On Friday, May 8, the Consulting and Business Development Center hosted the Undergraduate Consulting Challenge, pairing three local small businesses – Big Time Brewery, Gargoyles Statuary, and Panache206 with teams of students who were given a week to create a plan that would aid in the growth and development of each client.
Approximately 60 students formed teams of three or four to research and analyze the companies in order to develop recommendations to present at the competition. For the first time, the Consulting and Business Development Center extended the invitation to compete beyond UW to business students from community colleges throughout the state. South Seattle College and Yakima Valley Community College each sent four students to compete in the challenge – with the South Seattle team winning first place for their recommendations to Big Time Brewery!
Each student team presented dynamic ideas and data to the business owners and panel of judges from event sponsors Key Bank and Target as well as professionals from Community Sourced Capital, Crown Moving, PaintBox Labs Media Group and Project Management Institute who volunteered their time and expertise. Following the presentations, all attendees gathered in Deloitte Commons for a celebratory lunch and networking opportunity for students, business owners and professionals. After lunch the winning teams for each business were announced and each winning team member received a $200 gift card prize.
Congratulations to all involved with the 2015 spring Undergraduate Consulting Challenge!
I had lunch with a good friend last week—someone who supports tech entrepreneurship and the larger Seattle startup community. He asked if there was research to detail the value of business plan competitions. What, he asked me, do business plan competitions accomplish?
There are 350+ entrepreneurship centers in US colleges and universities, and my sense is that less than 70% of them have competitions called business plan competitions, startup competitions, new venture competitions, etc. Some programs require their own students to participate in their competition, a good number of them have national or international scope, and a number of them have themes (social, tech, global, undergraduate, graduate). Most all of them award money, and some of them, like Rice University, offer BIG money.
Competitions, in my opinion, shouldn’t be easy, and students should never get a grade for competing. If you want to mimic the realities of the entrepreneurial world in the safe environment of a university, you have to up the ante. Make the competition as real world as possible, with deadlines and deliverables that require student teams to use all the resources they can muster to succeed. Yes, we assume that students are smart, talented, driven and motivated. How good are they at combining those personal characteristics with an idea, a vision and turning it all into a compelling business? It’s a test. But not like any they’re used to.
Competitions require that student teams butt up against reality. Anyone can write a business plan, but tell me about your execution strategy. What traction do you have to date? Give me a customer profile. Who’s your mentor, your industry expert? Who on your team is going to leave to take a job after graduation—and who’s starting the company?
The UW Business Plan Competition is badly named, and we know it. We started the event in 1998, when every major university was starting a BPC. Then it was about the plan, but the plan was demoted in 2006 and now the 100+ teams apply with an executive summary. In the 18 years we’ve offered our Business Plan Competition, 4,091 students on 1,278 teams from 16 colleges and universities around Washington State have applied. We’ve given out $1.3 million in prize money/seed funding to 128 winning teams. We guess that 75+ teams that went through the competition are still in business, contributing to the (mostly) Washington economy. The 2003 grand-prize winner, NanoString, went public in 2013.
But here’s the real value of the BPC: it’s hard. It takes discipline and motivation and sheer determination. It demands that teams overcome doubt and anxiety, team dynamics, and their own misconceptions of how things should work or who deserves what. It requires them to move past the paralysis that will surely come when their initial market vanishes or when financial projections are scoffed at. The pain and frustration would make it easy to quit. And some do. The survivors become entrepreneurs.
Meet the Author
As director of the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at the Foster School of Business, Connie Bourassa-Shaw works to integrate entrepreneurship into the student experience at the University of Washington. She’s responsible for the strategic direction of the center, ensuring the relevance of its curriculum and practical experiences, working with student entrepreneurs, and developing new initiatives. The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, which received a $5.2 million naming gift in January 2013, produces the UW Environmental Innovation Challenge and the highly visible Business Plan Competition.
37 student-led startup teams from colleges and universities across Washington state gathered at the University of Washington HUB yesterday to compete in the 2015 Business Plan Competition Investment Round. For four hours, the teams pitched their entrepreneurial ideas to 250+ judges—many of whom said it was the most impressive group of teams in the history of the BPC— in the hopes of landing a spot in the next round of the competition. By the end of the afternoon the scores had been tallied and the sixteen top-scoring teams were announced. These teams will move on to the “Sweet Sixteen” round of the 2015 BPC—one step closer to winning the $25,000 Grand Prize. Congrats to the Sweet Sixteen!
Auctora’s automated recruiting tool seamlessly screens, sorts, and schedules candidates so that corporate recruiters can utilize their time more effectively while sourcing job applicants. No dealing with paper resumes; no back-and-forth emails between recruiters and candidates – welcome to recruiting in the 21st century!
University of Washington
Authality’s first product, Klide, is the most secure and convenient smart lock, and the only smart lock that meets the demands of Airbnb hosts. Klide pairs a physical lock with a mobile app that allows hosts to distribute revocable “keys” to guests and control access remotely.
University of Washington and Washington State University
Benchmark Environmental is changing the way we treat storm water. By combining innovative design with new technologies, our treatment solutions are affordable, easy to install, and low maintenance. Benchmark Environmental’s products enable more companies and municipalities to treat storm water runoff effectively–a win-win for customers and the environment.
University of Washington Tacoma
Bettery provides consumers with the most cost effective, convenient, and sustainable portable power solution on the market. Bettery taps a growing demand for sustainable solutions by offering batteries as a low cost subscription service.
Washington State University
Co Optical specializes in lifestyle management technologies, with a flagship product that revolutionizes diabetes management by continuously and non-invasively monitoring blood glucose. This wearable device, structured as a pair of glasses, improves convenience and enhances the overall user experience allowing seamless integration of lifestyle management strategies into the everyday lives of people with diabetes.
University of Washington
Empreva aims to empower and engage women across the world to take their health into their own hands by providing a safe, convenient, and comfortable method for birth control and STI prevention.Empreva is developing birth control and combination birth control/anti-HIV products to benefit the health of women in high-HIV burden areas of the developing world who lack options for protection. For every purchase of an Empreva birth control product in the U.S., Empreva will donate one combination product to a woman in need in the developing world to help achieve sexual health and empowerment for women everywhere.
Washington State University
Go KEFI is an experience-based travel website that helps you plan vacations based off desired experiences and budget. The team won first place at Spokane Startup Weekend 2014, and has since sparked a movement for a new way to travel.
University of Washington
Hook is a home automation hub that offers smart home capability to the price sensitive consumer. Customers are able to convert existing electronics in the home to smart compatible devices, keeping these products up-to-date for years to come. Consumers will enjoy convenience with control via their mobile devices, savings on energy costs, and improved home safety. With an affordable price and remarkable ease of use, Hook aims to make smart home technology accessible to the masses.
University of Washington
JikoPower makes thermo-electric generators to turn ordinary cook stoves into personal charging stations for off-grid households that have small electronic devices in the developing world. JikoPower POWERS devices, but it EMPOWERS people.
Western Washington University and University of Washington
NOVA Technologies’ Smart Solar Window uses transparent nanotechnology to create clean, local electricity that can turn skyscrapers into giant solar arrays and reduce HVAC systems costs, an innovative link to a carbon neutral future.
Park A Lot
University of Washington
Park A Lot is a platform connecting private businesses who have unused parking spaces with customers looking for parking. Lot owners sign up on a hop-on, hop-off platform and their lots become available to the public, generating them revenue. Customers use Park A Lot’s website or app to purchase parking on a lot of their choice from their home or mobile device.
RainCity Heart Lab
Seventy percent of patients who have suffered a heart attack for the first time were previously classified as low risk for cardiovascular disease based on the current testing methods. RainCity Heart Lab (RCHL) is a specialty diagnostic lab that offers a better diagnostic test called CALLIS. CALLIS (Calibrated Lipoprotein Ion Separation) is a blood test for accurately quantifying intact lipoproteins for improved Cardio Vascular Disease risk assessment.
University of Washington
SmartyPants reinvents toilet training and mitigates adult incontinence issues to prevent millions of diapers from ending up as a biohazard in landfills. It predicts impending bowel events and alerts users to get to a toilet. The company’s innovative, first-of-its-kind, technology creates value for the consumers by saving on diaper purchases and the environment by reducing waste and biohazard from disposable diapers.
University of Washington
vHAB is a virtual rehabilitation platform that helps patients regain fine motor skills to lead autonomous lives again. vHAB enables occupational therapists to customize patient treatment and accurately monitor progress through engaging and dynamic video games. System portability and precision metrics pose a competitive advantage for rehabilitation facilities, allowing delivery of quality treatment to patients – anywhere, anytime. vHAB saves rehabilitation facilities time and money. Most importantly, vHAB empowers patients to reclaim their independence.
University of Washington
A significant portion of patients attending STD clinics fail to follow up for treatment, even when tests are positive and the risk for transmission and complication is highest. Vie Diagnostics’ disruptive molecular diagnostic technology will reduce the spread and pain of STD infections by allowing patients to be tested and treated in a single clinical visit. Its tests will provide better patient management, lower costs for clinics, and improve overall public health.
University of Washington
Yowgii has the potential to disrupt the bottled water industry and the water filtration industry. The global bottled water industry is worth over $157 billion a year, but is heavily comprised of plastic bottles with significant environmental footprint and potential for contaminants. Yowgii combines environmentally-friendly water delivery with innovative water purification to deliver the best drinking water to consumer and promises pure water for a better you!
See what others have to say about the BPC on Twitter: #UWBPC2015
I am Doug Picatti, the Vice President of Business Development and an owner of Picatti Brothers, Inc., an 86-year-old multi-company electrical and pump contracting family business in Yakima, WA. During the Spring of 2014, I and six of my team members attended the UW Foster School’s Business Certificate Program.
First, I’d like to thank the staff and excellent educators from the UW Foster School of Business, Domex Superfresh Growers, the Kershaw family, the Educational Service District 105 and most importantly, my fellow classmates whose enthusiasm and participation made this program a success!
Picatti Brothers has 5 core values that guide our culture. Our first is knowledge. Our people and team must be knowledgeable to create quality solutions to exceed our customer’s goals. Continued education is important to our success. Expanding the capabilities of our people, our leadership team and ultimately our company is of paramount importance to us.
Picatti Brothers will be 90 years old in 2018. We have set some very aggressive goals for this very special anniversary. In order to meet these goals, we need to continue to learn and grow our people’s capabilities. I was excited after learning about this program and felt this was a great opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge of our management team to effectively lead our company to the next level.
This six-week program taught techniques, skills and experiences from some of the brightest minds within the University of Washington. The case studies were interesting, relevant and helpful. In short, this program and its people were truly world class!
Ultimately, this class helped us learn to be better leaders. Leadership is more than just having skills and knowledge. Leadership coalesces the passions and purpose of people to achieve a common vision. It is about inspiring ourselves and others to achieve a unified goal.
Mindy Grossman, the CEO of HSN said it well when she said “If you are inspired, if you are excited, and you are part of something, you are probably going to be successful, because you are doing what you love.” Because of this program, we’ve made some great new leaders who will make our companies and ultimately our community successful!
What can undergraduates do to develop their leadership while at UW?
That’s what over 150 undergraduates came to a Leadership Conference on a recent Saturday to learn about. Hosted by Delta Sigma Pi (a professional co-ed business fraternity)* in conjunction with the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking, the one-day conference gave attendees a real-world perspective on what they can do now to develop the leadership skills that will be vital to their professional success. The conference included representatives from companies such as Accenture, PepsiCo/Frito Lay, Boeing, Microsoft and Target.
CLST’s role in the event was to help students build their Developmental Readiness, their willingness and ability to develop when faced with challenging leadership situations. (It’s worth noting that the students certainly demonstrated their willingness to develop by showing up to a leadership conference early on a sunny Saturday morning.)
Research on leadership development has shown that only about 30% of leadership is hard-wired, while the other 70% can be developed, and that the extent to which one develops through experiences differs from person to person. In other words, facing a similar challenge, a person with higher developmental readiness might thrive and grow while another struggles and gives up. Further, this ability to develop can itself be developed. CLST’s goal was to help catalyze this process.
In a workshop format, CLST coaches helped participants craft a plan for working on an aspect of their developmental readiness, including specific actions they could take on a daily basis. Sienna Landry, a member of Delta Sigma Pi who helped organize the event, said that the attendees “have absolutely walked away from this conference with a new sense of how they can impact their leadership styles.”
The event was a huge success, and the fraternity plans to hold it again next year. This collaboration with Delta Sigma Pi is a great example of how CLST is reaching out to UW undergraduates to help develop critical leadership skills during their time at UW.
*Delta Sigma Pi is a professional fraternity organized to foster the study of business in universities; to encourage scholarship, social activity and the association of students for their mutual advancement by research and practice.
“Alaska Airlines wants to get better and better at being a leader in environmental responsibility, so today we’re here to learn from you,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines’ senior vice president for communications and external relations, in his welcome address at the 2015 Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge.
The “you” he was speaking to was a group of 22 student teams from 7 colleges and universities across the state of Washington, gathered at the Seattle Center to pitch their innovations in clean technology, renewable energy and water resource management.
Throughout the afternoon these innovative and entrepreneurial students demonstrated their prototypes and fielded questions on everything from technology issues to market viability from a room full of 160+ judges and another 100 guests.
While all in attendance undoubtedly learned something from every team, only five teams went home with a portion of the $37,500 in prize money.
Congratulations to the winners of the 2015 Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge!
$15,000 Grand Prize & $5,000 Clean Energy Prize
(sponsored by Wells Fargo and the UW Clean Energy Institute)
FireBee (University of Washington)
Student Team members:
Ryan Ahearn, undergraduate, mechanical engineering
Aaron Owen, undergraduate, mechanical engineering
Daniel Parrish, undergraduate, mechanical engineering
FireBee is a portable thermoelectric generator that turns cooking fires into personal power stations, creating an alternative energy source for people in countries that are otherwise off the grid.
Student Team Members:
Rahil Jain, graduate, electrical engineering
Robert Moehle, graduate , Foster School of Business
Hook is a home automation hub that allows customers to convert existing electronics to smart devices, decreasing energy consumption, improving home safety, and reducing the amount of electronics that are routinely discarded in landfills.
$2,500 Honorable Mentions
(sponsored by Starbucks, UW CoMotion, and Puget Sound Energy)
EcoStream (University of Washington)
Student Team Members:
Michaela Byrne, graduate, Foster School of Business
Tianchi Liu, undergradaute, computer science & engineering
Ryan Osher, graduate, Foster School of Business
Shon Schmidt, graduate, bioengineering
Wenxuan Wu, undergraduate, electrical engineering
Han Ye, undergraduate, electrical engineering
EcoStream builds awareness and lifelong habits to conserve our most valuable resource by helping people conserve water and change their usage habits in a fun and inexpensive way.
Ion Informatics (University of Washington)
Student Team Members:
Charles Daitch, graduate, Foster School of Business
Brendan Erickson, undergraduate, chemical engineering
Daniel Gilbert, undergraduate, chemical engineering
Matthew Murbach, graduate, chemical engineering
Uttara Sahaym, graduate, Foster School of Business
Arianna Whitten, undergraduate, chemical engineering
Ion Informatics is developing a proprietary technology that provides critical information to battery operators, optimizing asset utilization and prolonging the useful life of the battery. The end effect is a dramatic increase in value that can be extracted from each battery by enabling viable second use battery systems.
Foster D-Prize is dedicated toward expanding access to poverty-alleviation solutions in the developing world. Many solutions to problems of poverty already exist; the challenge is distributing these solutions to the people who need it most. D-Prize tackles this by challenging social entrepreneurs to develop better ways to distribute proven life-enhancing technologies, and funding early-stage startups that deliver the best results. This year, D-Prize partnered with the Foster School of Business to bring the D-Prize competition to the University of Washington.
Meet the Foster D-Prize Teams:
Iaso Global Health Supply Chain Systems – Our approach applies a flexible and reliable Android driven SMS compatible information platform to actively monitor and track vaccine stock to dramatically increase vaccine distribution and consumption in Bong County, Liberia.
Itzel sells and services solar lamps via in-store and field-based sales and repair teams. Our solar lamps allow customers to save on energy costs and utilize more of the day to increase income.
Power2Girls will educate girls in Ghana on sugar daddy awareness using a combination of existing mobile technology and live training. Several of Ghana’s regions have an immediate need to educate young girls of the dangers of pregnancy and HIV infection, much of it stemming from unprotected sex with older men.
Seva will optimize and enhance existing vaccine distribution by providing a RFID based reporting and tracking system that will coordinate supply with demand to different health care providers in a timely fashion. A dynamic machine learning algorithm running behind the scenes would improve the system all the time.
Zagaa – We will target small M-PESA merchants around Nairobi, Kenya to build upon the natural synergy between solar-powered charging stations and the vendors who provide these banking and cellular services; furthermore, we will also use a similar direct-sales approach in partnering with local banks to sell our lamps.
There are more than 2 billion people who live on less than $2 per day. The good news? Effective poverty solutions have already been developed. Today’s challenge is finding a better way to distribute health products like vaccines, energy products like solar lamps, and many other proven solutions to some of those 2+ billion people. Entrepreneurs from the Foster School of Business and the University of Washington are tackling this challenge. They are starting organizations that we believe can grow to be the biggest, more high impact ventures on the planet”. – NICHOLAS FUSSO, Program Director at D-Prize
D-Prize is an organization dedicated to expanding access to proven poverty solutions in the developing world. The Foster School’s Global Business Center is pleased to be part of the growing family of D-Prize academic partners. This winter, five UW teams competed in the inaugural Foster D-Prize by offering distribution innovations for proven poverty solutions. Each team (including at least one MBA student), was challenged to either 1) Improve vaccine supply chains, 2) Distribute solar lamps, or 3) Deliver Sexual Education to girls to reduce the risk of HIV
Five UW teams submitted 2 page concept notes that were judged by D-Prize. On Wednesday, January 14th, the five UW graduate student teams showcased their distribution solutions at the Foster D-Prize Trade Show. At the trade show, the UW Global Business Center announced which of the 5 teams D-Prize selected to advance to the next round of the competition. Tradeshow guests also voted for the winners of two $1,000 prizes (People’s Choice and MBA Choice).
In the next round of the competition, teams will write full proposals and compete to win $10,000 to implement their solution this summer in a developing country. D-Prize management told the UW Global Business Center they were extremely impressed with the quality of UW submissions in the first round of the competition. The average acceptance rate into the second round among university D-Prize programs is 20-40%, and is only 5% in the global competition. For the first time in the history of D-Prize competitions, they invited all UW first round teams to move on to the next round of the competition.
Foster D-Prize is open to currently enrolled UW graduate students in any discipline who submit a plan that uses business principles to create distributions solutions to existing social enterprise models. Applications for the 2nd annual competition are due in November 2015. Learn more about Foster D-Prize.
The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at the Foster School of Business has received a $150,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Clean Technology and Innovation grant program in support of the 2015 Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge.
In mid-December 2014, Members of the Buerk Center and Foster School community, including Dean Jim Jiambalvo and Buerk Center director Connie Bourassa-Shaw, met with representatives from Wells Fargo to accept the grant and share a few words on their mutual commitment to clean technology and the “green economy.”
The Environmental Innovation Challenge, now in its seventh year, provides a platform for students to explore the scalability of innovative and entrepreneurial solutions to environmental problems—a market that has grown exponentially in recent years.
“The focus on ‘green’ is exploding,” said Jiambalvo, noting dramatically increased efforts by large, established institutions to “green up” every aspect of what they do.
Marco Abbruzzese, Wells Fargo senior regional manager, agreed, saying, “We want to be a leader in clean technology and innovation because it’s the right thing to do, because the problems are so big, and because a positive impact on the environment also positively impacts our bottom line.” He went on to list some of Wells Fargo’s recent accomplishments, including granting over $3 million to 64 environmental programs. “We love what you are doing with the Environmental Innovation Challenge,” he said, “and we’re delighted to be able to support it.”
About the Wells Fargo Clean Technology and Innovation Grant Program
The Wells Fargo Clean Technology and Innovation grant program funds clean technology incubator and accelerator programs, along with research and development projects involving universities and colleges. It supports building a framework for entrepreneurs seeking to provide scalable solutions in the low carbon economy.
About the Environmental Innovation Challenge
The Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC) at the University of Washington sparks creative thinking, innovative approaches to problems of environmental significance, and encourages cross-disciplinary teams. EIC student teams define an environmental problem, develop the solution, build a prototype, and write a business summary that defines the market opportunity and potential for impact. The next challenge will take place on April 2, 2015. Learn more about the EIC.
Guest post by Nick Dwyer, Foster MBA Candidate, 2016
Before enrolling in the full-time MBA program at the Foster School this fall, I often heard full-time business students characterized as “day students”. But with the vast number of engaging presentations, speakers’ series, networking opportunities and other evening events at our disposal, I now realize this was a misnomer. While I’m not currently taking any evening classes, my on-campus education rarely ceases before 6PM. Perhaps my most notable example is the evening of November 20th, when I had the opportunity to hear from the former US ambassador to Japan, John Roos.
Ambassador Roos came to the Foster School as part of the Tateuchi Foundation Asian Business Distinguished Speaker Lecture, a series of annual speeches by business leaders focused on presenting US-Japan business opportunities.
By partnering with the Tateuchi Foundation, we can honor the legacy of Mr. Tateuchi’s business success and further the Foundation’s goals of promoting international understanding, knowledge, and relations.
The event is made possible by the Tateuchi Foundation, a family foundation charged with building bridges of understanding between the United States and Japan. Given this mission, its unlikely there is a more fitting presenter than John Roos, who served in his role as ambassador to Japan from 2009 to 2013.
One of the most interesting points of Ambassador Roos’ presentation was his atypical professional background for an ambassador. Unlike most American ambassadors to Japan, John Roos never held a significant public office before his ambassadorship and was not a political figure in Washington, DC. Before Japan, Roos was a lawyer in Silicon Valley, where as CEO he led a premier technology law firm.
He explained that he was such an outsider that his wife quipped that he “didn’t have a chance in hell” before formally receiving his nomination for the post. But his less than common background was appealing to President Obama, who appreciated his experience in technology and innovation and his understanding of Asia-Pacific business. “But most of all, it was just a matter of trust” Roos confirmed.
As someone who has always been interested with the economy of Japan, I particularly enjoyed watching Ambassador Roos interact with Japanese students in the Q&A part of the evening. What emerged was a major difference of opinion between the state and potential future of Japan. Several students commented they felt pessimistic about the future of Japan, given the weak economy, the high population loss, and the high national debt. Ambassador Roos reminded them that Japan is still the third largest economy in the world and that 90% of the world would trade places with them. When asked what is the best characteristic of Japanese business, Roos stated that “quality and attention to detail permeate the whole society” and there is a very high level of service, which can continue to drive the Japanese business. He also sees the Japanese business culture beginning to address its lack of entrepreneurial thinkers and businesses, which will be key for future economic growth.
While Japanese business was a major conversation point for the evening, Roos also discussed a number of geopolitical issues, including the thorny relationship between Okinawa and the United States, the dispute between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands, and North Korean threat to Japan. He also described the biggest challenge of his ambassadorship; the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami. The link between national security and economic wellbeing was not lost on the ambassador, as he frequently pivoted between both topics.
In all, Ambassador Roos painted a complex yet optimistic picture of Japan and Japanese businesses. His belief in the country is illustrated by his current position on the board of directors at Japan’s largest electronics company, Sony. While Japan has to overcome it’s shrinking population and stiff competition, his ambassadorship allowed him to see up close what makes Japan so dynamic.
While I certainly don’t wish to underestimate my daytime classes and activities, Ambassador Roos certainly demonstrated that learning about global business doesn’t necessarily slow when the sun sets at Paccar Hall.
– Faculty perspectives, alumni happenings, student experiences, Seattle and Pacific Northwest community connections, and a taste of life around the Foster School.