Khoo TIME: Foster alumnus an influential entrepreneur

TIME magazine has named the founders of Seattle-based Internet comic strip Penny Arcade among its 2010 “TIME 100,” a roster of the world’s most influential people. While recognizing the artist/writer duo of Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins as the “tastemakers, and conscience,” of the massive computer gaming industry, the magazine also credits Foster School of Business grad Robert Khoo (BA 2000), Penny Arcade’s business director who turned an obscure comic into a mighty—and fiercely independent—media empire.

With Khoo at the helm of business affairs, Penny Arcade catalyzes a tight-knit Web community of 3.5 million hardcore gamers, throws an annual expo called PAX that draws 60,000 fans to Seattle each summer, and runs Child’s Play, a thriving charity that delivers video games to 60 children’s hospitals around the world.

State of the economy with faculty Hadjimichalakis and Rice

The 2010 MBA State of the Economy forum at the University of Washington Foster School of Business with finance and economics faculty members Karma Hadjimichalakis and Ed Rice covered issues related to our national economy, European trends, state and local economic issues as a result of the recent budget crisis, health care reform and more. This event is an annual series for Foster alumni.

RSS Missed the event? Listen to the 50-minute MBA State of the Economy podcast.

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The ABCs of LEED

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganIt is almost impossible these days for there to be a discussion about building or development that does not include discussion of LEED, an internationally-adopted third party certification of environmental excellence in metrics related to energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, stewardship of resources and sensitivity to impacts.

LEED, which stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” was initiated by Robert Watson in 1993 to:

  • Define “green building” by establishing a common standard of measurement
  • Promote integrated, whole-building design practices
  • Recognize environmental leadership in the building industry
  • Stimulate green competition
  • Raise consumer awareness of green building benefits
  • Transform the building market

Although it is not the only certification system for sustainability, it is certainly the best known. With the broad-based efforts of the US Green Building Council, LEED has become the global sustainability certification standard for everything from building design to interiors to whole neighborhoods.  And, oh yes, for people, too! 

Increasingly, public agencies are requiring or incentivizing compliance with LEED standards in new construction. In addition, many believe that LEED accreditation of buildings and neighborhoods offer a real market advantage for people who want to live and work in healthy, environmentally-responsible settings.

Individuals can become accredited as either LEED Green Associates or LEED APs through a program administered by the Green Building Certification Institute. The Institute offers educations and seminars, and certifies environmental expertise through a testing program. 

LEED certification can open doors to the green economy for minority entrepreneurs in architecture, construction, planning, engineering or design. It represents official recognition of expertise in sustainability from the industry, and it is a way for you to become current with state-of-the-art business practices in the new green economy.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She writes the BEDC Brogan blog series twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.

Foster MBA alumnus lands crossword puzzles in LA and NY Times

What does it take to create a crossword puzzle of sufficient challenge and cleverness to be published in the New York Times? A bona fide polymath, well-read and widely-experienced. A serious student of popular culture, equally versed in history, sport, art, science, architecture, medicine, warfare, European languages—a renaissance man.

Jeff ChenFoster MBA alumnus Jeff Chen fits the bill. An entrepreneur, personal wealth manager, writer, rock climber and world traveler, Chen is also an avid puzzle-solver. A friend turned him on to the venerable New York Times daily crossword a couple of years ago. “It was love at first sight,” he says.

Last year he began composing his own. He’s already had four published in the Los Angeles Times and his first puzzle was recently accepted for the New York Times, a gold standard in the crossworld.

Chen says constructing crosswords is as much a test of strategy as vocabulary. He begins with a theme that ties together four or five long answers, and then builds around them. Devising appropriate, accurate, pithy clues is an art in and of itself.

Crossword puzzles are not a lucrative hobby. Each one takes Chen 15 to 20 hours to complete—before revisions. He has created 30-something puzzles and sold only five, each fetching between $85 and $200.

Entrepreneur, wealth manager, globe trotter, writer
It doesn’t threaten to supplant Chen’s day job. After earning his MBA from the University of Washington Foster School in 2002, Chen helped launch Acucela, developer of a novel treatment for degenerative eye disease. Since leaving Acucela last year, he has done private wealth management and is working on a new venture (currently undisclosed) with some friends. He has been an active board member with local non-profits Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Passages Northwest and Treehouse and recently traveled to Bolivia to examine microfinance operations for Global Partnerships.

Chen is also 90,000 words into his first novel, a story set at school in the mountains of Peru where kids learn how to be secret defenders of justice. “My brother and I were talking about how sad it was that there would never be another Harry Potter book,” he says. “So about two years ago I decided to write something that could start a similar kind of series. I’m not a published author, but I thought I’d give it a try.”

Chen still challenges himself daily with the puzzles of both newspapers (each escalates in difficulty from Monday forward), and says he can complete a New York Times Friday puzzle 75 percent of the time.

Match wits with Jeff Chen’s recent 2010 Monday and Tuesday Los Angeles Times puzzles.

Nanocel takes a novel approach to cooling electronics

Dustin Miller and Daniel Rossi show off their productThere are big problems and then there are BIG problems. Cooling electronics, for example. How do you keep large server farms from overheating and how can you extend the battery life of laptops and other portable electronics? “We are currently using over three percent of the nation’s energy on cooling the Internet,” says Dustin Miller, PhD candidate in mechanical engineering and the co-founder, with UW MBA Daniel Rossi, of Nanocel.  The company, which won the $25,000 grand prize at the UW’s Business Plan Competition in May 2009, is introducing affordable fluid-based cooling systems for computer chips.  “Industry calculations say that fluid-based cooling could cut energy use in half,” explained Miller. “That’s a staggering amount.”

Nanocel’s technology uses a combination of microfluidics and novel, moldable plastic materials to cool devices more cheaply than other liquid-based systems and more efficiently than cooling fans. The products use thousands to millions of very thin (between one and 100 micrometers wide) vessels to circulate tiny amounts of liquid in close contact with the computer chips or other device components prone to overheating.  The original process was developed at the University of Washington for food packaging.  “So, for the cost of a coffee cup, you can have a heat sink that used to be made out of copper,” Rossi added.

Rossi’s market research demonstrated that Nanocel wouldn’t have to look far for potential customers and partners. Computer chip manufacturers and designers are obvious candidates, but Nanocel is also talking with companies that make gaming consoles, servers and hardware. “There are tons of shelf-ready products that can’t go to market because they’re too hot,” Rossi says. Fans aren’t powerful enough to cool them down, and liquid technologies are too pricey.

Since the competition, the Nanocel founders have incorporated the company and are gearing up for their first angel funding round in early 2010.

(We’d like to thank Rachel Tompa, Xconomy Seattle, who wrote a longer version of this article. The full story is here.)

InTheWorks goes in for CARB testing

Third-party validation is a critical test of a new technology, and InTheWorks, which developed a catalytic converter for gasoline marine engines (a technology that could set the standard in marine emissions reduction), has survived that particular ordeal. Since winning an honorable mention award at the UW Environmental Innovation Challenge in 2009, InTheWorks (ITW) has gone through third-party verification, completed a round of private funding, and is now embarking on the all-important CARB (California Air Resources Board) certification process for its patent-pending AquaCat catalytic converter.

Todd Hanson, a UW biochemistry graduate and the chief technologist of the company, developed the technology that was on display at the Challenge last year. The AquaCat was designed to increase fuel efficiency and eliminate most of the harmful emissions of high-performance engines, which are dirtier and more difficult to address than smaller engines. He calls the CARB test “more rigorous than the federal government’s EPA standards.” Passing this test, he says, will give ITW access to new development and market opportunities.

Hanson’s role in CARB has meant that he’s spent more time in California in the last year than in Washington. According to Hanson’s team mate, Jamie Forsyth (Bainbridge Graduate Institute MBA 2009), who is now the company’s business development director, in the works at ITW is an initial proposal for the US Coast Guard for a diesel adaptation of the technology, a memorandum of understanding with a regional transit authority for a passenger ferry project, and new interest by a leader in automotive induction systems technologies. “We think that 2010 will be the year that InTheWorks makes its mark,” she says, “and the marine industry is just the start of something big.” Check it out at www.intheworks.com

Ecowell delivers on its refreshment kiosk promise

“For the Environmental Innovation Challenge in 2009, we had an old computer server rack we’d dummied up to look like a vending kiosk that served water. Our mission was to eliminate a portion of the 500 million plastic bottles and cans that are discarded every day,” said Reid Schilperoort, a 2010 WSU graduate in finance and entrepreneurship. “Of course that first kiosk didn’t work, but it got the message across!”

EcowellToday, the kiosks work. Ecowell, which incorporated in May 2009, provides waste-free, healthy and personalized refreshment to on-the-go customers through its revolutionary vending kiosks. Customers can fill their reusable containers with purified hot, cold, or carbonated water and personalize their beverage with 100 percent natural juices, teas, and nutritional supplements.

After a successful first round of financing, ecowell has manufactured eight new beverage-dispensing kiosks. With installations at three eastern Washington high schools and at Avista Utilities in Spokane, the company’s test marketing is going better than expected. The ecowell  team includes the original UW Environmental Innovation Challenge competitors, as well as four new employees and a board of directors. And they’re well on their way to answering their original question: Can on-the-go purified water and other beverages be offered without polluting our environment and or risking our wellbeing?

Undergrads consult with farmers over spring break

Over 2010 spring break, roughly 29 University of Washington undergraduate students, most from the Foster School, visited a mountain village in Panama to help the villagers improve their farming business.

The team spent most of their spring break on Machuca Farm in the Cocle province, roughly three hours from Panama City. The farm is a 25-minute hike from the end of the nearest roadway. The community has about 800 inhabitants, but the farm group that the students focused on has 14 members and supports roughly 35 people. The farm grows yucca, plantain, rice, beans, corn and other crops and also raises chickens, goats and fish in a pond. Read more.

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