Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Team Hook On A Roll

Following Entrepreneurship courses in the Winter quarter, Class 14 was abuzz with new business ideas. This was evident by the TMMBA program having the strongest turnout in its history for the 2015 UW Business Plan Competition (BPC).

One new venture with close ties to the TMMBA program is Hook, led by Class 14 student Robert Moehle. Hook won 2nd place at the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge, and is currently in the Sweet 16 of the BPC.

The team, whose members met through an event hosted by the Buerk Center, has set out to make smart home technology accessible to everyone by offering “home automation on a budget.” One Hook device in the home offers control of anything electric from the user’s smartphone. This allows for energy savings, improved home safety, and convenience.

Hook is currently taking pre-orders on Kickstarter, with a little under two weeks left to reach their funding goal of $25,000 for an initial production run.

“I’ve been able to apply the concepts learned from my TMMBA classes directly and almost instantly,” remarked Moehle. “I am thankful for the program and opportunities offered by Foster, which have given me the chance to pursue my entrepreneurial desires. The TMMBA faculty and staff have been incredibly supportive in every way.”

Please support Hook on Kickstarter, and share their project with your friends and followers!

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TMMBA Alumni Profile: Rick McMaster (TMMBA 2006)

McMaster (TMMBA 2006) @ Vino at the Landing in Renton
McMaster (TMMBA 2006) @ Vino at the Landing in Renton

After competing in the UW Business Plan Competition and graduating from the Technology Management MBA (TMMBA) Program in 2006, Rick McMaster caught the entrepreneurship bug.  McMaster made an unconventional shift from a career in technology at Intel to pursuing his passion for the local Washington wine industry. Today McMaster has put his TMMBA skills to work and is the Owner and General Manager of the thriving Vino at the Landing in Renton.

What’s next for McMaster? In January 2015, he purchased a second location, Reds Wine Bar at Kent Station, and sees even more growth in his future. Much to the delight of McMaster’s patrons, more chardonnay, merlot and syrah possibly await! Read more about McMaster’s story below.

On Career

What is most rewarding about your job? What makes it all worthwhile?
I love the community atmosphere that we’ve established at Vino through great food, delicious wine, and wonderful service.  We have a lot of regular customers who patron Vino on a daily or weekly basis.  It’s great to know our customers on a personal level, learn about their personal lives, and know that Vino is the place that they go to relax and unwind.

What have been the biggest challenges in your career?
Growing Vino from a staff of 3 to 20 has been extremely challenging.  When we started there were no policies and procedures in place.  We now have an employee manual in place with a more disciplined performance management process.  Resourcing has also been challenging.  As we’ve grown it has been difficult figuring out when to hire and how many people to hire.  There is a lot of turnover in the restaurant industry so it’s also challenging to retain good employees.

What is your biggest professional accomplishment?
We were honored by the Renton Chamber of Commerce for Outstanding Customer Service for 2012 and 2014.  And we were just recently honored by the Washington State Wine Commission with a Grand Award for our locally focused wine program.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
My first boss at Cummins Engine, Mike Carney, was the biggest influence on my career.  He was a huge proponent of The 7 Habits and building highly effective teams.

What are you most excited or passionate about?
I am most excited about the personal development of my employees.  Most of my staff started at Vino in their early 20s.  It’s been wonderful to see them grow into management positions.

Where do you want to be in 5 or 10 years?
I purchased a 2nd location, Reds Wine Bar at Kent Station in January 2015.  I’d love to open a 3rd location in the next 5-10 years.  I’ve also been working on a business plan for a cocktail bar and would love to open that concept in downtown Renton as part of the city revitalization efforts.


What were your goals upon entering TMMBA?
I was working at Intel when I entered the program.  I had worked primarily in program management and had an engineering background.  I knew that I needed the business education if I ever wanted to advance my career at Intel.  I thought the TMMBA program would help me to achieve this.

How has TMMBA impacted your career?
There is no doubt that I never would have had this opportunity with Vino at the Landing & Reds Wine Bar without my experience in the TMMBA program.  As a small business owner, every part of the TMMBA program curriculum is used on a daily basis.

On Life

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I’m an avid golfer.  Vino opens at 11am so I’ve been known to get 18-27 holes in prior to opening.  My girlfriend is an avid runner and running coach so I see many 5K races in my future too.

Are you involved in any community organizations?
Vino contributes to many local charities including the Renton Clothes Bank and we are heavily involved in the Renton Chamber of Commerce.  I just began mentoring with the Renton School District.

Business book recommendation?
I’m going to go old school with this one… Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People.

 Read more TMMBA alumni profiles here.

Success @ the Buerk Center Biz Plan Competition

Mikaela Houck, Assistant Director

Congrats to TMMBA students who showed off their entrepreneurial skills at yesterday’s  Buerk Center Business Plan Competition (BPC) “Sweet 16” Round – TMMBA had representation on two of the 16 teams:

IonoMetal Technologies (TMMBA Student: Pritam Das)
With its revolutionary patented technology and demonstrated tool, Ionometals will not only make the earth a better place to live by reducing landfill of semiconductor waste, but also help save approximately $0.5MM for every semiconductor testing company.

Spectral DNA (TMMBA Students: Michael Franklin, Bryan Kessler, MJ Pattanshetti and Tyler Sims)
Spectral DNA’s goal is to deliver a conformable solar fabric that can be fully integrated into a multi-use model for ubiquitous power generation. We aim to micro-design these 3D conformable fabrics into clothing, and other needed uses and applications for ubiquitous power. This can be used as a mobile power generation house without connecting to wires.

Both teams represented TMMBA well with their polished presentations and innovative business ideas. Furthermore, the IonoMetal Technologies team took home the “Best Clean Tech Idea” and $2500 prize.

Yesterday’s round  was the culmination of months of hard work and dedication for the teams. The competition formally began in early April with over 92 submissions and over time whittled down to the best of the best at yesterday’s Sweet 16 – all vying for the ultimate grand prize of $25,000.

Year after year, the Buerk Center BPC is a focal event for many of our TMMBA students. The competition allows them the great opportunity to put the skills they’ve gained in the classroom to the test – from developing business plans to honing their pitching and presentation skills. The competition also grants teams unique access to the thriving Seattle start-up community (VCs, angel investors, and more!).

Way to go teams IonoMetal Technologies and Spectral DNA! Also, a special call-out to team Zetection (with TMMBA student Anna Gall) who advanced to the earlier Investment Round of the competition.

Check out a few photos from the competition (Investment Round on April 29):

 ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????     Spectral DNA @ the Investment Round

Interested in learning more?
Read about past TMMBA successes at the BPC
Click here for full results of the 2014 BPC


TMMBA Student Prevails at Science & Technology Showcase

Congrats to TMMBA Class 13 student, Pritam Das, for excelling at the Science and Technology Showcase in early February. The annual showcase (co-hosted by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship and SEBA) is a tradeshow type event where student pitch their ideas and innovations to a panel judges consisting of Seattle area entrepreneurs and investors.

“During the showcase, we were challenged by the judges that ranged from local venture capitalists to scientists from NASA, from every angle of a robust business model. We used the experts’ challenges as an invaluable tool to hone our business models for future commercialization of our product,” shared Pritam.  


Pritam and his teammates from the Chemical Engineering Department at UW placed 2nd overall and were also awarded Best Marketing Strategy. Their idea, Electrometal Solutions, is a unique approach of putting metals onto surfaces using advanced electrochemical techniques.  The applications of this advanced technology can range from security applications to the decorative market. Currently, their application is targeted towards the semiconductor industry.

We’re excited to see what’s in store for Pritam and his team.
Next stop – the Buerk Center Environmental Innovation Challenge. Best of luck!

Business Plan Competition past participants offer advice for students

Sara Jones, TMMBA Assistant Director

Last summer I interviewed a group of TMMBA students that competed in the Business Plan Competition and won 2nd place for their concept, Xylemed. They had a lot to share about the experience and gave some great insights into the various competition stages.  Here’s the video:

Now that the 2013 Business Plan Competition activities are getting under way, I went back to the interview transcripts and pulled out a few final thoughts and pieces of advice that they have for someone considering the competition.

Marc: It is going to be really tough if you don’t have something that either has traction or you can gain traction quickly.  All of the teams that had some success either had a contract signed, product in development, or started a kick starter campaign and had some sort of traction. We heard from multiple people that it is almost less of a business plan competition than it is a business competition.

Jason: Use it as an opportunity to really push yourself.  You probably go to work and do a few things that are very specific, whereas when you are trying to launch a company with only a few teammates, you really have to have a much broader perspective on things.  You are going to learn a lot from just having to think through so many questions and in different ways than you have probably had to think before.

Also, if you are trying to identify an opportunity for the business plan competition, look at examples within your own company or try to find pain points within your own work or life.  Those are probably the most relevant to you that you will be able to be passionate about and hopefully create a product or service that really resonates with a target audience.

Ben: If you really want to make it into the final four, you have to have a product which exists, which is in a way too bad, because it is less of a business plan competition and more of a startup competition. But I wouldn’t let that defer you from entering the competition if you have enough of an idea that you want to see get off the ground.  The harsh reality is that you probably won’t make it into the finals, but you will get so much more out of the competition than you ever think you will entering it that it is still very much worth it.

Anoop: It does take a decent amount of time, adding that to the class workload. You really have to be willing to dedicate time to it, but it is definitely worthwhile and I think the benefits far outweigh the time you put into it.

My experience at the Kirkland Startup Weekend

By Sreenath Pudukudi, TMMBA Alum, Class of 2012

I got my ticket and was thrilled to go to Startup Weekend. Little did I know this would be one of the great opportunities in my life. For those who don’t know about Startup Weekend, you can see the details here The idea is to form teams at the Startup Weekend event and create a startup over the weekend. At the end of the event, the best startup would be judged and rewarded.

And then the long-awaited day arrives. Friday, as I entered the event, I could feel the positive energy in the room. There were lots of people passionately talking about their ideas. During the event, you have a minute to present the idea. There were around 40 people who pitched their ideas. Wow, that was 40 ideas in 40 minutes. Each person gets 3 voting cards and could vote for the top 3 ideas they liked. The ideas that received the most number of votes could build their teams for the weekend.

Developing the startup

I voted for the idea of building a platform for matching fashion stylist to consumers. I always wanted a personal stylist but was never ready to spend big dollars. The idea resonated with me very well and I thought people would be ready to pick a personal stylist if the cost of the stylist is reasonably low.

The team Eliza was formed and we had a nice blend of diverse skill sets. We started off by creating a work plan for the next 2 days.

It was Saturday morning. We delegated the tasks to focus on the following areas:

  1. Business Model Generation
  2. Customer Validation
  3. Marketing Plan
  4. Competitive Analysis
  5. Developing the website

The team synched up every 2 hours to gauge the progress. Time was running fast. By Saturday evening, we were successful in,

  1. Reaching out to 3500 customers for validating customer pain points.
  2. Building the business model, identifying the customer segment.
  3. Creating the Cost & Revenue Model.
  4. Creating Marketing Plan and competitive analysis.
  5. Signing up 2 Stylist and 4 customers.
  6. Building a working website with the basic features.

I was pleasantly surprised with the progress a team can make just 1 day.

Pitching the business

It was Sunday morning. Most of us were focused on finishing the last bits and pieces of our work to get the final product in shape for the presentation. A few of us were focused on how to get our final pitch in front of close to 100 people. We practiced our final pitch over and over again.

And the time arrives. Clock ticks 5:30pm and the teams started giving their final pitches. It was our turn. We confidently presented our pitch as a story focusing on the need for the product, the value add it brings to the customers and how we build it into a great business. After our presentation there were a few questions from the judges and we were done.

All the teams presented and the wait to find the best startup begins.

The outcome

Out of the 12 teams in the competition, our team made it to the first position. We WON!!! It was indeed a great feeling and one of the most productive weekends I had. It was worth the effort.

Over the last two days, I learned a lot of new stuff, met great minds, built good networks and realized that it’s “The Team” that matters the most. I learned this again and again in my TMMBA classes. The lessons I learned during TMMBA made a difference in the way I think and I must say, I love TMMBA.

For all the entrepreneur enthusiasts out there, I would just say “attend one of the Startup Weekends and start your journey of building your own startup”. :-)

TMMBA + Seattle 2.0 Startup Day = winning combination for entrepreneurs!

Written by:  Tracy Gojdics, Director & 2007 TMMBA alumnus

The UW Foster Technology Management MBA Program (TMMBA) is a premier sponsor for the 2012 Seattle 2.0 Startup Day on September 22 at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue.  In fact, this is the third year we will have a presence at this one-of-kind conference designed to inspire, inform and bring together budding entrepreneurs as well as veteran entrepreneurs.

Why do we like to sponsor this event? 

  • We have a growing student and alumni network full of entrepreneurs.
  • 50+% of  TMMBA applicants want to start their own company.
  • Aligns with our mission to educate, inspire and support the aspirations of our TMMBA community.
  • We are fans of Geekwire!

I often get asked, “Does an entrepreneur really need an MBA?”   The answer is “it depends.”  It depends on business knowledge and experience, the kinds of issues and business problems one has been exposed to (and tried to solve!) and how deeply one understands strategy, microeconomic and macroeconomic factors, finance and market risk.  For some they will have a solid understanding of all of these areas, but the vast majority of people do not – this is when a well-rounded MBA experience is an asset worth having.  The time and investment of an MBA is small when compared to the great ROI with the ability to achieve a dream – strategically and intelligently!

TMMBA has the honor introducing the following speakers at the conference:

Adam Tratt – CEO, Giant Thinkwell / HaikuDeck (10am)
Brenda Spoonemore, Co-founder and CEO Dwellable  (3:25pm)

Here is a complete list of speakers and activities for the 2012 Seattle 2.0 Startup Day.  We will have a booth there as well – stop by to say hi to Ally and Tina. As always, we look forward to seeing TMMBA students and alumni at the event and meeting new and interesting people!

A look inside the TMMBA Venture Capital Investment Competition

Sara Jones, TMMBA Assistant Director & Class of 2012

This past spring our graduating students wrapped up their TMMBA experience with a new course in the curriculum – the Venture Capital Investment Practicum.

This two-day course is taught by Foster alum and GeekWire Chief Business Officer, Rebecca Lovell. It is designed to pull together all of the TMMBA coursework viewed through the lens of venture capital investing.  Working in teams, students dove into one tech startup in detail, evaluating its potential for investment.  Classes featured guest speakers and involved practical application of the concepts.

The course ended with all-day competition. Acting as VCs, students evaluated business plans of two local startups and selected one to invest in. Leading up to the competition teams reviewed the executive summaries, put together an initial analysis, and drafted questions for the entrepreneurs.

The day of the competition was a flurry of activity. Each entrepreneur pitched their business to the class and then teams held mini “due diligence” sessions with the entrepreneurs throughout the morning. Teams had only an hour and a half during a working lunch to make their final investment decision, develop an executive summary, and put together their presentation slides.  During the afternoon teams presented and defended their decisions to a panel of judges from the startup community.

At the end of the day, there were two winning teams. Here’s what a few of their members had to say about the experience:

“The real world doesn’t lay everything out for you, and neither did the VCIC. It really challenged us to apply the concepts we learned in a so-this-is-what-it’s-really-like kind of a way.”  – Amy Klehm, Team Honeybadgers

“I really didn’t know what to expect, except to give it my all. I didn’t expect for our team to win, even after my teammate Krishnan cheered us on. The experience altogether was intense, fast-paced, and very rewarding. Now I know how to be on the other side of the table when it comes to entrepreneurship. While playing the VC role, I definitely learned how to ask the necessary questions in order to determine what is a significant and promising investment.”  – Roann Lubang, Team Sporks

“The TMMBA Venture Captital course/competition was a great way to gain a glimpse into and to experience the VC process. It was also an excellent way to network with some of the most active members in the Seattle Startup community.”  – Krishnan Ananthanarayanan, Team Sporks

Team Sporks, TMMBA Class of 2012
Team Honeybadgers, TMMBA Class of 2012

Don’t wait for the right moment

By Marcelo Alcantara, TMMBA Class of 2013

Earlier this year I decided to leave my job and start a new venture. It wasn’t an easy decision. I was well employed in a prominent role at my previous company. I helped them grow from an unknown Brazilian start-up to a global leader in the enterprise mobile application space. I was in the comfort zone. On top of that, I had just started the TMMBA program. Any time I had left to invest on parallel projects or leisure was gone. Definitely not the right moment to start a time-consuming and money-draining entrepreneurial venture.

But entrepreneurs do not wait for the right moment. As a matter of fact, if you wait for the right moment it may never come. This is one of situations where you need to trust your gut and go for it. And so I did. I left my job and I co-founded Qoiza.

Qoiza is my third entrepreneurial experience, but it is the first one in the US. We are privileged to live in a region that is known as one of the main tech hubs in the world. Seattle has a great ecosystem that makes life easier to any startup: large talent pool, specialized lawyers and accountants,  well established VC firms, and a large and active angel investment community. Everything you need to be successful is right here.

So far it has been a very rewarding and life-changing experience.  The indescribable feeling of creating something out of napkin notes into an usable product. The multiple pivots on which direction should we go. The long hours executing and developing the product. The pitches to VCs and angels. These are experiences that help you develop as a professional and as a leader no matter where your start-up will end up.

It has also been a great real-life opportunity to apply the concepts and theory we are learning in the TMMBA program. Some examples include setting up T-accounts and the first set of financial reporting documents (Accounting); create term sheets, define valuation and risk beta (Corp Finance); set the product value proposition and go-to-market strategy (Strategic Marketing).

Taking the first step is always the hardest part. For those of you who are thinking about starting a new venture, don’t wait for the right moment. Do it. You will not regret.

TMMBA a force to reckon with at Business Plan Competition

Sara Jones, TMMBA Assistant Director & Class of 2012

TMMBA students at the 2012 UW Foster Business Plan Competition5 TMMBA teams of over 20 students from the Class of 2012 participated in yesterday’s Investment Round at the UW Foster School’s annual Business Plan Competition. We even had a 2010 alum in the competition!

In total there were 101 entries into the competition and 36 teams were selected for the Investment Round. The ideas were more diverse than I remember in the past – from food and technology products to healthcare solutions, products for social good, and an innovative pocketed bra. There was something for everyone!

During the Investment Round, teams had 4 hours to pitch their ideas to judges from the Seattle entrepreneurial community.  At the end of the day the judges invested $1000 CIE dollars in the teams that they found the most intriguing.  The 16 teams with the highest investments were selected to advance to the Sweet 16 Round. I’m proud to say that 3 TMMBA teams made it through – GroBox, Xylemed, and Highlight Hunters.

Teams now have one crazy month ahead to refine their pitches and improve their business plans before the Sweet 16 Round. All of the TMMBA teams in the competition worked hard and did a great job. Way to go!

The TMMBA Teams:

GroBox @Grospaces |
Aims to make it super easy to grow your own fruits and vegetables in a small amount of space.

Highlight Hunters@highlighthunter |
Highlight Hunter’s software saves camera owners time by finding the highlights in their videos. It works with any digital camera and can be downloaded free on Mac and PC.

Mynu – @mynu2go |
A mobile app where customers can pre-order menu items from food trucks, save their favorites, and share via their other social media outlets.

Splitpen@splitpeninc |
A creative online outlet for everyday people of all abilities to come together and co-write stories with multiple plot lines, sub-plots and endings.

Viva Aguas Frescas – (TMMBA alum) @vivaaugasfrescas
A non-carbonated beverage company committed to producing Aguas Frescas beverages that embody the always fresh, all natural and HEALTHY Aguas Frescas.

Xylemed Ember is a cloud-based electronic patient tracking and operations management system that leverages existing information systems to manage hospital workflows—improving communication and safety, while reducing expenses.

GroBox  SplitBen  Team Xylemed  Highlight HuntersTeam Mynu