7 teams accepted to the 2013 Jones Milestones / Foster Accelerator

Olga Hrechka and Heather Milligan, PolyDrop

For the past three years, the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship’s Jones Milestones / Foster Accelerator has helped student-led start-ups transition from idea to reality with milestone-based frameworks, coaching from Seattle’s top entrepreneurs and investors, and up to $25,000 in follow-on funding.

You’ve probably seen some Accelerator alumni in the news: Strideline, Stockbox Grocers, Cadence Biomedical, PatientStream, Microryza, JoeyBra, to name a few.

2013 marks the Accelerator’s fourth year, and it’s shaping up to be a good one. After a competitive application process, seven teams were accepted into the 2013 Accelerator. Over the next six months these teams will take advantage of mentoring and resources to develop their technologies, get their product to market, raise early-stage funding, and move a few steps closer to what we know they can become. We’re looking forward to adding them to our list of success stories!

2013 Jones Milestone/Foster Accelerator Teams:

LuckySteps is a mobile game app that rewards corporate employees for exercising more and improves their employer’s bottom line.

PolyDrop, LLC
Grand Prize Winner, UW Environmental Innovation Challenge 2013
Finalist Prize, UW Business Plan Competition 2013

PolyDrop has created a conductive polymer additive for paints, primers and coatings that is lighter, more affordable, longer lasting, and has better adhesion than other products on the market.

Project Wedge
Project Wedge is a plug-in-and-play projector for tablet devices, smart phones, and other electronic devices that have HDMI video-out capabilities.

Pure Blue Technologies
Grand Prize Winner, UW Business Plan Competition 2013
Second Place Prize, UW Environmental Innovation Challenge 2013

Pure Blue Technologies innovates low-cost, efficient, and environmentally friendly water treatment solutions for the oil & gas industry.

StudentRND creates the next generation of technologists by inspiring students to work on tech projects in their spare time.

Torch Illumination
Torch Illumination is a soy candle company on a mission to produce eco-friendly candles that support social and environmental causes.

Z Girls
Second Place Prize, UW Business Plan Competition 2013
Z Girls measurably improves girls’ participation rates in sports by teaching young female athletes mental & emotional skills through coaching & camps.


Coffee, a start-up and Saudi Arabia

Yatooq Coffee MakerCoffee and start-ups might seem more Seattle than Saudi Arabia, but not to Lateefa Alwaalan (TMMBA 2011). Yatooq, founded by Alwaalan, makes it easier and faster to brew Arabic coffee, a blonde, spicy coffee central to all social gatherings in places like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Alwaalan came to Seattle to get her MBA after studying computer science, and working in IT and then banking in her home country of Saudi Arabia. While in the Technology Management MBA Program, she focused intently on gaining business and entrepreneurial skills. She competed in the Business Plan Competition with her idea for Yatooq. She also enrolled in the Entrepreneurship Certificate, offered by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at Foster. She said her experience at the Foster School, “Transformed me. I use everything I learned—from change management to supply-chain management to marketing.”

Upon returning home after graduation, her father offered her a job in his pharmaceutical company. Her first job was entering invoices, but that didn’t last long. She quickly moved up the ranks and became the general manager in less than two years.

In addition to working at the pharmaceutical company, Alwaalan has been working hard to launch Yatooq. The company started by selling ready-made blends of coffee, and had good results. The most successful aspect of the company, however, has been the introduction of its coffee machine. When made traditionally, Arabic coffee takes 20-30 minutes to prepare and requires over ten steps. Yatooq’s coffee machine dramatically reduces the time and effort required to make Arabic coffee. Within two weeks of launching the coffee machine in grocery stores and online, it sold out.

The start-up process hasn’t been easy—Alwaalan had to learn everything about how to manufacture and sell a consumer product. The hard work has paid off though. Yatooq currently has seven employees and needs more to keep up with demand. Alwaalan is also in the process of restructuring the pharmaceutical business so she can devote more time to Yatooq. Learn more about Yatooq.

10th Biennial International Business for Community Colleges Conference

Intl Bus Comm College FacGuest Post by Ian Priestman, International Business Professor at Linn-Benton Community College, Oregon, who attended the 10th Biennial International Business for Community Colleges Conference with a travel grant from the Global Business Center. 

Being an Englishman in America, I get a great kick out of going to conferences in the US, especially to places I wouldn’t get the chance to go to if I’d have stayed in England. There’s something exciting about saying, “I’m going to Washington” or, “the conference is Colorado” or even Michigan. It is these places that us Brits see in the movies or hear about in songs all the time but only ever dream about going to. Instead, the Brits attend conferences in rain soaked Manchester, in dark stone buildings in Leeds or in the concrete jungle of Birmingham. These courses in the UK take place against the backdrop of the perpetual dark cloud that hangs over the country, threatening to rain at any moment. On the other hand, no doubt these English towns are of the same interest to the US anglophile or history chaser as American places are to me.

This speaks to my first point I gleaned from the 10th Biennial International Business for Community Colleges Conference. There is a myriad of motivations and interests that we and more importantly our students have for studying international disciplines. Writing this post inspired me to think about the factors that had led me to the conference. I concluded with this: to make an international class or program, modern, and dynamic, we have to tap into our student’s motivations and interests in all things international and allow our students to develop these interests.

I now realize my reason for living and working in the US and becoming a citizen (and with my accent, me being an American really confuses my students!): It was my love of vacations as a child. Vacations gave me wanderlust, and as a direct result, there I was at the conference in Michigan as an International Business professor. With my love of vacations in mind, I realized that although a student might have no international experience other than a magical spring break vacation in Cancun, there’s plenty of scope to apply international business concepts to the tourist industry in Cancun or even another resort. Another example:  If a student enjoys British TV miniseries such as Downton Abbey or Brit comedies or even our musical output, the British movie or music industry would provide a great structure for the student in which to house international business concepts.

So now I want to spread my wanderlust (or wanderdust as I prefer to call it) to my students. How did the international business conference help me? The presentations on the regions of the world were fascinating as possible research projects and destinations for my students. Then, after hearing about the possibilities, the next piece of the puzzle was already waiting for me.  Waiting in the wings were sessions on raising the profile of international business in community colleges, internationalizing existing curriculums, and the possibilities for study abroad programs.

The conference gave me the tools with which to work in spreading the wanderdust. Great resources were suggested, notably by Tomas Hult and also the ‘Global Edge’. These resources will help me make my case at my community college for emphasizing the importance of international business courses. Finally, it was suggested that I research the availability of funds to attend further conferences thereby sustaining my enthusiasm for international business. Such funds are out there, you know- just like international business experiences and opportunities for our students.

Executive MBA students team up to lead change in healthcare

It was serendipity when Guy Hudson, MD, a pediatric specialty surgeon, met Shelley Cathrea Roy, a chiropractor, and Laureen Driscoll, a nursing administrator, for the first time at their EMBA orientation meeting in 2011. Though Guy and Laureen were both working at Swedish Medical Center at the time, neither they nor Shelley could have guessed that their EMBA experience would soon result in teaming up to lead change in pediatric services at Swedish. Pursuing a career shift, Shelley sold her practice and, leveraging her EMBA network, joined Swedish the following year as a clinic administrator. All three quickly found innovative ways to apply the business tools they were learning in the program in the hospital setting. Executives took notice, and supported their efforts to marry their growing business savvy to their professional expertise on the job. Leadership opportunities and promotions followed, with more to come.

Neal Dempsey’s advice for the class of 2013

The Foster School of Business was honored to have Neal Dempsey (BA 1964) speak at the undergraduate commencement ceremony this year. Dempsey is managing general partner at Bay Partners, focusing on enterprise software applications. Over the past 19 years he has guided more than two dozen start-ups to obtain highly successful outcomes—either through an IPO or by acquisition. He recently made Forbes’ 2013 Midas List of top tech investors. In 2012 he had three companies go public and three others get acquired.

Dempsey gave an animated and insightful send off to the class of 2013. His three secrets for success in the real world: accept failure, embrace change and give back. Below is an excerpt from his blog and video of his speech. Congratulations to the class of 2013!

Re-posted from Dempsey’s blog:

I had the honor of being asked to give the commencement address for the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business undergraduate class this month. As many of you know, the University of Washington is my alma mater and near and dear to my heart. It was a real treat. To prepare for the speech, I spent some time with about 25 of this year’s graduating class. I wanted to know their hopes, dreams, and worries for what’s ahead. After all, these are some difficult times for new college graduates. I must say I was surprised and impressed with the caliber of these students. Most have jobs and all are prepared and ambitious. I expect to see great things from this group of students in the future.

This is not your ordinary commencement speech, so get ready for more than a few surprises. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed giving it. Congratulations to the class of 2013!

See more from the Foster School’s graduation ceremonies.

MBA transformers: Crystal Wu

Once: Environmental Scientist, SWAPE

Now: Senior Analyst, Expedia

Crystal WuCollecting dust from old attics. Sampling oil field air in the middle of the night. Ah, the romance of environmental science.

Crystal Wu (MBA 2011) knows it well. After graduating from UCLA with a degree in molecular, cell and developmental biology, she began her career managing environmental consulting projects for SWAPE.

But eventually, Wu decided to come in out of this niche field. The Foster School helped her identify—and achieve—a broader role. “I didn’t know I wanted to move into finance,” she says, “but it was a natural step given my background in modeling and analysis.”

Wu found finance at Foster. She also founded the Seattle chapter of the National Association of Women MBAs.

But it was her internship at Mike’s Hard Lemonade, of all places, that activated her transformation to business finance. “It was the stepping stone I needed to connect my two careers,” Wu says.

Her re-launch has begun at Expedia, where she applies her modeling and financial analysis skills to its affiliate network. The company recently transferred her to London where, it is presumed, she’s able to avoid dusty attics and stinky oil fields.

Find out about the other alumni who transformed their careers via the MBA Program.

MBA transformers: Carrie Stearns

Once: Research Scientist, Cornell

Now: Senior Marketing Manager, Philips Healthcare

Carrie StearnsAfter defending her doctoral thesis in chemical biology at Cornell, Carrie Stearns (MBA 2008) climbed into her car and drove four days straight across the USA to begin orientation for the Foster MBA Program.

She wasn’t keen to prolong the transition from cancer research to management development. “I loved the science,” she says. “Just not doing the science. I wanted a little more control over my destiny, a way to make a more immediate impact on healthcare.”

Foster was the ticket. She loved the diversity of students, dove into the coursework and entered the UW Business Plan Competition (her team’s plan for an algaebased biofuel won Best Clean Tech).

She also turned an internship at Philips into a job managing the healthcare company’s cardiovascular and surgery device service portfolios. She helped launch the prostate cancer drug Provenge at Dendreon before returning to Philips to lead its women’s healthcare ultrasound business in North America.

“It’s the rare opportunity in marketing to both set the strategy and drive implementation,” she says.

And no looking back. “I don’t think I would have been happy doing research,” she admits. “I’m passionate about marketing and healthcare. And improving patients’ lives.”

Find out about the other alumni who transformed their careers via the MBA Program.

MBA transformers: Shrenik Shah

Once: Engineer, DuPont

Now: Director of Site Merchandising & Operations, Walmart eCommerce

Shrenik ShahShrenik Shah (MBA 2010) chose a career track early. He studied science and math at the Indian High School of Dubai, majored in engineering at Virginia Tech, and began his career as an engineer at DuPont, ensuring the safety and efficiency of new product facilities.

But Shah wanted to do more than execute on a firm’s strategic decisions. He wanted to make those decisions. He needed an MBA to move to the management side.

On first impression, he says, “the Foster School blew my mind. The people, the environment, how collaborative the whole place is.”

Shah absorbed every course, every classmate, every case competition, every mentor, every opportunity to work and learn.

After assisting in several start-ups and a brief stint in strategy consulting with Alvarez & Marsal, Shah joined Walmart eCommerce, where he helps manage the sprawling Internet operation of the world’s largest retailer.

His engineering background has helped him navigate the analytics and interactions with technical teams. But it’s his management skills that are making the difference. “My engineering work was never customerfacing,” he says. “At Walmart, however, I’m exposed to the entire US market—actual people spending their hard-earned money with us in this tight economy.”

Find out about the other alumni who transformed their careers via the MBA Program.

MBA transformers: Natalia Perez

Once: Economist, US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Now: Category Development Analyst, Starbucks

Natalia PerezNatalia Perez’s (MBA 2012) first job after college was conducting market research and analysis focused on the trucking industry for a transportation consulting firm.“ I didn’t even know how my car worked,” admits the Chilean expat.

But she did know how to analyze complex economies. And she soon found employment as an industry analyst at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, helping produce the monthly jobs report and the Producer Price Index.

But she didn’t see herself in government long term, and decided an MBA was the most versatile degree to get.

Her coursework at Foster helped her self-identify with market analytics. Even before graduation she began working at Starbucks, first as a workforce strategist and now as a category development analyst for emerging Starbucks brands including Evolution Fresh and the Verismo home brewing system.

Her time at Starbucks has revealed an under-heralded value of the program. “Every piece is important,” she says. “And it may sound like a small thing, but learning to work in teams has been critical. At Starbucks, I don’t do anything on my own. Everything is accomplished in teams. It’s such a vital element of the Foster MBA.”

Update: Drawing on her belief in the power of teams, Perez has moved from analysis to management. She still works at Starbucks but is now a Bakery product manager.

Find out about the other alumni who transformed their careers via the MBA Program.

MBA transformers: Lisa Lissandrello

Once: Math Teacher/Ski Instructor, Jackson Hole

Now: Senior Financial Analyst, Amazon.com

Stacy LissandrelloFor a while, Stacy Lissandrello (MBA 2011) didn’t really care to have a career at all.

“I wanted to be a ski bum,” she admits.

After studying mathematics at Colby College, Lissandrello moved to Wyoming to ski. She gave ski lessons and did math tutoring to fund her skiing.

Tutoring led to a job teaching calculus and statistics and, eventually, heading the math department at a private school in Jackson Hole. But eventually Lissandrello’s vagabond existence wore thin. She wanted a career both challenging and rewarding, and thought finance might make a good transition. “I figured an MBA would be the quickest way to jumpstart my career,” she says.

It was a comfort to find that she was not alone in her non-traditional path to the MBA. And from her first finance course, she knew she had made the right choice.

So did Amazon, which hired Lissandrello as a senior financial analyst. She began working on the company’s fulfillment supply chain and now covers retail health and beauty products.

It’s a dream position for someone who, like her employer, tends to be data-driven. “I have this great job in the city,” she says, “and the mountains in my backyard.”

Update: Now working at Microsoft as the senior finance manager for the Surface Tablet, Lissandrello continues to combine finance work at a data-driven tech company with proximity to great ski slopes.

Find out about the other alumni who transformed their careers via the MBA Program.

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