Category Archives: Alumni

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!’”

 

 

Student Turns Scholar

A former Foster student’s undergraduate exposure to behavioral research has led to a promising academic career

Mercurio
Katie Mercurio

Serving as an experimental subject in the Foster Behavioral Lab may not be the highlight of every undergrad’s experience. But Mark Forehand, a professor of marketing at the Foster School and architect of the lab, believes it’s appropriate for students to contribute to the research mission of the University of Washington.

“It’s great to have subjects to run our experiments on,” he says. “But it’s also important to expose students to the process of research.”

And every so often, it clicks with someone.

Like Katie Mercurio (BA 2004, MS 2006, PhD 2010). One of the earliest students conscripted into behavioral studies in the old Balmer lab, she found herself subject to a particularly fascinating experiment on the effect of celebrity voiceovers on consumer brand attitudes.

The experience inspired her to seek a research apprenticeship with the study’s principal investigator—Forehand. Mercurio began analyzing data and eventually started running some experiments. While continuing studies in the Foster PhD Program she ran the entire Balmer Lab during construction of its new home just next door.

“I was involved in the Behavioral Lab almost from its start,” she says. “And there has been a huge evolution terms of students participating and the number of studies. It just keeps growing.”

After Foster, Mercurio did a post-doc stint at UCLA before becoming an assistant professor at the University of Oregon. She teaches the voiceover study in one of her courses. Her research specialty is in social identity, a topic she first studied as an undergrad. And, like a growing diaspora of Foster grads, she runs a behavioral lab at her current business school.

She notes that the Foster Behavioral Lab is a two-way force. Its graduates disseminate knowledge and expertise to other universities while scholars trained elsewhere gravitate here to work in it.

“To get the best faculty you have to have the best facilities. And you have the best facilities here,” Mercurio says. “You are attracting the best talent in behavioral research because of that lab.”

Read more about the Foster Behavioral Lab.

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.”

Alaska Airlines and Foster EMBA

A special relationship

Brad Tillden in an EMBA classroomBrad Tilden knew it was a long shot. As a young finance executive at Alaska Air Group in the mid-1990s, Tilden made the case to his CFO that sending him to the Foster School’s Executive MBA Program would be a sound investment. “The company wasn’t flush in those days, and we had always taken a conservative view on costs,” he recalls. “So I didn’t expect the answer to be quick or positive.”

But after conferring briefly with then-CEO John Kelly, Tilden’s boss came back and simply wrote “OK” on his proposal. “I was thrilled,” says Tilden, Alaska’s current chairman and CEO.

So began a long and symbiotic partnership between Alaska and Foster that goes far beyond the company’s significant philanthropic investment in the school.

The EMBA Program has become a de facto executive training academy for Alaska leadership. To date, 22 of its most promising executives have graduated from the program. Many now serve in senior roles at the company, including Tilden (EMBA 1997); Ann Ardizzone (EMBA 2008), vice president, strategic sourcing and supply chain; Karen Gruen (EMBA 2010), vice president, corporate real estate; Kris Kutchera (EMBA 2009), vice president, information technology; Andy Schneider (EMBA 2009), vice president, inflight services; Joseph Sprague (EMBA 2007), senior vice president, communications and external relations; Shane Tackett (EMBA 2011), vice president, labor relations; Shannon Alberts (EMBA 2005), corporate secretary; and Diana Shaw (EMBA 2013), vice president, customer service.

And though former CEO Bill Ayer’s (MBA 1978) MBA came from Foster’s full-time program, he has brought his formidable expertise and insight to teaching the EMBA’s powerful “CEO and the Board” course for nearly a decade.

Tilden says the impact of this cohort of Foster-educated leaders is evident throughout the firm: “Having a critical mass of people with a common education and disciplined approach helps us frame issues and execute solutions more quickly.”

“The EMBA Program has played an important role in developing high-performance leaders at Alaska,” adds Ayer. “The classes, the teamwork, and the networking opportunities add up to a unique learning experience. In a business where people are the only sustainable competitive advantage, a Foster EMBA provides a critical edge.”

CISB alumni updates 2014

Andy Aparico (BA 1997) is CTO/CIO of Tele-Post in Greenland.

Fulbright alumna Monica Barrett (BA 2009) is taking the MPA at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She is a research assistant at Innovations for Poverty Action this summer, and last summer was a Deloitte Summer Associate in Emerging Markets. While at Deloitte, she was deployed to the West Bank to support USAID in generating $75M in increased revenue or decreased costs of trade. Monica was formerly a senior consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton. Monica holds an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Heather Brewer (BA 1997) is a Consulting Director for Matisia Consultants. She is currently serving as Senior Program Manager for Spain and European Launch for Costco Spain, the first country for Costco in Continental Europe.

Adam-Taras Brunets (BA 2006) is Global Trade Controls Specialist/Lead for Russia, Ukraine & CIS at The Boeing Company.

Brittany Glant (BA 2008) is a Product Specialist at buuteeq.

Katie Gray (BA 2011) is Customer Marketing Manager at Microsoft in Santiago, Chile. See her Foster blog post here.

Meghann Halfmoon (BA 2001) is owner and designer of her label and small business, Halfmoon, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. From 2008 to 2013 she was a Resource Mobilization officer for Plan Nederland, where she successfully let the EU grant proposal development process with Plan country offices.

Kenny La (BA 2000) is Operations Manager, North Region, Starbucks Coffee Vietnam.

Megan Haley Nelson (BA 1999) is the Director of Community Relations for Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

Amela Mesak (BA 2007) is Director, NPG Business Integration at Nordstrom.

Foreign Service Officer Aysa Miller (BA 2004) is the Economic and Deputy Commercial officer in Khartoum, Sudan, in the political/economic section, working mostly on petroleum, agriculture, banking, trade, gum arabic, sanctions, debt relief and environmental issues.

Dina Phinney (BA 2004), is the Marketing Manager at Brown Pear Solutions.

Samantha Rayner (BA 2009), co-founder of Lumana, joined a new startup in San Francisco called HandUp, an online platform for giving directly to homeless people and neighbors in need. She is leading operations and business development.

Megan Linder Richards (BA 2007) is Marketing Strategy Manager at Nordstrom.

Johnny Sbrizzi (BA 2009) is an Italian Sales Rep for US distributors/brokers of aerospace components. He said that he “holds a middleman function between Italian aerospace customers, primarily Alenia Aermacchi (a large Boeing partner) and US suppliers.”

Jenepher Schulte (BA 2010) is taking both the law and MBA degrees at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Anh Tran (BA 2005) is a consultant with the Boston Consulting Group in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Anh is an MBA alum of the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, where he was awarded the Joseph H. Wharton Fellowship.

Monica Trantow (BA 2008) wrote, “I accepted a role with Amazon Web Services in Luxembourg to be on the EMEA Headquarter Marketing Team, performing everything from metrics analysis to events to digital and in-person campaigns. I know that my time with CISB and involvement with GBCC won my interviewees over, as well as all the experience that CISB mandated during college. My post is for between 9-18 months minimum but I’d love to give back and talk about my experiences, and what it took to get the role. I owe a lot to CISB and I finally feel that I am getting the chance to use my education!”

Nolan Wadland (BA 2002) is Controller & Site Transportation Manager, Alcoa, in Houston, Texas.

Foster’s CISB program creates career ready grads that go global

The nationally-ranked, award-winning Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) Program helps undergraduate Foster School students hone the competitive edge they need to succeed in global business. The CISB programs promotes a global mindset that leads to global employment opportunities by requiring international business coursework, study abroad, foreign language immersion, area studies coursework, and resources about global career pathways. In the last academic year, CISB students participated in several activities outside the classroom to make them better equipped to compete in the global business workforce.

In addition to academic coursework and language studies, CISB primes students with informational career panels about global business. In Fall 2013, CISB students attended an International Business Panel which featured professionals with established global business careers at Starbucks, Wells Fargo Bank, Slalom Consulting, and Port of Seattle. The panel provided insight into the realities of an international career and inspiring advice to those entering the workforce. CISB also hosted an Alumni career panel in which 12 CISB alumni shared how their CISB experiences helped shape and further their career. The panelists provided job search advice and examples of a typical day in their position.

networking

CISB students also get hands on experience in networking for a global career. In spring quarter, over 100 CISB students participated in a “Speed Networking” event. In small teams, the students practiced their networking skills on global business executives. The executives included the Assistant Corporate Controller from Microsoft, theVP of Global Client Reporting from BlackRock and theInternational Buyer from Costco. Primed with their global business education and career pathways insight, the CISB students could then practice the art of networking for their career.

But results speak louder than any of these events. Sam Bokor, VP Training and Personnel Development at Expeditors International stated that “CISB students are a a good fit for Expeditors because of their passion for the international trade community and their curiosity around other cultures.” Visit our CISB Alumni highlights to see the array of global careers secured by CISB graduates.

Are you a community member from the global business field and interested getting involved with CISB? Learn more about ways to contribute or contact CISB@uw.edu

Taking the plunge and moving to Chile

Guest post by Katie Gray (BA 2011)

Katie GrayI graduated from the Foster School in 2011, having studied marketing and Spanish and earning a Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB). Last year I decided to take the plunge and move to Chile, where I had studied abroad four years prior. Although I didn’t have a job lined up, my plan was to immediately begin networking with my U.S. and Chilean contacts as soon as I arrived in Santiago. I began to email everyone I knew back in the U.S. to let them know I had moved in the off-chance that someone might have a connection in Chile. Luckily my plan worked, and a contact from Microsoft put me in touch with the man who is now my boss here at Microsoft Chile. I applied for and was offered the position of customer marketing manager for the Small and Medium Business segment.

As a marketing manager for a sales team, I manage and execute Microsoft’s direct-to-consumer marketing campaigns and activities throughout Chile for companies below 250 PCs. Although it is challenging to work in a fast-paced environment in a foreign language, I recognize this job has provided significantly more responsibility and room for growth than an entry-level position I would have had in the U.S. I am very grateful to Foster and the CISB Program for the foreign language and networking skills they helped me develop, and I cannot recommend the experience of working abroad highly enough. To anyone considering a move abroad after graduation who would like to know more about my experience, please feel free to contact me at kemilygray at gmail dot com.

Reaching outside the comfort zone

Guest post by Michelle Sievers, Executive Development Program (EDP) alumni

Michelle SieversI’m the community relations manager at PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company – the quirky Northwest company that’s a lot like you; a little different. PEMCO was founded by an educator, so it goes without saying we inherently foster a culture that encourages continuous training and education for our employees. As a community relations manager, my position requires me to creatively engage and influence colleagues, our leaders, and the organization to help our Northwest community be a better place to live, work, learn and play. I was achieving this, but I wanted more for PEMCO, my community and myself. I looked to professional development as a key to unlock my potential.

The opportunity to participate in the University of Washington’s Executive Development Program came at a time in my life and career at PEMCO when I needed a “disruption.” I yearned for a positive disruption that would challenge and push me both personally and professionally. I wanted to innovate. I wanted to think beyond the rules and authority that confined my professional role. I wanted to learn from others. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone.

On my first day in class, I had an overwhelming feeling of insecurity. As my classmates introduced themselves, I suddenly became intimidated by titles. Executive Director. Chief Executive Officer. Vice President of Operations. Physician. Is this the right place for me? Do I belong here? Mission accomplished: within the first thirty minutes, I was out of my comfort zone. It didn’t take long for me to realize that in the end, titles and positions were secondary to the people: their experiences, their perspective, their voice. And what each of them brought to the EDP for me completed a rich, comprehensive curriculum.

With the Executive Development Program, I gained a deeper understanding about business strategy, leadership, innovation, financial accounting, macro-economics, marketing, communication, decision making and organizational leadership. And specifically within organizational leadership, I had an opportunity to work closely with a subset of classmates to problem solve and recommend solutions on a real-life organizational problem. One of my biggest takeaways: organizational problems regardless of their size are mere symptoms of deeper challenges with an organization’s people, process and structure. Again, the opportunity to work and learn together with a diverse group of EDP classmates provided a perspective beyond the readings and lectures. The final group business case project pushed us all to think creatively, strategically and play to each of our strengths.

It’s been almost two years since that first day in class. In the past two years, I’ve continued to stretch myself personally and professionally. I’ve accepted leadership roles on two local nonprofit boards. More important, I’ve taken on more leadership responsibilities within PEMCO that has enabled me to innovatively improve our programs and positively “disrupt” our thinking and actions about what it means to be “a lot like you, a little different” in our community.

The Executive Development Program is a nine-month, part-time certificate program that explores each facet of business enterprise from an executive’s top-level view. The program focuses on practical business applications and provides a progressive, entrepreneurial learning community where students can access advanced business education without a significant burden to their work, travel and family schedules.

The decider

Mike Fridgen

Mike Fridgen turns Big Data into sound advice to consumers

What can Big Data do for you?

In the raw, it’s overwhelming, driving us to a state of analysis paralysis where infinite choices make choosing infinitely difficult.

Mike Fridgen (BA 1997) sees this as an opportunity. One of the co-founders of Farecast.com and Decide.com, Fridgen has dedicated his career to solving the intensifying “paradox of choice.”

“What’s exciting about this information revolution is not the access to data,” he says. “It’s the promise of insight from that data, objective guidance to simplify decision-making. That’s what drives me.”

It has since his earliest days at the Foster School. One of the first students in the newly launched Program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation (now the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship), Fridgen co-founded a packaged student tour company that evolved into Triphub.com, a venture-financed online student travel portal.

When the market turned and the VCs pulled the plug, he emerged bruised but a little bit wiser. A brief stint at Expedia afforded him the halcyon vision of a transformative company powered by visionary leadership and dynamite technologists. A model for his own future.

Next big thing in travel

While taking a course on revenue management—that is, dynamic pricing—toward his MBA at Harvard, Fridgen was introduced by his former backers at Madrona Venture Group to a UW computer scientist named Oren Etzioni. Etzioni had been reverse-engineering revenue management, developing complex algorithms to predict variable pricing. But he needed partners to turn his technology into a market-ready product.

Fridgen jumped at the chance to join Farecast.com, the world’s first price prediction engine. “We were really inventing something,” Fridgen says. “And turning a new technology into a consumer product was some of the most fun I had ever had.”

Farecast found air travelers the best price and offered simple advice on whether to buy or wait, backed by a degree of certainty. It was a hit, first with the tech crowd and later with the average traveler.

Microsoft noticed. It purchased Farecast in 2008 to enhance its Bing search engine.

Time to decide

At Microsoft, Fridgen first served a mainstream audience. He could see that the opportunity to advise consumers was growing exponentially. More and more shopping was migrating online, and bellwether e-tailers like Amazon.com were driving dynamic pricing into every category. He reconnected with Etzioni to create a next-generation comparison shopping engine that would add insight to access.

That engine was Decide.com, a company powered by its proven technical team (largely made up of UW grads) and backed by serious Seattle venture funding. “It was getting the band back together,” Fridgen says.

Decide aggregated user and expert reviews across the Internet to recommend the clear winners in a product category. It also offered guidance on price and purchase timing. The goal was trust and transparency. The model was a “Consumer Reports for the 21st century,” Fridgen says. “Helping people decide what to buy, where to buy, and when to buy.”

By 2013, Decide’s omniscient personal shopping assistant was offering intelligence on virtually everything sold on the Internet: electronics, apparel, appliances, sporting goods, toys, books, you name it.

Obey eBay

Breakout success attracted many suitors. The one that convinced the Decide team to sell was eBay. The online auction site offered a tantalizing challenge: flip the model—from providing buying guidance to consumers to providing pricing guidance to sellers.

It was a big decision for Fridgen & Co. “We had to reconcile this with our deep belief in the mission of leveling the playing field for consumers,” he says.

What they found was the vast majority of eBay’s 25 million sellers were the little guys competing in the market with the likes of Amazon and Walmart. Though Etzioni departed to lead Paul Allen’s Institute for Artificial Intelligence, Fridgen and the rest of the team are working hard to level the playing field for eBay sellers.

And what of the serial entrepreneur, now back at an established firm? Fridgen is committed to eBay, but always with an eye on new challenges. A devout fan of Husky and Seattle sports, he could see himself in the burgeoning industry of sports analytics one day.

Wherever fortune takes him, the themes will undoubtedly include simplicity and transparency. “Big Data sounds complicated, but its real promise is in simplifying everyday decision making. That’s what we’ve aimed to do with all of these companies,” he says. “And that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

Leaning… forward

Zevenbergen

Nancy Zevenbergen, Leslie Tubbs and Brooke de Boutray lead a proudly perceptive, fiercely aggressive Seattle investment firm

Nancy Zevenbergen (BA 1981) recalls a childhood visit to her uncle George Zoffel’s (BA 1956) credit reporting firm where she found him and his business partner at the front desk reading the Wall Street Journal while a legion of ladies typed credit reports in the back. The image made an impression.

“I thought, if I never learn to type, maybe I’ll get to sit up front and read the Journal someday,” she recalls with a laugh.

That little girl with big ideas is now president and chief investment officer of Zevenbergen Capital Investments, a finance firm of her own making. She and partners Leslie Tubbs (BA 1982) and Brooke de Boutray (BA 1977) manage $3 billion in assets, boldly invested in companies on the uphill slope of significant and sustainable growth.

And they are good, consistently—and sometimes spectacularly—beating the benchmark Russell 3000 Growth Index.

The hard way

Each of these Foster finance alumnae forged her own path via banking—Zevenbergen at Rainier National, Tubbs at Key, and de Boutray at First Interstate—to the men’s club of investing. “In our first jobs,” Zevenbergen recalls, “the glass ceiling was thick.”

So she created her own job. After six years in trust investment, Zevenbergen launched ZCI headlong into the market crash of 1987.

“It was a terrible year,” she says. “But a perfect year to start the firm, because it was the equalizer that decimated everyone. People realized that their money was no safer in a 100-year-old investment firm than it was with an independent asset manager like me.”

Zevenbergen started level, but quickly demonstrated her advantage. And ZCI grew rapidly. In 1992 she hired de Boutray, whom she had met while both studied for their CFAs. She convinced Tubbs, a sorority sister at the UW, to join in 1994.

Cut loose from the strictures of Big Finance, the team was free to invest on its own terms.

Game changers

Zevenbergen says it feels strange reflecting back on a firm that’s perpetually looking forward. ZCI is the aggressive piece of clients’ investment portfolios. Growth is their game.

“Investing is both an art and a science,” says de Boutray. “Because we are growth managers, we open our minds to what can be as opposed to what happened in the past. This approach has served us well.”

This means relying less on historical analysis and more on assessing opportunity. “We’re not venture capitalists,” Zevenbergen adds. “But we share their focus on the people, the concept and the addressable market when we’re consider investing in a company.”

“We look for game changers.”

Among them, Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, Tesla, Netflix, Facebook, Zillow, Google, Chipotle, LinkedIn, Qualcomm— each bought early and held until the waning of growth.

Aside from impeccable timing, the secret to ZCI’s success may be its powers of perception. The women of Zevenbergen Capital are proud of their success in the testosterone world of growth investing. They both accept and embrace their difference from other firms. “It’s Venus and Mars,” Tubbs says.

While men in finance tend to be more analytical, more driven by ego, she says, “we collaborate, listen, observe. These are clichés, but they are also our competitive advantage.”

Where are the women?

Having blazed a considerable trail in finance—especially in the Northwest— Zevenbergen, Tubbs and de Boutray have lately been wondering why they don’t see more young women entering their industry or other male bastions of computer science, engineering and mathematics.

They’ve decided to stop asking and start acting. ZCI has created a number of ARCS Fellowships to promote science-related careers at the UW. They’re also offering internships to Foster students and recently endowed a scholarship fund to support undergraduate women studying finance.

“We believe that funding education brings a richness to our community,” Zevenbergen says. “Instead of just asking where are the women, we want to do something about it.”