of its location in Austin, Texas. There are few cities in the world that have as high of a concentration of events and people as there are in the Austin startup ecosystem, and we have really leaned into establishing ourselves in this community.  As a result, most of our team, including 80% of our investors, are based out of Austin, Texas, and our plan is to further establish our place in the Texas startup ecosystem as we grow.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? We believe that there is something truly special about connecting with friends and family outdoors, so our long-term goal is to create products that enhance the magic of those outdoor moments. Our dream is to continue to innovate and launch new products that better our customers’ lives, so we can create a company that improves the lives of not only our customers but also our employees.


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