catch a rising start-Up by xumiaomaio



a rising
the center for innovation and entrepreneurship and its
Business plan competition have been the launch pad for a
growing community of successful student-founded ventures                                     by ED KROMER

in the seductive mythology of modern entrepreneurship, great ideas are scribbled on napkins,
cultivated in garages, fueled by prescient financiers, and everyone gets rich. RICH!
   In the often quixotic reality of student entrepreneurship, great ideas incubate in dorm room kitchens and
department store floors and life-sucking cubicles and swim clubs and laboratories and even classrooms. They
are born of optimism, ardor and innocence, and usually sustained by some combination of meager life
savings, angelic friends and families, competition prizes and ramen noodles.
   At the UW, they also have the Business Plan Competition as proving ground and the Center for Innovation
and Entrepreneurship (CIE) as invaluable resource and ally. Are entrepreneurs born or made? Yes. Here are
the stories of six companies founded by recent Business School grads—each a born entrepreneur, made at
the UW.

                                                                                                               stUart JaMieson,   AquaStasis

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                            aqUastasis                      Washington Research Foundation, and counseled by the            developed and managed enterprise                    “the idea that We coUld really help hUndreds
                    There is Something in the Water         attorneys of Gray Cary. They hire an expert in business         software at InfoAccess and Stellent                  of thoUsands of people WorldWide in a
                                                            development and plug into Seattle’s rich design community       before coming to the Business
If the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship could                                                                                                                          fUndaMental Way—and Be reWarded for
                                                            to create the LiveMeter product line.                           School intent on running an early-
invent the ideal student-founded company, it would look        Then, comprehending the extreme handicap of con-             stage company. “I didn’t believe I                   doing it—is pretty poWerfUl.” Sven Liden, TeachTown
something like AquaStasis:                                  sumer-product start-ups, they have the presence to sell         would come out starting a compa-
   A pair of MBA students meet a pair of chemistry doc-     LiveMeter to Virbac, a major player in animal health. Less      ny,” Jamieson says. “I thought
toral students in a new venture creation class. Ideas fly   than two years after the founding, LivepH and LiveNH3           defining an opportunity would be one of the hardest things.            The company sprang from Seattle’s seminal Institute for
freely, including Roni Kopelman’s kitchen chemistry proj-   are flying off the shelves at PETCO, PetSmart and indepen-      I’m not so sure about that now. If you get together enough         Systems Biology. After earning an undergraduate degree in
ect inspired by an untimely death in his aquarium: a        dent stores in 50 states.                                       smart people who are committed to making a go, then a lot          biochemistry, Ratcliffe joined Dr. Leroy Hood at the UW
continuous monitor of pH and ammonia levels. Bingo.            And AquaStasis retains the rights to their continuous        of good things will happen—assuming that you can raise             to work on the Human Genome Project. When Hood
   The four draw up a business plan, fashion a working      monitoring technology for applications outside the fish         enough money and stay alive.”                                      founded the Institute in 2000, Ratcliffe went with him, and
prototype from a laminated Kinko’s card and a kitchen       bowl.                                                               AquaStasis can do more than that now. Flush from early         joined Dr. Krassen Dimitrov to form the department of
hook, and win the 2004 Business Plan Competition. Then         Pretty smart? Jamieson began his career as scientific per-   success, the founders are probing for new markets for their        microarrays. Dimitrov soon became frustrated with this
primaries Kopelman and Stuart Jamieson (MBA 2004)           sonal assistant to rock-star physicist Stephen Hawking, then    continuous monitoring technology. Jamieson is careful not          highly flawed measurement technology and came up with
move forward with pilgrim frugality and pioneer resource-   developed image recognition systems for the Royal Air           to speculate, though pools and spas come to mind quickly,          the idea to tag each molecule and count them.
fulness. They are initially housed and mentored by          Force based on his doctoral studies. Moving to the US, he       and industrial possibilities abound.                                   By this time, Ratcliffe knew she was interested in the
                                                                                                                                “It’s a really nice position to be a start-up that already has management of scientific discovery and wanted to get an
                                                                                                                            had a result and a liquidity event,” he says. “For me, it’s        MBA. Though Dimitrov wanted her to help him start a
                                                                                                                            important to have continued learning and challenges. There         company around his invention, she decided to enroll at the
                                                                                                                            will clearly be challenges in going from a company of three        Business School. “I said, ‘Maybe we can regroup once you
                                                                                                                            to 30 to 300. I have no idea whether those will be interest-       are ready to get going,’” she recalls. “I didn’t think it would
                                                                                                                            ing challenges. I only know that I really enjoyed going from       actually happen. There are so few things that work out in
                                                                                                                            nothing to just under $1 million in revenue this year. And         science.”
                                                                                                                            seeing something on the shelf that wouldn’t be there with-             Ratcliffe did offer to write a business plan for NanoString
                                                                                                                            out the guys from AquaStasis, that’s fun.”                         to enter in the 2003 Business Plan Competition: “I told
                                                                                                                                                                                               Krassen, ‘If it works out, you’ll have a great business plan
                                                                                                                                          nanostring technologies                              and I’ll keep the money.’ That was our deal.”
                                                                                                                                          What Comes After Cracking the Code                       Partnering with Aaron Coe (MBA 2004), NanoString did
                                                                                                                                                                                               win the UW Business Plan Competition, and finished third
                                                                                                                            Among the requirements of her hyper-evolving job descrip-          at the Purdue National Life Sciences Business Plan
                                                                                                                            tion, Amber Ratcliffe (MBA 2003), co-founder of next-              Competition. Coe stepped out to finish his MBA. But
                                                                                                                            generation bioscience firm NanoString Technologies, finds          Ratcliffe and Dimitrov moved forward, hiring Seattle
                                                                                                                            a strong facility with metaphor essential.                         Genetics CEO Perry Fell (EMBA 1987) to take over top
                                                                                                                                “It’s a little complicated,” she admits. “So the way we        management. They raised $8 million to develop a market-
                                                                                                                            describe it is that we have created a bar code system to track     able prototype and to increase the number of distinct genes
                                                                                                                            individual molecules in a biological sample.”                      it can analyze in a sample.
                                                                                                                                Now that the human genome has been sequenced, scien-               Now they are ready to go after the $2 billion gene
                                                                                                                            tists are working to understand how gene expression is             expression market. But NanoString’s technology could also
                                                                                                                            different between, for instance, a liver cell and a blood          revolutionize genotyping, proteomics, molecular diagnos-
                                                                                                                            cell—or a diseased cell and a healthy cell. The ramifications      tics, agriculture, forensics, bio-surveillance, environmental
                                                                                                                            are the very future of science.                                    science and even enable the ultimate dream of predictive,
  aMBer ratcliffe,        NanoString Technologies                                                                               The current method of measuring large-scale gene               preventative, personalized medicine.
                                                                                                                            expression, microarray analysis, can be frustratingly impre-           Ratcliffe has grown as quickly as her company. Well, it’s
                                                                                                                            cise and time consuming. But NanoString’s platform                 not really hers anymore. And that’s okay.
                                                                                                                            promises a dramatic improvement, and it’s setting the sci-             “It’s critical for founders to give up the idea of being a
                                                                                                                            ence world abuzz.                                                  founder,” she says. “All that’s important is being a contrib-
                                                                                                                                                                                               uting member of a team and that the team is the best you
                                                                                                                                                                                               can make.”

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                                                                                                 teachtoWn                        better socially, emotionally and academically. The Internet- could do with our talents. The idea that we could really help
                                                                                                It Takes a Village                enriched platform links parents, teachers, clinicians—every- hundreds of thousands of people worldwide in a fundamen-
                                                                                                                                  one who has a stake in a child’s development.                tal way—and be rewarded for doing it—is pretty powerful.”
                                                                                    Before coming to the Business School,            And the TeachTown platform has been ingeniously
                                                                                    Sven Liden (MBA 2004) shuttered his           designed to empower researchers to update and expand                         the cottage coMpany
                                                                                    start-up—a technology that extended any       offerings without any deep technical knowledge. This                            The Latest Development
                                                                                    point-of-sale system to any wireless          expands the potential market enormously. “Our goal is to
                                                                                    device, allowing, for instance, stadium-      create products that not only grow with the autistic child   The cozy neighborhood is the stuff of modern-day fairy
                                                                                    goers to order food via cell phone for in-    into adulthood, but also reach across other development      tale, a varicolored palette of tidy craftsman bungalows clus-
                                                                                    seat delivery.                                disabilities,” Liden says. “There is a lot of opportunity to tered around a resplendent garden courtyard. It’s called
                                                                                       “It had some potential,” Liden says.       take fundamental research and turn it into high quality      Conover Commons Cottages, the latest development of
                                                                                    “But ultimately, I was talking about help-    products, and we have the platform to do it.”                The Cottage Company, a new kind of home developer
                                                                                    ing people sell hotdogs more efficiently.        That’s deeply satisfying for everyone involved. “It comes inspired by old ways.
                                                                                    Even though the technology was interest-      down to doing well
                                                                                    ing, I didn’t really feel like I was doing    by doing good,”
                                                                                    much for society.”                            Liden says. “I think             “hoW do yoU distingUish yoUrself in the Marketplace?
                                                                                       He is now. The CEO of TeachTown,           everyone involved in              defend yoUr reason to Be? What’s Missing that consUMers
                                                                                    runner-up at the 2004 Business Plan           TeachTown felt like               desire? for Me this is the UltiMate consUMer prodUct.”
                                                                                    Competition, Liden is leading a promis-       there was more we                                                                      Linda Pruitt, The Cottage Company
                                                                                    ing computer-based therapy for children
                                                                                    with autism. And that’s a lot of children.
                                                                                    Today one in 166 is diagnosed with this
                                                                                    lifelong     neurobiological      disorder.
                                                                                    Conventional one-on-one therapy costs
                                                                                    between $40,000 and $100,000 per year.
                                                                                    Worse, long clinic wait-lists can mean
                                                                                    delays in getting therapy at a critical
                                                                                       “If you catch and treat this early, you
                                                                                    can have a dramatic effect,” Liden says.
                                                                                    “The effect of early intervention is expo-
                                                                                    nential. And it can reduce lifetime costs
                                                                                    by millions of dollars.”
                                                                                       Enter TeachTown. The company’s
                                                    sven liden, TeachTown           roots run to the late 1990s when Dr.
                                                                                    Christina Whalen, a UC San Diego
                                                                                    autism researcher, began designing a sys-
                                                                                    tem that would make early treatment for
   Now the director of technical operations, Ratcliffe is       autistic children available to families immediately. The idea
overseeing manufacturing development. She’s also done           was to meld the best autism research with the best in mul-
market studies and managed intellectual property protec-        timedia and software design. Game designer Eric Dallaire
tion. She will soon move into a lead marketing and business     and artificial intelligence expert Dr. Lars Liden joined up in
development role.                                               2000. And Sven (brother of Lars) signed on in 2004 to cre-
   It’s a pretty exciting ride, taken against the advice of     ate a working business plan, raise funds, assemble a “who’s
many mentors and despite some golden job opportunities          who” scientific advisory board, manage product develop-
with proven bioscience companies. “I took a tremendous          ment and enter the market.
leap of faith to start NanoString,” she says. “But I was not       TeachTown is the amazing realization of a vision. It is a
going to live my life wondering what would have happened        relatively inexpensive suite of fun, addictive computer
if…”                                                            games, devised of the latest research, that have proven
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          linda prUitt,   The Cottage Company
                                                                astoundingly effective in helping autistic children function

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    Founded by Linda Pruitt (MBA                                                                                                      It was time to make The                    “Mystyle throWs oUt the notion of nUMBered
2001) and her husband, veteran                                                                                                    Cottage Company a real busi-                    sizing altogether...yoU’re not a size 6 or 12 or 18,
builder Jim Soules, the Cottage                                                                                                   ness. Pruitt and Soules ramped
                                                                                                                                                                                  yoU’re size Michelle or size anne.”
Company is building cohesive com-                                                                                                 up their schedule, finished six
munities of modestly sized, expertly                                                                                              developments from Bainbridge                                      MicheLLe gochoco-McQuiStin and anne corning, MyStyle
built houses that address both the                                                                                                to Redmond, and have many
demographic trend toward smaller                                                                                                  more in the pipeline, including
households and a backlash against                                                                                                 Conover Commons Homes, a cloister of 12 family-sized                   Here’s how it works: A woman of any shape or size is
conventional new construction that                                                                                                homes currently being built. There have been more awards,           measured, by hand or body scanner (a future purchase)
delivers massive size at the expense of                                                                                           more articles, more chapters in influential books on less-is-       from head to toe, and everything in between. The multiple
quality materials and craftsmanship.                                                                                              more development. And they plan to keep going as long as            data points are entered into a made-to-measure software
    So Pruitt and Soules are building                                                                                             the demand goes unmet.                                              program and proprietary alteration algorithms create a
small and green, using renewable or                                                                                                   “These projects are seen as models of national impor-           digital pattern unique to the individual. This is trimmed to
recycled materials where possible,                                                                                                tance,” Pruitt says. “It helps to show people the way to            exact fit on a computerized cutter. The garment is then
energy efficiency as standard, and                                                                                                another housing choice that doesn’t exist in conventional           assembled by in-house teams. And voila! The perfect fit
finishing with artisan millwork, built-                                                                                           single-family development.”                                         every time.
ins and detailing. Moreover, the                                                                                                                                                                         Customers can also customize by style, fabric, buttons,
design of their developments actually                                                                                                                        Mystyle                                  lining and eventually lapels, pockets and accessory style,
fosters community.                                                                                                                          The Revolution Will Need No Alteration                    allowing a measure of individuality in even the most con-
    “Creating design and function of                                                                                                                                                                  servative corporate uniform.
living spaces is not unlike the product                                                                                           Michelle Gochoco-McQuistin (MBA 2004) is fed up with                   MyStyle recently ended its incubation with an anxiously
development of a coffee maker or                                                                                                  clothes shopping. “I’m a petite, short-waisted woman with a         awaited, invitation-only event in September. The founders
sweater,” Pruitt says. “How do you                                                                                                big chest. And I could shop for 10 hours and not find any-          are charged for the next chapter.
distinguish yourself in the market-                                                                                               thing to wear,” she rants. “What am I, Quasimodo? Do I have            “We started this company because we feel the pain of our
place? Defend your reason to be?                                                                                                  a hunchback? Why is it that I can’t find anything that fits?”       customers,” Gochoco-McQuistin says.
What’s missing that consumers desire?                                                                                                 But this is not just another of the millions of disgruntled        “When you are wearing clothes that fit you well and
For me this is the ultimate consumer                                                                                              women whose dimensions don’t meet the fashion industry’s            make you look your best, it really impacts your confidence,”
product.”                                                                                                                         boilerplate sizing. Gochoco-McQuistin is the co-founder             Corning adds. “Ultimately, that’s what we want to give to
    Pruitt knows consumer products.                                                                                               and CEO of MyStyle, an innovative apparel company that’s            our customers.”
She was a merchandising manager for                                                                                               doing something about it: outfitting women with fashion-               If it sounds like a revolution as much as a business, it is.
Federated Department Stores for 15                                                                                                able business clothes that conform to their every dimension,           “MyStyle throws out the notion of numbered sizing alto-
years before starting at the Business                                                                                             at a reasonable price.                                              gether,” Corning says.
School in 1999. Meanwhile her hus-                                                                                                    Gochoco-McQuistin fomented the idea while in the day-              “That’s right, you’re not a size 6 or 12 or 18,” Gochoco-
band was taking a vested interest in                                                                                              time MBA program, and found an ally in Anne Corning, a              McQuistin adds. “You’re size Michelle or size Anne.”
new cottage housing development                                                                                                   marketing whiz in the evening MBA program. “Being plus-                “You’re a completely unique individual to us.”
codes being adopted in Seattle’s satel-                                                                                           sized,” Corning says, “I had a different perspective on the pain.
lite communities. These new codes                                                                                                 The more Michelle and I talked about MyStyle, the more                                    giant caMpUs
                                                        Michelle gochoco-McqUistin and anne corning, MyStyle                      excited I became. Finally I said, ‘Do you want a partner?’ ”
allowed for development of “bunga-                                                                                                                                                                            First Out of the Gate, and Still Going Strong
low courts,” popular in the early 20th                                                                                                They recruited a third in Deborah Vandermar, a 30-year
century that went extinct when post-                                                                                              veteran of apparel manufacturing, to direct product devel-          Pete Findley (BA 1997) is pretty young for an elder states-
WWII codes favored sprawling                                                                                                      opment. The women of MyStyle finished in the final four             man. After winning the first Business Plan Competition in
suburbs.                                                              The couple then built another community in Shoreline        of the 2004 Business Plan Competition then spent wisely             1997, he has spent the decade since growing his modest
    Soules took great interest in the loving restoration of        which also sold quickly and won an AIA national housing        (their own and family money) the next two years to set up           entry, Cybercamps, into the infinitely expansive Giant
Seattle’s 1915 era Pine Street Cottages, then built a brand        award. “Cute, cool houses,” Pruitt says, “but I still wasn’t   partnerships, hire a lead seamstress, purchase some equip-          Campus, a thriving education company that teaches com-
new kindred community, Third Street Cottages on Whidbey            completely convinced this was a real business.”                ment on the cheap and secure space in a yawning Tacoma              puter and Internet skills to thousands of children and adults
Island. Each of eight darling cottages sold immediately, and          Then she saw her promising 2001 Business Plan               apparel factory—with ample room to grow.                            on college campuses, in after-school programs, in work-
the project captured the attention of Sunset, Metropolitan         Competition finalist, the Glass Foundry at Sand Point,             Most importantly, they developed proprietary technology         places and on military bases.
Home and HGTV. “People came from all over the country just         fizzle after 9/11. And her post-graduation job on Andersen     that capitalizes on the viability of mass-customization—a              Findley is barely 30. But oh, the places he’s been.
to see it,” Pruitt says. “So clearly this piqued my interest.”     Consulting’s national retail industry team went poof after     fantasy until just a few years ago.

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                                                                                                                               drawing tech-hungry kids at university
                                                                                                                               campuses across the country. A grow-
                                                                                                                                                                             Beyond Bootstrapping
                                                                                                                               ing staff developed a vast library of
                                                                                                                               innovative curricula to teach virtually       herbold gift launches entrepreneurship center’s
                                                                                                                               anything a computer can do, from web          $10 Million campaign, ambitious expansion
                                                                                                                               site development to video game design.        a $1.5 million gift by robert herbold, a former Microsoft and
                                                                                                                               A move into the “enrichment market-           procter & gamble senior executive, will establish the robert J.
                                                                                                                               place,” landed contracts with organiza-       herbold professor of entrepreneurship and the robert J. herbold
                                                                                                                               tions like the Boys & Girls Clubs of          venture creation lab within the UW center for innovation and
                                                                                                                                                                             entrepreneurship (cie).
                                                                                                                               America. And Giant Campus began
                                                                                                                                                                                it also kicks off a $10 million campaign to support construction
                                                                                                                               providing military base training pro-         of new state-of-the-art facilities for the Business school and cie,
                                                                                                                               grams. “When soldiers are deployed,           and to provide operational funds for the center’s expansion.
                                                                                                                               it’s hard on a family,” Findley says. “If        When completed, the herbold venture creation lab will provide
                                                                                                                               they can learn to work with digital           resources and space for students from multiple disciplines to devel-
                                                                                                                               photography, post video, build a family       op business plans and commercialize UW technologies.
                                                                                                                               web site—it keeps families together.”            “regardless of what they study, i believe young people benefit
                                                                                                                                   Now Giant Campus is adding GC             greatly from exposure to innovation and entrepreneurship,” herbold
                                                                                                                                                                             says. “also, our society benefits tremendously when a student gets
                                                                                                                               Professional Solutions, technology staff-
                                                                                                                                                                             excited about business and exhibits the kind of ingenuity and cre-
                                                                                                                               ing, consulting and training services for     ativity that cie fosters. i want students to get excited about
                                                                                                                               government and private-sector corpora-        business, which is fast-moving and demands ingenuity and creativ-
                                                                                                                               tions.                                        ity. Business is all about putting bright ideas in front of people who
                                                                                                                                   Now managing more than 100                will pay money for them.”
                                                                                                                               employees and revenues of $10 million            true to its name, cie is all about promoting bright ideas. since
                                                                                                                               a year, Findley’s role is dramatically dif-   its founding in 1991, the center has operated within the UW to
                                                                                                                                                                             educate and develop students who wish to start their own compa-
                                                                                                                               ferent from the old shoestring days.
                                                                                                                                                                             nies through a variety of entrepreneurship courses, new venture
                                                                                                                               But he says he’s proud to have been the
                                                                                                                                                                             workshops and the nine-year-old Business plan competition. now
                                                                                                                               first Business Plan Competition entry         the center is extending itself across the UW campus through a
                                                                                                                               on the market. One of many, with              number of new initiatives intended to engage entrepreneurial stu-
                                                                                                                               many more to come.                            dents, faculty and, eventually, alumni, as well as the greater puget
                                                                                                pete findley,   Giant Campus       “There are dozens of successful com-      sound new venture community.
                                                                                                                               panies that have spun out of CIE and             this fall, in partnership with the UW applied physics lab, cie
                                                                                                                               the UW,” he says. “That has created a         is presenting a weekly seminar series, “from invention to start-
                                                                                                                                                                             Up,” that teaches intrigued UW faculty how to commercialize their
                                                                                                                               real community. They’re my friends,
                                                                                                                                                                             inventions and discoveries.
                                                                                                                               my associates, my peers. They are peo-           the new entrepreneurial law clinic, launched this fall in con-
“there are dozens of sUccessfUl coMpanies that                                            capital or experience,” Findley      ple I call to ask advice. There’s a lot of    junction with the UW school of law, offers very early-stage
 have spUn oUt of cie and the UW. that has created                                        says. “I could see where tech-       value in that community. Because, fast-       technology entrepreneurs legal and business consulting services
                                                                                          nology was going, and that           forward ten or 15 years, and all of a
 a real coMMUnity. they’re My friends, My associ-                                                                                                                            delivered by teams of law students and MBas under the direction of
                                                                                          kids had an innate appetite for      sudden you are going to have hundreds         professional attorneys and faculty.
 ates, My peers. they are people i call to ask                                            it that nobody was feeding.”         of companies that have been spun out             and the launchpad program, offered in collaboration with UW
 advice. there’s a lot of valUe in that coMMUnity.”                                           So he came up with a camp                                                      techtransfer, is ramping up its multi-disciplinary teams of cie
                                                                                                                               of the University of Washington
                                                       Pete FindLey, Giant Campus
                                                                                          that would teach kids the mys-       through CIE. That’s legacy. That’s cre-
                                                                                                                                                                             students who develop viable commercialization plans for promising
                                                                                          teries of digital technologies in                                                  technologies invented at the UW.
                                                                                                                               ating something of real value for the            “We need to be integrated into the fabric of the University, with
                                                                                          the UW computer labs that            city and region. And that’s pretty darn       collaborations across campus, says cie director connie Bourassa-
   He muddled uninspired through the UW until walking        went dormant in summer. The first Cybercamps were suc-            exciting.” n                                  shaw. “the more the center can do to introduce smart, talented
into an entrepreneurship course one day. “The light bulb     cessful enough to keep the company alive. But barely. It wasn’t                                                 people to other smart, talented people who share a passion for entre-
went on,” he says. “I found my calling.”                     easy. “Oh, all my friends had good jobs,” he recalls. “They                                                     preneurship and innovation, the more good things will happen.
                                                                                                                               At press time, Sven Liden and
   Having worked summers with young people, he had seen      were driving new cars and going out to dinner every night.                                                         “i’m grateful to Bob herbold for this lead gift, which i believe
                                                                                                                               TeachTown had begun to search for a
their natural attraction to computing and Internet-enabled   I was just surviving on top ramen and mac and cheese.”                                                          will inspire others to invest in our vision. Bob has it right: bright
                                                                                                                               new CEO to take the company to the
technologies that were just beginning to emerge. “The idea      Things got better. Within a couple of years, Giant                                                           ideas come from many sources. it takes an entrepreneur to turn
                                                                                                                               next stage of its rapid growth.               that idea into a successful company.”
was to put together a plan that did not demand too much      Campus began to grow into its name. Cybercamps were

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