Foster MBAs summit Mount Rainier and raise $7000 for charity

Guest post by Anders Zwartjes (Foster MBA 2012)

Foster MBA students climb Mt. Rainier's Emmons Glacier

This 4th of July, as the sun crept above the Cascades in the east and many hours before the fireworks would start exploding above Seattle, a team of 11 tired but excited UW Foster MBA students stood at the top of the tallest mountain in Washington state. The group had started the ascent six and a half hours earlier, but had truly started their journey six months earlier during winter quarter.

What began in January of 2011 as an idea to take an exercise from Professor Michael Johnson’s leadership class a step further and to raise money for the Foster MBA Challenge for Charity fundraising drive, quickly took form and resulted in six months of dedicated training and preparation. Although the group that stood on the Summit of Mount Rainier numbered only 11, the entire effort was successful thanks to the support of more than 100 Foster students, faculty, staff, plus friends and family. As a result of their help, the climb raised $7,000 for the Boys and Girls Club and Special Olympics of Washington.

On the mountain, teamwork and discipline were key. During the final ascent up Rainier’s Emmons glacier the group was divided into three different rope teams, with each member paying fastidious attention to the progress of those around them and the tension of the lines as the teams passed over more than a dozen crevasses. Communication is key to a successful ascent, and everyone looked after each other as the elevation increased and the temperature dropped. Collaboration was of even greater importance on the way down, as joint problem solving quickly fixed the few obstacles our group encountered.

As the sun dropped on July 4, 2011, the line of tired MBA students arrived at their cars, tired but healthy and jubilant about the climb. While one party member had been forced by altitude sickness to stay at base camp, the day had seen 11 climbers successfully make it to the top of one of Washington’s greatest natural wonders, but even more importantly marked the safe end to a trying but hugely rewarding feat.

A view from inside one MBA student's tent on the Mt. Rainier trek

This experience would not have been possible without community support. MBA climbers would like to add a special thank you to Eli Rosenberg and Eric Docktor for assisting in climbing training and helping to lead the team up the mountain. We would also like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Scott Heinz for patient coaching, impeccable focus on safety, constant encouragement and altogether exemplary leadership.

“It’s a round trip. Getting to the summit is optional, getting down is mandatory.” – Ed Viesturs

Entrepreneurship in action: Lavin class of 2011

Lavin 2011 GraduatesThe Lavin Entrepreneurial Action Program prepares a select group of entering University of Washington undergraduates for careers as entrepreneurs and is graduating its first class of students in 2011. Our first class is headed out into the world to put what they learned at the UW into action.

The Lavin Program exposes students from business and other disciplines to the risks and rewards of entrepreneurship—all in a safe environment. Students graduate with a comprehensive understanding of entrepreneurship in its various forms, including experience in starting and running their own company, and a summer internship in an early-stage firm. The Lavin Program integrates students into the local entrepreneurial community by providing networking opportunities and experienced mentors.

A common trait among Lavin students is the degree to which they have been involved in the program and in the educational process as a whole. Lavin students tend to be the cream of the crop, and the 2011 graduates all demonstrate that trait. Keep your eye on them—we’re certain you’ll see these names again.


Denise Ching
graduated at the end of fall quarter from the Foster School of Business in marketing and entrepreneurship. Ching did her Lavin internship at Dry Soda in Seattle and is now working for Google in California. She has her eye on eventually launching an events management business.

Sohroosh Hashemi graduated from the Foster School of Business in entrepreneurship. Sohroosh did a study-abroad program in Spain and recently presented student-designed products at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York. He interned at PhotoRocket in Seattle, a photo-sharing start-up, where he is currently employed.

Christy Loftus graduated from the UW College of Arts and Sciences with a degree in communications. She worked in small start-ups along the way and decided to do her Lavin internship at Wunderman, a major international marketing agency in a digital media division. Now employed by MediaEdge Marketing, Loftus’ dream is to someday open her own marketing company.

Vance Roush graduated from the Foster School of Business in marketing and information systems. Roush studied abroad in Italy and South Africa. He did his Lavin internship at 16 Copenhagen, a Seattle design company, where he honed the skills he needed to create a lasting legacy with the Lavin Program. Roush developed the Entrepreneurship Video Project which has spawned the creation of six videos of students interviewing local entrepreneurs. The over-arching theme of “Entrepreneurship is…” has provoked answers such as “art,” “a good team” and “a passionate dream.” The project will continue over the next several years. Roush will work for Google in California starting in August.

Natasha Tyson graduated from the Foster School of Business in marketing and entrepreneurship. She studied abroad in Hong Kong on a direct-exchange program. Tyson did an internship at Chempoint and another at FounderDating, a Seattle organization that works to match technology and business founders. She is joining Teach for America.

The program’s namesake, Leonard Lavin, attended UW in the late 1930s on a basketball scholarship. In the 1950s Leonard and his wife, Bernice, founded Alberto-Culver and took Alberto V05 Conditioning Hairdressing to the consumer marketplace using innovative advertising and marketing strategies. Alberto-Culver was bought by the Unilever Group last year for $3.7 billion. Leonard and Bernice Lavin created the Lavin Entrepreneurial Action Program in 2007 to produce a new generation of successful entrepreneurs from the UW.

PotaVida purifies water, wins $25K Grand Prize at UW Business Plan Competition

A demonstration of the PotaVida water purifier.The numbers say it all: 891 teams. $1.08 million in seed funding. 2,768 students from 21 colleges and universities. Those are just a few of the stats we’ve racked up in the 14 years of the University of Washington’s Business Plan Competition.

During his keynote speech at the awards dinner, T.A. McCann, CEO of Gist, spoke about courage, persistence and failure — three cornerstones to life as a successful entrepreneur. “To be an entrepreneur takes a tremendous amount of courage. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to continue to dust yourself off when you fail. And failure happens in every entrepreneurial company almost on a daily basis,” he said. But with that uncertainty comes the reward of being part of a supportive and inspiring community of entrepreneurs in the Northwest. “You’re fortunate to have UW, to have each other, to have the advisors, mentors…and all the organizations that are here. You’re incredibly fortunate to be part of this community. I’ve been in Seattle now about 15 years and I think it’s only getting better. I think we’re on the cusp of becoming one of the top entrepreneurial communities anywhere. Period.”

A record 104 teams entered the competition this year from nine colleges and universities around Washington. Nearly 400 judges and mentors—entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, investors and supporters from the community—gave their time and energy to be part of the competition during the various rounds. Beginning in early April, the teams where whittled down, first to 37 after the screening round, then to the “Sweet 16” after the investment round.

At the end of the day on May 26, five teams were left standing but only one would take home the $25,000 grand prize. After one more round of presentations from the finalists, the judges made a unanimous decision on the winning teams:

$25,000 Herbert B. Jones Foundation Grand Prize: PotaVida, UW
Provides a low-cost, reusable tool that takes the guesswork out of solar disinfection of water, for use in disaster relief and areas lacking potable water.
Tyler Davis, PhD Evans School of Public Policy; Damon Gjording, EMBA; Charlie Matlack, PhD electrical engineering; and Jacqueline Linnes

$10,000 WRF Capital Second Prize: Stockbox Grocers, Bainbridge Graduate Institute
A mini grocer tucked inside a reclaimed shipping container, to provide fresh produce and basic staples in urban food deserts.
Michael Brooks, MBA; Carrie Ferrence, MBA; Jacqueline Gjurgevich, MBA; and Eliza Michiels, MBA

$5,000 Blue Box Group Finalist Prize: Solanux, WSU, University of Idaho
Produces patented potato food ingredients with high amounts of resistant starch which help lower a person’s glycemic index response, improve insulin levels and lower fat and cholesterol levels.
Gaylene Anderson, EMBA; Anna Hansen, accounting; and Jacob Pierson, JD law

$5,000 Fenwick & West Finalist Prize: LodeSpin Labs, UW
Manufactures tracers for Magnetic Particle Imaging, a new medical imaging technology capable of replacing CT and MRI for imaging patients with heart disease and cancer.
Dave Shivang, PhD bioengineering; Matt Ferguson, PhD materials science; Amit Khandhar, PhD materials science; and Garrett Leischner, MBA

The Best Idea prizes were created to reward teams for their exceptional work in several different categories. Teams that participated in the Investment Round were eligible for these awards, regardless of whether they advanced to the Sweet 16 or not. This year six $2,500 Best Idea Prizes were awarded to the following teams:

UIEvolution Best Technology Idea: Aqueduct Neurosciences, UW
Gist Best Consumer Product Idea: Tripbox, UW
Perkins Coie Best Innovation Idea: PotaVida, UW
DLA Piper Best Service/Retail Idea: Stockbox Grocers, Bainbridge Graduate Institute
Synapse Product Development Best Clean-Tech Idea: Static Flow Analytics, UW
Sensors in Motion Best Sustainable Advantage Idea: Urban Canopy, UW

For teams that made it to the Sweet 16, the fun’s not over yet. Each of the semifinal teams is eligible to receive additional seed funding through the Jones Foundation Milestone Achievement Awards. Five teams will be selected to spend the next six months participating in the program where they will work with CIE staff and a special advisory committee made up of CIE board members and past winners of the Business Plan Competition to draw up a short list of “realistic but measureable” milestones they can reach within that timeframe. And with a lot of hard work on the part of the teams (and a little luck), we’ll share all their great success stories with you again this time next year.

Economic impact of UW Business Plan Competition

Failure rates for start-ups are notoriously high, and college-aged entrepreneurs face even higher hurdles. At the University of Washington, we’ve been running our Business Plan Competition for 14 years. While 891 teams have participated, many never launched their companies or did not survive for long. However, 37 companies do still exist. How are they doing?

In May 2011, UW Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship conducted a survey of the BPC companies still in business, asking them to answer six questions about their growth since the event. 28 of 37 responded, including companies from as recent as the 2010 competition that are only a year old. We also asked each founder for an update of their company’s story.

Of the 28 companies that responded, there were 15 consumer product/retail, 5 technology, 4 life-science and 4 clean-tech companies.

Survey Highlights of Economic Impact:

  • 640+ current employees (with 220 of those at an average salary greater than $75,000)
  • 12 companies raised more than $500,000 (over $60 million in venture capital raised)
  • $92.7 million estimated combined revenue for 2011
  • 3 companies made the Inc 500 list of fastest growing private companies in the US for 2010
  • 8 companies are boot-strapped by choice

Start-Up Founder Comments:

“We’re most excited to be living the start-up dream: building jobs, solving a pain point and taking our place in the local start-up ecosystem, all of which are crucial elements in building a thriving innovation environment and giving back to the community that helped us get our start.”

“We intend to double the number of FTE in 2011 and employ approximately 20 people in well-paying life science research and business operations jobs by 2014. None of this would have been possible without the start we received from CIE and their network of advisors.”

“We have gained a breadth of contacts that we would have been hard-pressed to meet had it not been for our experience in the Business Plan Competition. I cannot express my gratitude enough for all the support that we have received as former students.”

“None of this [success] would have been possible without CIE and the UW Business Plan Competition. Because of the competition we were able to make a lot of our mistakes before they counted and could derail our business.”

“If it weren’t for all we got from the Business Plan Competition, we would have never gotten off of the ground and I would probably be working for someone else’s start-up in Minneapolis or the Bay Area. Instead, I have people working for me here in Seattle.”

Learn more about some of the companies that have launched from the UW Business Plan Competition.

Video of Lululemon CEO Christine Day

Former Starbucks executive Christine Day became Lululemon Athletica CEO in 2008 and has turned the under-performing athletic clothing retailer into a near-billion-dollar company. Lululemon’s business is as healthy as the lifestyle the brand supports and customers who buy its yoga and exercise gear. Aside from clothing quality, Day believes in sharing profits, supporting employee life goals, partnering with communities and providing a unique store experience for guests.

At a sold-out lecture on University of Washington campus in spring 2011, Day shared insights of her Lululemon leadership philosophy and strategy with Foster School of Business alumni, faculty and students. Lululemon is bucking the recession using a steady growth model centered on customers, community and staff.

Watch video highlights of her lecture.

Christine Day was one of UW Foster School of Business Dean Jim Jiambalvo’s guest speakers at the annual Leaders to Legends Breakfast Lecture Series, which include notable leaders in an array of industries from greater Seattle and around the country.

$60,000 for winners of 2011 UW Business Plan Competition

Budding entrepreneurs from universities across the Pacific Northwest created start-ups in clean technology, medical technology, retail, agriculture, software and other areas at the 2011 University of Washington Business Plan Competition. Business, engineering, medical, law and public policy student teams competed in the finals this week, vying for a combined $60,000 in prize money.

PotaVida team wins grand prize of $25,000 at 2011 UW Business Plan CompetitionPotaVida won Grand Prize worth $25,000 and another $2,500 for Best Innovative Idea for their low-cost, reusable solution to purifying water using solar disinfection. Their device received a design award from the Rockefeller Foundation prior to the UW competition. The UW team includes Charlie Matlack (PhD student in electrical engineering), Tyler Davis (PhD student in public policy), Damon Gjording (Executive MBA student) and Jacqueline Linnes, PhD.

What is the benefit of PotaVida’s product? “We will lower the cost to non-profits of providing safe water to people after disasters and in ongoing need scenarios. At a personal level, our product provides the visual feedback and guidance that people need to use a disinfection process which is otherwise invisible and impossible to know when done correctly,” said Charlie Matlack.

Matlack and the PotaVida team improved their business through the competition. “What meant much more than the money was all the doors it opened for us to incredibly helpful individuals in the Seattle start-up community,” said Matlack. “The more we took advice from those the Business Plan Competition connected us to, the better our business plan got, and the more we knew where to direct our efforts to improve it further.”

Stockbox Grocers wins 2nd place prize of $10,000 at 2011 UW Business Plan CompetitionStockbox Grocers, with a team from Bainbridge Graduate Institute, won Second Prize worth $10,000 and another $2,500 for Best Service/Retail Idea for their affordable fresh produce business targeting urban food deserts. Stockbox offers a mini grocer service tucked in a reclaimed shipping container. Team members include MBA students Michael Brooks, Carrie Ferrence, Jacqueline Gjurgevich and Eliza Michiels.

Two Finalist Prize winners won $5,000 each. LodeSpin Labs, a UW team of engineering, material science and MBA students, have a non-toxic tracer that works with cutting-edge Magnetic Particle Imaging, a new technology aimed at replacing CT and MRI for imaging patients with heart disease and cancer. The other Finalist Prize winner is Solanux, a WSU and University of Idaho team, that manufactures potato-based food ingredients that help lower a person’s glycemic index response and improve insulin levels. Their resistant starch product can replace existing starch in processed foods such as fries.

Rob Salkowitz, consultant and author of book Young World Rising, served as a judge in the competition saying, “I write about entrepreneurs from all over the world. I was amazed and encouraged to see the amount of innovation right here in my own backyard.”

More teams won $2,500 awards for innovations in various industries.

  • Aqueduct Neurosciences (UW team) won Best Technology Idea for their innovative medical device to improve treatment of hydrocephalus.
  • Static Flow Analytics (UW team) won Best Clean-Tech Idea.
  • Tripbox (UW team of Technology Management MBA students) won Best Consumer Product Idea for their travel planning software that optimizes cost, timing and routes of vacation activities.
  • Urban Canopy (UW team) won Best Sustainable Advantage for software that guides consumers through phases of green building initiatives such as LEED certification.

The UW Business Plan Competition is produced by the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Foster School of Business. Numerous venture capital, angel and entrepreneurial community firms, consultants and individuals sponsor the event and serve as judges, mentors and coaches for teams.

Study Abroad: Personal Transformation

Foster alum Benjamin Wood participated in the UW Exchange program in Germany in 2007. This is his personal testimony.

Studying abroad in Germany in the spring of 2007 stands out as the most defining and life-transforming period that I have experienced during my time at the University of Washington.  From this experience I learned a lot about myself and about the people and cultures that I came in contact with. The lessons and life experiences that occurred during that time have played a pivotal role in making me into who I have become. Three specific areas that I grew in, and that I believe are of key importance for anyone who desires to achieve success in business or in any realm of life, were my interpersonal skills, my confidence and my problem-solving ability.

Regardless of one’s career goals, possessing strong interpersonal skills are essential to success in business and even happiness in life. Whether it involves communicating to co-workers or customers in the workplace or building relationships with people outside of work, being able to relate to others, understand their perspectives, and communicate one’s ideas is essential to successful interactions. Studying abroad provided me with the opportunity to meet other people from cultures that I had no previous interactions with and forced me to learn to adapt to these cultures and personalities. While in Germany I became good friends with students from all over the world, ranging from England, to Russia, to Palestine and Israel. Living in such a diverse environment changed the way I interacted with people and made me a much more effective communicator.

Probably the single greatest area of transformation in my life while studying abroad concerns how much confidence I gained from the experience. Living on my own in a foreign country, with no safety-net of people around me to help me make decisions forced me make tough choices and then live with whatever happened. Even when things did not turn out the way I would have hoped, this process taught me so much about myself and about what I truly value. Through this experience I became much more confident in myself and, consequently, much more confident in the way I interact with others and make every day decisions.

Somewhat as a result of the other two areas, my ability to problem-solve and look at issues from different angles increased dramatically. By interacting with people from all over the world I received fresh perspectives every day on how problems can be approached and solutions can be discovered. Furthermore, because I was living on my own, I had the opportunity to frequently practice the new problem solving methods that I observed. Overall, I became much more adept at facing complex problems and making confident decisions based on whatever information was available.

Going abroad has given me skills that I will carry with me and build upon for the rest of my life. Studying abroad, more than any other factor in college, has set me up for future success in business and in life. Not only that, but in addition to the great skills it gave me, studying abroad has provided me with an amazing global network of friends and future business associates who I continue to remain in contact with and visit. These relationships alone made the whole experience incredibly rewarding and worthwhile.

- Faculty perspectives, alumni happenings, student experiences, Seattle and Pacific Northwest community connections, and a taste of life around the Foster School.