Category Archives: MBA

Foster MBAs summit Mount Rainier and raise $7000 for charity

Guest post by Anders Zwartjes (Foster MBA 2012)

Foster MBA students climb Mt. Rainier's Emmons Glacier

This 4th of July, as the sun crept above the Cascades in the east and many hours before the fireworks would start exploding above Seattle, a team of 11 tired but excited UW Foster MBA students stood at the top of the tallest mountain in Washington state. The group had started the ascent six and a half hours earlier, but had truly started their journey six months earlier during winter quarter.

What began in January of 2011 as an idea to take an exercise from Professor Michael Johnson’s leadership class a step further and to raise money for the Foster MBA Challenge for Charity fundraising drive, quickly took form and resulted in six months of dedicated training and preparation. Although the group that stood on the Summit of Mount Rainier numbered only 11, the entire effort was successful thanks to the support of more than 100 Foster students, faculty, staff, plus friends and family. As a result of their help, the climb raised $7,000 for the Boys and Girls Club and Special Olympics of Washington.

On the mountain, teamwork and discipline were key. During the final ascent up Rainier’s Emmons glacier the group was divided into three different rope teams, with each member paying fastidious attention to the progress of those around them and the tension of the lines as the teams passed over more than a dozen crevasses. Communication is key to a successful ascent, and everyone looked after each other as the elevation increased and the temperature dropped. Collaboration was of even greater importance on the way down, as joint problem solving quickly fixed the few obstacles our group encountered.

As the sun dropped on July 4, 2011, the line of tired MBA students arrived at their cars, tired but healthy and jubilant about the climb. While one party member had been forced by altitude sickness to stay at base camp, the day had seen 11 climbers successfully make it to the top of one of Washington’s greatest natural wonders, but even more importantly marked the safe end to a trying but hugely rewarding feat.

A view from inside one MBA student's tent on the Mt. Rainier trek

This experience would not have been possible without community support. MBA climbers would like to add a special thank you to Eli Rosenberg and Eric Docktor for assisting in climbing training and helping to lead the team up the mountain. We would also like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Scott Heinz for patient coaching, impeccable focus on safety, constant encouragement and altogether exemplary leadership.

“It’s a round trip. Getting to the summit is optional, getting down is mandatory.” – Ed Viesturs

PotaVida purifies water, wins $25K Grand Prize at UW Business Plan Competition

A demonstration of the PotaVida water purifier.The numbers say it all: 891 teams. $1.08 million in seed funding. 2,768 students from 21 colleges and universities. Those are just a few of the stats we’ve racked up in the 14 years of the University of Washington’s Business Plan Competition.

During his keynote speech at the awards dinner, T.A. McCann, CEO of Gist, spoke about courage, persistence and failure — three cornerstones to life as a successful entrepreneur. “To be an entrepreneur takes a tremendous amount of courage. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to continue to dust yourself off when you fail. And failure happens in every entrepreneurial company almost on a daily basis,” he said. But with that uncertainty comes the reward of being part of a supportive and inspiring community of entrepreneurs in the Northwest. “You’re fortunate to have UW, to have each other, to have the advisors, mentors…and all the organizations that are here. You’re incredibly fortunate to be part of this community. I’ve been in Seattle now about 15 years and I think it’s only getting better. I think we’re on the cusp of becoming one of the top entrepreneurial communities anywhere. Period.”

A record 104 teams entered the competition this year from nine colleges and universities around Washington. Nearly 400 judges and mentors—entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, investors and supporters from the community—gave their time and energy to be part of the competition during the various rounds. Beginning in early April, the teams where whittled down, first to 37 after the screening round, then to the “Sweet 16” after the investment round.

At the end of the day on May 26, five teams were left standing but only one would take home the $25,000 grand prize. After one more round of presentations from the finalists, the judges made a unanimous decision on the winning teams:

$25,000 Herbert B. Jones Foundation Grand Prize: PotaVida, UW
Provides a low-cost, reusable tool that takes the guesswork out of solar disinfection of water, for use in disaster relief and areas lacking potable water.
Tyler Davis, PhD Evans School of Public Policy; Damon Gjording, EMBA; Charlie Matlack, PhD electrical engineering; and Jacqueline Linnes

$10,000 WRF Capital Second Prize: Stockbox Grocers, Bainbridge Graduate Institute
A mini grocer tucked inside a reclaimed shipping container, to provide fresh produce and basic staples in urban food deserts.
Michael Brooks, MBA; Carrie Ferrence, MBA; Jacqueline Gjurgevich, MBA; and Eliza Michiels, MBA

$5,000 Blue Box Group Finalist Prize: Solanux, WSU, University of Idaho
Produces patented potato food ingredients with high amounts of resistant starch which help lower a person’s glycemic index response, improve insulin levels and lower fat and cholesterol levels.
Gaylene Anderson, EMBA; Anna Hansen, accounting; and Jacob Pierson, JD law

$5,000 Fenwick & West Finalist Prize: LodeSpin Labs, UW
Manufactures tracers for Magnetic Particle Imaging, a new medical imaging technology capable of replacing CT and MRI for imaging patients with heart disease and cancer.
Dave Shivang, PhD bioengineering; Matt Ferguson, PhD materials science; Amit Khandhar, PhD materials science; and Garrett Leischner, MBA

The Best Idea prizes were created to reward teams for their exceptional work in several different categories. Teams that participated in the Investment Round were eligible for these awards, regardless of whether they advanced to the Sweet 16 or not. This year six $2,500 Best Idea Prizes were awarded to the following teams:

UIEvolution Best Technology Idea: Aqueduct Neurosciences, UW
Gist Best Consumer Product Idea: Tripbox, UW
Perkins Coie Best Innovation Idea: PotaVida, UW
DLA Piper Best Service/Retail Idea: Stockbox Grocers, Bainbridge Graduate Institute
Synapse Product Development Best Clean-Tech Idea: Static Flow Analytics, UW
Sensors in Motion Best Sustainable Advantage Idea: Urban Canopy, UW

For teams that made it to the Sweet 16, the fun’s not over yet. Each of the semifinal teams is eligible to receive additional seed funding through the Jones Foundation Milestone Achievement Awards. Five teams will be selected to spend the next six months participating in the program where they will work with CIE staff and a special advisory committee made up of CIE board members and past winners of the Business Plan Competition to draw up a short list of “realistic but measureable” milestones they can reach within that timeframe. And with a lot of hard work on the part of the teams (and a little luck), we’ll share all their great success stories with you again this time next year.

$60,000 for winners of 2011 UW Business Plan Competition

Budding entrepreneurs from universities across the Pacific Northwest created start-ups in clean technology, medical technology, retail, agriculture, software and other areas at the 2011 University of Washington Business Plan Competition. Business, engineering, medical, law and public policy student teams competed in the finals this week, vying for a combined $60,000 in prize money.

PotaVida team wins grand prize of $25,000 at 2011 UW Business Plan CompetitionPotaVida won Grand Prize worth $25,000 and another $2,500 for Best Innovative Idea for their low-cost, reusable solution to purifying water using solar disinfection. Their device received a design award from the Rockefeller Foundation prior to the UW competition. The UW team includes Charlie Matlack (PhD student in electrical engineering), Tyler Davis (PhD student in public policy), Damon Gjording (Executive MBA student) and Jacqueline Linnes, PhD.

What is the benefit of PotaVida’s product? “We will lower the cost to non-profits of providing safe water to people after disasters and in ongoing need scenarios. At a personal level, our product provides the visual feedback and guidance that people need to use a disinfection process which is otherwise invisible and impossible to know when done correctly,” said Charlie Matlack.

Matlack and the PotaVida team improved their business through the competition. “What meant much more than the money was all the doors it opened for us to incredibly helpful individuals in the Seattle start-up community,” said Matlack. “The more we took advice from those the Business Plan Competition connected us to, the better our business plan got, and the more we knew where to direct our efforts to improve it further.”

Stockbox Grocers wins 2nd place prize of $10,000 at 2011 UW Business Plan CompetitionStockbox Grocers, with a team from Bainbridge Graduate Institute, won Second Prize worth $10,000 and another $2,500 for Best Service/Retail Idea for their affordable fresh produce business targeting urban food deserts. Stockbox offers a mini grocer service tucked in a reclaimed shipping container. Team members include MBA students Michael Brooks, Carrie Ferrence, Jacqueline Gjurgevich and Eliza Michiels.

Two Finalist Prize winners won $5,000 each. LodeSpin Labs, a UW team of engineering, material science and MBA students, have a non-toxic tracer that works with cutting-edge Magnetic Particle Imaging, a new technology aimed at replacing CT and MRI for imaging patients with heart disease and cancer. The other Finalist Prize winner is Solanux, a WSU and University of Idaho team, that manufactures potato-based food ingredients that help lower a person’s glycemic index response and improve insulin levels. Their resistant starch product can replace existing starch in processed foods such as fries.

Rob Salkowitz, consultant and author of book Young World Rising, served as a judge in the competition saying, “I write about entrepreneurs from all over the world. I was amazed and encouraged to see the amount of innovation right here in my own backyard.”

More teams won $2,500 awards for innovations in various industries.

  • Aqueduct Neurosciences (UW team) won Best Technology Idea for their innovative medical device to improve treatment of hydrocephalus.
  • Static Flow Analytics (UW team) won Best Clean-Tech Idea.
  • Tripbox (UW team of Technology Management MBA students) won Best Consumer Product Idea for their travel planning software that optimizes cost, timing and routes of vacation activities.
  • Urban Canopy (UW team) won Best Sustainable Advantage for software that guides consumers through phases of green building initiatives such as LEED certification.

The UW Business Plan Competition is produced by the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Foster School of Business. Numerous venture capital, angel and entrepreneurial community firms, consultants and individuals sponsor the event and serve as judges, mentors and coaches for teams.

Red Lantern Journeys takes travelers off the beaten path

“Bhutan is the country that measures gross national happiness and while it has been a relatively closed country, tourism is possible there,” says Ambrose Bittner (MBA 2004), founder and CEO of Red Lantern Journeys. Red Lantern is a Seattle-based start-up that specializes in some of the more “off the beaten path” travel destinations in Asia such as Bhutan and Myanmar. “Myanmar is really a unique country—undeveloped and untouched—and now’s a good time to go there. But we make sure to go over the risks and political situations in these countries so our clients are well informed before they arrive.”

As he was finishing up his MBA at the University of Washington in 2004, Bittner met a friend of a friend who had started a travel company focused on Africa. He realized that his own extensive experience traveling throughout Asia was an asset he could market. “I felt this was my strong suit so I decided to just go for it,” says Bittner.

What differentiates Red Lantern from other travel companies is the high level of customer service given to each client in planning their trip. Focused primarily on private tours, Bittner and three other travel consultants work with each client to develop customized itineraries that meet their specific needs in terms of timeframe, budget, and the types of activities and sights clients wish to experience during their travels. “All of our consultants have either lived or traveled extensively in the countries they focus on,” says Bittner. “We don’t sell other companies’ travel packages. We’re destination specialists and know logistically how to get around countries in Asia, all the unique sites and activities, and we have local guides in each country. It’s a very independent way to travel but still be ‘on a tour.’”

Dedication and perseverance have served Bittner well as an entrepreneur and helped him shepherd the company through the recent economic downturn. “Being an entrepreneur means having the vision and working toward it, being dedicated and not getting too discouraged along the way when things happen,” he says. And as if running a company weren’t challenging enough, Bittner also leads an annual charity climb on Mt. Rainier to raise money for Mitrata Nepal Foundation for Children, an orphanage and school in Kathmandu, the starting point of Red Lantern’s popular Everest Base Camp trek. “We’ve raised $30,000 each of the last couple years and I’m really proud that we’re able to provide that kind of support in a community where we send travelers,” says Bittner.

Foster climbs U.S. News entrepreneurship ranking

U.S. News & World Report recently released its “Best Graduate Schools for 2012″ rankings, and the University of Washington Foster School of Business was ranked 14 in the specialty area of entrepreneurship. For 2011, the school was ranked 16 and the year prior 20.

The steady rise in the rankings is particularly gratifying for Foster’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). Approaching its 20th anniversary, CIE has become the hub for entrepreneurial education and activity across the University of Washington campus, and an integral part of the Northwest’s entrepreneurial community.

“You need to have community. Obviously, a collection of great entrepreneurs is essential, yet it’s also about having a community of people who can foster creativity and provide funding and mentorship,” says Shelley Whelan, principal of Keeler Investments Group and a Foster School alumna. “CIE does a great job of bringing these stakeholders together with students to keep our community active and engaged.”

These relationships have been incredibly beneficial for students of the Foster School, as well as for other colleges at the university. Prime examples are the Center’s annual Business Plan Competition and Environmental Innovation Challenge. In both instances, students benefit from interaction with hundreds of the Northwest’s top venture capitalists, lawyers, angel investors, policy makers, scientists, and more.

The result? “CIE is a catalyst for new ventures,” says Jeremy Jaech, the former CEO of Verdiem Corporation. “For students who are entrepreneurially inclined, it is a place to meet like-minded people and learn what it takes to launch a successful business.”

Such interaction goes a long way. Since its inception 13 years ago, CIE’s Business Plan Competition has awarded nearly $1 million in prize money to 87 student companies, many of which go on to start their businesses. They do so in a region known as a launching pad for globally recognized companies both old and new—Amazon, Boeing, Costco, Expedia, Microsoft, Nordstrom, Real Networks, Starbucks, ZymoGenetics….

“Seattle is entrepreneurial in nature and the appeal continues to grow,” says Troy Cichos, administrative partner at Madrona Venture Group and a judge for CIE’s Business Plan Competition. “Entrepreneurship is like a fly wheel—once you get it going, more people become aware, more people give it a try, more become involved, and the energy continues to grow.”

Inaugural Golf Classic connects MBA students and alumni

Guest post by Matt Eliseo, UW Foster School of Business MBA student

2011 marked the beginning of a new tradition at Foster. The MBA Association, in conjunction with the Sports Business Club and Women in Business, was proud to present the Inaugural Hogan Brothers UW Foster MBAA Golf Classic. On April 30, after months of preparation, the event brought together alumni, friends of Foster and current MBA students for a day of networking and golf at the Golf Club at Newcastle.

Last year, student leadership of the Full-time MBA Program decided to strengthen ties between current MBA students, alumni and friends of Foster. After looking at all the options for engagement, the MBA Association decided on a couple of key events, one of which was a golf tournament. The Foster School of Business has a successful history with golf tournaments—the Evening MBA Program hosts an informal event and the Technology Management MBA Program holds an annual Bettin Cup. Therefore, the planning committee, composed of myself and other MBA students, were hopeful that the Full-time MBA Program could start and maintain a new tradition.

Very early in the process the planning committee understood that collaboration with various stakeholders at the Foster School and the business community was key to the success of the Golf Classic. We started by networking with our fellow students to build support and excitement about this new tradition. Then Foster’s alumni and advancement staff guided us through the process of engaging alumni and securing sponsors. Dean Jim Jiambalvo also graciously agreed to play in the tournament and host those sponsors.

UW Foster School of Business Dean Jiambalvo (left) and alumnus and tournament sponsor Charlie Hogan (BA 1959)

After warming up on the driving range and breakfast, the tournament began with a shot-gun start at 8 AM on the par-71 China Creek Course at the Golf Club at Newcastle. 72 golfers—41 MBA students and 31 alumni and friends of Foster—competed in a scramble for foursome with the lowest score and prizes at three contest holes (one longest drive and two closest to the pin). The pace of play allowed for plenty of time to socialize without any delays caused by a congested course. After golfing, we all enjoyed a full bar and appetizers before sitting down to a steak and salmon lunch. We had a brief ceremony with a few words from Dean Jiambalvo and Charlie Hogan, recognition of our sponsors and a presentation of awards to the tournament and contest champions.

While socializing, everyone agreed they had a wonderful time and look forward to next year’s Golf Classic.

Matt Eliseo is the VP for alumni affairs of the Foster MBA Association. Next year, he will begin his PhD in organizational behavior at the Foster School of Business.

Sponsors were vital to creating a successful tournament, and we thank Carl and Charlie Hogan, Goldman, Sachs & Co., Dunham Cellars, Esterline, Fresh Consulting and Logic 20/20 for their support.

Part 2 of 2: MBA study tour in Peru – Machu Picchu, microfinance, stocks, adventure

Guest post by Oliver Huslid, Evening MBA student

peru2011Machu Picchu
We took a bus, a train, and then a bus again to reach the top of Machu Picchu Mountain where the ruins are. My headache left me, which is fortunate since the first thing I did upon arrival is sprint across the ruins to get my name on the list for the Huaynu Pichu hike. Only 300 visitors are allowed at a time and I wanted to catch up with my classmates who had taken earlier buses than I. The climb forces me to do a solid hour of stair-stepping but rewards me with a majestic view of the Machu Picchu ruins.
 
Microfinance and women entrepreneurs
Our first company visit is with Credivision, a WorldVision-owned microfinance company focused on lending to women in Peru. They have medium-sized operations, having fewer than 200 active accounts but always expanding. A stringent application process ensures high-quality borrowers on their portfolio and a high repayment rate. A minimum of 10 women are required to apply for a loan together as a group—this is to encourage the borrowers to help each other out with their businesses, whether it’s giving advice or pooling funds. Because they’re on the hook together, they will often cover for each other’s payments should one borrower’s business fail and peer pressure the delinquent individual into solvency.

Peru_stocks_0971Peru stock exchange
We visit the stock exchange, a nondescript commercial building in one of the business districts of town. The presenter is regrettably too incoherent for me to learn anything, though I do recall from an earlier presentation that Peru’s stock market is over half mining capitalization. Their goal is to merge with Colombia’s stock exchange, which is dominated by textiles, and Argentina’s stock exchange, which is dominated by services, to create a unified and diversified stock market.
 
Paragliding over Peru
On my last day, I go paragliding off the cliffs of Lima by the shoreline. For the first time, I’m able to see across the endless city of Lima, home to 8 million, and I immediately forget all that’s on my mind. I look down the coast until the beach meets the horizon and begin to feel very relaxed. The paragliders and I head back to the hotel and meet up with our classmates, all of whom venture into the city for one last shopping adventure. Feeling tranquil, I instead opt to lay by the waterfall pool, dozing off to the sunset, waiting for the hour that I must board the plane to whisk me away from my Peruvian dream.

Oliver is one of many University of Washington Foster School of Business MBA students who studied abroad in 2011. Learn more about MBA study and work abroad opportunities.

Part 1 of 2: MBA study tour in Peru – Coffee, copper, economics

Guest post by Oliver Huslid, Evening MBA student

Peru_0097Silicon Valley of Peru
Microsoft Peru rents space from an unassuming office building in the heart of the city. Because this particular satellite branch only does Sales, it does not have the need for a sprawling complex like that in Redmond.  The immediate surrounding area has a new and modern feel to it. The architecture of the buildings showcases their glass and clean concrete. Because Microsoft’s neighbors include HP, Cisco, Oracle, and Google, it’s no wonder they call this area the “Silicon Valley of Peru.”

Coffee co-op
We visited Café Villa Rica, a co-op of coffee-growers in the Villa Rica region. Headquarters were located inside an unmarked office building in a sleepy residential area of Lima. Café Villa Rica is a privately owned and privately funded since local banks do not trust farmland as good collateral for loans.  They grow, pick, and process their own beans to ensure quality. Unfortunately, Peru does not yet have a big coffee-drinking culture, so most of their beans are exported to coffee-drinking nations like the United States. Café Villa Rica sells about 60% of its beans to Starbucks, where their acidic, earthy beans are mixed with Kenyan beans to balance out some flavors for Starbucks’ customers.

Copper mining
We walk around the corner to visit the headquarters of Southern Peru Copper Corporation, a copper mining corporation with extraction sites in Peru and Mexico. The copper industry enjoys high margins and an accelerating demand from developing countries like China. Year over year EBITDA is in the triple billions for this particular company despite issues with strikes, corrupt unions, and increasing environmental backlash.

Though recent demand slowed in 2009 due to lagging construction needs in the global sphere, demand has picked up pace again in 2010. As one of the largest mining companies in the world, Southern Peru Copper Corporation mines a diversity of minerals and metals, like molybdenum, zinc, and others.

Peru’s national economy
We began one day with a visit to the Ministry of Foreign Relations, where we are treated to an exposition on the strengths of Peru’s economy.

Many of the charts convey dramatic increases of key exports in the past decade, highlighting Peru’s rapid expansion and growing presence in the global trade arena. Peru’s modern approach to global economics has earned it crucial free trade agreements with a large number of countries, including the United States and much of Europe. The impact of these decisions has improved the standard of life for Peruvians substantially, as evidenced by the poverty level dropping from 50% to about 35% over the past decade.

One major weakness of Peru’s economy that they are trying to remedy is overreliance on exporting to the United States and other developed nations. The other major weakness of Peru’s economy is heavy saturation of mining companies. This trait of the Peruvian economy makes it vulnerable to fluctuating commodity prices for metals and minerals.

Oliver is one of many University of Washington Foster School of Business MBA students who studied abroad in 2011. Learn more about MBA study and work abroad opportunities.

$22,500 awarded to clean technology winners

Teams who won the 3rd annual University of Washington Environmental Innovation Challenge invented solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental issues. Wind energy. Electric car improvements. Biomass energy. Water purification. Algal biofuel efficiency. The 2011 event also had a range of other clean-tech innovations with 17 teams from Washington state universities (UW, WSU, WWU and SPU) competing. Undergraduate, graduate and PhD students from engineering, business, economics, philosophy and a number of other disciplines joined forces to tackle the environment.

VoltaicGrand Prize of $10,000 = Voltaic

A group of UW undergraduate engineers and business students created an electric vehicle modular drive train that can replace drive trains of gas-powered engines in existing models. The electric module can be customized to fit inside any car and the team displayed a Honda outfitted with its prototype electric engine to show how it powers the car.

2nd Prize of $5,000 = PotaVida

This UW PhD team (an electrical engineer, bio-engineer and policy analyst) created a device that measures water quality with a reusable, solar-powered electronic indicator for monitoring solar disinfection of drinking water. Their inexpensive indicator won a $40,000 design award last year and will be field tested in Bolivia this summer. PotaVida is advised by experts at PATH and Microsoft as well as UW professors.

Three honorable mention prizes of $2,500 each went to other UW interdisciplinary teams. Pterofin invented an affordable, more versatile alternative to wind turbines; the new device is lighter than current wind technology and harnesses wind energy at lower wind speeds. BioTek has a patented and patent-pending suite of tools to help optimize and scale the growing algal biofuel industry; their instruments and software are low-cost and field-ready. C6 Systems created a novel system to turn woody biomass into charcoal (or biochar) at forestry sites; their biochar can be sold to heating/electric plants or used as soil enhancement.

Starbucks VP of Sustainable Procurement Sue Mecklenburg, one of many business, science and venture capital judges at the event, said, “It just gets better every year.”

“The Environmental Innovation Challenge is supposed to be more than a university-level science fair. The goal is to be able to take these ideas into a real, revenue-generating business,” said James Barger, UW undergraduate mechanical engineering student who serves as VP of finance for Voltaic.

The UW Environmental Innovation Challenge is sponsored by the UW Foster School of Business Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, UW College of Engineering, UW College of the Environment and UW Center for Commercialization.