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.
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 is developing a “smart” polymer contact lens to provide a bio-responsive and needle-free insulin delivery platform for diabetics.
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 is a random delivery meal ordering app, like shuffle for dinner.
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 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
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.
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.
On April 4, twenty student 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 Technologies (University of Washington)
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.
Guest post by Daniel Schwartz, Chair, UW Department of Chemical Engineering
When I think Cleantech, my mind goes straight to the triangular logo on my waste container at work: “reduce, reuse, recycle.” These three words are central to most enduring cleantech innovations, though sometimes in paradoxical ways. “Reduce” is the most prone to paradox, since reducing one thing generally happens by increasing another. Let’s explore this “reduce” paradox via two well-known examples in that space.
In recent years, Washington has done a good job of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. Today, the average American emits 41% more greenhouse gas than the average Washingtonian (2012 State Energy Strategy report). We reduced our emissions by increasing our reliance on hydropower. Here’s where the “reduce” paradox comes in. Increases in hydropower have led to fewer salmon in our waters. Thinking long term, if we want to grow our economy and further reduce our emissions while avoiding consequences like this, we’ll need major innovations in the cost and performance of solar energy and grid-scale batteries. And we’ll need to make sure those innovations don’t lead to a depleted Earth.
The same “increase-to-reduce” paradox holds in transportation. Hybrid and all-electric cars reduce emissions by increasing efficiency. The 787 Dreamliner reduces its fuel use, in part, by adopting the “more electric-aircraft” approach. Innovations in transportation electrification are largely tied to electrochemical energy storage and conversion (batteries, super-capacitors, and fuel cells) as well as control systems that enable vehicle-scale “grids” to operate reliably on their own and when plugged into a utility’s grid. Transportation electrification is currently going through painful growing pains. Have no doubt, we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg in transportation electrification, but as transportation electrification increases, we need to use foresight to adapt our current electrical infrastructure, or we’ll break it.
My colleagues at the UW Institute for Molecular Engineering and Science are among the leaders charting a sustainable energy pathway that balances technical innovation with the economic and social dimensions of scalable energy. Students, too, are looking at the paradoxes – the potential Achilles heels of cleantech – and finding potential for enduring innovations. I am looking forward to seeing how students at the UW Environmental Innovation Challenge apply their understanding of cleantech and “reduce, reuse, recycle” – paradoxes and all— to innovations that will improve our world.
Guest post by Matt Wastradowski, Communications & Media Editor, Alumni Relations, UW Alumni Association
Every year, Creating a Company, as the course is dubbed, becomes less a class than a crash course in entrepreneurship. Groups of eager students team up, form a company, apply for a $1,000-$2,000 loan from the Foster School of Business, and spend the next few months hawking their product or service to the wider world.
Past companies have sold goods ranging from Husky apparel to glass jars of cake mix; other companies have launched art galleries and driven students to the mountain passes for a day on the slopes.
At the heart of it all is lecturer John Castle, who has taught the class for the past 12 years – and who will retire at year’s end.
In 2001, Castle had stepped down as CEO from Cantametrix, a music software company he helped found, when a neighbor and former UW professor approached him about inheriting the Creating a Company course. With more than 40 years of business acumen, Castle didn’t lack experience: Before joining the UW, he had served as CEO of Hamilton-Thorn, a medical electronics and diagnostics company; cofounded Seragen, a biotechnology company; and was a partner in Washington Biotechnology Funding, a seed venture capital fund specializing in medical technologies.
Since then, he’s drawn on that extensive experience as would-be CEOS have created and developed dozens of companies. Castle’s only rule in approving companies and dispersing loans is “Do no harm,” meaning that students can’t, say, promote underage drinking by selling shot glasses to fraternities and sororities on campus. (This actually happened.)
When the class ends, students return any profits to the Foster School and can buy their company for $1 to keep it going. Few companies have outlived their academic years, but Castle knows the experience will remain long after grades are posted. “Whether or not they learn how to do it well, they will learn whether or not they want to start their own business.” Castle said. “This is as realistic of an experience of entrepreneurship as we can make it.”
Guest post by Tim Anderson, Foster School and Certificate of International Studies in Business alumnus
After graduating with degrees in business administration and Japanese linguistics as well as completing Certificate of International Studies in Business’s (CISB) Japan track program, I honestly didn’t think I’d end up living in Shanghai, China for the past nine years. However, ending my undergraduate studies on the eve of a burgeoning recession in the U.S., and a full-blown recession in Japan, it seemed like the path I’d set myself up for wasn’t so clear cut anymore.
At first, I was considerably lucky and managed get a nice job working in the marketing department at an international PR firm located downtown by the Pike Place Market. The experience was great and taught me a lot, but as good as it was, it still wasn’t what CISB and the Foster School of Business trained me to do: be a truly international entrepreneur.
About a year into that first real job, I was given an opportunity to help start up a language school in the city of Shanghai. Admittedly I was nervous about taking the offer because although I had spent time in Japan and a couple other parts around Asia as a student, I had no idea what to expect of China. In the end though, my love of Asia proved to be overwhelming so I packed my bags for a new life in a new place with a new language to learn.
The people I’ve met and business challenges I’ve overcome in the past nine years has made my decision to live here well worth it. Since moving here, I’ve found my place amongst the locals as well as the expat community, and have really been able to put my business studies to work. I’m currently managing the marketing operations for an international clothing brand that is trying to break into the China mainland market. The business environment in China is fast-paced and filled with unforeseeable challenges, yet extremely rewarding if know how to play your cards right.
I can’t thank CISB and the Foster School of Business enough for preparing me for the wild journey my life has taken this past decade. I hope many future graduates will be inspired to challenge their comfort zone and follow the path less traveled as I and other alumni have done. In the end, it’s especially gratifying to know I am part of a community of CISB and Foster graduates who are also experiencing what I am experiencing, connected by a common bond.
Guest post by Tom Jensen, co-founder of Enterprise Futures network who helped source mentors for GSEC 2013, and mentor to Grand Prize winning team Jorsey Ashbel Farms.
Last week, 15 people including investors, entrepreneurs, consultants and non-profit executives joined students on 14 teams that competed in the Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition (GSEC) in Seattle – either in person or virtually, to finalize their business plans and presentations for a winning social enterprise. The teams from Africa, Asia and the U.S created business plans to address health and economic development problems in developing countries and competed for prizes.
After mentoring and judging in university competitions for the past 12 years, I know what it takes for a university to make a competition successful. UW’s Foster School’s Global Business Center did a great job making the experience very rewarding for the teams, judges, coaches, student ambassadors, mentors and sponsors. An organization that I am a co-founder in, Enterprise Futures Network (www.enterprisefutures.org) , is the Competition’s Mentorship Partner and has helped source mentors for two years.
GSEC’s mentors are located in Seattle, the San Francisco Bay Area, and from Europe, particularly Denmark. Each mentor donates about eight hours of his or her time over a six week period to help the team prepare before the competition and then several more hours during the week of the competition if possible. While about half of the mentors have mentored for GSEC before, the other half experienced this competition for the first time this year.
One of those new mentors for this year was John Locher, who co-founded internet companies Classmates.com and Redweek.com. He thoroughly enjoyed mentoring his team from Bangladesh with his co-mentor Mike Siemion, a co-founder with John at these companies, and plans to be back next year. John and Mike were joined by Norm Bontje, George Economy, who co-mentored with Linda Long, Merrill Grogel, Greg Free, Michael Gilson, Thomas Jensen, Nils- Michael Langenborg, John Raabo Nielsen, Søren Therkelsen, Rick McPherson, Kim Nelson, Carol Sanford, Craig Bruya, Michael “Luni” Libes and Pete Peterson.
The teams also got coaching on their presentations from other volunteers that UW’s Foster School of Business engaged during the week of the competition (February 25-28th).
UW made our job to provide and train mentors to support the competition very easy. The GSEC team led by Deborah Wolf and Kirsten Aoyama had a great plan and executed it flawlessly. They were responsive to the needs of the mentors and made it possible for mentors to participate in very meaningful ways, including networking with other mentors at a mentor breakfast EFN and UW organized.
UW created the right environment for successful mentoring, including educating the teams and mentors on the benefits of a mentor based program, and by creating clear expectations for both mentees and mentors. UW and EFN shared helpful tips and examples of best practices, maintained regular communications and gave mentors the opportunity to share ideas to improve the process throughout the mentoring period. While all competitions that engage mentors do it somewhat differently, certainly UW’s well organized and straight forward approach makes it easier for mentors to engage compared to institutions that, for example, only facilitate informal mentor-team matching without framing mentoring expectations for participants (e.g., such as inviting mentors and teams to events where they can self-match).
Tips that really helped the teams included encouraging mentors to ask teams for a specific milestones schedule to complete their plans and pitches. This tool served as a roadmap from which the mentees and mentors could work from. From my experience mentoring Jorsey Ashbel Farms (JAF), a scalable chicken production venture in Nigeria that won the grand prize, the framework and expectations that UW created mentoring made the process more efficient, allowing JAF and me to focus on the hard work of validating assumptions and developing a scalable business model.
On a personal level, working with JAF’s co-founders, Mene Blessing and Ayuba Ashbel from the Nigeria was a tremendous pleasure, because of their commitment to the venture, professionalism and sincerity. I look forward to visiting with them in April when they will compete in the finals for the Global Social Venture Competition in Berkeley, California.
I was very impressed that most of the local mentors attended the finals and even the preliminary round to coach their teams. Many non-local mentors worked with their teams remotely until the preliminaries or finals. Greg Free, who mentored Breathsuite, a UW based team that invented a respiratory diagnostic application delivered through mobile phones, viewed the Foster School’s “live stream” of his team in the final round when he could not be there in person. Greg, a non-profit director and sales and software executive, told me that “over the time I spent with them, I dropped lots of suggestions and was left somewhat uneasy about whether they were landing. They got it – in spades – and did an outstanding job of transforming what they started with into a pretty darned good presentation.”
Carol Sanford, an author, consultant and speaker on responsible business, shared her thoughts about mentoring for this competition over the past three years. “I’m getting better at it; knowing how to help my team meet challenges and to ask them to focus on what judges look for”. She loves to help teams pivot their businesses “to improve and to think bigger about what they can do.” Carol’s team, Social Cops, won the competition’s ICT prize sponsored by Microsoft.
I hope that people who attended the events (and read this article!) will be inspired join the fun next year and chose to mentor or coach a team or become a judge. Take my word for it, future mentors will find this experience extremely rewarding and a great opportunity to engage with entrepreneurs changing the world. If you would like to apply to serve as a mentor next year, please apply! http://www.enterprisefutures.net/mentorappl.html.
The Business Economic Development Center’s Business Certificate Program will begin in April at UW Seattle campus. The six-session course teaches business fundamentals through a series of six three-hour classes. BCP will be offered in Spanish (Tuesday evenings from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. starting April 2) and in English Wednesday evenings from 6:00 to 9:00 pm starting April 17.
Who should attend? Any small business owner or manager who is interested in learning or refreshing their knowledge of sales and marketing, finance and accounting, leadership and management, and legal topics. Students come from every industry- from construction companies to restaurants to medical clinics. And to due to the diversity of participants, the classroom is a great place to network with fellow business owners.
The class also offers students to learn from award-winning University of Washington faculty including Mike Eguchi, lecturer of sales and marketing. With over 30 years of sales experience, Eguchi shares proven strategies and tactics in his class session Developing a Sales-Oriented Company. Student Pratish Brady relays how she used what she learned, “I used the guidelines [from class] to write my mission and vision statement for my website emphasizing benefits and value of my product; people are complimenting me on them.” And “ I spoke by phone with a new customer I had sent a sample too. He liked the product, but it was the wrong size. I used the term “how so” and kept him talking so I could understand more clearly what he wanted. Our conversation ended with a new order for a smaller size product and he wants to distribute my product to his customers not only in the US but in Europe. A definite win-win.”
Learn how to make your business win with proven business fundamentals from the Business Certificate Program. Course registration fee is $200. To sign up please visit our website. You can also be a program supporter by sponsoring a student.
- Faculty perspectives, alumni happenings, student experiences, Seattle and Pacific Northwest community connections, and a taste of life around the Foster School.