By guest blogger Daniel Rossi, Evening MBA Class of 2010
Over the past two years, I’ve had the pleasure of immersing myself into many of the classes and programs that the UW Foster School of Business Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship offers students here at the University of Washington. I’m here to tell you what you can expect if you do the same.
First there is the entrepreneurship curriculum. It’s for UW business and technology students wondering what exactly entrepreneurs do and if they might want to be one someday. “Searchers” are exposed to the risks and rewards associated with starting their own companies. You’ll hear the good and the bad from myriad entrepreneurs that have started and sold many of their own companies. If you decide, like I did, that you dig it and want to learn more, there is an entrepreneurship certificate that will prepare you (in finance, accounting, marketing, networking, etc) to give it a shot. The teachers, speakers and subjects are excellent and give students a strong knowledge base.
There are three competitions that allow students to put what they have learned into practice: Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC), Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC) and the Business Plan Competition (BPC). I’ve competed twice in the BPC and in last year’s inaugural EIC. These competitions are the perfect forum for business students and technology innovators (engineering/medical researchers) to partner up. They’re great for academics looking to research an idea and write a business plan and for real start ups looking for their big break. The EIC focuses on “green” technologies and awards scholarship money so teams can research and actually build prototypes. The BPC is a virtual marathon of research, market validation, business plan writing and presenting. CIE brings in a virtual “who’s who” of local entrepreneurs and investors that act as judges throughout the competition. We’re talking SERIOUS networking people! And if you want, you can even apply for an internship (for credit) with UW’s Center for Commercialization office and be assigned to a technology and team that will compete. Last year, ALL of the teams that made the BPC finals had UW Center for Commercialization technologies, including mine. Any one of these competitions can be considered a capstone for your studies here at UW.
My own start-up, Nanocel
In 2009, I formed a team called Nanocel with Dustin Miller (mechanical engineering UW PhD candidate and Mad Scientist Extraordinaire). Dustin had an amazing technology and an even better idea of how to use it. I had competed in the previous BPC and knew how to write a business plan. We teamed up and got to work. Even with a brilliant technology, it took all the knowledge and experience we had accumulated in CIE classes to validate our technology and write our plan. We worked and competed very hard. We wrote our plan and presented it. Then we fixed it and changed it and kept presenting. The work was arduous but exhilarating. In the end, we were overjoyed with our results. We won the BPC and have had many opportunities to network with and present to the local business establishment, including investor groups. We’ve formed a start-up called Nanocel Inc. and are in the process of licensing our technology from UW’s Center for Commercialization. We’re really doing this thing!
All of this began with a simple introductory class offered by CIE at the UW Foster School of Business called ENTRE 509 (and with a mad scientist with an entrepreneurial bent).
To those of you—niche carvers, franchisers, industrialists, capitalists and social entrepreneurs—who wonder if you have what it takes to make a calculated leap—to strike out on your own and start something. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. It’s not even for most of us. Is it for you? That can be a very tough and expensive question to answer alone. So don’t do it alone. Let the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship help you begin to answer that question. I did.