“Maybe it’s the Architect in Me”
Always drawing floor plans and designing houses as a child, Professor Alex Gabbi thought this childhood interest would manifest into an architectural career until he discovered how math-intensive the job is and how math isn’t necessarily his strong suit. However, this realization didn’t quash the architect in him but instead it redirected him to choose business as his undergraduate major at the Libera Università Internazionale Degli Studi Sociali (LUISS) in Rome, Italy.
Intrigued by the subtle similarities between business and architecture, he found himself loving the discipline and specifically business entrepreneurship. However, he felt his passion was restricted by the traditional learning model used in Italian colleges. Given limited opportunities to exchange ideas with his professors and connect lectures to real life application, he began researching universities in the United States to transfer to. Hoping that the interactive nature of American education would lead to a more dynamic undergraduate experience, he transferred from LUISS to UT Austin. Aware of his international background and his desire to continue pursuing his business interest, Dr. Gabbi found himself gravitating towards the International Business program offered in the McCombs School of Business. His seemingly instinctive decision to study IB gave him the chance to meet “all the interesting people who he wanted to hangout with. Learning alongside “business people with COLA minds,” he was able to bridge together his existing soft skills and business education by integrating liberal arts thinking into a career opportunity. Recognizing his strengths and talents in business, Dr. Gabbi turned to the architect and decided to follow this desire to build things from the start through entrepreneurship.
Ventures into Entrepreneurship
Adamant about living each day as if it were the last, Dr. Gabbi fervently chases after his dreams of entrepreneurship. Unafraid of disappointments, he unwaveringly pursued this passion despite his family’s initial resistance because he knew that he “won’t have regrets if [he] chases [his] passions. Dr. Gabbi kickstarted his entrepreneurial journey at UT by starting AG Consulting as an undergraduate student and TAO Group as a graduate student. While the creation of AG Consulting gave him insight into the world of entrepreneurship, it was the experience of founding TAO Group that confirmed his desire to go down this career path.
To balance the company alongside the graduate curriculum, Dr. Gabbi and his business partner worked vigorously to map out the structure and direction of TAO Group. He recalled the limited amount of sleep and the lack of social life as he worked to refine the startup throughout the academic year. He felt a great deal of stress during the final year of the MBA when he compared the $500 paycheck from his startup to his peers who began receiving generous offers and sign-in bonuses. However, all his doubts were resolved when TAO Group landed its first big contract. That opportunity not only allowed him to pay off his student debt all at once but also validated his decision and desire to persist as an entrepreneur.
Dr. Gabbi went on to create three more startups since the establishment of AG consulting and TAO Group. The energizing feeling he experienced from watching the “innovation and creative juices flow through…a bunch of wickedly smart people who have the same passion,” is what has encouraged him to venture into a wide variety of industries when creating startups. Already confident in his ability to perform well in environments where innovation serves as a core value, he found entrepreneurship to be endlessly fascinating because it allows him to learn something new each time.. Since entrepreneurship requires him to “wear many hats” at once and take on new roles each time a new company is launched, he openly admits that he is “probably not an expert in a single thing, but knows a good amount about a lot of different things.” Dr. Gabbi’s hands-on attitude demonstrates his belief that one is accountable for their success and failure. Equating success and failure to the results of one’s efforts and contributions, he applies this sense of responsibility to his career in entrepreneurship and academia.
A Positive Life Surprise
“To me, teaching is not about conveying what you know. It’s about creating an environment where everybody shares what they know…and I’m just one of those people.” Dr. Gabbi regards teaching to be one of the most gratifying and fulfilling experiences in his life. A career opportunity that came seemingly out of the blue, a professorship in the McCombs School of Business changed his life.
Having kept in touch with Dr. Linda Gerber upon graduating, he was one of the first people to hear about the opening in the International Business program. With this part-time position working out perfectly with his desire to find a career with a more flexible schedule, he began his career in academia as a professor who teaches IB 325 once a year. Petitioning for an undergraduate course in global entrepreneurship, Dr. Gabbi was eventually offered a full-time professor position.
Developing the curriculum for the global entrepreneurship course, he intended on using his knowledge and network to fill in this gap in business education at UT. And, by making the class available to students from various disciplines, he wanted to foster a learning environment that models the organizational structure of startups around the world. The diverse nature of his classroom cultivates insightful discussions that overflow with imaginative ideas. Each year, Dr. Gabbi finds himself fascinated by how much he can learn from the younger generation of students. In particular, he is frequently inspired by his students’ unique ways of operating businesses. Because of this, Dr. Gabbi feels inclined to once again challenge his entrepreneurship mind and launch a new startup. However, this business aspiration doesn’t mean the end of his teaching career. Instead, he hopes to share concurrent startup experience with his students to take them alongside him in the process of entrepreneurship. He also wants to impress on his students the importance of developing an international mindset when it comes to entrepreneurship. Recognizing that business has no borders, Dr. Gabbi is insistent on giving his own children a head start in developing their global perspective at an earlier age.
Fifty Countries and Counting
Dr. Gabbi looks forward to spending more time traveling with his family in the future. Hoping to foster a sense of global curiosity in his children, he not only encourages his children to do research on the countries they are interested in visiting, but also involves them in the planning process of every family vacation. By letting his children be adventurous in determining the locations of their travels, Dr. Gabbi frequently finds himself in the most random, yet fascinating, places. He particularly remembers his son’s birthday request to visit the beach in Normandy just after learning about the historical landing of the Allies on D-Day from school. Following his children’s fascination with different parts of the world, he has enjoyed traveling to the most unlikely and fascinating places like Easter Island and Svalbard. To this day, he has never been disappointed by where his children lead him.
Despite travel being complicated by COVID-19 regulations for the last couple of years, Dr. Gabbi still insists on working around the pandemic to provide his children unique opportunities to see the world for themselves. On his family’s recent trip to Egypt, his children were presented with a one-of-a-kind travel experience. Since the four of them were essentially the only tourists in Cairo at that time, their trip allowed them to fully take in the majesty of various historical landmarks by themselves and opened their eyes to the economical impact of globalization and COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Gabbi looks forward to continuing to travel and sharing these international experiences with his children. Watching his children as they grow in their global awareness, he is excited for them to evolve into the inquisitive and motivated adults he believes they will mature into.
Written by Juolin Tsai, Intern at the Center for Global Business