Category Archives: University of Washington

From concrete bunker to startup hub

CondonHallSince 2003, Condon Hall, former home of the UW Law School, has sat half-empty, providing temporary overflow space for various departments. Soon, Condon Hall will  become Startup Hall, a home-base for promising early-stage companies and the hub of what’s expected to be Seattle’s next hot startup district.

Startup Hall was the brainchild of a core committee of UW and entrepreneurial community leaders, including Paul Jenny, vice provost of the Office of Planning and Budget, and Chris DeVore, the director of Techstars and chair of the City of Seattle’s Economic Development Commission. It’s the first step in what will be a multi-year effort to transform the University District into a thriving entrepreneurial hub.

“It’s clear that this area is going to see major changes over the next 10+ years,” says DeVore, citing a recent economic study and the light rail build-out to the U-District that has stations slated to open in 2016 and 2021. The neighborhood’s anticipated improvements, along with its proximity to the UW, an institution buzzing with entrepreneurial energy, will make it a logical place for innovative businesses to put down roots.

The question has been, says DeVore, “what will it take to get these innovative, high-growth businesses to choose the U-District for their next office move?” The answer: Startup Hall. DeVore explains, “By beginning to shift early-stage startup activity to the neighborhood—with Startup Hall as the catalyst, but with the bigger goal of filling as much existing office space as possible with innovation-based companies—we’ll begin to integrate the university and the neighborhood with the innovation community.”

TechStars and UP Global,  Startup Hall’s first anchor tenants, will share an atrium-like space on the north side of the building. Across the hall, an open co-working space will house up to 20 small, early-stage tech companies. The building will also have an office for UW programs, including the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, plus spaces for meeting, eating, and the occasional Ping-Pong match. The entire structure has been redesigned to facilitate creativity and collaboration. With any luck, Start-Up Hall will open the U-District to a flood of ideas and new ventures. Who knows? In a few years, students might pass by the next Google or Amazon on their way to campus.

Power of a game plan

Recently, Foster School students had the opportunity to hear from Steve Forbes and Rich Karlgaard, two of the powerhouses behind Forbes magazine. The topic of the talk was “The Power of a Game Plan.” It was an opportunity for students to ask Forbes and Karlgaard about the international and domestic business outlook and how they (students) can plan for the future.

Steve Forbes is chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media. He has also authored several books; his most recent one is titled: Freedom Manifesto – Why Free Markets are Moral and Big Government Isn’t. He holds a BA in history from Princeton University.

Rich Karlgaard is the publisher of Forbes magazine and writes a biweekly column called Innovation Rules. He’s also an entrepreneur, an active angel investor, and sits on three outside boards. He’s also co-winner of the Ernst & Young Northern California Entrepreneur of the Year Award. He holds a BA from Stanford University.

Highlights from the talk included advice from Karlgaard that to be successful in business, you should know your strengths and then find people with complementary skills. Forbes also told the audience of mostly undergraduates to be prepared to feel adrift and lost for awhile when you first start working after college. It will be the first time your life won’t be structured by school.

Watch the entire talk.

The Power of a Game Plan from the Foster School of Business.

The who, what, why, and Howe of Impact HUB Seattle

Impact HUB Seattle
Impact HUB Seattle

Impact HUB Seattle makes a great first impression.  It has that industrial chic thing down to a T: exposed brick, grand staircase, rustic wooden beams. There are Herman Miller chairs and 24” monitors at every desk, state-of-the-art meeting rooms, hot showers for bike commuters, and blazing fast internet, of course.   But the HUB is more than just a pretty face. It’s a space where entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and innovative start-up companies work side by side with the shared goal of making the world a better place.

“That’s Mark,” says HUB Seattle founder Brian Howe, waving at a young man through the glass walls of a sleek conference room.  “He’s the CEO of Moving World. It’s a for-profit start-up that connects professionals with vacation volunteer projects that match their skill sets.”  He turns and gestures in the other direction. “Two offices down,” he continues, “is the Seattle Good Business Network. They promote the benefits of buying and thinking local.” The HUB is filled with start-ups and nonprofits like these – organizations committed to treating contribution to the common good with the same reverence as financial gain.

Howe’s fascination with entrepreneurship began in law school, when he and an MBA student were assigned to help entrepreneurs in underserved communities with their business plans and legal issues. “It turned out I enjoyed the business side more than the legal side,” says Howe. So after getting his law degree, he set out to build his entrepreneurial expertise and earn what he calls a “poor man’s MBA,” competing in the UW Business Plan Competition with Safety Innovation, a company that produced protective garments for hospitals.

Impact HUB Seattle founder Brian Howe
Impact HUB Seattle founder Brian Howe

As Howe became more confident of his start-up skills and his law firm found its niche serving impact entrepreneurs, he found himself spending more time helping clients with introductions to investors, writing business plans, and polishing pitch decks. He was passionate about the work, but it did not match the billable hour model of a law firm. Howe asked himself, “Is there a business model that allows me to do the work that I love doing?” His answer: Yes, start an incubator.

Howe went looking for inspiration and came across the global HUB network, an ecosystem for social entrepreneurs. Started in London in 2004, the HUB network had grown to about 40 outposts worldwide, and one had just opened in San Francisco. “I fell in love with the energy of the space,” says Howe, of his visit, “and thought, this is it. I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. I need to bring this to Seattle.”

Roughly a year later, HUB Seattle has 500 members who use the space to work on their start-ups, hold meetings and workshops, and share ideas with a community of like-minded entrepreneurs. The HUB’s “everything under one roof” model means that members can help each other with just about every aspect of running a start-up, from accounting to web design. HUB Seattle has built partnerships with organizations like Social Venture Partners and Bainbridge Graduate Institute, aopens its space up for community events like Startup Weekend, film screenings, and Tech Meetups.

So what’s next for HUB Seattle? Howe is thinking globally. “The HUB is arguably the largest network of impact entrepreneurs in the world,” he says.  He plans to develop a globally dispersed consulting network made up of HUB members who can share their talents, collaborate on ideas, and help each other change the world.

WCRS: an incubator for novel ideas

paccar interior for WCRSFor entrepreneurs, collaboration can be key to innovation. The same is true for doctoral students and scholars in entrepreneurship. Faculty and graduate students from across the country and overseas met in Seattle September 4-6 for the 11th annual West Coast Research Symposium (WCRS) to do just that: collaborate. “The WCRS started as a simple idea to connect faculty and doctoral students passionate about technology-based entrepreneurship on the West Coast of the United States,” says UW professor Suresh Kotha. “It’s wonderful to see how it’s evolved into a premiere conference.”

Hosted by the UW Foster School of Business and presented jointly by the University of Washington, Stanford, Oregon, University of Southern California, and UC Irvine, the WCRS is an opportunity for researchers to share, discuss, and build upon the latest ideas in the world of technology-based innovation and entrepreneurship.

“The WCRS is an incubator for novel ideas that challenge received wisdom and offer valuable lessons to anyone who lives or wants to live in the world of technology entrepreneurship,” says USC professor Nandini Rajagopalan.  Stanford professor Kathy Eisenhardt, co-director of Stanford Technology Ventures, agrees: “This conference brings together scholars from major universities to share their latest insights. It’s cross-university collaboration at its best.”

Many of the 21 papers presented at this year’s conference focused new attention on topics ubiquitous to entrepreneurship: identifying and evaluating start-up opportunities, intellectual property and patent wars, navigating relationships with boards and investors.  Others addressed themes unique to specific demographics: technology choices in the solar photovoltaic industry, venture capital funding of Asian-led ventures, trends in the video game industry. “The WCRS gives us a chance to test drive new ideas, present our work in progress, draw the field’s boundaries, and shape its future trajectory,” says University of Oregon professor Alan Meyer.

A central component of the WCRS is a day-long workshop for doctoral students. WCRS faculty recognize the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship as key drivers in national economies, and encourage current PhD candidates to pursue research in this field. Students who attend the doctoral consortium leave having further developed their areas of interest and built relationships that last throughout their careers. “The relationships formed at the WCRS are often enduring in nature,” says Foster School associate professor Emily Cox Pahnke. “In fact, many doctoral students find themselves working with WCRS faculty on future research.”

Leadership Team: aiding students advance their professional careers

Guest post by Charissa Chin, Vice President of the Leadership Team

Each quarter, the Leadership Team (a student organization that partners with the Consulting & Business Development Center) offers a Flagship Consulting Program, where students provide consulting services to local businesses. During these seven-week projects, students work in teams and receive guidance from professional advisors from Ernst & Young.  This spring, our students gathered research and developed recommendations for The Seafair Foundation, Sealaska Corporation, and The Skin Firm.

The Seafair Foundation, which is part of the organization that hosts Seattle’s Seafair Festival, focuses on charitable services through its scholarship programs and community outreach. The student team’s goal was to expand brand recognition for the Foundation and other programs in their portfolio. Besides providing recommendations on how to increase membership for Seafair’s Ambassador Program, the student team also created an event, Inspire Seattle, which projects to attract more than 500 participating high-school students.

Sealaska Corporation, a $275 million dollar Alaska Native Corporation, with subsidiary operations in various industries, tasked their student team with researching potential markets where Sealaska could gain market share and increase profits, while still maintaining their company’s core organizational values. The team identified various industries such as athletic apparel, green retrofitting, deconstruction, and niche recycling as attractive markets where the company could potentially flourish.

The Skin Firm is a Seattle-based company that offers high-quality skin care products and services. The primary objective for their student team was to develop a marketing strategy to grow their customer base by 4% monthly. In order to reach this goal and increase overall revenue, the team recommended strategies to strengthen the firm’s local advertising, social media campaign, and service packaging.

Our consulting students came away feeling extremely accomplished as they learned how to apply their classroom knowledge in real-world business situations and helped small business owners become more successful.  Students gained insight into what consulting is and had the opportunity to expand their network with Ernst & Young professionals. Through the Flagship Consulting Program, students improved their analyzing, problem-solving, time-management, and teamwork skills.

Personally, I was most excited to see how this experience has helped our students grow and ultimately advance their professional careers.  In fact, this experience has already helped several Flagship members acquire various internships and job offers.  As Vice President of the Leadership Team, I’ve had the pleasure of managing these projects for three consecutive quarters.  It was not only rewarding, but allowed me to grow personally.  Learning how to manage 17 students this quarter has helped me develop my organizational, decision-making, and leadership skills.  It’s a wonderful program and I encourage every student at the UW Foster School of Business to join!

BPC bonanza

Guest post by Claire Koerner, co-founder of nomON and Foster School class of 2014
nomON is a randomized food delivery app. Claire and the rest of the nomON team competed in the 2013 UW Business Plan Competition and made it into the Sweet 16 round. In this guest post, Claire reflects on the BPC experience and lessons learned.

nomON for blog postnomON’s Business Plan Competition (BPC) journey drew to a close on May 23 at the Awards Dinner amid friends, mentors, and fans. After two months of hard work, we were all very eager to reach the culmination of the event, and be able to look back at all we have learned along the way. At the beginning of the BPC, we had a 7 page executive summary that was absolutely gorgeous (thanks to Tarryn!) but with some major holes. Our financials were complete estimates, we had yet to sort out credit card processing, and much of our plan was built upon assumptions. After advancing to the investment round, we had the chance to perfect our 2 minute pitches for judges, create nomON swag, and start raising hype about the brand. But it was when we advanced to the Sweet 16 (yay!!) that the learning really began: we met with multiple coaches and mentors – thank you Sanjay Kumar, Craig Sherman, Emer Dooley, Charles Seybold and several others along the way- who helped us find and fill the holes in our business. nomON went from being a quirky mobile app cobbled together at Startup Weekend to a real business with well thought out financial projections (you should see the spreadsheets), a solid partnership with ordr.in, and an entirely new user interface. What a roller coaster! Although we didn’t advance to the Final Four, nomON is now armed with a full 15 page business plan, an investor slide deck, and most of all, important insights and truths about our business. Thank you to the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship and everyone who helped us during this process. We are excited to move forward with the business, continue learning and improving, and most of all…bring nomON to you soon!

Top 5 things we learned:

  1. Businesses are hard- the to do list keeps growing, no matter how many things you check off
  2. Pitch to everyone- you never know who is going to have a random genius insight
  3. All it takes to keep a designer happy is free-flowing white chocolate mochas with extra whip
  4. Practice makes perfect
  5. Businesses are fun- the deeper you go, the more you learn, and the more you love your team :)

The nomON team:
Claire Koerner – Business Administration (Marketing)
Stephanie Halamek – BA (Finance)
Tarryn Marcus – BA (Entrepreneurship)
Evan Cohen – Informatics
William Voit – Electrical Engineering

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

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.

$22,500 awarded to environmental/cleantech innovators

On April 4, twenty sPolyDrop_forBlogtudent teams from colleges and universities throughout the Pacific Northwest pitched their innovations at the UW Environmental Innovation Challenge. Now in its fifth year, the UW EIC challenges students to develop prototypes that solve today’s biggest environmental problems. Teams address today’s energy, urban agriculture, recycling, built environment and water-related problems with novel solutions that have market potential. Each year, five teams are awarded prizes ranging from $2,500 to $10,000. Congratulations to this year’s winners:

 

$10,000 Grand Prize: PolyDrop (University of Washington)

PolyDrop manufactures additives that transform regular coatings (think paint) into conductive coatings that open up a world of opportunity for carbon fiber composites in transportation industries. The transportation industry is looking to move towards using light-weight carbon fiber materials to reduce fuel consumption and decrease carbon dioxide emissions. However, carbon fiber composites accumulate a static charge that will interfere with a vehicle’s sensitive electronics. PolyDrop solves this problem by providing a means to dissipate  static electricity with a viable conductive technology.

The $10,000 Grand Prize was sponsored by the UW Center for Commercialization.

$5,000 Second Place Prize: Pure Blue Techologies (University of Washington)PureBlue_forBlog

One barrel of extracted or spilled oil generate an average of seven barrels of contaminated water, or produced water. Produced water must be disinfected to meet EPA regulations, even if it is just going to be disposed. In the U.S. alone, 353 billion gallons of highly contaminated produced water are treated and disposed each year – that’s enough water to fill Lake Washington 4 1/2 times! Pure Blue Technologies has developed a unique water disinfection technology that is safer, smaller, and more cost-effective than existing solutions.

The $5,000 Second Place Prize was sponsored by Puget Sound Energy.

Three $2,500 Honorable Mention Awards

Sunscroll (Western Washington University)
Sunscroll is a solar charged LED light and USB charging station.

EcoMembrane (University of Washington)
EcoMembrane is developing a new technology for preventing scaling and fouling of desalination and wastewater treatment membranes using ultrasound.

Upcycle (University of Washington)
Upcycle has an enhanced version of a bio-briquette maker that transforms bio-waste into fuel for cook stoves.

Check it out!
The UW Environmental Innovation Challenge (and a few of these winning teams) were featured by:
Xconomy
Seattle PI
King 5′s Evening Magazine.

EveMagStill_EIC2013