Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

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.

Lessons for student entrepreneurs

Dan Price
Dan Price speaking at the Business Plan Competition Dinner and Awards Ceremony

As a student at Seattle Pacific University, Dan Price won second place in the 2007 UW Business Plan Competition for Gravity Payments. This year he was the keynote speaker at the UW Business Plan Competition Awards Dinner on May 22. Price shared his personal story and the lessons he learned while building Gravity Payments into one the fastest growing credit card processing companies. His advice for student entrepreneurs:

Dive in. One important lesson for all entrepreneurs is to learn how to dive in and get things done—even when you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Price shared what happened to him in 2008 when the financial collapse hit. First, 20% of his revenue evaporated overnight. Next, two of his major clients filed for bankruptcy leaving him with the prospect of losing $1.3 million, which would have left him with just $200K in the bank. But instead of panicking, he started learning everything he could about bankruptcy law and was appointed to the official committee for unsecured creditors for both bankruptcy cases. In the end, Gravity Payments didn’t lose the entire $1.3 million.

Make incremental progress. He also made the point that building a company is about making incremental progress each day. Instead of focusing on everything that needs to be done, do what you can see today.

Be open to change. You’re not going to follow your business plan exactly like you think you are. He said, “You’re going to shred it. You’re going to redo it.” It’s important to be flexible and open to change to meet demands. He said, “We’re doing things in our business I never imagined we would do.”

Support successful people traits. He concluded with a challenge to the audience. He showed an image depicting successful people versus unsuccessful people. Successful people share information, keep a journal, want others to be successful, while unsuccessful people fear change, secretly hope others fail and criticize others. Price challenged everyone to create a world where the successful people traits thrive.

He also shared his life philosophy that we should enjoy our time on earth as much as possible and be as happy as possible, and have that, not money, represent true happiness. You can also read GeekWire’s coverage of Price’s talk here.

Seattle meets Saudi

Lateefa Alwaalan

Lateefa Alwaalan wants to bring Arabic coffee to a global market

Coffee and start-ups might seem more Seattle than Saudi Arabia, but not to Lateefa Alwaalan (TMMBA 2011). Yatooq, the company founded by Alwaalan, makes it easier and faster to brew Arabic coffee, a blonde, spicy coffee central to all social gatherings in places such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Alwaalan came to Seattle to get her MBA after studying computer science, and working in IT and then banking in her home country of Saudi Arabia. While in the Technology Management MBA Program, she focused intently on gaining business and entrepreneurial skills. She competed in the Business Plan Competition with her idea for Yatooq. She also enrolled in the Entrepreneurship Certificate, offered by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at Foster. She says her experience at the Foster School, “transformed me. I use everything I learned—from change management to supply-chain management to marketing.”

Upon returning home after graduation, her father offered her a job in his pharmaceutical company. Her first job was entering invoices, but that didn’t last long. She quickly moved up the ranks and became the general manager in less than two years. During that time, Alwaalan was also busy launching Yatooq.

The coffee business

Yatooq started by selling ready-made blends of coffee, with good results. The company’s most successful product, however, has been the introduction of its coffee machine last year. When made traditionally, Arabic coffee takes 20-30 minutes to prepare and requires over ten steps. Yatooq’s machine dramatically reduces the time and effort required to make Arabic coffee, and it’s one of the first such machines to be sold in Saudi Arabia. Within two weeks of launching the coffee machine in grocery stores and online, it sold out.

Shortly after that initial success, Alwaalan was able to stop working at the pharmaceutical company and focus on growing her business full-time. She is relentlessly focused on improving the product. The coffee machine has gone through several iterations and improvements, and Alwaalan says, “I’m focusing on acquiring market share and building the brand.”

Recently, competitors have entered the coffee market in Saudi Arabia with machines similar to Yatooq’s, and Nestlé introduced its own version of ready-made blends of Arabic coffee. Alwaalan views this positively; it means the market is growing.

Networking advocate

Not only has Alwaalan managed a pharmaceutical company and launched a successful start-up, she also co-founded the organization CellA, which offers women the opportunity to regularly network with each other—a foreign concept for many women in Saudi Arabia. CellA also provides career management training and a mentorship program for women who are just starting their careers. In 2011, the group had 70 members. Today, membership has ballooned to almost 3,000, and the organization has provided training to 600 women. Alwaalan was nominated to be president of the organization earlier this year.

Onwards

The future looks bright for Alwaalan. Yatooq continues to expand. Last fall, the company started distributing its coffee and coffee machines in Kuwait and opened a store there. In December, she was chosen by Forbes Middle East as one of its “Leaders Inspiring a Kingdom in the Business World.”

Alwaalan said her greatest challenges now are scalability and shifting from a start-up to a more established company. Her goal for the future is to bring Yatooq’s coffee and coffee machines to the world, and her vision is for Arabic coffee to be the next Chai tea. Look for Yatooq in a store near you soon.

A design framework for innovation

On April 2, the Foster School held its 2nd annual Innovation and Entrepreneurship Symposium, hosted by Neal Dempsey, this year’s Fritzky Chair. Julia Link, principal of the Link Group which offers product and go-to-market strategies for various companies, spoke about the creative process and provided a design framework.

A design framework for innovation:
Julia LinkStep 1: Empathize – In this phase, you’re trying to understand your target customers’ needs, motives, feelings and goals. Your job is to get the story. Don’t go to your potential customer with the solution; instead let them tell you what they want.

Step 2: Define – Take the information and insights you’ve gathered in step one and start to define the user and decide what problem you’re trying to solve. You should ask yourself “so what.” We’ve created this product that solves this problem. So what? Why is it so important to solve that problem? Who needs that problem solved?

Be sure to design your product for individuals, not the industry. Link also made a very important point about designing for the extreme users. Extreme users are not power users, but they are people who have more requirements than the average product user. If you can design for the extreme users, chances are high the regular users will also like what you designed. An example she cited was wheels on suitcases. Now ubiquitous, wheels on suitcases were originally for people who traveled a lot.

Step 3: Ideate – Come up with a lot of ideas for your product. This works best when you can brainstorm with a group which has varying backgrounds. Have everyone suggest ideas. Don’t judge the ideas, just write them down.

Steps 4 and 5: Prototype and Test – Take the ideas generated in step three and go make something. Don’t spend a lot of time or money on the prototype. It’s not sacred. You’re simply trying to create something people can give you feedback on. Don’t take the feedback personally. Repeat this process as often as needed: Prototype > Fail > Learn often.

Learn more about all the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Symposium sessions.

Consider the inevitable

On April 2, the Foster School held its 2nd annual Innovation and Entrepreneurship Symposium, hosted by Neal Dempsey, this year’s Fritzky Chair. Three people spoke about design and innovation trends in business: Ken Denman, president and CEO of Emotient; Bob Paulsen co-founder and CEO of PlayerLync; and Julia Link, principal of the Link Group. Below are highlights from Denman’s and Paulsen’s sessions.

Ken DenmanDenman focused on innovation and relayed his experiences with Emotient, a facial expression recognition and analysis company. Main points included:

  • When established companies are trying to innovate, they tend to make existing products only incrementally better. This works for awhile, but then smaller companies start to catch up and offer more innovative products that grab more and more market share. The example Denman cited was the iPhone. When it came out, it was a product category maker or re-maker. It started taking market share away from existing markets such as GPS and personal cameras.
  • Study up on the industry you’re in so you know who the competitors are and where the market is heading. Knowing this information allows you get beyond the basics in conversations.
  • As an entrepreneur, you’re always raising money while you’re doing everything else. It’s exhausting, but it’s part of the job.
  • As an entrepreneur you have to be able to overcome your fears. You must have the confidence to say, “I can do this.” And you have to be able to project that confidence.
  • Uncertainty is a given in entrepreneurship. You don’t know what you don’t know, but you’ll learn it when you need to know it.
  • Product philosophy: Before you start, think about the inevitable. What’s inevitable given the technology available, customer needs and status of the market? Use the answers to these questions to decide whether or not to pursue an idea. If you can identify those areas in the market where something big is going to happen, you’re positioning yourself for success.
  • One of the most challenging aspects of innovation is to take big complex ideas and make them stupid simple—so simple anyone can understand them.
  • To innovate, be disciplined and methodical in your thinking. Try something, measure it and iterate. Repeat that process over and over.

Learn more about Ken Denman and his company Emotient, formerly Machine Perception Technologies.

Bob Paulsen, co-founder and CEO of PlayerLync, shared his innovation best practices. PlayerLync creates an enterprise platform that provides a secure and easy way to control content and offers tablet-based collaboration. Their clients include large restaurant chains and NFL football teams.

Bob PaulsenPaulsen shared several keys to success:

  • PlayerLync takes a very user-focused approach to their product, and Paulsen reinforced that mentality throughout his presentation. He said you have to make it easy for someone to use your product. If their first experience with it isn’t positive, they’ll look for something else.
  • When developing PlayerLync, they considered what their customer would want in their product by anticipating their needs. The customer gave them a few initial requirements, and they took those requirements and ran with them. The result was a product that exceeded the customers’ expectations.
  • Ideas are great, but businesses are based on who will pay for your product, service or software. Don’t overlook this when starting a new venture.
  • He also recommended three business books: The E Myth by Michael E. Gerber, Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore and The Discipline of Market Leaders by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema.

Learn more about all the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Symposium sessions.