Tag Archives: Fritzky Chair

Real-world strategies for success

Ken Denman & Andrew Lindsay In March, more than twenty Business & Economic Development Center (BEDC) undergraduate students temporarily pushed aside their group projects and studying for exams to think about career approaches following graduation while attending a BEDC-organized luncheon with Machine Perception Technology CEO, Ken Denman (MBA 1986), and Jawbone Chief of Staff, Andrew Lindsay.

Designed as an informal, personal setting for students to actively engage in discussions about career and entrepreneurship options, students questioned Denman and Lindsay and put forth their own questions for navigating the business world. Students who attended came seeking real-world advice. For instance, Diana Nguyen, a student of the Multicultural Marketing class and an executive member of the BEDC’s Leadership Team, arrived at the luncheon seeking to learn how Denman and Lindsay “knew that they were making the right choices” along their career paths, and “what advice…they have for [students] as [they] try to achieve [their] own goals today.”

Both Denman and Lindsay stressed the importance of accessing one’s own individual goals. “Think about how you want to live and what you want out of life,” said Denman. Passion for your work is critical, and one must be invigorated by what they do each day. “There are too many opportunities to do a job you don’t love waking up to every morning.” And, as Rai Huang, another student of the Multicultural Marketing class, pointed out, the importance of “seizing opportunities available in the business school environment” was another chief point made by Denman for current students.

Additional key takeaways from the luncheon were threaded around a theme of best practices for business consulting as a profession—notably one of the “fastest growing industries in today’s corporate world and one of the most popular career choices” for new graduates—and business strategies for start-ups. Denman and Lindsay said that, whether you are steering the choices of businesses in trouble or striving to be entrepreneur, the blueprint to a successful business is to solve a problem or provide a service of incremental value that the consumer market is willing to pay for. Denman asserted that finding new ways to provide incremental value to the marketplace is one of the greatest challenges for small businesses. Conducting introspective market research, appropriately predicting the future of one’s industry, and perusing a risk-adjusted approach are fundamental.

Undergraduate Students at Denman & Lindsay LuncheonStudents also expressed considerable interest in the benefits and challenges of consulting for small businesses versus large corporations. Denman and Lindsay agreed that, while working with large companies can be advantageous for gathering valuable skills sets and acquiring knowledge of proper consulting processes and policies, large corporations can be more resistant to revision and restructuring than small business. Small companies, on the other hand, are more nimble and open to change, and the result of alterations can be more quickly discernible, but the emotional investment on the owners’ part can be far greater. In turn, Denman and Lindsay recommend that the key to successful consulting is to deliver arguments for change with confidence, verified statistics and objective facts.

The hour-long luncheon was a time for students to reflect on their futures, and gain recommendations regardless of the career path they choose. Undergraduate Rai Huang recapped the event well:

“It reinforced my belief that, if a person chooses to follow their heart and keep moving towards that direction, they will eventually find success.”

The BEDC’s ability to connect students with business mentors depends on the generous contributions receive from individuals, corporations and foundations. Please donate to the BEDC to help us train future leaders.

Ken Denman: One step ahead of the innovation curve

The current Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership, Ken Denman (MBA 1986), talks about his passion for leading edge technology, adapting to business cultures abroad and computers that can detect emotions.

Ken DenmanYou’ve led at a string of successful tech companies. How have you navigated your course?

Well, I got my MBA from the Foster School in 1986, and I know I should probably have a more quantitative answer at the ready. But the truth of it is that I followed my passion. I wanted to be in on developing and launching technologies that would impact the way we work, live and play. I thought, “I need proximity to those kinds of businesses, that’s where the opportunity lies.” It’s built in to all the old adages: Why do people rob banks? That’s were money’s kept. Or, Go West young man! Essentially, all of these sayings are about aligning with opportunity.

Can you talk about some of the plans you have as Fritzky Chair?

Absolutely—I want to make the Foster School an even hotter bed of innovation than it already is. I organized a conference that focused on innovation and entrepreneurship. One of the sessions was called “Social 2018” and the presenter was Harvard Business Press author Nilofer Merchant—called “the female James Bond of innovation.” It’s a great example of my vision, which is to change the way we think about opportunity. We all know that the social era has changed the business landscape, and many of the old rules no longer apply. But the impacts are only starting to be realized. Corporate behemoths no longer have the advantage. Smaller, focused teams that are nimble and can conceive of an idea, make a plan and launch it from various points across the world, hold the edge.

The more exposure Foster students and faculty have to the different pieces of the innovation engine, the more prepared the upcoming generation of business leaders will be.

You seem pretty bullish on innovation—is there a downside of being on the cutting edge?

Recently, I’ve been thinking about how the things I’ve been involved in for the past 15-20 years have created jobs, but also contributed to the loss of existing jobs. How do we create enough work in the US? We’re going to be deeply challenged in this regard—the political talk about bringing jobs back isn’t likely to work. The economics aren’t pragmatic, and the kinds of skills needed will be very different.

The need to reorient our economy and educational aspirations is paramount. We need more knowledge workers, yes, but we have to push certain kinds of vocational training. One kind of job is going away, but there are new jobs enabled by that very technology. For example, maybe we need fewer machinists now, but what about the programmers and technicians who enable the machines? We don’t need to push everyone toward college, but the newer paths aren’t as clearly defined.

You’re currently CEO of Machine Perception Technologies. Can you talk about what the company is working on?

MPT is a software-based company working to merge emotion detection and machine learning to take personal technology to a new level. Emotion recognition is a logical progression toward the enhancement of applications like online education, e-commerce, gaming and market research. The ability of a device to discern your mood—are you confused, frustrated, angry?—will improve your experience by adapting to where you are.

Think about the billions of dollars spent on market research. Empirical evidence shows that people don’t tell the truth. Not because they’re trying to “lie,” but because of social biases, internal confusion, difficulty articulating feelings, etc. Think about the ability of cognitive recognition systems to account for this!

The power of this space is that the team we have for machine learning is a bunch of behavioral and cognitive scientists who are intent on getting machines to learn across a wide range of demographics. If you believe in this definition of artificial intelligence, you can say this is no longer science fiction. We’re working on how to extend the necessary processing power into the cloud so it can work on mobile devices.

What do you think is next for you?

The way I’ll get to the next thing is by following this line of inquiry I’ve had about the concept of adjacencies—analyzing “where good ideas come from,” not incidentally, the title of Steven Johnson’s great book on the history of innovation. Great innovations often come from previous innovations applied in non-obvious directions. I’ve been applying this notion to the mobile space and some of the other areas in which I’ve played to see if I can see what’s next. It’s a process.

Right now, this role (Fritzky Chair) is helping me focus, evaluate new ideas, and test my strategy. I’ve got a group of students flying down to my company to deliver the final readout of a field study focused on market entry strategy and competitive analysis. The students are absolutely amazing. I expect I’ll learn as much or more from them as they do from me.

The Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership serves an academic year at Foster in an advisory role. This faculty position was specifically designed to put a distinguished business leader on campus to share their expertise with faculty and students.

Seeing the future with Ken Denman

Ken Denman (MBA 1986) holds the Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership at the Foster School of Business. He spoke in March at the Foster School about his career path and latest venture, Machine Perception Technologies, a software-based company working to merge emotion detection and machine learning to take personal technology to a new level.

Denman has held myriad executive roles which have spanned large corporations, startups, emerging markets ventures and turnarounds. He led iPass’ successful initial public offering, and led the strategy work for monetizing Openwave’s patent portfolio and spinning off the operating units. He is also an engaged angel investor and board member with public and private board experience. Currently he is president and CEO of Machine Perception Technologies (MPT).

Watch video highlights, which also include a demonstration of Facet, MPT’s emotion detection software. The demonstration was led by Dr. Marian Bartlett, lead scientist at MPT.

Ken Denman 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.