Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

$68,220 awarded to UW Business Plan Competition winners

PureBlue Grand Prize
Grand Prize winner Pure Blue Technologies with Michael Bauer, president of the Herbert B. Jones Foundation

May 23, 2013 – Seattle’s Bell Harbor buzzed with energy as a record $68,220 in seed funding was awarded to winners of the 2013 UW Business Plan Competition.

Over 250 Judges, coaches, and team members gathered at the 16th annual Business Plan Competition Awards Dinner. After a celebration of Artie and Sue Buerk’s $5.2 million naming gift for the Center, Kabir Shahani, CEO of Appature, gave a funny and heartfelt keynote speech, offering these words of wisdom: “Entrepreneurship is a platform for your life, and that platform lets you do anything you want to do. If you want to change the world, you can do it. The only question is ‘how many times over?’”

Shahani’s words were taken to heart, especially by the winning teams, who will be using their seed funding to move their business a few steps closer to reality.

The UW Business Plan Competition is produced by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at the Foster School of Business.

 Winners

$25,000 Grand Prize – Pure Blue Technologies (UW)
Fossil fuel production generates 882 billion gallons of contaminated “produced water” per year in the US alone. On average, for every barrel of oil extracted in the US, 8 barrels of contaminated water are extracted to the surface. Pure Blue Technologies has developed a contaminated water treatment system that uses visible light photo disinfection technology to produce disinfected water for beneficial reuse.
Pure Blue Technologies won second place at this year’s UW Environmental Innovation Challenge.

Team:Jaffer Alali, MS Environmental Engineering; Adam Greenberg, BA Finance and Entrepreneurship;  Michael Lee, MS Mechanical Engineering; Alan Luo, PhD Physics; Sep Makhous, PhD Electrical Engineering; Ryan Vogel, BA Finance and Entrepreneurship; Ian Tan, BA Finance; Nicholas Wang, BA Chemical Engineering

 

Z Girls Second Place
Z Girls

$13,220 Second Place Prize – Z Girls (UW)
Studies show that adolescent girls who participate in sports  are more self-confident, get better grades, are less likely to engage in at-risk behaviors, and are more likely to go to college. Unfortunately, by age 14, girls drop out of sports at twice the rate of boys. Z Girls has developed a sports-based curriculum that gives girls ages 11-14 the opportunity to develop skills like goal-setting, positive self-image, and healthy nutrition habits through team programs and summer camps.

Final Round Judge Steve Singh, CEO of Concur, remarked, “Z Girls is an inspiring business lead by some amazing founders that could be doing anything in life. Incredible.”

 

Team:  Libby Ludlow, JD and Technology Entrepreneurship Certificate; Jacob Dudek; Jilyne Higgins

 

PolyDrop Finalist Prize
PolyDrop with Craig Sherman of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

$5,000 Finalist Prize – Poly Drop (UW)
Conductive coating is used to move electrostatic charge across a surface (like the surface of an aircraft), so that it does not accumulate and interfere with electronic equipment or cause sparks that can lead to fire. PolyDrop has created a conductive polymer additive for paints, primers and coatings that is lighter, more affordable, longer lasting, and has better adhesion than other products on the market.

Team: Michele Chaffee, MBA; Olga Hrechka, BS Chemical Engineering; Heather Milligan, BS Chemical Engineering

 

NIA Wheel Finalist Prize
NIA Wheel with Jesse Proudman, CEO of Blue Box

$5,000 Finalist Prize – NIA Wheel (SPU)
NIA Wheel found that 5,596,000 people in the US are paralyzed. 360,000 of those are quadriplegic – confined to a wheelchair with very limited control over their mobility. The NIA (Neurological Impulse Actuator) wheelchair is activated and controlled by the brain function of the user, eliminating the disconnect between mental capability and physical disability of quadriplegics and others who have lost mobility.

Team: Sergey Kisel, BS Electrical Engineering; Clarence Rieu, BS Electrical Engineering; Aryn Schatz, BA Business Administration; Jessica Way, BA Economics

 

Best Idea Prizes

$2,500 Best Technology Idea – PolyDrop (UW)
PolyDrop offers conductive polymer additives for paints, primers and coatings with a significantly lower level of particle loading. Integration of PolyDrop into current production lines of existing formulations is simple and dramatically improves usage lifetime, adhesion and mechanical properties of your product. Team: Michele Chaffee, MBA; Olga Hrechka, BS Chemical Engineering; Heather Milligan, BS Chemical Engineering

$2,500 Best Service/Retail Idea – Z Girls (UW)
Z Girlsmeasurably improves girls’ participation rates in sports by teaching young female athletes skills like positive self-talk, goal-setting, and body image through coaching and camps. Team: Libby Ludlow, JD Law; Jacob Dudek; Jilyne Higgins

$2,500 Best Sustainable Advantage – Pure Blue Technologies (UW)
Pure Blue Technologiesis developing a novel industrial water treatment solution that’s more efficient at a lower cost. Team: Jaffer Alali, MS Environmental Engineering; Adam Greenberg, BA Finance and Entrepreneurship; Michael Lee, MS Mechanical Engineering; Alan Luo, PhD Physics; Sep Makhous, PhD Electrical Engineering; Ryan Vogel, BA Finance and Entrepreneurship; Ian Tan, BA Finance; Nicholas Wang, BA Chemical Engineering

$2,500 Best Innovation Idea – InsuLenz (UW)
InsuLenz is developing a “smart” polymer contact lens to provide a bio-responsive and needle-free insulin delivery platform for diabetics. Team: Nick Au, PhD Medicinal Chemistry; Karen Eaton, PhD Bioengineering; Caleb Gerig, MBA; Craig McNary, MBA; Mohammed Minhaj, MBA; Renuka Ramanathan, PhD Bioengineering

$2,500 Best Consumer Product Idea – iHome3D (UW)
iHome3Dis a mobile app that allows realtors to create a virtual tour and floor plan of a property, in minutes. Team: Nelson Haung, MBA; Aditya Sankar, PhD Computer Science/Engineering

$2,500 Best Cleantech Idea – Biomethane (BGI/WWU/UW)
Biomethanecreates greenhouse-gas-negative vehicle fuel from dairy waste. Team: Jessica Anundson, MBA; Branden Audet, MA Policy Studies; Kathlyn Kinney, MBA; Colby Ochsner, MBA

$5,000 AARP Prize for low-income senior service – NIA Wheel (SPU)
NIA Wheelproduces and sells a brain wave controlled power wheelchair.Team: Sergey Kisel, BS Electrical Engineering; Clarence Rieu, BS Electrical Engineering; Aryn Schatz, BA Business; Jessica Way, BA Economics

Global change marketplace: how the GSEC Trade Show brings the world to UW

trade showOver its nine year history, the Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition (GSEC) at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business has brought awareness of pressing global issues to thousands of people – student competitors; competition mentors, judges and coaches; university partners; student volunteers; friends, family and supporters. So far, the competition has engaged over 2000 students of diverse educational disciplines and levels from around the world in tackling complex global social problems with entrepreneurial spirit and innovative market-based solutions.

At the competition’s culmination, semi-finalist university student teams (30-60 students per year) from around the world travel to Seattle for a week to learn about social enterprise, receive professional guidance and connections, network with each other and compete for prizes.

GSEC’s cross-cultural exchange is highlighted at the Trade Show, where semi-finalist teams each give their “pitch” to sell their business ideas to Trade Show judges, who act as mock investors, as well as students and community members. They often have prototypes, photos, videos and stories to illustrate the challenges they are facing and the inspirational impacts of their solutions. As a result, these issues become real, even for those who have never experienced them firsthand. Judge Loretta Little explains: “I have always felt and try to teach my kids that we’re citizens of the world. You need to put yourself in other people’s shoes. What better way than to meet people from around the world who are willing to come forward and share problems with you and what they think might be solutions to those problems.”

Teams often use prize money and connections made during GSEC to help launch their business, which can create employment and have other positive social impacts back home. Archived and streaming video of competition events, media coverage locally and in the student competitors’ universities and communities, and even the competitors own blogs and social media extends the education still further – allowing even those who cannot take part in the competition to feel inspired by the innovations being proposed to some of the world’s most pressing problems. Trade Show judge David Parker summed up why he volunteers each year: “The new ideas that are emerging every year from young people – it’s just astounding – they’re already creating patents, engaging with partners for manufacturing new devices, they’ve been able to engage with experts in the geographies of high need that they hope to get their solutions to – I just love seeing that passion, energy and creativity and innovation emerge and I continue to be impressed year after year with the applicants, the competitors and their ideas.”

GSEC is open to currently enrolled degree-seeking students in any discipline, at any level of study, and at any higher education institution worldwide who submits a plan that uses business principles to create a sustainable solution to poverty, health and economic growth in the developing world. Applications for the 10th annual competition are due November 12, 2014. Learn more at http://www.foster.washington.edu/gsec/

Global entrepreneurship: rewards & challenges

Guest post by Maria Reyes, CISB student Saito 1

As a graduating senior I am often asked what the highlight of my business school career was. The response? The people I’ve met through the Michael G. Foster School of Business.

One of the most inspiring individuals I’ve met is William Saito. Internationally, he’s renowned for his work in encryption, authentication, and biometric technology. Today, he runs InTecur, a consultancy in Japan that helps companies identify and develop applications and markets for innovative technologies.

On May 9th, he came to the Foster School of Business to deliver a talk titled “Global Entrepreneurship: Rewards & Challenges.” I came expecting to learn just about starting a business, but Mr. Saito delivered that and beyond. He shared challenges in penetrating Japanese markets using American venture strategies and was humble in sharing what worked and what didn’t work, how he learned from his mistakes, and the importance of giving back once you are successful.

What I personally received from his talk is the drive to become an innovator during my internship in Tokyo, Japan. For those who are unfamiliar with the Japanese business culture, it is very uniform and male dominated, which is a challenging environment for a woman let alone a foreigner like me. Prior to meeting Mr. Saito, I felt pressured to conform to the Japanese norms. When I expressed my concerns about Japanese business culture to him one-on-one, he challenged me to break my own preconceived notions and be innovative by utilizing my unique background to help grow the company rather than work under it. I will never forget his words and will continue to think of them after graduation. I hope to one day inspire others to be innovative like Mr. Saito does.

The “Sweet 16″ compete for a sweet $25,000

ZGirls_for_blog
Z Girls

Of the 91 student-led teams that submitted business plans to the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship‘s 2013  Business Plan Competition (BPC), only 16 remain.

After an initial screening round, 36 teams were chosen to pitch their start-up ideas to over 230 judges (entrepreneurs, investors, alumni and community supporters) at the BPC Investment Round. The teams that received the highest investments of “Buerk Center Dollars” earned a spot in the Sweet 16.

These 16 teams have spent the last few weeks editing their business plans, honing their pitches, and learning from some of Seattle’s top lawyers, investors, and entrepreneurs.

On May 23, each team will make a 15-minute investor pitch to a panel of 7 judges. The 4 teams with the best investor pitches will be selected to advance to the Final Round, where they will compete to win a grand prize of $25,000.

Good luck to the Sweet 16, and stay tuned for the results!

Biomethane (BGI)
Biomethane creates greenhouse-gas-negative vehicle fuel from dairy waste.

Cell Focus (UW)
Cell Focus will produce a revolutionary device that turns a cell phone camera into a microscope.

Elemental Hotels (UW)
Welcome to the next generation of Hotels, Elemental Hotels: Minimalistic micro hotel rooms with smart technology and superior design, at $65/Night.

iHome3D (UW)
iHome3D is a mobile app that allows realtors to create a virtual tour and floor plan of a property, in minutes.

InsuLenz (UW)
InsuLenz is developing a “smart” polymer contact lens to provide a bio-responsive and needle-free insulin delivery platform for diabetics.

MakeSpace (UW)
MakeSpace is the Kinkos of 3D printing.  The company is opening its pilot location in Seattle delivering rapid prototyping and services to architectures and industrial designers.

NIA Wheel (SPU)
NIA Wheel produces and sells a brain wave controlled power wheelchair.

nomON (UW)
nomON is a random delivery meal ordering app, like shuffle for dinner.

PolyDrop (UW)
PolyDrop offers conductive polymer additives for paints, primers and coatings with a significantly lower level of particle loading. Integration of PolyDrop into current production lines of existing formulations is simple and dramatically improves usage lifetime, adhesion and mechanical properties of your product.

Pure Blue Technologies (UW)
Pure Blue Technologies is developing a novel industrial water treatment solution that’s more efficient at a lower cost.

ShunTek (UW, Johns Hopkins University)
ShunTek has produced a medical device, ShunTube, that provides a minimally invasive and cost-effective way to minimize blood loss in inferior vena cava trauma by stanching blood flow and simultaneously maintaining venous return; ShunTube also has applications in treating IVC tumors and Liver Cancer.

Sound THC (Seattle U)
Sound THC will produce cannabis candies in the newly legal recreational marijuana market.

Torch Illumination Co. (UW)
Torch Illumination is a candle company with a mission: for every two candles sold, a solar light will be delivered to an individual living without electricity.

TriboTEX (WSU)
TriboTEX is commercializing PhD research to repair industrial machinery during normal operation using nanotechnology.

Vetna (UW)
Vetna brings portable and automated DNA-based diagnostic capabilities to veterinary clinics which could not previously afford the space, capital and training investments.

Z Girls (UW)
Z Girls measurably improves girls’ participation rates in sports by teaching young female athletes skills like positive self-talk, goal-setting, and body image through coaching and camps.

Follow the UW  Business Plan Competition on Twitter: #UWBPC2013

Disruption, power and weak ties: All in a Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Day of Innovation and EntrepreneurshipThe Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which took place on April 26, 2013, offered an impressive array of speakers. The all-day conference was led by Ken Denman, president and CEO of Machine Perception Technologies. He also holds the Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership at the Michael G. Foster School of Business. Below are a few highlights of the knowledge shared throughout the day.

The new power: innovation and shared purpose
Nilofer Merchant, the noted innovation author, spoke about the future of social media or the “social era” as she coined it. As part of this discussion, she mentioned a shift in how we think about power. Power used to be related to how many people work for you or how much more knowledge you have than others. Now, power is your ability to get people to do amazing things. And to be powerful, you need to have a shared purpose that extends beyond yourself or your company.

She used REI as an example. Their shared purpose, the one they share with their employees, customers and the community, is getting people outdoors. “We used to think innovation is what we make,” Merchant said. “If you’re in the knowledge economy, who you are is what you make. And your ability to pull in people based on purpose is going to allow people to show up not just with the mind, but with the heart.”

She added that this makes them more committed to the cause and, therefore, willing to work tirelessly to ensure it succeeds. In turn, you’re able to engage a variety of people and have them create value, regardless of whether they work for you.

Weak ties can be strongest
Zaw Thet, co-founder and chairman of plyfe.me and HaulerDeals, was part of the Assembling Nimble and Functionally Diverse Teams panel. When discussing how to diversify your team, he referenced the paper, “The Strength of Weak Ties” by Mark S. Granovetter. As you hire employees, Thet said, you should look for people who can find diversity outside of their current network via a weak tie to another group. The motivation for this is to expand your network and therefore, diversify your staff.

Innovation versus disruption
During the discussion of the Next Big Themes, Ken Denman asked the panel to comment on the difference between innovation and disruption.

Seth Neiman of Crosspoint Venture Partners provided interesting insight on the difference between the two. He referred to innovation as “something that is of such significant value that people will change how they buy,” adding that people won’t change their behavior if there’s not an incentive. “Innovation turns into a business when the time pressure means the big company will get there too slowly, regardless of how intelligent they are,” he continued.

Disruption, according to Neiman, occurs when innovation is so powerful, it catches all the big companies off guard.

Tim Porter of Madrona Ventures made the point there are different kinds of disruption: a new technology or business model can disrupt an existing market or the creation of a whole new market can cause disruption. The latter type often provides the biggest opportunity, but is also the most difficult to anticipate. The most challenging aspect of disruption is time. Porter explained that when trying to time disruption, the biggest risk is that you’ll be too early, not too late.

Learn more about the Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and watch videos from all the sessions.

Being contrarian and right

Guest post by Sean Murphy, Foster MBA 2014
He attended the Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which was organized by Ken Denman, Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership at the Foster School.

The Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship promised to be an engaging and informative event that I thought might be a good use of a Friday. What it turned out to be was most likely the best day of my MBA experience. Ken Denman brought in an incredible line-up that focused on topics ranging from funding to team creation to the next big themes in business. The day started with a heavy hitter and just kept getting better. Charles Songhurst, Microsoft’s General Manager of Corporate Strategy, spoke about adjacencies and outlined several observations that could be acted upon. There were some common points such as surrounding oneself with those more intelligent/hardworking/ethical than you and the Gladwellian 10k hour metric, but there were also some great insights new to me. One such point was that diplomacy is virtually unknown in the tech industry. Songhurst recommended that practicing empathy, predicting how others will act/react, and adapting to cultural norms of your target will put you at a significant advantage in the tech space. He also drew several observations about founder-led companies and professional management-led companies, arguing that self-cannibalization requires the confidence and vision of a founder. Songhurst spoke of comparing the earnings of founder-led and non-founder-led tech companies and claimed a 15% difference favoring the founders. He suggested a simple investment strategy would be going long on founders and shorting all others. Very interesting way to kick off the day.

Day of Innovation and EntrepreneurshipA series of panels followed. We heard from Ghia Griarte (Saints Capital), Michelle Goldberg (Ignition Partners), and Andrew Tweed (Thomvest Ventures) about how their VCs assess potential opportunities. A common theme from the panel was the delineation of feature, product, and company and how the market appetite is shifting to smaller, simpler bites. On figuring out what a product or service is or offers, Goldberg said, “Don’t make me think.” Another point repeatedly addressed was the growing demand of the enterprise experience to mimic the consumer experience in UX and hardware. Tweed mentioned using consumer trends to predict what might be happening in the enterprise space soon and investing in back-end mechanics that would enable this shift.

We then switched gears to the non-profit world and heard from Kushal Chakrabarti, Doug Plank, and James Gutierrez about changing the non-profit landscape creating sustainable, long-term success. As expected, they were very passionate about their work and got me seriously considering a non-profit path.

Nilofer Merchant spoke next about the evolution of social media and the importance of co-creation in the future. She emphasized the framework of openness of ideas as one of the key drivers of growth, citing TEDx and Google’s Android as examples.

After a lunch break we returned to a panel of Marc Barros, Zaw Thet, and Donna Wells on assembling nimble and functionally diverse teams. They all emphasized the importance of your network and their reliance on them for the vetting of potential employees. Curiously, it was mentioned that no matter how many interviews you’ve done or people you’ve hired, it’s still difficult to weed out people that end up not meshing. The fit and attitude of hires was especially highlighted when working with a small team, as one bad apple can wreck the atmosphere pretty quickly.

Day of Innovation and EntrepreneurshipKen Denman moderated the next panel which focused on the next big themes and featured Seth Neiman (Crosspoint Venture Partners), Tim Porter (Madrona Ventures), and Jason Stoffer (Maveron). They got pretty philosophical and were dropping gems left and right. They approached VCs as incubators to test strategic theories about the market. Getting the market direction is difficult enough, but timing was a big theme of this talk as well. The key to making money is being contrarian, and being right. The key to identifying these investments is in looking at adjacencies when the future isn’t immediately accessible. What must happen if the things that are in motion today were to take the next step? There are many supporting steps that must first happen, and these can be very lucrative investments. Neiman mentioned investing in supporting infrastructure during the internet ramp up in the last millennium and saw a $100M fund return $13B. Jaw-dropping, even by VC standards.

Ben Casnocha, co-author of The Start-Up of You, brought the day to a close with a riveting personal story and the idea of applying entrepreneurial business thinking to your life. Setting aside time to read and think, increasing your knowledge every day, earmarking funds for meeting with interesting people; these were all suggestions of how to approach your personal development as you would a business. He encouraged students to consider youth and the opinion of our cohort as our value-add in connecting with senior, experienced leaders. It was a great, inspirational capstone to the day.

The amount of knowledge that came out of this event was mind-blowing. I filled more pages in my notebook in eight hours than I do in an entire quarter of class. An amazing array of brilliant, successful, and humble people took the time to share their thoughts and experience with an eager audience and I couldn’t be more pleased to be in attendance. I don’t know how this could be topped next year, but I will certainly be there to find out. And you should too…

Watch videos of all the sessions.

Thought leaders

Guest post by Emilia Griswold, Foster MBA 2014
She attended the Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which was organized by Ken Denman, Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership at the Foster School.

Nilofer MerchantNilofer Merchant, author and corporate director, spoke at the Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship about Social 2018: Where does social media go from here and what principles can we apply to the future? Nilofer argued that “social” is not “social media” and that we’re actually in the “social era” where individuals can now do what once only centralized organizations could accomplish. For companies, this means that they need to embrace openness and fluidity while allowing employees to take ownership in everything they do. But this also applies to people. Nilofer advocated that it is our job “to learn, not to know” and that being open to new ideas is what allows you to learn best.

To close out the day, we were very lucky to have Ben Casnocha, the entrepreneur, author, and chief of staff to Reid Hoffman, speak about his new book The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the future, invest in yourself, and transform your career. I took two big points away from Ben’s talk. First, think of yourself as a start-up and commit to investing. One simple way to do that is by setting aside some time and money to take interesting people out for coffee. Second, keep your mindset in “permanent beta.” Ben noted that when you consider a product “finished,” you lose the momentum to keep improving. By staying in beta, you feel empowered to fix the bugs that pop up and to leverage extraordinary opportunities that come your way.

Ben CasnochaHe also talked about ABZ Planing. Plan A is what you’re doing right now. Plan B is what you want to transition into, and Plan Z is your back-up plan—what you’ll do if Plan A and Plan B don’t work. When you have this mentality you mitigate the risk that comes with transforming your career and yourself. The worst that can happen is you have to pursue Plan Z.

With so many incredible events going on at Foster, it can be difficult to commit to a day without studying or prepping for interviews. But I’m so glad I made time for this conference. I came away with a better idea of how to assess opportunities as well as new ideas for approaching my own career. All-in-all, a great way to spend a Friday!

Special thanks to Ken Denman, Dean Jiambalvo, Jason Hsaio (MBA 2013), Nelson Haung (MBA 2013), and all the Foster staff and volunteers who made this conference possible.

Watch videos of all the sessions.

Related blog post: Great insight and thoughtful honesty at Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Great insight and thoughtful honesty at Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Guest post by Emilia Griswold, Foster MBA 2014
She attended the Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which was organized by Ken Denman, Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership at the Foster School.

Foster alumni never cease to amaze me, and Ken Denman (MBA 1986) is no exception. Ken has held numerous executive roles across established corporations and new ventures, and he is currently the president and CEO of Machine Perception Technologies as well as an angel investor. In addition, he holds the Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership and has spent this year bringing exciting and inspiring events to Foster. The Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship that Ken organized was no exception. For this conference, Ken assembled a fantastic group of leaders in the technology, start-up, and venture capital space from both Seattle and Silicon Valley.

Charles SonghurstThe day kicked off with Charles Songhurst, General Manager of Corporate Strategy at Microsoft. The first part of Charles’ remarks was about the five common reasons that companies succeed: geography, an ability to generate positive serendipity, expertise, getting the right mix of skills on a team, and being empathetic. The second part of his speech wasn’t what I expected from someone at a huge company like Microsoft—Charles discussed why big companies have such a hard time innovating. That mix of great insight and thoughtful honesty is something that comes out at all Foster events, and Charles’ attitude as well as his fresh perspective were echoed throughout the day.

After the incredible discussion with Charles, the day’s panels covered a range of topics relevant to innovation and entrepreneurship. Below are highlights from each panel discussion.

Chasing the Inevitable: How VCs identify and assess potential opportunities
The session was moderated by Foster’s own Professor Emily Cox Pahnke and featured three venture capitalists who work across a range of industries: Michelle Goldberg of Ignition Partners, Ghia Griarte of Saints Capital and Andrew Tweed of Thomvest Ventures. Although each VC specializes in different kinds of deals and has expertise in different areas, they all emphasized that their firms have internal theses they work from. When looking at truly innovative opportunities that don’t have a market yet, they look for products and features that can be easily explained and understood by a customer. All the panelists also agreed that investing is about relationships and the strength of the founder. They want to invest in someone who is wedded to success more than a specific idea, is open to feedback, knows the industry well, and has proven success in previous positions.

Changing the Non-Profit Landscape: What does it take for social entrepreneurs to achieve leading innovation and long term success
While a discussion about non-profits seems odd for a business school, Foster has a history of developing leaders who want to give back. Moderator Zaw Thet, co-founder and chairman of plyfe.me and HaulerDeals, engaged Kushal Chakrabarti (founder of Vittana), James Gutierrez (co-founder and partner of Insikt Ventures), and Doug Plank (founder and CEO of Mobilecause) in a conversation about social entrepreneurship. Despite the non-profit focus, the panelists all came back to the same themes discussed in the for-profit panels. In particular, you should practice “intellectual honesty” and admit to your strengths and weaknesses—then get brilliant people to fill in your gaps. They also reminded anyone going into philanthropy that some non-profits fail because they are 99% heart and 1% business, but being 99% business won’t lead to better results. You must have a mix of business and heart to succeed as a social venture.

Assembling Nimble and Functionally Diverse Teams: Where and how to spot the top talent to booster your team
Panel on Assembling Nimble and Functionally Diverse TeamsWith so many students looking for jobs and internships, everyone was excited to hear what start-ups and established innovation-focused companies look for when hiring. Interim CEO of Vittana, Rebecca Lovell moderated this discussion with Marc Barros (co-founder of Contour), Zaw Thet, and Donna Wells (president and CEO of Mindflash Technologies). It’s no surprise the panelists all advocated hiring people who are able to embrace flexibility, have emotional intelligence, and work well in a team. But it’s most important that you hire people who love and use your product. And when you’re thinking about hiring for your company, remember you should design a position around what needs to be done, not around a title.

The Next Big Themes: What’s next, why it matters, and how you can spot big ideas before anybody else
Ken Denman talked with Seth Neiman from Crosspoint Venture Partners, Tim Porter from Madrona Ventures, and Jason Stoffer from Maveron about the next big ideas. The panelists saw some major trends driving innovation, particularly around cloud computing, big data analytics, mobile, consumerization of IT, biotech, embedding internet capabilities in everyday objects, and perceptual computing. When it comes to predicting the next big thing, these investors look for simple value propositions, pay attention to what the kids are doing, and consider if a new idea fits in with their existing theses and view of the world. But they pointed out that innovation isn’t just about change—it’s about benefiting from change.

Learn more about the Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and watch videos from all the sessions.

South Carolina Huskies

Not only are LaJuan Davis and her brothers Dwayne and Ricardo Ellison the next generation of leaders JBE Incorporated, they are also proud graduates of the University of Washington’s Minority Business Executive Program (MBEP) – which is saying something considering that they hadn’t really heard about the UW or this program 18 months ago. Following their graduation from MBEP last June, they each took back lessons they learned and they saw an immediate impact.

LaJuan, the company’s treasurer, took back three key lessons: That for small businesses “sometimes it’s important to sacrifice growth to insure liquidity,” empowering employees to make decisions is key to enabling the executive team to focus on the future, and that while you can’t always measure the impact of marketing expenditures these investments are key to long-term growth.

LaJuan Davis and her brothers Dwayne and Ricardo Ellison, graduates of the University of Washington’s Minority Business Executive Program (MBEP) .Ricardo, one of the company’s Vice Presidents, reflects on how he’s become a better leader because of what he learned at MBEP: “senior executives don’t need to be a part of every decision,” he says. He also noted that rather than focusing most of the company’s top talent on solving today’s problems, they are now “spreading talent around so they can focus on today and the future.”

Dwayne, another Vice President, says the program changed how he views the entire company. He’s become more acutely aware of the power of branding the company in moving the company forward. He’s learned that as a senior leader of the company he needs to “work on the business rather than work in the business,” and through this he’s able to empower others to make decisions.

These three siblings are confident that what they learned at MBEP will have a long-lasting impact on their company, but they’re also proud that, in part because of how they’ve changed their leadership of the business, JBE set a record last year by crossing the $40 million revenue threshold for the first time. They’ve also begun to directly manufacture products in addition to the assembly and supply chain management services they’d previously offered.

LaJuan, Ricardo, and Dwayne had the opportunity to attend MBEP because of their relationship with The Boeing Company. JBEP was founded to provide services to the automotive, paper, and textile industries. They began to court Boeing as a customer in 2008, and when Boeing selected Charleston as the site for final assembly of the 787 Dreamliner, the relationship took off. Last year Boeing invited JBE to be in their mentor-protégé program, which led to the offer to attend MBEP. While JBE was looking at similar programs offered on the east coast, when they learned about the Foster School’s year-around work to grow minority-owned businesses through the BEDC, they decided to accept Boeing’s offer.

To learn more about the 2013 MBEP, please join us at a Sampler and Information Session on Thursday, May 16 from 7:45 to 9:00 a.m.

Achieving the American dream

Exequiel Soltero, owner of Maya's (gentleman in orange shirt), stands with his UW BEDC Student Consulting group.
Exequiel Soltero, owner of Maya’s (front row, third from left), stands with his UW BEDC Student Consulting group and advisors.

Exequiel Soltero arrived in the U.S. from his small hometown on the southwestern border of Mexico determined to pursue the “American Dream” via the traditional culinary delights of his native Mexico.

A positive mindset, entrepreneurial spirit, and desire to provide for his family aided Exequiel to labor through the restaurant industry, beginning as a dishwasher and progressing to a waiter. By 1979 Exequiel had accumulated enough savings to open his own restaurant devoted to Mexican cuisine, Maya’s Family Mexican Restaurant in Seattle’s Rainier Valley neighborhood. Staying true to the restaurant’s name, and Exequiel’s initial motivations for opening a restaurant, each and every one of his siblings—nine sisters and three brothers—spent time working together to build a strong foundation for Maya’s.

Nearly 35 years later, Exequiel’s authentic recipes have lured a solid following, and allowed him to expand well beyond the original 850-square-foot restaurant. Maya’s brand now includes a full-service Mexican restaurant and a growing catering service.

As the trend of mobile food trucks is continuing to grow, Maya’s has launched a fleet of food trucks that will soon be located next to Seattle’s CenturyLink Field during Seahawks and Sounders FC games, as well as on Microsoft’s Redmond campus during weekday lunch hours. With growth, however, comes new challenges and Exequiel realized that success of Maya’s new division-based business hinged on seeking outside guidance.

Exequiel, who has been a long-time friend and partner of the Business & Economic Development Center (BEDC), turned to the BEDC’s to participate in our Student Consulting Program to help him reach his business goals:  “I was motivated to participate with the BEDC Student Consulting Program because I was interested in growing my business, and what better way to grow my business than to get the input from business students, teachers, mentors and advisors.”

The BEDC’s Student Consulting Program improves management and marketing skills of small business in under-served communities with the aid of teams comprised of of business students and faculty of the UW Foster School of Business, Foster alumni, and mentors drawn from the Seattle Rotary Club. Exequiel explained what he was hoping to gain from his participation with the Student Consulting Program:

 “I was hoping to receive a different perspective from my own. I have several ideas and visions for the restaurant and catering department, but I felt I needed to get the opinion from someone who has valuable input that could help change the way I do business.”

Through the Student Consulting Program, Exequiel, along with 14 other business owners, was provided advice from his student consulting team on how to strategically grow all divisions of Maya’s, including specially-tailored marketing strategies and financial/managerial guidance.

Now, as Exequiel’s interaction with his student consulting group concludes and he begins the process of actualizing the plans and goals presented with the continuing support of his BEDC mentors and advisors, he has great hope for his company’s future:

“I feel very positive about the future of my business, especially with all the recommendations the student team had to offer at the presentation [of their findings]. I learned the importance of sending out thank you notes to all catering customers upon completion of their event, [the value of] up-selling, tips to get my food cost and labor back to a respectable percentage, and that having someone managing our social media outlets would dramatically help with sales and customer retention.”

If you are business interested in being a part of the 2013-2014 Student Consulting Program, or if you have any questions about the Program, please contact Wil Tutol at wtutol@uw.edu.