New Entrepreneurship Opportunities at UW’s Foster School

Entrepreneurship Opportunities

Entrepreneurship plays a vital role in the U.S. economy. Forbes estimates that approximately 543,000 new businesses are launched each month and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, three million jobs were created in 2015 by businesses less than a year old. So, it makes sense that entrepreneurship is assuming a more prominent role in business school courses and programming.

Samantha Ogle, the Assistant Director of the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, reports that roughly 40 percent of that school’s incoming full-time MBA students indicated that they chose UW “because of our reputation in entrepreneurship.” This high level of student interest is one of the reasons that the Foster School introduced a new degree program—the Master of Science in Entrepreneurship—that will open on June 19, 2017.

Master of Science in Entrepreneurship

The MS in Entrepreneurship is a 12-month program that aims to prepare students to launch startup business by providing them with knowledge, mentoring, experience and connections. Students delve into the elements of various disciplines that will help make them better entrepreneurs, and learn from leading Seattle entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors and attorneys.

The degree program offers academic rigor to match its programmatic offerings. Students complete graduate-level courses focused on core areas of business and the entrepreneurial process. The curriculum follows the startup experience through four stages: ideation, formation, execution and scale. Courses include such topics as Competitive Strategy, Successful Negotiations, Legal Essentials for Entrepreneurs and Venture Planning and Execution. Students can also take a variety of workshops in leadership, design thinking, lean business principles, and the art of the pitch.

“We call this program Year Zero of Your Startup,” said Connie Bourassa-Shaw, the Co-Director of the program. “We’re looking for recent engineering or science graduates who’ve fallen in love with their senior capstone projects, or people who’ve been out of college for 5 to 10 years who want to jump ship and start working on the ideas they’ve had in their heads for some time. There are no GMAT or GRE scores required to apply to the program, but neither will there be career services. You’re here, after all, to create your own job!”

So, how did this new one-year program come about?

“At the Foster School of Business, we’ve researched the booming market for specialized master’s degrees, the proliferation of one-year programs, online programs, MOOCs and university partnerships,” Ogle explained. “We’ve talked with literally hundreds of our own MBAs and MBA candidates who chose not to go back to school, young entrepreneurs in the Seattle community, directors of Seattle incubators and accelerators, angel and VC investors, and the reporters who focus on tech entrepreneurship.”

In the end, the school concluded that they could best support aspiring entrepreneurs through a 12-month program focused on practical knowledge combined with mentoring from Seattle entrepreneurs, UW technology innovations, and an experience that closely mimics the first year of a startup. Ogle summed it by remarking that the Master of Science in Entrepreneurship will “provide relevant and practical content and put those students/entrepreneurs on a solid path to startup creation.”

Entrepreneurship Opportunities and the MBA

After the program was announced, we reached out to the Foster School to see how the new MS in Entrepreneurship would impact MBA students. Here’s what Ogle shared.

  • What impact does the new MS in Entrepreneurship have on the MBA Program? Does it open up new options for Entrepreneurs?

It absolutely opens new options for entrepreneurs. In the MBA program, we offer the opportunity to depart from a corporate track and venture into the world of startups and early-stage companies. We also offer a Technology Entrepreneurship Certificate to attract Ph.D. students from other disciplines (about 125 a year) into the graduate entrepreneurship classes and activities. With this new MS in Entrepreneurship, we offer a new path for recent graduates from around the world to come to Seattle to focus exclusively on entrepreneurship.

  • What signal does it send about the school’s commitment to/resources for entrepreneurship?

In a city known for innovation, the UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship provides Foster MBAs with knowledge and skills, internships and fellowships, business competitions and accelerator funds, expert mentors and connections in the Seattle entrepreneurial community. Entrepreneurship has been an emphasis of the Foster School of Business for 25 years and has, because of student demand, become integral to the program. In 2014 we launched the UW Startup Job Fair, and in 2015 we launched the Health Innovation Challenge, just to name a few recent initiatives. And now we’re launching the new master’s degree.

  • For MBAs interested in Entrepreneurship, what other opportunities does Foster offer? 

Two flagship entrepreneurship MBA classes at the Foster School are Angel Investing and Software Entrepreneurship. The Angel Investing course, which places students in local angel groups to “scout” for investments, is intended for MBAs who plan to become entrepreneurs and need to understand fully the due diligence and angel investing process. Three $50,000 investments in Seattle startups have been made to date, with UW Treasury holding the equity.

The Software Entrepreneurship course is offered in collaboration with the Computer Science & Engineering Department. This hands-on course is about starting, growing, managing, leading and ultimately exiting a new venture. It is taught by Greg Gottesman, a Venture Partner at Madrona and Managing Director and Co-Founder of Pioneer Square Labs, and his fellow Madrona Venture Group Managing Director Matt McIlwain, along with Ed Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering. 

Each year, two Foster MBAs are placed in fellowships with the Alliance of Angels (AoA), which is the oldest and largest angel group in the United States. The AoA provides the opportunity for exceptional students to spend one year learning about angel investing in technology and other high-growth businesses.

MBA students who want to make an impact by solving problems in healthcare, science, and engineering can apply for summer fellowships focused on technology commercialization. The fellowships are provided by the Institute for Translational Health Sciences and the Washington Research Foundation in partnership with UW’s CoMotion and the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship. These fellowships provide a real-world opportunity to dig into a technology by working with inventors, tech managers, and experts to perform market research and write a feasibility report to assess whether an early-stage technology presents a start-up or licensing opportunity.

Additionally, there are student clubs: Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital Club, Venture Fellows, NetImpact and the Healthcare & Biotechnology MBA Clubs. Annually there is Entrepreneur Fest, which is a month-long schedule of entrepreneurship speaker panels, Venture Capital or Startup Walks, workshops and seminars.

The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship launched the Startup Job Fair in 2014 to provide early-stage, venture-backed companies with access to business student talent. We attract 30-45 companies each year—and each of those companies comes with two or three jobs or internship opportunities.

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