Category Archives: Alumni

Seeing the future with Ken Denman

Ken Denman (MBA 1986) holds the Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership at the Foster School of Business. He spoke in March at the Foster School about his career path and latest venture, Machine Perception Technologies, a software-based company working to merge emotion detection and machine learning to take personal technology to a new level.

Denman has held myriad executive roles which have spanned large corporations, startups, emerging markets ventures and turnarounds. He led iPass’ successful initial public offering, and led the strategy work for monetizing Openwave’s patent portfolio and spinning off the operating units. He is also an engaged angel investor and board member with public and private board experience. Currently he is president and CEO of Machine Perception Technologies (MPT).

Watch video highlights, which also include a demonstration of Facet, MPT’s emotion detection software. The demonstration was led by Dr. Marian Bartlett, lead scientist at MPT.

Ken Denman was one of UW Foster School of Business Dean Jim Jiambalvo’s guest speakers at the annual Leaders to Legends Breakfast Lecture Series, which include notable leaders in an array of industries from greater Seattle and around the country.

Spiraling toward success

Adina Mangubat2Adina Mangubat (UW BS in psychology, 2009), CEO of Spiral Genetics, has “change the world” in her DNA, and the world is taking notice. In the past two years, Mangubat has been interviewed by news outlets like Xconomy and GeekWire, and featured on Forbes’ list of the top 30 under 30 in science and technology. Why all the attention? Spiral Genetics is using sophisticated algorithms, distributed computing, and a cloud-based framework to change the way DNA is analyzed.

In the most basic terms, there are two parts to processing DNA. First, DNA is extracted from blood or tissue and put into a sequencer that chops up and reads the DNA, resulting in millions of raw reads, “essentially text files of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts,” explains Mangubat. Next, these millions of text files are organized, analyzed, and compared to a normal DNA sequence to find unexpected variants. Researchers use these variants to identify gene mutations that are the cause of everything from color blindness to cancer.

Mangubat and her cofounders, CSO Becky Drees (UC Berkeley PhD in Molecular & Cellular Biology, 1995 and UW Certificate in Biotechnology Project Management, 2008) and CTO Jeremy Bruestle, have developed a platform that significantly speeds up the analysis process. Spiral Genetics can analyze in hours what has previously taken biologists days to complete using complicated open source software. “As far as I know,” Mangubat says, “we’re the fastest in the world. We can process raw reads down to a list of annotated DNA variants in three hours for a human genome.” This is especially significant as DNA sequencing gets faster and faster, and biologists are unable to keep up with the resulting mountains of analysis-ready data. Spiral Genetics is also highly accurate and scalable, able to detect genetic variations that most analyses might miss. “We’ve far ahead of the curve in our ability to handle datasets,” states Mangubat.

Another thing that sets Spiral Genetics apart is that its software is designed to analyze DNA for multiple species. As Xconomy recently pointed out, while similar companies are focused specifically on the human genome, SpiralGenetics also analyzes genomes for animals and plants, which could have implications in agricultural research and development.

Mangubat didn’t set out to become a leader in DNA analysis. Just four years ago, she was a senior who simply knew that she liked being an entrepreneur (she had been involved in two startups by that time), so she registered for Professor Alan Leong’s Technology Entrepreneurship class.  There she met Drees, who was interested in starting a genetic analysis company.

Drees and Mangubat joined forces and pitched Spiral Genetics as a consumer-genetics service in the 2009 Business Plan Competition, but soon realized they were late to that party and needed a new model. Mangubat took the pivot in stride. In a moment of inspiration, the team (including Bruestle) decided to bet on the fact that the research community would soon need software that could keep up with the increased speed of DNA sequencing, and Spiral Genetics was reborn.

Three years later, their bet is paying off. In early March, Spiral Genetics announced $3 million in financing from venture firm DFJ, have begun to scale significantly. “We’re in the process of essentially doubling the size of our team,” says Mangubat. The company currently has eight employees, but plans to double in size in the near future, adding more developers and a sales team, as demand increases. “The explosive growth of the market is driving our business,” she explains. “We’re about to get much bigger very quickly, which is exciting.”

As for changing the world, Mangubat is confident. “Long term,” she says, “my goal is to make the process of figuring out what raw sequence data means as easy and as fast as possible, and we are seriously getting there.” In the meantime, Spiral Genetics is already making its mark. “We’re working with groups that are doing pediatric cancer diagnosis – you can’t get much more meaningful than that.”

Driven by a mission, fueled by investment

Drew Tulchin2We’re all familiar with for-profit businesses, focused on the sales of a product or service, and motivated by value creation and financial return. We also know nonprofit organizations, focused on public needs, a social mission, and global impact, and supported by charitable dollars. But there’s an emerging middle ground: social enterprise. A for-profit/nonprofit hybrid, social enterprises use market-based practices and the discipline of business to support efforts that benefit people and the planet.

“There is a space in society for a social safety net,” says Drew Tulchin, founder of Social Enterprise Associates, a management consulting firm that helps organizations raise the capital they need to achieve their social and environmental goals. Traditionally, this space has been the domain of the nonprofit sector, but as need continues to increase, there is not enough philanthropic money to support the growing nonprofit marketplace. Social enterprises avoid this problem by forgoing a donation-only model in favor of market-based efforts to sell products and services that earn income. “It’s a pretty basic economic proposition,” explains Tulchin. “Where can a mission driven entity find more money to do the things it needs to do if donations aren’t enough? The answer is in risk capital.”

Social Enterprise Associates helps entrepreneurs of for-profits and nonprofit entities become game ready to attract investment. Tulchin says that while social impact is attractive to many investors, mission-based organizations may be far more accustomed to appealing for donations and lack the business skills needed to secure capital.  “It’s very important for organizations that are trying to ‘do well by doing good’ to actually do well,” he explains. “Take the discipline of business, of a well-run organization, and do that first. Once those elements are in place, investors are more likely to see a social enterprise as investment-worthy.”

When Tulchin entered the MBA Program at the UW Business School in 1998, he’d never heard the term “social enterprise.” All he knew was that he had a goal—to make the nonprofit model work better—and he believed in using the power of business to achieve it. “I came in trying to solve this puzzle,” he says, “and the University of Washington was a fantastic place to do it.” Tulchin learned from accomplished leaders in Seattle’s growing social entrepreneurship community (including Paul Shoemaker of Social Venture Partners and Gary Mulhair of Pioneer Human Services) that there was opportunity at the intersection of nonprofits and for-profits for mission driven businesses.

After business school and a brief stint with a Bluetooth start-up company, Tulchin focused his career on social enterprise. He joined Prisma Microfinance, where he co-wrote a Global Social Venture Competition award-winning business plan and raised $1.2 million in private equity to launch subsidiaries in Nicaragua and Honduras. He went on to work as a program officer and founder of the Capital Markets Group at the Grameen Foundation, and directed a U.S. microfinance organization in Washington DC before starting his own firm in the early 2000s. Social Enterprise Associates was incorporated in 2007.

Six years later, the company is a leader in social enterprise consulting, working with nonprofits, for-profits, foundations, and government entities throughout the U.S. and around the world. The firm’s recent consulting projects have including working with banks in Afghanistan, providing strategic planning for Native American housing organizations in New Mexico, and helping a mobile grocer bring healthy food to rural communities. Social Enterprise Associates was named a 2011 “Best For the World” Small Business by B Lab, which certifies businesses as “B Corporations” that meet standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

Tulchin is perhaps most proud of having advised numerous social enterprises on raising the money needed to accomplish their missions. Most recently, the firm helped close $250,000 in debt for Sea2Table, a family-owned sustainably-caught fish distributor, and is securing $1 million for Florida-based Solar and Energy Loan Fund, supporting efficient home improvements. “Raising money for social entrepreneurs is fantastic,” says Tulchin. “It’s something I’m fortunate enough to wake up and do every day.”

Enliken: putting an end to surreptitious data

Avniel Dravid2Have you noticed that since you clicked that YouTube link for Nora the Piano Cat, you’ve been seeing significantly more online ads for pet food? Or that after you googled “cheap airline tickets,” every site you’ve visited seems to be advertising them? Or that once you bought 50 Shades of Gray, Amazon started suggesting products like . . . well, you get the idea.

Every day, online advertisers target internet users with ads for specific products and interests based on information they glean from our search data—the websites we visit, the amount of time we spend on a specific page, the links we click on, the content of our inboxes.

For most of us, this “behavioral targeting” feels like an invasion of privacy. According to Avniel Dravid (UW MBA 2007), cofounder of Enliken, a Seattle- and New York-based start-up that aims to give consumers control of their internet search data, it’s also inaccurate. Dravid explains that when you visit a website, that company can take what you’re browsing and sell the information to a third party. “Advertisers then buy that information and use it to advertise to you,” he says. But these advertisers can’t measure the accuracy of the search data they purchase, which is why they think you’re in the market for a blender, when really you just wanted to watch a Blendtec puree that iPhone 4s. As Dravid puts it, “You may think I like Nike shoes, but really I like Reeboks. I’m just looking at Nike shoes. It’s not great data. It’s almost garbage in, garbage out data.”

Enliken addresses this problem by giving consumers a way to inform advertisers of their preferences. As the company’s website states: “We believe a small amount of information shared willingly is worth more than a mountain of data gathered surreptitiously.”

Enliken’s model is fairly straightforward. By installing a free plugin, users can view the search data being collected about them, deciding which data they want to share with advertisers and which they want to keep private. In exchange for sharing that information, consumers will collect reward points, which they can use to pay for digital content from online retailers or publishers.

Enliken is free for consumers. Revenue will come from advertisers. Dravid explains advertisers want their online advertising to be more relevant, and he believes that advertisers will pay to receive quality data about their customers, straight from the source.

In the meantime, Enliken has already released its first product, Enliken Discover, built by Dravid and cofounder Marc Guldimann during a summer spent traveling around Europe. It’s a teaser as to what the company will offer once they’ve built partnerships with consumers, online retailers, and publishers. The two cofounders have also secured $250,000 in angel investments and plan to raise another $250,000, all to keep you safe from advertisers who target you with ads for the latest BMW, just because you bought some turtle wax for your Tercel.

The path less traveled in Shanghai

Guest post by Tim Anderson, Foster School and Certificate of International Studies in Business alumnus

Tim AndersonAfter graduating with degrees in business administration and Japanese linguistics as well as completing Certificate of International Studies in Business’s (CISB) Japan track program, I honestly didn’t think I’d end up living in Shanghai, China for the past nine years. However, ending my undergraduate studies on the eve of a burgeoning recession in the U.S., and a full-blown recession in Japan, it seemed like the path I’d set myself up for wasn’t so clear cut anymore.

At first, I was considerably lucky and managed get a nice job working in the marketing department at an international PR firm located downtown by the Pike Place Market. The experience was great and taught me a lot, but as good as it was, it still wasn’t what CISB and the Foster School of Business trained me to do: be a truly international entrepreneur.

About a year into that first real job, I was given an opportunity to help start up a language school in the city of Shanghai. Admittedly I was nervous about taking the offer because although I had spent time in Japan and a couple other parts around Asia as a student, I had no idea what to expect of China. In the end though, my love of Asia proved to be overwhelming so I packed my bags for a new life in a new place with a new language to learn.

The people I’ve met and business challenges I’ve overcome in the past nine years has made my decision to live here well worth it. Since moving here, I’ve found my place amongst the locals as well as the expat community, and have really been able to put my business studies to work. I’m currently managing the marketing operations for an international clothing brand that is trying to break into the China mainland market. The business environment in China is fast-paced and filled with unforeseeable challenges, yet extremely rewarding if know how to play your cards right.

I can’t thank CISB and the Foster School of Business enough for preparing me for the wild journey my life has taken this past decade. I hope many future graduates will be inspired to challenge their comfort zone and follow the path less traveled as I and other alumni have done. In the end, it’s especially gratifying to know I am part of a community of CISB and Foster graduates who are also experiencing what I am experiencing, connected by a common bond.

Learn more about the Certificate of International Studies in Business Program.

From Norway to Foster to Boeing: a conversation with MBA alum Hans Aarhus

Hans Aarhus bio pictureHans Aarhus is the director of Estimating and Pricing for Boeing’s 787 program. He received his MBA from the Foster School in 1989 and is a member of the Global Business Advisory Board.

In 2011 you were named Director of Estimating and Pricing for Boeing’s 787 program after serving as the Director of Financial Planning for the program. Tell us about your new role.

In my new role, I’m responsible for all of the estimates that are done on the 787 program.  These estimates can be broken down in a couple of different categories: the engineering changes that are being considered for the airplane, customer requested changes to the airplane, new derivative airplanes being studied and any production system investment under consideration.   All of these estimates require my team to reach out to all of the different organizations that would have impacts due to the proposed changes, including engineering, procurement, production and support.  Most of these estimates get presented in a business case format that includes a number of financial metrics and considerations.  We also work with our pricing organization for estimates that include pricing considerations with our customers.

I also have responsibility for all systems, processes and tools that support our function in our day to day activities.

What was it like to come to the US from Norway to study at UW? Did you plan to stay in the US after earning your MBA?

It was a great opportunity that also included quite a culture shock.  I had not been to the US before and I still recall very vividly the first day which included the I5-I405 Hwy interchange coming out of Seatac, the downtown skyline and Bellevue Mall.  My impression was, “wow everything is bigger in the US.”The first couple of days on the UW campus were also very impressive in regards to the sheer size of the campus and all of the great architecture of the buildings. My first quarters were certainly influenced by the fact that English is my second language and some of the challenges it drives.  I also recall the excitement I always had talking to friends and relatives back in Norway in regards to my experiences that UW offered including my first Husky football game with 60,000 plus fans in the stands.I did not have any plans whatsoever to stay in the US in the beginning but that changed very quickly when I ran into a student from Oregon in the McMahon dining room in the spring of 1986.  A very long and great story but here we are 25 years into our marriage with 2 great sons.

How has your global experience helped you in your various positions?

I think the global experience has been very important for me throughout my Boeing career.  English being my second language has always made me pay very close attention when other people are communicating so I end up doing a little more listening than talking, which I have found to be a good thing.  I also think having a global experience enables you to recognize that most people come from different cultures and the more you understand about their background and can take that into consideration, the more productive your interactions will be.

What would you tell students about the world of global business?

The world is becoming a smaller and smaller place every day.  By that, I mean that advances in transportation and technology enable a much simpler way to connect with people around the world.  It is paramount for us to recognize this and embrace it.  The quicker you can adapt yourself to operate and efficiently interact with people in all of the different cultures, the more successful you will be.

I think the UW is an excellent place to start that journey. You have a tremendous opportunity at UW to really reach out to the diversity that the school has to offer. Taking advantage of these opportunities will put you ahead of a lot of your peers that you will be compared to and compete with as you progress in your school work and your professional career.

Consulting as career catalyst

Guest post by Melon Feleke, Foster alumna

Melon FelekeMy name is Melon Feleke and I am a first generation immigrant. I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and moved to Seattle with my family when I was ten years old. After attending Roosevelt High School I stayed true to my NW roots and attended the University of Washington.

For much of my childhood I was determined to be a doctor –despite the fact I fainted at pretty much every hospital visit and had no tolerance for watching pain or blood. Luckily my parents recognized my other strengths and encouraged me to consider business. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs; from my grandmother in Mettu to my parents here in Seattle; my mother owns a 7Eleven store in Mountlake Terrace. While in high school and college I managed inventory over the weekends and when my mother decided to take a vacation back home I took on the acting manager role for the store.

During my junior year at UW a classmate told me about the Business & Economic Development Center at the Foster School, specifically a program where students work with local minority business owners to improve their businesses. I thought it would be great to give back to my community in a very practical way. My client was the Theater Off Jackson, a unique minority-owned theater in the heart of the International District.  The theater was looking to relocate because of increased property costs. Our team of five students and a professional advisor worked with the clients to identify their core target market, conduct location analysis, surveying clients and ultimately making a recommendation for their new location. Our clients were facing a very real business challenge and our team brought to them meaningful business knowledge and human capital.

My BEDC experience gave me a very real sample of a career in consulting and I loved it! First and foremost I loved helping my client – this was a real problem, and if the issues weren’t resolved the owners and employees would not have a paycheck to take home to their families. I especially like that there was a beginning middle and end to the project… an end with a real result. I entered the program thinking it would be a good chance to give back to my community, but what happened along the way is I discovered the career of consulting.

The BEDC offers a two way success story –businesses succeed and students receive real and meaningful experiences that shape their careers. Fast forward three years and I am now a consultant at Accenture Consulting.

I invite you to help the BEDC create more success stories, for students like myself, and for small businesses. Make a gift to the BEDC today.

 

Student-funded scholarship is a first

UWiBThe student organization, Undergraduate Women in Business (UWiB), recently established an endowed scholarship–a monumental achievement. UWiB is the first student organization to establish an endowed fund and they raised $32,000 in a little over 2 years. Additionally, this initiative was completely student driven and a team effort.

Foster undergrads Amber Waisanen and Raychael Jensen started UWiB in 2005. They were inspired by a similar organization at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Their core mission in starting UWiB was to connect and prepare the future generation of female business leaders. They are very pleased with how the organization has grown and evolved over the past eight years.

“UWiB was founded on the premise of serving others and giving back, with an underlying mission to connect and prepare the future generation of female business leaders.

As founders, we feel extremely proud of how far UWiB has come. We are strong supporters of this fund and look forward to securing a long-term future for the organization.

For UWiB to reach an endowment status is truly a dream come true, as it was part of our list of things we hoped to accomplish one day. To see that goal come to fruition is a very rewarding and exciting opportunity for us, our members, the Foster Business School and the community at large.”

- Amber Waisanen & Raychael Jensen, Co-Founders of UWiB

The recipient of scholarship for the 2012/2013 academic year is Amanda Hamilton. She is junior at the Foster School pursuing marketing and a certificate in international business. According to Amanda, “The scholarship will help me further my international interests as I study abroad in Spain.” Last year Amanda served on the executive committee for UWiB as the fundraiser associate.

You can learn more about UWiB by visiting their website: http://uwuwib.com/

Learning how to lead

Guest post by Staci Stratton, Evening MBA 2014
She attended the MBA “Perspectives on Leadership” Speaker Series. The speaker was Colleen Brown, CEO of Fisher Communications.

Colleen Brown shared her thoughts on leadership and her personal journey to becoming CEO of Fisher Communications. She talked about how we are a combination of both predisposition and learning how to be a leader. She also said in many cases leadership arises out of necessity. For Brown, she was the eldest girl in her very large family and took on responsibilities like grocery shopping and laundry very early on. She said these experiences helped her to develop a “get it done” attitude she still has today.

She also shared her four important characteristics of leadership:

  1. Character: understand who you are and why you are who you are.
  2. Resilience: develop, if you haven’t already, the ability to get back up after rough periods, mistakes, etc.
  3. Commitment: be committed to who you are and what you believe in. It has the effect of being contagious to others.
  4. Continuity: develop consistency and continuity in your behavior, as this helps your people to know what to expect from you-no surprises.

Brown feels the most important decisions you make on a day to day basis are about PEOPLE, which is why it’s so important to know yourself and be consistent in your behavior.

Watch highlights from Brown’s talk. Here she covers the importance of consistency, Aristotle’s leadership insights, and how to minimize office politics.

The next speaker is Howard Behar, former President of Starbucks, on December 6. Learn more.