All posts by Ellen Pepin

Assistant Director, Communications and Marketing Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, UW Foster School of Business

Terry Drayton and Adina Mangubat on business planning and risk

Buerk Center Resource Nights: Business Planning and Risk

Startups are hard—identifying opportunity, developing a business plan, understanding legal issues, marketing your product. Luckily, you can learn a lot about navigating the startup world from entrepreneurs who’ve been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale.

Resource Nights, presented during winter quarter by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, feature experts from the local entrepreneur community sharing their knowledge on various aspects of starting a business.

Drayton_Storrage Adina (small)

This week’s class, “Business Planning and Risk,” featured Terry Drayton, founder of Storrage and Adina Mangubat, founder of Spiral Genetics. The two entrepreneurs shared their thoughts on startup relationships, managing risk, and entrepreneurial game plans.

Read some of our favorite advice and insights below, watch the entire class video here, and check back weekly for more Resource Nights coverage.

Business Plans

“The business plan should be a living document because the market is constantly shifting underneath you. You’ll work hard on a business plan, bring it out into the real world, and realize it’s not going to work. Starting a business is basically a never-ending game of pivoting,” says Mangubat, whose startup made three substantial pivots before landing where it is today.

“I’m a believer in the one-page business plan, says Drayton. “When I got my MBA back in the early 80’s, business plans were graded by the pound—100s of pages of crap.” But now, well into his entrepreneurial career, Drayton likes the idea of having to fit everything down on one page. “It forces you to be brutal with editing and only include the things that really matter,” he says.

Finding the Right Startup Partner(s)

“Finding the right startup partner is like choosing your significant other,” says Mangubat. “You don’t want just anybody. Just like in love, you have to be picky and patient, and wait until you find someone who resonates with what you’re trying to do—someone who you can trust and communicate with.”

Measuring Risk

“You can come up with 500 reasons not to do something, and by the time you’re done meeting with a list of venture capitalists and angel investors, they’ll have given you 500 more,” says Drayton. “Your job is to pay attention to the ones that keep you up at night.”

“Hundreds of people will tell you no,” says Mangubat. “They will tell you you’re too young, not qualified, or crazy. But if you are passionate about what you are doing and really believe you can do it, don’t listen to them, and just go for it.”

The Startup Game

“Think of how bad some [NFL] teams are,” says Drayton, while speaking on the importance of having a game plan. “They have the same amount of money as other teams, they can hire the same people, have the same amount of draft picks, but they’re just awful. It’s because they need a game plan. Imagine the Seahawks without a game plan. It would be inconceivable!”

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Chris DeVore and Matt Ehrlichman: “intro to entrepreneurship”

Startups are hard—identifying opportunity, developing a business plan, understanding legal issues, marketing your product. Luckily, you can learn a lot about navigating the startup world from entrepreneurs who’ve been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale.

Resource Nights, presented by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, feature experts from the local entrepreneur community sharing their knowledge on various aspects of starting a business.

This week’s class, “Introduction to Entrepreneurship,” featured Chris DeVore of Techstars and Founder’s Co-op and Matt Ehrlichman of Porch.

Read some of our favorite advice and insights below, watch the entire class video here, and check back weekly for more Resource Nights coverage.

 

Chris DeVoreWho becomes an entrepreneur? These are the characteristics and “people patterns” that Chris DeVore believes typify true entrepreneurs.

  • Insatiable need to create
    “Entrepreneurs have an idea of a future they want to create, and they’ll do whatever it takes to make that idea take shape.”
  • Choose autonomy and control over status and money
    “The last thing in the world you should do if you want to make a lot of money is be an entrepreneur.”
  • Do not need a lot of external validation
    “Entrepreneurs don’t crave approval from the world in order to be functional in their work.”
  • Lofty standards for themselves and for others
    “Entrepreneurs hold themselves to a very high standard and are never satisfied with their work.”
  • High tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity
    “Entrepreneurs have to be ok with not knowing the answer for a long period of time.”
  • Impatient
    “Entrepreneurs tend to push harder, faster, and further than anyone else.”
  • Relentless
    “Good entrepreneurs don’t give up. They don’t take no for an answer.”

 

matt-ehrlichman-familyWhere do you begin? What factors go into deciding what your startup is going to be? Here are Matt Ehrlichman’s thoughts on identifying an opportunity for your startup.

  • Don’t worry about the idea
    “The idea is the least important thing. Identifying an opportunity, a market, a problem to solve—those are important.
  • Choose your market carefully
    “Pick a market where you’re not going to be constrained.”
  • Attack the pain
    “The safest and most consistent way to build a company is to identify real pain points and address real problems.”
  • Go with your passion
    “Find something that you are deeply passionate about. There are so many highs and lows in building a company. If you’re not deeply connected to what you’re trying to do, you’re going to burn out. You need that ‘why’ to sustain you when things get difficult.”
  • Play to your strengths
    “Find something that you are uniquely great at, so that you have a competitive advantage over everyone else in the world.”
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Environmental Innovation Challenge receives $150,000 Wells Fargo Clean Technology and Innovation Grant

Seattle, WA—December 18, 2014

The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at the Foster School of Business has received a $150,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Clean Technology and Innovation grant program in support of the 2015 Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge.

In mid-December 2014, Members of the Buerk Center and Foster School community, including Dean Jim Jiambalvo and Buerk Center director Connie Bourassa-Shaw, met with representatives from Wells Fargo to accept the grant and share a few words on their mutual commitment to clean technology and the “green economy.”

The Environmental Innovation Challenge, now in its seventh year, provides a platform for students to explore the scalability of innovative and entrepreneurial solutions to environmental problems—a market that has grown exponentially in recent years.

“The focus on ‘green’ is exploding,” said Jiambalvo, noting dramatically increased efforts by large, established institutions to “green up” every aspect of what they do.

Marco Abbruzzese, Wells Fargo senior regional manager, agreed, saying, “We want to be a leader in clean technology and innovation because it’s the right thing to do, because the problems are so big, and because a positive impact on the environment also positively impacts our bottom line.” He went on to list some of Wells Fargo’s recent accomplishments, including granting over $3 million to 64 environmental programs. “We love what you are doing with the Environmental Innovation Challenge,” he said, “and we’re delighted to be able to support it.”

Wells Fargo Check Presentation 2015_4
$150,000 Wells Fargo Clean Technology and Innovation grant presentation.
About the Wells Fargo Clean Technology and Innovation Grant Program

The Wells Fargo Clean Technology and Innovation grant program funds clean technology incubator and accelerator programs, along with research and development projects involving universities and colleges. It supports building a framework for entrepreneurs seeking to provide scalable solutions in the low carbon economy.

About the Environmental Innovation Challenge

The Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC) at the University of Washington sparks creative thinking, innovative approaches to problems of environmental significance, and encourages cross-disciplinary teams. EIC student teams define an environmental problem, develop the solution, build a prototype, and write a business summary that defines the market opportunity and potential for impact. The next challenge will take place on April 2, 2015.
Learn more about the EIC.

Tweet: Environmental Innovation Challenge @UW receives $150,000 grant from @WellsFargo http://ctt.ec/5ACfx+

Making the entrepreneurial leap: leaving the corporate world and diving into startup life

EntreLeap3_448x448On November 5, the founders of four hot Seattle-based startups gathered at the UW Foster School to discuss their experiences in leaving the corporate world and diving into startup life. John Gabbert (Pitchbook), Bryan Maletis (FatCork), Jane Park (Julep), and Tom Seery (RealSelf), spoke on making the decision to leave the security of a big company, the differences between corporate and startup work, and how important industry experience was before making the entrepreneurial leap. But some of the most fascinating advice of the evening applied not just to those making the corporate/startup switch, but to entrepreneurs in general. Here are some of our favorite answers to questions on matters of time, money, passion, and luck.

Q: What does a typical day look like for you? How many hours do you work, and when are you most productive?

John Gabbert:
“If you highlight 90 to 100 hours a week on a calendar, it looks pretty ridiculous, but that’s how much I worked in the early days, on specs, plans, and financials. But the key thing to know isn’t how many hours you work. It’s the fact that [the company] is always on your mind. When you wake up in the morning, when you’re in the shower . . . it’s an all-consuming thing. “

Tom Seery:
“I do a lot of work from about 8pm to midnight—that’s when I’m in power mode. My days are spent recruiting and networking. Networking is so important. I will always take a coffee meeting with someone who contacts me to say they are interested in founding a startup. I never say no, because I’ve been there, and I want to encourage people to network. If you can’t shamelessly reach out to and keep up with people who are important in this community, you might not be the right person to have your own startup.”

Q: Had you done any financial planning when you decided to quit your job?

Bryan Maletis:
“I bootstrapped everything. I was fortunate to have savings to do so. I kept having to put more and more of my savings into the company, and it got worrisome, but when I was putting in my money, I knew that failure was just not an option. I had to say, ‘this is going to work, because we’re putting all of our savings into it.’”

Jane Park:
“My parents owned a 7-Eleven when I was growing up, and we lived above it. I wasn’t use to a life of luxury, so I’ve always felt that money is something you can make, but it’s not what defines a life. There is definitely some freedom in that. I did have some savings from my former jobs, but I went through that pretty quickly. Once we reached a point where we were so big that I could not personally cover our burn rate, it was actually a relief. It was finally beyond my reach to help.”

Q: How passionate do you have to be to start your own company?

John:
“I think passion may be the most important thing. I’d put it up there with grit and determination, but I think passion is really the driving force. Thousands of people will tell you no, whether you’re raising money, trying to get people to buy your product, or convincing people your idea will work. If you’re not passionate, it’ll suck.”

Bryan:
For a founder of a company, passion is the most important thing. If I didn’t love champagne and love sharing the product with people, my job would be very hard and dull, and I wouldn’t have stuck it out during the first two years when I was making no money.

Tom:
“I’m actually not passionate about the cosmetic surgery market. But I am extraordinarily passionate about elements of it—what we’re doing for consumers, and the feedback we’re getting. And I am super passionate about my ‘hidden agenda,’ which is to change things about the world through reconstructive surgery. We support surgeons who travel around the world to perform surgery on children and adults who have eminently correctable problems. After surgery, these people can return to life as normal or begin to have a life. So I founded RealSelf thinking I was doing one thing, and discovered my purpose along the way. I’m passionate about making this world a better place.”

Jane:
“It doesn’t matter if your passion is for any particular market or product, but being an entrepreneur means you have to have passion for innovation and a belief that your company is doing something good for the world. That has to be at the core of what keeps you moving forward.”

Q: (from moderator Connie Bourassa-Shaw)
“College students have been taught their entire life that it pays off to be smart. You get in the University of Washington because you’re smart. Life goes your way because you’re smart. But entrepreneurs should never underestimate the power of luck. So, would you rather be lucky or smart?”

Bryan:
“I’d rather be lucky than smart. I believe I am lucky. When I met my wife, she pushed me into doing this. I still don’t have the smarts for it, but I believe that you should surround yourself with people that are smarter than you and better than you at different things, and I’ve been lucky to be able to do that.”

John:
“Lucky, and just smart enough.”

Tom:
“I adopted two children from orphanages in china, so I appreciate what it means to be born in a country where we have privilege and access to amazing resources. Three years ago I would have answered smart, but now I’m in the lucky category.”

Jane:
“I think I would have said smart, you can’t control luck, but I think what I hear everyone else expressing is a sense of gratitude, and I definitely have that. People laugh at me because I’ll say to employees as they arrive at work, ‘Thank you for coming back to work!’”

 

 

Take it from T.A.

T.A. McCann speaks to an Entrepreneur Week audience about networking
T.A. McCann speaks to an Entrepreneur Week audience about networking

We’ve heard it said a million times: “It’s all about who you know.” Whether you’re looking for a job, talent to join your startup team, or investors to fund your great idea, leveraging your network will help you achieve your goals. But how do you go about building a strong network? To answer this question, we turned to rockstar entrepreneur T.A. McCann, the founder of Rival IQ and Gist, which he sold to Blackberry in 2011. McCann is an active angel investor, a startup advisor, and a former America’s Cup winner. He is also a master networker, and attributes much of his success to the power of connection. In his words, “Your success is directly correlated to the size and strength of your professional network.” McCann joined us during Entrepreneur Week 2014 to share some of his best networking advice. We’ve included a few of our favorite tips below:

  • Do your homework
    If there’s someone out there you’d like to meet, do your research. A few years ago, McCann was headed to a conference where he knew he’d have the opportunity to connect with Brad Feld, “one of the best investors out there.” McCann did his research, and found out that Feld is a runner. He reached out to Feld via twitter with a simple note, saying “I know you’re a runner, and I’m hoping to run while I’m at this conference. Can you recommend any good places to run while I’m there?” Feld got back to him and suggested the two of them meet up and run together. So they did. Feld ultimately ended up leading the series A financing of McCann’s company, Gist. “All because I did the research to figure out who this guy was and what he cared about,” says McCann.
  • Add something of value, and give before you get
    Great networkers ask themselves, “What can I do for this person?” before they ask, “What can this person do for me?” If you’ve found someone you’d like to add to your network, do your research, ask questions, and learn what’s important to them. Once you do this, share something of value with them. This might be an opinion, relevant information, or a new connection. “Think about how you can give something that’s going to help the other person first. If you give first, you’re much more likely to get in the future,” says McCann.
  • Get involved
    “Volunteer your time,” says McCann, “and you’ll make new connections at the same time.” McCann spends a lot of time sharing his experience and ideas at Startup Weekends, where he’s constantly exposed to fresh ideas and smart people to add to his network. “Startup Weekend is a kind of competition,” he says, “but it’s much more about building skills and meeting people.”

Want more networking advice from T.A. McCann? Check out his slides here.

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InTheWorks: minimizing motor emissions

IntheWorks CTO, Todd Hansen (left) with CEO David Endrigo.
IntheWorks CTO, Todd Hansen (left) with CEO David Endrigo.

“I didn’t really expect to start my own business,” says Todd Hansen, looking back to his time as an undergraduate studying biochemistry at the University of Washington. But he had always been interested in clean technology and the reduction of fossil fuels, so when he discovered a really interesting concept for reducing emissions, he decided to pursue it. “Lo and behold,” says Hansen, now the co-founder and CTO of InTheWorks, an engineering and design development company, “that concept turned out to have a lot of potential.”

InTheWorks’ patented product is “essentially a unique emissions control system,” says Hansen. The company holds a total of 4 patents on a catalytic converter that can be used with any type of gasoline-fueled internal combustion engine to significantly reduce emissions, increase fuel economy by 4% to 5%, and increase horsepower 4% to 6%. And where other ways to improve fuel economy and power (aerodynamics, tire redesign, weight reduction) are costly, installing InTheWorks’ converter actually lowers manufacturing costs by 12%, due to reduced precious metal content.

InTheWorks’ technology was impressive from the get-go (the company won a prize in the 2009 UW Environmental Innovation Challenge by focusing on marine engines), but it’s in the past few years that Hansen and his team—CEO and co-founder David Endrio and executive vice president John Gibson—have seen tremendous progress. In 2011 InTheWorks’ prototype passed both EPA and CARB tests with flying colors, and further, more extreme testing in 2013 validated the 2011 results. The company has three full time employees, has raised $1.5 million in funding, and recently formalized a partnership with ClaroVia Technologies (known for its OnStar vehicle navigation system).

So what’s next for InTheWorks? “We’re primarily focused on licensing our technology,” says Hansen, “and we’re ready to reach out to OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] and Tier 1 suppliers.” At the same time, InTheWorks plans to pursue in-house manufacturing and distribution of marine applications of its technology. “And we’re always looking for additional technologies to add to our portfolio,” says Hansen, so his focus is already on the next innovation: “Diesel is on the horizon,” he says, “and we’re optimistic that we will be noticed by game changing companies.”

WCRS: improving entrepreneurship education

Entrepreneurship education is in demand. In fact, it’s one of the fastest growing subjects on today’s college campuses. According to a 2013 paper published by the Kauffman Foundation, only 250 entrepreneurship courses were taught in the United States in 1985. By 2008, that number had ballooned to 5,000. Today, over 9,000 faculty members teach at least one course in entrepreneurship and more than 400,000 college students take classes on the subject. As the number of future founders and entrepreneurs taking these classes continues to grow, it is crucial that faculty deliver the best possible content, developed from cutting-edge research. Enter the West Coast Research Symposium on Technology Entrepreneurship, an annual conference that brings together scholars from major universities to share their latest insights into the world of innovation and entrepreneurship.

WCRS faculty and PhD students share ideas over dinner.
WCRS faculty and PhD students share ideas over dinner.

In early September, 79 faculty and PhD students from across the U.S. and overseas gathered for the 12th annual WCRS, held at the UW Foster School of Business, to collaborate and gain valuable feedback on novel research in areas such as nascent markets, technology innovation, and funding. This sharing of ideas often leads to stronger, more robust research that will soon find its way into hundreds of college classrooms. When Abhishek Borah, assistant professor at the UW Foster School of Business, presented his paper on social media’s impacts on IPO underpricing, his premise was that underpricing was something that underwriters, investors, and firms all want to avoid. However, faculty members from the University of Alberta and Santa Clara University encouraged him to avoid a purely finance-based view of IPO underpricing and probe deeper into the motives of the bankers involved in the process, to better understand how different types of actors impact IPO pricing.  Feedback like this results in more sophisticated research, increasing the likelihood of publication in top-tier journals, and ultimately improving the education of the next generation of entrepreneurs.

A key element of the WCRS is a one-day doctoral workshop, held prior to the conference, that provides an opportunity for PhD students in entrepreneurship to present their research interests, learn what goes into quality research, and gain wisdom from leading scholars in the field. This workshop preparation is invaluable for PhD candidates. As Suresh Kotha, professor at the UW Foster School of Business and one of the leaders of the WCRS, explained: “Many of the faculty presenting this year attended the conference as doctoral students. It was wonderful to see how they’ve blossomed into successful and confident faculty members.”

The West Coast Research Symposium and Doctoral Workshop are sponsored by the University of Washington, Stanford University, University of Oregon, University of Southern California, and University of California Irvine, with a grant from the Ewing M. Kauffman Foundation.

Wearables, shareables, and the new face of healthcare: Entrepreneur Week 2014

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Presented by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneur Week is an annual window into the world of entrepreneurship. Over the course of five days, the Buerk Center hosts events featuring Seattle’s high-profile thinkers, dreamers, innovators, and doers. Whether you’re a die-hard entrepreneur, interested in working for a start-up, or just entre-curious, this is your opportunity to meet and learn from venture capitalists, start-up CEOs, and serial entrepreneurs.
Check out EntreWeek 2014 highlights below, and visit the Buerk Center’s events calendar for details and updates.

Entrepreneur Week 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014
TA McCann
TA McCann

Your Success, Your Network: Why, How, and Now
w/T.A. McCann of Rival IQ and Gist
12:30—2pm
Dempsey Hall 302
It’s all about connections—making them, keeping them, using them. Rockstar entrepreneur T.A. McCann will open EntreWeek with a presentation on building and leveraging your network.

Couldn’t make it to this event? Check out T.A. McCann’s slides here.

 

What Are You Wearing?
5:30—7:30pm
Dempsey Hall 302
From Google Glass to Apple Watch, Fitbit to USB jewelry, everyone’s buzzing about wearables. Join a panel of experts as they discuss the ins and outs of wearable technologies and what’s next in this burgeoning market.
Panelists:
Davide Vigano, cofounder and CEO, Sensoria
Alex Day, head of business development, Peach; former project manager, RTneuro
Matthew Jordan, director of research and strategy, Artefact
Eric Jain, founder and CEO, Zenobase

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Startup Walk
11am—4pm
Fremont
Join us on a fieldtrip to meet two of Seattle’s hottest startups: Reveal and Haiku Deck.
(Students only. Registration required.)

Remaking How We Make Things
4—5:50pm
Paccar 292
Pete Agtuca and Dr. Eric Rasmussen will speak about responsible manufacturing and redesigning with sustainability in mind. What does this mean? Here’s a good example:
When most of us think of wind turbines, we think of those massive towers stretching across open spaces where wind is steady and strong. Agtuca, founder of 3 Phase Energy Systems, has re-thought wind power generation, and patented “Powersails”, which  generate energy right where it’s needed.
Speakers:
Pete Agtuca, founder of 3 Phase Energy Systems
Dr. Eric Rasmussen, Infinitum Humanitarian Systems

AmberRatcliffe_small
Amber Ratcliffe

Reinventing Healthcare
5:30—7:30pm
Dempsey Hall 302
No surprise: healthcare is undergoing a transformation. Regulatory changes, advances in technology, a more-informed consumer—all of these shifts present a new healthcare industry that is rife with opportunity. Come meet with entrepreneurs who are changing face of healthcare in surprising ways.
Panelists:
Amber Ratcliffe, Carena (formerly, co-founder of NanoString)
Aaron Coe, Calistoga Pharmaceuticals
Peter Scott, Burn Manufacturing
Leen Kawas, M3 Biotechnology

Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Venture Capital Walk 2013
Venture Capital Walk 2013

Venture Capital Walk
8:30am—1:30pm
Downtown Seattle
Visit top venture capital firms Vulcan, Maveron, and Madrona, whose portfolios include such well-known companies as Gilt, Dreamworks, eBay, Zulily, Appature, and Redfin. (Students only. Registration required.)

It’s Good to Share: The Peer-to-Peer Economy
5:30—7:30pm
Dempsey Hall 302
You can’t swing a pink Lyft mustache these days without hitting a shared economy startup. Uber, Air BnB, Poshmark—they’re everywhere, and with good reason. Why buy when you can rent from others? Why not make a little cash sharing something you don’t use all the time anyway? Come meet three CEOs in the thick of things, and learn why your mom was right all along: it’s good to share.
Panelists:
Nathanael Nienaber, CEO, Ghostruck
Phil Kimmey, co-founder, Rover
Sean Dobrosky, FlightCar

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Startup Hall Tour
12:30—2pm
Condon Hall
Join us for a tour of Startup Hall, the new hub of innovation in Seattle’s University District. You’ll meet Chris DeVore of TechStars and Founder’s Co-op, UpGlobal’s Marc Nager, and other residents of this new home base for entrepreneurs.

Haiti Babi Blankets
Haiti Babi Blankets

Brace for Impact: Mission-Driven Entrepreneurship
5:30—7:30pm
Dempsey Hall 302
Social entrepreneurship defines success as increasing a company’s bottom line while addressing some of society’s most pressing problems. Come learn how three impact entrepreneurs have taken simple ideas—a restaurant, a baby blanket, a co-working space—and used them to improve our world.
Panelists:
Matt Gurney, FareStart
Katlin Jackson, Haiti Babi
Lindsey Engh, Impact HUB Seattle

Friday, October 17, 2014

2014 UW Innovation Open House
2—5pm
Dempsey Hall 302
Hosted by UW C4C and the Buerk Center, this is your opportunity to: network with local investors, industry leaders, and entrepreneurs; meet the founders and leaders of top UW spinouts; learn about promising new technologies developed in UW research labs; and discover the world of venture and angel investing.

DubHacks
October 17th and 18th will mark the inaugural DubHacks Hackathon, the first and largest hackathon in the Pacific Northwest. The event is being held at the Husky Union Building on the University of Washington campus and has already drawn attention from student hackers across the United States. Seattle, Washington has been chosen for its central location in the Pacific Northwest and for its well-established reputation as a high-tech city and entrepreneurial center. Hosted by Startup UW, Sudo Soldiers, and the Informatics Undergraduate Association.