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.”