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Ventures Abound in Bend

For the 6th consecutive year, the Entrepreneurship MBAs ventured over the Cascades to attend the 11th annual Bend Venture Conference.  This is becoming one of the largest Angel conferences in the region with about $940,000 awarded in cash and prizes.  That is no small chunk of change.

Since I attended the conference last year, I had the benefit of having some frame of reference and a comparison.  Overall, I enjoyed this year’s conference more than last year.  The variety of companies presenting were closer to my interests and I could understand the concepts a lot better.  Let’s just say that understanding many software startups is not my forte.  Anyway, the companies that won are very deserving and it will be exciting to watch them over the next few years.

In addition to the conference, the MBA students took this opportunity to visit some local Bend companies.  This was the first year in a while that we added the company visits and I felt it was very successful.  Oregon is such an entrepreneurial state but it is not very visible until you are introduced to that culture.  We managed to schedule meetings with Hydroflask, Kialoa Paddles, and Deschutes Brewery.  While each company produced a tangible thing, they were all at different stages in their development.  Kialoa is still very small and regional and was working on growing sales.  Hydroflask is #244 on the Inc. 500 fastest growing companies with over 1800% growth over the past three years.  The challenges it faces are more scaling, marketing, and human capital expansion.  Finally, Deschutes Brewery was the wrap up and they are the 6th largest independent brewery in North America.  The challenges they face include navigating intense competition and maintaining both consistency and culture amongst its large distribution.  Rather than expand its reach, Deschutes is looking to reclaim some of the lost market share where they are already present.  This is different from both Kialoa and Hydroflask which are looking to extend influence.

No trip is complete, however, without engaging with our wonderful alumni.  Before our company visits, John and Bonnie Rosen were very generous in hosting us for pastries in their custom log home in La Pine.  The attention to detail and the balance between glitz and functionality clearly demonstrate how they were able to be so successful.  It was great for the first year students to hear their story and absorb John’s words of wisdom.  In a nutshell: it is okay to fail as long as you learn from it.  If you beat your head against a wall and it doesn’t move, find a new way around the wall. Small steps can be more beneficial than giant leaps.  Follow your passions.  These last words are ones I personally take to heart.  What is life without passion?

Written by Jenny Palm

Jenny a current Oregon MBA and Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. When she is not busy exploring how she can change the world, you can find her outside doing almost anything...especially finding that secret stash of powder on her skis! She has hopes to either help develop an awesome outdoor-oriented start-up or flex her organizational prowess in ski resort event operations.


Warsaw Heads to Singapore

The Warsaw Sports Marketing Center capped off a whirlwind trip to Asia with a few days in the cosmopolitan island nation of Singapore.  We knew it would be different than Mumbai, Shanghai and Beijing, but the physical differences were felt as soon as we stepped outside of the Changi airport. Singapore is only 85 miles from the equator making for a very hot few days in business casual attire as we attended conferences, visited golf courses and paid a visit to the Singapore Sports Institute before taking in an F1 Racing night practice.

The initial culture shock came as we transitioned from the confines of Beijing to the more Western feeling Singapore, but with a twist. Extreme cleanliness and order, along with the intersection of multiple cultures, differed greatly from the homogenous hustle of China’s capital city.

Our entire entourage was graciously admitted into the second annual Sports Matters Conference. We listened as leaders of sponsorship, leagues, development and large-scale events expounded upon the opportunities and challenges facing southeast Asia and the global community. For two days our group experienced small panel discussions with professionals from HSBC, Samsung, Manchester United, the Women’s Tennis Association and more. Holding true to the global theme of the event, we met another attending group of students from Australia, allowing us to engage a bit of Oceania as well! Lord Sebastian Coe delivered a thought-provoking speech on large scale, worldwide events and what innovative strategies need to be vetted for future success, saying “The old chestnut that sport and politics shouldn’t mix flies in the face of reality.”

The next stop came on the island of Sentosa, a short ride from the center of Singapore. Sentosa Golf Club’s General Manager Andy Johnston hosted us, explaining how the club serves its 1,557 international members. The mix of international membership illustrated just how interconnected business in Singapore is with other parts of Asia.  We closed with a guided tour of the Serapong course, experiencing a green that included a preserved footbridge from WWII and stunning views of the harbor.

Our final visit for the entire trip was with Sport Singapore (SS). Two of our classmates interned there for the entire summer, continuing to enhance the relationship between Oregon and SS. The day included a deep dive into the emergence of sport in the lives of Singapore’s youth. We worked in teams along with SS employees to brainstorm ways to overcome challenges they face working with disadvantaged youth and government red tape. Though we were halfway around the world some of the SS’s challenges felt quite familiar. A tour of the lavish facilities preceded a “Sporting Friday” activity – netball. Though we brought our A game the Warsaw Class of 2015 did not prevail; we cannot wait for the rematch.

On our final evening in Asia we took in the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix practice event with the skyline as our backdrop and two weeks of multicultural business experiences under our belts.  The invaluable experience provided not only exposure to diverse ways to approach the business of sport in southeast Asia but also a once in a lifetime bonding experience for the Warsaw Class of 2015.

Written by kkostal@uoregon.edu

After a college experience filled with opportunities in journalism, creative advertising and guerrilla marketing Kostal began her career with a cross-country move from the University of Illinois to Las Vegas. There she worked as a producer in an event and media production company. She crafted sizable proposals to secure client projects worth over $100,000 in the pressure-cooker environment of live events. She spent the last five years at a Chicago medical liability insurance company in the risk management division. While there Kate utilized her event planning and marketing skills to promote, plan and execute multiple live events for over 10,000 policyholders and their staff throughout Illinois. During that time she also acted as the Sponsorship Chair for the Chicago Triathlon Club on a volunteer basis and earned her RRCA coaching certification for endurance runners. Another cross-country move followed when she decided to pursue her passion for sports as a career. Kate’s marketing experience, communication skills and drive to succeed will be an asset in any organization. Her passion for sports will lead her to pursue opportunities more closely tied to sports business after graduation, focusing on sponsorship and marketing.

Hong Kong Skyline

Typhoons and Travel: Hong Kong Edition

Geographically, it quickly became apparent why the British had colonized Hong Kong. The land was full of deep natural ports surrounded by large mountains, offering ships protection from typhoons or whatever else Mother Nature might offer-up.

I guess we should have taken a ship.

In the days leading up to our travel from Beijing to Hong Kong there was a lot of talk about a typhoon that was hitting HK precisely when we where scheduled to arrive. Sure enough, it did. Flights were delayed and we spent a few extra hours in the airport but the storm cleared out just as fast as it came in and the rest of our trip was typhoon free.

Our first meeting was at a business complex called Cyberport. Cyberport was located on the west side of HK Island, so when taking the bus to Cyberport we got to see the layout of most of the city. For those of us who are Oregon natives it was very refreshing to see many parks scattered throughout the city and mountains in the distance. (We later found out that 60% of the land in HK was set aside for public parks and nature reserves, making only 40% of an already small landmass buildable.) Cyberport was a massive complex geared to spur the start-up environment, as well as cater to small businesses. Business located within the Cyberport complex had access to amazing resources. There were 3-D animation rooms, recording studios, prototype building facilities, unlimited office space, and grant funding that Cyberport offered to businesses deemed as having ‘great potential’. While talking with some of the entrepreneurs, it was not unusual for them to share that starting a business in HK only took “6 hours, and that you could conduct business the same day”, supporting the notion that HK was a business friendly environment.

We had a fantastic lunch meeting with Mr. Edwin Keh, the former SVP COO of Global Procurement at Walmart and currently the CEO of Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel. The location, The China Club, could not have been more fitting when talking to a man as acclaimed as Edwin. The China Club is a restaurant/private club in the old Bank of China building, which is now dwarfed by the new Bank of China building and other large skyscrapers. Keh discussed the business environment of China in depth, talking about the mass migration of people from the country side to urban areas, the role of the Chinese government in its immense growth and how business in Hong Kong is different than that conducted in mainland China. Many of us did not want to conclude the meeting due to the wonderful food and the fantastic stories that Keh was sharing.

In the final days of our trip we met with Lizette Smook, the founder of InnovAsians, a sustainability driven lifestyle brand building the “bridge to biodiversity”. Lizette was full of new and exciting projects underway at InnovAsians using a variety of eco-friendly fibers to create anything from clothes to towels at hotels to the plates and bowls restaurants serve food on.

After two weeks of traveling through Asia, dozens of business meetings, long days and short nights most of us were more excited to see the suits we had tailored the day earlier than meeting with the founding members of the investment bank REORIENT. Little did we know we were about to sit-in on what some may describe as the highlight meeting of the trip. The founding team consisted of highly educated young men who dressed like they had their own personal tailors, (a little better quality than we had got from our street tailors) and were paving the way for investment banks in Hong Kong. The banks’ senior management included Mr. Uwe Parpart, who took a few economics classes from Mr. John Nash himself (who Russell Crowe depicts in the movie ‘ A Beautiful Mind’) and has experience conducting business in China that dates back to the 1980’s. REORIENT’s strategy is to conduct business on a personal level, fully understanding the power of Guanxi (relationships) when doing business in China. The meeting was full of innovative ideas by the founders and compelling stories of start-ups that had crazy potential, much like REORIENT themselves.

Not only was business in Hong Kong exciting but the city as a whole was equally thrilling. The endless restaurants, amazing views atop skyscrapers or mountains, and the variety of people located in HK made this a great way to end a fantastic whirlwind trip to Asia.

-Blake Thompson (Class of 2015)

Blake is a second year MBA student focusing on Sustainable Business Practices. The experience of growing up involved in his family’s business, has led Blake to realize the importance of a holistic approach to business. He hopes to bring this approach to the organization he works for after completing his MBA. Blake received an undergraduate degree from the University of Oregon where he was also a student athlete. 

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.


Engaging Asia Part IV: Hong Kong

Just to recap, thus far on the trip we have experienced the organized chaos of Mumbai, the sparkly newness of Shanghai and the communistic tradition of Beijing.  Traveling to Hong Kong, in hindsight, is the culmination of all of these places.  The streets are packed and busy with people from all over the world intermingling and hustling from one place to another and exuded an attitude of capitalism and democracy.  Some buildings and attitudes were fresh and new. Finally, it was very much Chinese in appearance and language (I know they speak Cantonese over Mandarin, but the foreign feeling is the same).  If Shanghai is where the west meets China and Beijing is where the western attitudes conflict with China, then Hong Kong is where the west first engages with China.  There are strong sentiments reflecting British imperialism and they are joined with those of Chinese central planning.  It brought two worlds together wonderfully and was a great conclusion to the expedition.

In HK, I felt a stronger emphasis on the entrepreneurial ideas being applied in sustainable ways.   Our other visits ran the gambit in terms of size and focus.  From such conglomerates as J. Swire, which started out as a shipping company but has grown to an international conglomerate, absorbing multiple aspects of its individual supply chains and having a net zero impact strategy, to individuals like Edwin Keh and Lizette Smook who provided a wealth of knowledge over all aspects of business.  (On an aside, the places where we met these two individuals, the China Club and the Foreign Correspondents Club, were so historically important and prestigious that just being able to go in, let alone have a meeting with a member, was quite an event.)

The entrepreneurial community itself even had a large spectrum of opportunities.  We visited Cyberport which is a huge facility used to foster and create the next successful technology companies.  The great thing is that the technology was not limited to computers but digital art/media, telecommunications, and general digital tech as well. It was an accelerator and incubator and college campus all rolled into one and then put on steroids.  What made this even more interesting, was that it was a private company but the government owned a majority share.  Think on that one.  It had to delicately balance the needs of its shareholders with the needs of the government, which I am not sure always aligned.  It will be interesting to see what comes out of that facility in the future.  In addition to Cyberport, we also visited a smaller entrepreneurial incubator located near Central, Paperclip.  This had the more traditional focus and feel of incubators found in the US which highlighted the universal feeling of entrepreneurship.

Since Hong Kong has long been considered the financial hub of China, our trip was not complete without visiting a financial institution of some sort.  For our last meeting we visited Reorient, a startup investment bank formed by American and German expats.  This company is only three years old yet already listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. That is not a common occurrence.  While this was our last meeting and all of us were spent-emotionally, physically, and mentally-it was a fantastic finale in that it, for me at least, restored some lost trust in investment banks.  They emphasized the personal aspect of banking, which has been lost in recent years.  The bankers we talked to (including the CEO) were very open about personal and professional life in Hong Kong and were genuinely passionate about what they were doing.  They wanted to be successful, but not at the expense of carefully established relationships.  They had a deep understanding of not only where they got their money but also how.  Not to mention, the CEO had the best outfit of the trip.  Not many people can pull off pastel pink pants with royal blue and bedazzled house slippers.  It was awesome!

Final remarks: the Engaging Asia study tour will be an aspect of my MBA that I will never forget.  John Hull, director of our Business Innovation Institute, has said many times that one objective of the trip is to get students comfortable traveling overseas so when they have a professional job and the opportunity to go to Asia is presented, we can volunteer with confidence.  While it sounded really hokey before the trip, he was right.  Should I find an amazing company and have the opportunity to do work in Asia, I have complete confidence that I can go over there, not feel overwhelmed and jump right into my job.  I don’t necessarily have the desire to live over there for long periods of time, but a short assignment (6 months or less) would suit me just fine!

Written by Jenny Palm

Jenny a current Oregon MBA and Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. When she is not busy exploring how she can change the world, you can find her outside doing almost anything...especially finding that secret stash of powder on her skis! She has hopes to either help develop an awesome outdoor-oriented start-up or flex her organizational prowess in ski resort event operations.


Eight Thoughts on Shanghai and Beijing

The University of Oregon’s ninth annual Engaging Asia trip this past September was my first foray into Asia, and we were able to visit some pretty incredible and historic places in a little over two weeks.

We spent the middle part of our trip in China’s two biggest cities, starting in the south in Shanghai before taking the train up north to Beijing. Thanks to some relationships through the school (and many gracious alumni), we were able to take in a lot in each city. Here are my eight (since it is considered a lucky number in China) takeaways from our time in Shanghai and Beijing.


1. Scale. Everything in China (and particularly Shanghai) is massive. It is the world’s largest city, after all. Endless skyscrapers lined the smoggy sky during our drive in from the airport. The downtown combines the size of New York with the lights and glamour of Las Vegas. In Beijing, the city seemed to stretch on forever. It had much more of a ‘city feel’ to it than Shanghai, which was more of an oversized downtown (at least in the areas that we visited).

2. The middle class. China’s middle class is increasing very rapidly in size, and this boom has really propelled the economy forward. The Chinese are consuming more entertainment, sports, and technology than ever before. This meant lots and lots and lots of stores, shops, factories, and things for you to buy and consume. Everywhere.

3. The factories. We were toured around several factories in Shanghai by Josh Warsaw, the nephew of Jim Warsaw (the namesake of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center). Josh has been working in Shanghai for over a decade and gave us a crash course education in China and the manufacturing industry in Asia. Having exposure to the development and manufacturing of many of the products we consume in the United States, at the beginning of the life cycle, was very interesting and not something that many people get exposure to.


4. Street ping pong is very real. Just as you would see a basketball court in the middle of the city in the United States, there were sweaty and shirtless men playing ping pong in the middle of Beijing (in front of a pretty decent sized crowd, too). As a very amateur ping pong player, I didn’t feel brave enough to test my skills against them.

5. The culture. And more specifically, the cultural differences between Shanghai and Beijing. As a primarily English-speaking travel group, we had a lot more trouble navigating our way around Beijing compared to Shanghai (although having a Beijing native in our group definitely helped when it came to ordering food and figuring out the subway system). There is also an intense rivalry between people from Shanghai and Beijing – as a Canadian, this reminded me of the way Toronto is viewed by the rest of the country (and vice versa).

6. Food. Lots of it. We were treated to some pretty incredible food in both cities. I am an adventurous eater thanks to my upbringing (exposure to sushi before turning one probably helped), and the highlight of the time in China from a food perspective was definitely hot pot in Beijing after our morning at the Great Wall of China. I’d recommend the beef stomach, but I wouldn’t recommend dropping it onto the flame (I had to get a second hot pot from the restaurant and I could tell that the waitresses were unimpressed with my chop stick failure).

7. Nike’s RISE campaign in China. Warsaw alum Adam Antoniewicz walked us through the strategy and execution of Nike’s most recent basketball campaign in China (here is a look at Episode 1 of RISE). If I am able to work on one thing in my career as successful – both from a personal and professional standpoint – as this campaign, I would be a happy man. The way that this campaign connected with and motivated an entire country of youth through sport was incredible to hear about.

8. The weather. We had a lot of smog in China, as we were warned about, but we were treated to gorgeous day of sunshine and blue skies in Beijing (as you can see in the picture at the top of this post). On that day all of the locals from Beijing were telling us how lucky we were.

Written by Jeff Angus

Jeff is a 2015 MBA Candidate at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. He was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada and obtained a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from the University of Victoria (BC) in 2009.He frequently shares his thoughts on Twitter @anguscertified and is passionate about writing, storytelling, fitness, health, and everything and anything sports-related.