Category Archives: Alumni

Foster on Tap: an alumni happy hour

This blog post was written by Alex Andreotti, Foster’s Assistant Director of Events.

On Feb. 26, Foster alumni gathered at Palomino Rustico in Bellevue for the year’s first installment of Foster on Tap, the newly renamed alumni happy hours. Alumni across graduation years and degree programs gathered to network, reconnect and swap stories of their adventures post Foster. During the event, we asked attendees to tell us the most useful thing they learned at the Foster School. This is what some of them had to say:

“Numbers tell half the story; always look at them closely.”

“Social interactions are just as useful as coursework when building a career.”

“Collaboration with peers. All of those group projects helped me learn more about personality and team dynamics.”

“Negotiation is joint decision making.”

“A holistic overview of different aspects of business.”

“Got to know many classmates from other countries.”

“Timing is everything. Sometimes you need to wait, other times you need to rush.”

See a few photos from the event below. More photos can be seen on the Foster GOLD Facebook page.

Foster alums
Foster alums
Foster alums























See upcoming alumni events here.

Storyform is shaking up online storytelling

Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, says you should never s do a startup just to do one. “There are much easier ways to become rich,” he says, “and everyone who starts a startup always says that they couldn’t have imagined how hard and painful it was going to be. You should only start a startup if you feel compelled by a particular problem and think starting a company is the best way to solve it.”

It was this advice that led Rylan Hawkins (BS 2009) to leave his job at Microsoft in the summer of 2014 and start his own company. “I believe in a better online reading experience, and I’ve decided to go after it,” says Hawkins, now the co-founder and CEO of Storyform, a framework that allows publishers and photographers to share their stories online in more captivating ways.

Storyform BannerHawkins and his co-founder, Luke Clum, believe that the current state of online reading—static content, complex designs, distracting layouts, relentless popups—diminishes the stories that authors are trying to tell. With Storyform, publishers can create “immersive narratives” on their own domains that truly engage their readers. They’ve done away with distracting sidebars and replaced scrolling canvasses with full-screen magazine-style pages that feature eye-catching layouts and interactive elements like video. They’ve also discarded traditional web page advertising in favor of ads that are sleeker and better integrated. “Not only will readers be engaged with beautiful story content,” says Hawkins, “they’ll also find the ads beautiful.”

storyform-ogThough Storyform is not even a year old, Hawkins is no stranger to startups. “I had three startup experiences in college,” he says, referring to VibeGlobe (BPC 2009), a platform to help nonprofits raise money from younger donors; Visual Schedule Finder, a program that allowed UW students to search for the perfect class schedule; and YourSports, a startup that is still thriving in the hands of CEO Chris McCoy (read about it below!). Hawkins reflects on each of his early startups as great learning experiences that he can apply to Storyform, and those lessons-learned seem to be paying off. Storyform currently has 1,900 registered publishers in countries around the world (a number that is growing about 10 percent a week) and they have logged over 17,000 hours of user engagement.

So what’s next on the road to Storyform’s success? “We’re still very early-stage, so we’re bootstrapped right now,” says Hawkins, “but we’re preparing for a first round, learning the fundraising space and meeting with everyone we can.” In the meantime, Hawkins and Clum will keep working on what got them into the startup life in the first place: transforming the way stories are told.

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YourSports: connecting the world online through sports

March Madness is coming, and athletes, coaches, and fans all over the country are gearing up for another exciting season—the sweat, the competition, the glory! But Chris McCoy (BA 2011) is excited for another reason. March Madness 2015 will mark the public beta launch of a startup effort seven years in the making. YourSports is a new sports networking platform that aims to change the way people connect through sports online.

“Sports is the ultimate connector,” says McCoy, who started YourSports during his senior year at the University of Washington. “It has an inherent ability to build relationships at all levels—high school softball teammates, 2010 Winter Olympics competitors, 12th fans—but until now these relationships haven’t been collected online in a centralized location.”

YourSports Graph BTCSure, you can find fellow fans or your college soccer teammates on Facebook or Linkedin, but there’s a lot of chatter on those social platforms, and only a small portion of it is about sports. There’s also many mainstream sports media websites, but those don’t offer the personalization that comes with social networking sites. McCoy is banking on the belief that sports communities want a personalized dedicated sports experience.

McCoy explains that social platforms connect people by interest. “Think of it this way,” he says, “Facebook was student directory-meets-social network. Linkedin is resume-meets-social network. YourSports does the same with sports data. We’ve taken the most comprehensive historical and geographical sports data on the planet and gathered it online in one place to unite teams, athletes, fans, and influencers from all levels, throughout history, and around the world.”

YourSports - chris and russell wilson
McCoy (right) with Russell Wilson

YourSports currently employs about 20 people—mostly engineers and data scientists—in 9 cities, working to build out a platform based on millions of pieces of local and national data from 100+ years of sports history. They have already created 500,000+ profiles of athletes, schools, and sports venues, raised $1.7 million in angel investment, and have seen a steady stream of people joining (“in the low thousands”) since launching their private beta in 2012. McCoy has also recruited a strong board of advisors, including senior baseball writer Jerry Crasnick and Ward Bullard, former head of sports at Google+. After YourSports’ public launch during March Madness, McCoy will continue to work on the next step: monetizing YourSports using a commerce model that connects users with places and products recommended by their favorite athletes. “If we get it right,” says McCoy, “YourSports will become one of the most interesting sports marketing and commerce platforms on the planet.”

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Forty years of making a difference: Foster recognizes long-time supporter

Carol Batcheldor and Dean Jim Jiambalvo
Dean Jim Jiambalvo with Carol Batcheldor

This blog post was written by Alicia Fereday Hull, Philanthropy Officer for the Foster School. 

When Carol Batchelder (BA 1955) gave her most recent gift to the Foster School of Business, she hit an incredible milestone. She has been giving to the Foster Difference Fund each year for the past 40 years. Beyond her commitment to business education at the university, Carol has served on the UW Foundation Board, is an active member of Alpha Phi and often travels abroad with the UWAA. On January 21st, Dean Jim Jiambalvo took a moment to recognize Carol for her generous support. Thank you Carol, for helping to advance the Foster School to where it is today.

Consulting and Business Development Center recognizes outstanding alum

Guest post by Michael Verchot, director of the Consulting and Business Development Center.

Dan PetersonDan Peterson (MBA 1997) received the Consulting and Business Development Center’s inaugural Alumni of the Year Award in recognition of his 17 years of work with the Center. Dan’s first project with the Center was a competitive analysis for Uwajimaya. Immediately after graduation from the Foster School he became an Alumni Advisor where he guided undergraduate student consulting projects. He helped teams that worked with Four Seas Restaurant and the Theater Off Jackson in Seattle’s Chinatown/International District neighborhood. He then worked with Catfish Corner in Seattle’s Central Area, Oberto and Mutual Fish in the Rainier Valley, and Garlic Garden in Pike Place Market.

In the early days of the center, there weren’t enough student teams to meet the demand from small businesses. On multiple occasions Dan stepped in and served as a consultant on behalf of the center working with an auto detailing shop in the Central Area.

Dan and his wife Angie have also been generous donors to the Center. Every time that the Center has asked for financial support Dan and Angie have said yes. They were one of the first donors to the Center’s endowment that will sustain the student consulting projects and he continues to support the center’s effort to build a self-sustaining funding base to insure its longtime financial health and its ability to serve students and businesses in under-served communities.

We’re honored to recognize Dan as a role model for how alumni and other business people can use their business skills to simultaneously improve student learning while growing jobs in under-served community.

Happy Holidays from the Foster School

With the holiday season officially upon us, what better way to celebrate than with a Foster re-telling of a Dr. Seuss holiday classic? Be sure to follow along with the lyrics (posted below) and don’t miss the special cameo from our very own Dean Jiambalvo.

Every student at Foster liked business a lot…
There’s time for much study, but suddenly there’s NOT!
For Winter is Coming and with it vacation,
But first survive finals with much caffeination.
Supply and demand curves a theorem by Bayes,
Four P’s and five forces, they’re all in a daze;
Then everything’s done thus a change in the mood–
Time for skiing and sleeping and much gratitude…

…For PACCAR and Dempsey halls, and our dear mentors,
B of A and Eastside Executive Centers
Our holiday wish for a brand new “Mackenzie”
Is only because of the Foster growth frenzy.
Our grads go to work at the best places really
From Amazon to PATH to Starbucks to Zulily!
Oh the places we study, research, teach, and work
Cast out ghosts of Balmer with a satisfied smirk.

Heading out we may chance upon Pete Dukes, the Prof
For whose kindness and wisdom we all say, “hats off!”
There’s teaching award maven Jennifer Koski
And Sefcik, Accounting’s own Big Lebowski,
Look: Ed Rice, Frank Hodge and Deborah Glassman!
Plus Xiao-Ping… Dawn Matsumoto… Thaddeus Spratlen;
Foster faculty’s A-plus for research AND for teaching
So we shoot for the stars—and we’re not overreaching

Our business community’s vibrant indeed;
Our students? Work ready and all set to lead.
And they’ll LEAD! And they’ll LEAD! And they’ll LEAD
Yet there’s still something for their advancement they’ll need.
A text, if you will, of no small erudition
Available now in a new fifth edition
For business success is not mere intuition!

They’ll come back next month. We shall help them succeed.
Then they’ll read, and they’ll read, and they’ll read

If our rhyme’s turned out badly, we ask your forgiveness,
With warm holiday wishes from the Foster School of Business.

The “King of Cruise”

Stan-McDonaldFoster School alumnus Stanley McDonald—known as the “King of Cruise”—has died at the age of 94.

McDonald graduated from the University of Washington in 1943 with a business  degree and a manifest entrepreneurial spirit. Though his resume includes the building of successful  real estate and construction businesses, he was best known as the founding father of the American cruise ship industry. His novel idea of using a cruise ship as floating hotel to serve tourists arriving for Seattle’s 1962 World’s Fair turned into Princess Cruise Lines—a pioneering company that perhaps most famously served as seafaring set of the long-running television series “The Love Boat.”

For his many contributions to the Northwest economy, McDonald received the Foster School’s Alumni Leadership Award in 2004.

According to the Seattle Times, McDonald’s family has requested that gifts in his honor be directed to the Foster School or the Stellar Club at the Swedish Medical Center Foundation.

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?

“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.”

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.

“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.”

“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?”

“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.”

“Lucky, and just smart enough.”

“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.”

“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

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.