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
On Friday, May 3rd, a group of Foster students and finance faculty members had the unique opportunity to meet with Ambassador Gyorgy Szapary, Hungarian Ambassador to the United States. An economist who worked for the International Monetary Fund and served as deputy governor of the National Bank of Hungary in his previous roles, Ambassador Szapary spoke on the topic of the European debt crisis. He began by observing that the European debt crisis is really a triple crisis: it started as a financial crisis, became a debt crisis, and is now a confidence and growth crisis. The ambassador used the analogy of an iceberg: the financial crisis was the part that was visible above the water, but many more problems were discovered under the water.
The European response to the crisis has been to impose fiscal discipline (austerity), although there is now a debate about whether to switch to more expansionary, growth-focused policies. Ambassador Szapary reviewed the economic performance of European countries over the last five years and contrasted it with the US economy. In a wide-ranging question and answer session, the ambassador addressed questions about bank regulation, the prospects for Hungary adopting the euro, the availability of credit to Hungarian businesses, the effect of austerity policies on social cohesion, and the Hungarian constitution.
Most Foster Evening MBA students spread completion of degree requirements out over three years, so the demands on their time are not as great as they are for students in other Foster MBA programs. Still, fitting classes, study group meetings, class assignments and other activities into a life full of work, family and friends is a challenge. It helps to get serious about managing your time, set expectations with your employer and other important people in your life, and build a support network with other students. In this video, Evening MBA students Tom Clendenin, Olga Shapiro and Etta Mends tell how they made it work.
Bruce Avolio, executive director of the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking, led a discussion on organizational leadership on April 24, 2013 at the UW Foster School of Business. Panelists were Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, Phyllis Campbell and Brad Tilden.
LTG Robert Brown was commissioned into the Infantry in May of 1981 after graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point. In 1986, LTG Brown completed the Armor Officer Advanced Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky and then attended graduate school at the University of Virginia, where he earned a master’s degree in education. Throughout his career he has held a variety of leadership positions, including Commander, 1st Brigade (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), 25th Infantry Division; Chief of Staff, US Army Europe and Seventh Army; and Commanding General, U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence. LTG Brown transitioned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord on July 3, 2012, where he serves as Commanding General, I Corps.
Phyllis Campbell is the chairman, Pacific Northwest for JPMorgan Chase & Co. She is the firm’s senior executive in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, representing JPMorgan Chase at the most senior level to clients. In her role, she manged JP Morgan Chase’s operations during a tumultuous time. She joined Chase shortly after it acquired Washington Mutual during the banking crisis. Previously, Campbell was the president and CEO of The Seattle Foundation, the largest community foundation in Washington. She has also served as President & CEO of U.S. Bank of Washington. She holds an MBA from the Foster School’s Executive MBA Program.
Brad Tilden is president and CEO of Alaska Air Group, the parent company of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air. As CEO he leads the nation’s seventh-largest airline, with 9,600 employees, 60 destinations and 117 aircraft. Additionally, he oversees regional carrier Horizon Air and its 3,200 employees and 48 aircraft serving 39 cities. Previously, Tilden served as Alaska Airlines’ president. Before joining Alaska, he spent eight years with the accounting firm Price Waterhouse in its offices in Seattle and Melbourne, Australia. He holds an MBA from the Foster School’s Executive MBA Program.
The panel discussion was incredibly interesting and insightful. They covered a wide range of topics, including leadership obstacles, women in leadership positions, managing risk and more. Watch video highlights from the lecture.
Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, Phyllis Campbell and Brad Tilden were Foster School of Business Dean Jim Jiambalvo’s guest speakers at the Leaders to Legends Breakfast Lecture Series, which include notable leaders in an array of industries from greater Seattle and around the country.
The Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which took place on April 26, 2013, offered an impressive array of speakers. The all-day conference was led by Ken Denman, president and CEO of Machine Perception Technologies. He also holds the Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership at the Michael G. Foster School of Business. Below are a few highlights of the knowledge shared throughout the day.
The new power: innovation and shared purpose
Nilofer Merchant, the noted innovation author, spoke about the future of social media or the “social era” as she coined it. As part of this discussion, she mentioned a shift in how we think about power. Power used to be related to how many people work for you or how much more knowledge you have than others. Now, power is your ability to get people to do amazing things. And to be powerful, you need to have a shared purpose that extends beyond yourself or your company.
She used REI as an example. Their shared purpose, the one they share with their employees, customers and the community, is getting people outdoors. “We used to think innovation is what we make,” Merchant said. “If you’re in the knowledge economy, who you are is what you make. And your ability to pull in people based on purpose is going to allow people to show up not just with the mind, but with the heart.”
She added that this makes them more committed to the cause and, therefore, willing to work tirelessly to ensure it succeeds. In turn, you’re able to engage a variety of people and have them create value, regardless of whether they work for you.
Weak ties can be strongest
Zaw Thet, co-founder and chairman of plyfe.me and HaulerDeals, was part of the Assembling Nimble and Functionally Diverse Teams panel. When discussing how to diversify your team, he referenced the paper, “The Strength of Weak Ties” by Mark S. Granovetter. As you hire employees, Thet said, you should look for people who can find diversity outside of their current network via a weak tie to another group. The motivation for this is to expand your network and therefore, diversify your staff.
Innovation versus disruption
During the discussion of the Next Big Themes, Ken Denman asked the panel to comment on the difference between innovation and disruption.
Seth Neiman of Crosspoint Venture Partners provided interesting insight on the difference between the two. He referred to innovation as “something that is of such significant value that people will change how they buy,” adding that people won’t change their behavior if there’s not an incentive. “Innovation turns into a business when the time pressure means the big company will get there too slowly, regardless of how intelligent they are,” he continued.
Disruption, according to Neiman, occurs when innovation is so powerful, it catches all the big companies off guard.
Tim Porter of Madrona Ventures made the point there are different kinds of disruption: a new technology or business model can disrupt an existing market or the creation of a whole new market can cause disruption. The latter type often provides the biggest opportunity, but is also the most difficult to anticipate. The most challenging aspect of disruption is time. Porter explained that when trying to time disruption, the biggest risk is that you’ll be too early, not too late.
Guest post by Sean Murphy, Foster MBA 2014
He attended the Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which was organized by Ken Denman, Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership at the Foster School.
The Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship promised to be an engaging and informative event that I thought might be a good use of a Friday. What it turned out to be was most likely the best day of my MBA experience. Ken Denman brought in an incredible line-up that focused on topics ranging from funding to team creation to the next big themes in business. The day started with a heavy hitter and just kept getting better. Charles Songhurst, Microsoft’s General Manager of Corporate Strategy, spoke about adjacencies and outlined several observations that could be acted upon. There were some common points such as surrounding oneself with those more intelligent/hardworking/ethical than you and the Gladwellian 10k hour metric, but there were also some great insights new to me. One such point was that diplomacy is virtually unknown in the tech industry. Songhurst recommended that practicing empathy, predicting how others will act/react, and adapting to cultural norms of your target will put you at a significant advantage in the tech space. He also drew several observations about founder-led companies and professional management-led companies, arguing that self-cannibalization requires the confidence and vision of a founder. Songhurst spoke of comparing the earnings of founder-led and non-founder-led tech companies and claimed a 15% difference favoring the founders. He suggested a simple investment strategy would be going long on founders and shorting all others. Very interesting way to kick off the day.
A series of panels followed. We heard from Ghia Griarte (Saints Capital), Michelle Goldberg (Ignition Partners), and Andrew Tweed (Thomvest Ventures) about how their VCs assess potential opportunities. A common theme from the panel was the delineation of feature, product, and company and how the market appetite is shifting to smaller, simpler bites. On figuring out what a product or service is or offers, Goldberg said, “Don’t make me think.” Another point repeatedly addressed was the growing demand of the enterprise experience to mimic the consumer experience in UX and hardware. Tweed mentioned using consumer trends to predict what might be happening in the enterprise space soon and investing in back-end mechanics that would enable this shift.
We then switched gears to the non-profit world and heard from Kushal Chakrabarti, Doug Plank, and James Gutierrez about changing the non-profit landscape creating sustainable, long-term success. As expected, they were very passionate about their work and got me seriously considering a non-profit path.
Nilofer Merchant spoke next about the evolution of social media and the importance of co-creation in the future. She emphasized the framework of openness of ideas as one of the key drivers of growth, citing TEDx and Google’s Android as examples.
After a lunch break we returned to a panel of Marc Barros, Zaw Thet, and Donna Wells on assembling nimble and functionally diverse teams. They all emphasized the importance of your network and their reliance on them for the vetting of potential employees. Curiously, it was mentioned that no matter how many interviews you’ve done or people you’ve hired, it’s still difficult to weed out people that end up not meshing. The fit and attitude of hires was especially highlighted when working with a small team, as one bad apple can wreck the atmosphere pretty quickly.
Ken Denman moderated the next panel which focused on the next big themes and featured Seth Neiman (Crosspoint Venture Partners), Tim Porter (Madrona Ventures), and Jason Stoffer (Maveron). They got pretty philosophical and were dropping gems left and right. They approached VCs as incubators to test strategic theories about the market. Getting the market direction is difficult enough, but timing was a big theme of this talk as well. The key to making money is being contrarian, and being right. The key to identifying these investments is in looking at adjacencies when the future isn’t immediately accessible. What must happen if the things that are in motion today were to take the next step? There are many supporting steps that must first happen, and these can be very lucrative investments. Neiman mentioned investing in supporting infrastructure during the internet ramp up in the last millennium and saw a $100M fund return $13B. Jaw-dropping, even by VC standards.
Ben Casnocha, co-author of The Start-Up of You, brought the day to a close with a riveting personal story and the idea of applying entrepreneurial business thinking to your life. Setting aside time to read and think, increasing your knowledge every day, earmarking funds for meeting with interesting people; these were all suggestions of how to approach your personal development as you would a business. He encouraged students to consider youth and the opinion of our cohort as our value-add in connecting with senior, experienced leaders. It was a great, inspirational capstone to the day.
The amount of knowledge that came out of this event was mind-blowing. I filled more pages in my notebook in eight hours than I do in an entire quarter of class. An amazing array of brilliant, successful, and humble people took the time to share their thoughts and experience with an eager audience and I couldn’t be more pleased to be in attendance. I don’t know how this could be topped next year, but I will certainly be there to find out. And you should too…
Seattle area business professionals with a few years of work experience on their resume find the Foster Evening MBA Program a great option for earning a degree while continuing to earn a paycheck. But some choose it because it is among the best MBA programs in the Northwest – period. Other attractive features of the program cited by students are the cohort structure, which encourages each entering class to form deep and lasting relationships, and the ability to network with other working students. Evening MBA students Etta Mends, Olga Shapiro and Tom Clendenin tell why their search for a great part-time MBA program led them to the Foster School.
Guest post by Emilia Griswold, Foster MBA 2014
She attended the Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which was organized by Ken Denman, Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership at the Foster School.
Nilofer Merchant, author and corporate director, spoke at the Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship about Social 2018: Where does social media go from here and what principles can we apply to the future? Nilofer argued that “social” is not “social media” and that we’re actually in the “social era” where individuals can now do what once only centralized organizations could accomplish. For companies, this means that they need to embrace openness and fluidity while allowing employees to take ownership in everything they do. But this also applies to people. Nilofer advocated that it is our job “to learn, not to know” and that being open to new ideas is what allows you to learn best.
To close out the day, we were very lucky to have Ben Casnocha, the entrepreneur, author, and chief of staff to Reid Hoffman, speak about his new book The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the future, invest in yourself, and transform your career. I took two big points away from Ben’s talk. First, think of yourself as a start-up and commit to investing. One simple way to do that is by setting aside some time and money to take interesting people out for coffee. Second, keep your mindset in “permanent beta.” Ben noted that when you consider a product “finished,” you lose the momentum to keep improving. By staying in beta, you feel empowered to fix the bugs that pop up and to leverage extraordinary opportunities that come your way.
He also talked about ABZ Planing. Plan A is what you’re doing right now. Plan B is what you want to transition into, and Plan Z is your back-up plan—what you’ll do if Plan A and Plan B don’t work. When you have this mentality you mitigate the risk that comes with transforming your career and yourself. The worst that can happen is you have to pursue Plan Z.
With so many incredible events going on at Foster, it can be difficult to commit to a day without studying or prepping for interviews. But I’m so glad I made time for this conference. I came away with a better idea of how to assess opportunities as well as new ideas for approaching my own career. All-in-all, a great way to spend a Friday!
Special thanks to Ken Denman, Dean Jiambalvo, Jason Hsaio (MBA 2013), Nelson Haung (MBA 2013), and all the Foster staff and volunteers who made this conference possible.
Guest post by Emilia Griswold, Foster MBA 2014
She attended the Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which was organized by Ken Denman, Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership at the Foster School.
Foster alumni never cease to amaze me, and Ken Denman (MBA 1986) is no exception. Ken has held numerous executive roles across established corporations and new ventures, and he is currently the president and CEO of Machine Perception Technologies as well as an angel investor. In addition, he holds the Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership and has spent this year bringing exciting and inspiring events to Foster. The Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship that Ken organized was no exception. For this conference, Ken assembled a fantastic group of leaders in the technology, start-up, and venture capital space from both Seattle and Silicon Valley.
The day kicked off with Charles Songhurst, General Manager of Corporate Strategy at Microsoft. The first part of Charles’ remarks was about the five common reasons that companies succeed: geography, an ability to generate positive serendipity, expertise, getting the right mix of skills on a team, and being empathetic. The second part of his speech wasn’t what I expected from someone at a huge company like Microsoft—Charles discussed why big companies have such a hard time innovating. That mix of great insight and thoughtful honesty is something that comes out at all Foster events, and Charles’ attitude as well as his fresh perspective were echoed throughout the day.
After the incredible discussion with Charles, the day’s panels covered a range of topics relevant to innovation and entrepreneurship. Below are highlights from each panel discussion.
Chasing the Inevitable: How VCs identify and assess potential opportunities
The session was moderated by Foster’s own Professor Emily Cox Pahnke and featured three venture capitalists who work across a range of industries: Michelle Goldberg of Ignition Partners, Ghia Griarte of Saints Capital and Andrew Tweed of Thomvest Ventures. Although each VC specializes in different kinds of deals and has expertise in different areas, they all emphasized that their firms have internal theses they work from. When looking at truly innovative opportunities that don’t have a market yet, they look for products and features that can be easily explained and understood by a customer. All the panelists also agreed that investing is about relationships and the strength of the founder. They want to invest in someone who is wedded to success more than a specific idea, is open to feedback, knows the industry well, and has proven success in previous positions.
Changing the Non-Profit Landscape:What does it take for social entrepreneurs to achieve leading innovation and long term success
While a discussion about non-profits seems odd for a business school, Foster has a history of developing leaders who want to give back. Moderator Zaw Thet, co-founder and chairman of plyfe.me and HaulerDeals, engaged Kushal Chakrabarti (founder of Vittana), James Gutierrez (co-founder and partner of Insikt Ventures), and Doug Plank (founder and CEO of Mobilecause) in a conversation about social entrepreneurship. Despite the non-profit focus, the panelists all came back to the same themes discussed in the for-profit panels. In particular, you should practice “intellectual honesty” and admit to your strengths and weaknesses—then get brilliant people to fill in your gaps. They also reminded anyone going into philanthropy that some non-profits fail because they are 99% heart and 1% business, but being 99% business won’t lead to better results. You must have a mix of business and heart to succeed as a social venture.
Assembling Nimble and Functionally Diverse Teams:Where and how to spot the top talent to booster your team
With so many students looking for jobs and internships, everyone was excited to hear what start-ups and established innovation-focused companies look for when hiring. Interim CEO of Vittana, Rebecca Lovell moderated this discussion with Marc Barros (co-founder of Contour), Zaw Thet, and Donna Wells (president and CEO of Mindflash Technologies). It’s no surprise the panelists all advocated hiring people who are able to embrace flexibility, have emotional intelligence, and work well in a team. But it’s most important that you hire people who love and use your product. And when you’re thinking about hiring for your company, remember you should design a position around what needs to be done, not around a title.
The Next Big Themes:What’s next, why it matters, and how you can spot big ideas before anybody else
Ken Denman talked with Seth Neiman from Crosspoint Venture Partners, Tim Porter from Madrona Ventures, and Jason Stoffer from Maveron about the next big ideas. The panelists saw some major trends driving innovation, particularly around cloud computing, big data analytics, mobile, consumerization of IT, biotech, embedding internet capabilities in everyday objects, and perceptual computing. When it comes to predicting the next big thing, these investors look for simple value propositions, pay attention to what the kids are doing, and consider if a new idea fits in with their existing theses and view of the world. But they pointed out that innovation isn’t just about change—it’s about benefiting from change.