All posts by Ellen Pepin

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

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.

$27,500 Awarded to Entrepreneurial Student Innovators

UW EIC 2014 Winners Korvata and NOVA Solar Window
UW EIC 2014 Winners Korvata and NOVA Solar Window

The annual UW Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC), now in its sixth year, challenges interdisciplinary student teams to define an environmental problem, develop a solution, produce a prototype, and create a business summary that demonstrates the commercial viability of their product, process or service.

23 teams were selected to compete in the 2014 UW EIC. Each of these teams proved that students have the potential to address our most pressing environmental needs—alternative fuels,  recycling, solar power, water treatment—with novel solutions that have market potential. After pitching their innovations to a group of 170+ judges—investors, entrepreneurs, policy-makers, and experts from across sectors—the six teams with the highest scores were awarded up to $10,000 in prize money. Congratulations to this year’s winners:

$10,000 Grand Prize
Korvata (University of Washington)
Korvata has created a cutting edge alternative energy product that allows companies to mitigate their environmental impact by replacing the use of nitrous oxide as a whipped cream propellant.
(sponsored by the UW Center for Commercialization)

$5,000 Second Place Prize and $5,000 Clean Energy Prize
NOVA Solar Window (Western Washington University)
NOVA Solar Window combines the power producing capabilities of a solar panel with the utility of a traditional window. The utilization of transparent solar energy technology allows solar windows to provide renewable energy where traditional solar panels cannot.
(sponsored by Puget Sound Energy the UW Clean Energy Institute)

$2,500 Honorable Mentions
Loopool (Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Seattle Central Community College, University of Washington)
Loopool is reinventing the garment industry business model by creating a closed-loop supply chain, transforming reclaimed cotton garments and textiles into high-quality, bio-based fiber.
(sponsored by Starbucks)

Salon Solids (University of Washington)
Salon Solids reduces the amount of plastic waste and hazardous chemical consumption that occurs with most hair products. Its six-ingredient shampoo and conditioner comes in solid form, eliminating the need for the preservatives necessary for a product with water in it, and its packaging is recyclable, biodegradable and does not contain plastic, further reducing waste.
(sponsored by Fenwick & West)

Ionometal Technologies (University of Washington)
Ionometal Technologies has created a metal plating technique that allows for precise metal-on-metal deposition which can be used to repair gold test boards. The Ionometal printer prints metal plates that are smaller than can be seen with the naked eye.
(sponsored by WRF Capital)

Check out what guests, judges, and teams had to say about the 2014 UW EIC on Twitter: #UWEIC2014

The 2014 UW EIC challenges student innovators to think like entrepreneurs

The U.S. Department of Energy recently held its fifth Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy  (ARPA-E) Innovation Summit—an annual event that brings together academics, entrepreneurs, innovators, and thought-leaders to discuss our most pressing energy issues, the technologies being developed to address them, and the market potential of innovative energy technologies.

A central message of the three-day summit was the importance of entrepreneurship. Keynote speakers like U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas Friedman stressed the importance of commercializing new technologies. Their message was clear: it’s one thing to develop a breakthrough technology. It’s another thing to turn that brilliant technology into something commercially viable. If you want to advance energy innovation and solve our energy crises, you have to think and act like an entrepreneur.

Pure Blue Adam Greenberg
Pure Blue Technologies, UW EIC 2013

For the past five years, the UW Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC) has been delivering that same message to innovative and entrepreneurial students from colleges and universities throughout the Pacific Northwest. Each year, interdisciplinary student teams are challenged to define an environmental problem, develop a solution, produce a prototype, and create a business summary that demonstrates market potential. The quarter-long process culminates in a large, DemoDay-like event where a select group of teams pitch to a group of 150+ judges—investors, entrepreneurs, policy-makers, and experts from across sectors. The top teams are awarded up to $10,000 in prize money, and everyone comes away with valuable feedback and experience to help them realize the market potential of their innovations.

The 23 teams selected for this year’s UW EIC run the gamut of clean technology and environmental innovation: Loopool is addressing waste in the garment industry by creating a closed-loop supply chain that transforms reclaimed cotton garments and textiles into high quality, bio-based fiber; NOVA Solar Window combines the power-producing capabilities of a solar panel with the utility of a traditional window, providing renewable energy where traditional solar panels cannot. Korvata, in response to the harmful environmental effects of greenhouse gas emissions, has created a mixture of proprietary gasses to replace the use of nitrous oxide as a whipped cream propellant.

For the next month, these competitors, along with 20 others, will refine their prototypes, perform market analyses, hone their pitches, and prepare to prove that their innovation has the potential to succeed in the marketplace—and transform our world.

Follow the progress of the 2014 UW Environmental Innovation Challenge:

Science & Technology Showcase highlights student innovations

Many students at the University of Washington are working on science and technology-based innovations that have potential for commercialization. The annual Science & Technology Showcase (co-hosted by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship and SEBA) is a tradeshow-like event where students have the opportunity to share these innovations with an audience of fellow scientists and engineers, as well as to business students interested in working on the marketability of new technologies.

STS participants also have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges—Seattle-area entrepreneurs and investors—who give awards to the most commercially viable ideas, along with prizes for categories like “Best Poster” and “Most Enthusiastic Pitch.”

Congratulations to this year’s award winners:

$1,000 Grand Prize: Flu Finder
The Flu Finder is an inexpensive, easy-to-use, rapid and accurate flu test that operates similarly to a home pregnancy test, providing a yes/no answer from a swab of the patient’s nose.

$500 Second-Place Prize: ElectroMetal Solutions
ElectroMetal Solutions has developed a new approach to plating metals onto surfaces using metal ions dissolved in water—a technology that may be of use to industrial manufacturers who require precise applications of high-cost metal materials (think gold).

$300 Third-Place Prize: Find Nano
FindNano has developed a rapid, simple, affordable and portable technology to assess the presence of nonparticles in liquid samples (e.g. blood, rivers), solid surfaces (e.g. soil, food), and textiles.

Best Poster: Terra Mizu
TerraMizu’s goal is to design an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective clay-pipe irrigation device for use in developing nations.

Most Innovative: Seahorse Robotic
In order to more accurately develop oceanographic  weather forecasting models there needs to be a higher density and quality of measurements supplied by observation platforms on the ocean’s surface. Seahorse Robotic oceanographic platform was created as part of an ongoing attempt to design energy-independent surface vehicles.

Most Enthusiasm: GO+OD
GO+OD is a process and program developed to encourage millenials—the most civic-minded age group—to “go + do good.”

Best Communicator: H2.O
H2.O is developing a patent-pending technology that uses water as a medium to convert ambient infared radiation energy into electricity.

Best Marketing Strategy: ElectroMetal Solutions
(see above)