Stephen Yu, successful entrepreneur and class of 2018 Monday section Valedictorian, shares his experience as a recent Technology Management MBA (TMMBA) Program graduate.
Stephen is an entrepreneur and angel investor. He is the cofounder of Quosal, a software solution for salespeople to create winning quotes and proposals which was sold to ConnectWise in 2016. After graduating from the University of Texas with an electrical engineering degree, he proceeded to work in investment banking at Goldman Sachs, video game development at Gas Powered Games, and never looked at an electrical circuit or power transformer again. He spends his free time rock climbing, dancing tango, and pondering ways to add more letters after his name for his email signature.
Why did you choose the Technology Management MBA Program at the Foster School of Business?
My primary motivation, when comparing MBA programs, was being able to stay local. I consider the Pacific Northwest to be home and love being here, especially in the summers. I consider Foster to be the premier business school in the Northwest and of the programs here, the TMMBA program really spoke to me because of my background. I also thought it would be a good segue into founding a new startup.
What class was the most useful or interesting to you?
Competitive Strategy taught by David Tan was truly a transformational class for me. While I enjoyed all of my TMMBA classes, and learned in each one, Competitive Strategy changed my worldview. Prior to this course, my idea of strategy had always been about doing things better than other companies and relying on luck or circumstance to dominate a market. I found it fascinating that you could find underserved market segments, even where there is a strongly entrenched incumbent, and make a set of choices to better serve customers – specifically targeting areas in which your competitor is unlikely to make the changes necessary to recapture them.
What are your post-graduation career plans?
I entered the TMMBA program almost immediately after getting married, so any career plans will need to include being a good husband. In the short term, I will continue at ConnectWise to ensure a smooth transition after the acquisition. Using the valuable skills learned, and the tremendous network of the Foster School, I plan on founding a new startup once I have gotten my bearings.
What were your impressions of the faculty? Is there a particular faculty member who stands out in your mind as being truly exceptional?
The faculty in general are not only deeply knowledgeable in their fields, they are also very interested in the success of their students. I recently attended an executive management intensive workshop at Berkeley and seeing the same concepts conveyed from a differing perspective made me appreciate how much the Foster faculty cares about ensuring that the students achieve a firm understanding of the materials.
While all the faculty were quite fantastic, I want to give a nod to Julie Sandler, who teaches the Entrepreneurship Practicum. She is also a full-time venture capitalist and brings the entire Seattle entrepreneurial community to her class. As a result, we were able to receive instruction and most importantly, real-time feedback on our ideas and how to pitch them. This is invaluable knowledge that can’t be replicated outside of Julie’s class.
As a successful entrepreneur prior to joining the TMMBA program, did any TMMBA courses significantly change your business outlook?
Competitive Strategy changed my business outlook. It allowed me to envision whole new areas of business in markets that I thought were long saturated. Lance Young’s Entrepreneurial Finance class was also quite instructive. In my previous startup, we bootstrapped our way to success so I had never had seek venture capital. Lance showed us how to decipher term sheets and align incentives so that both investors and entrepreneurs are motivated to make a great company. It has helped me tremendously in my angel investing and will be useful in my future startup adventures.
What has been the highlight of your Foster MBA experience?
Beyond the cornucopia of ice cream and crispy chicken Thai food? It may sound trite, but you get more out of the program than you put in. Making friends and seeing my study groups start from scattered individuals bonding into a cohesive unit is the highlight of my Foster MBA experience. Leadership can be learned, but it can’t be taught. It comes from enduring adversity with your teammates and watching that crucible burn away the doubts, fears, and uncertainties to reveal the inner mettle within us.