The Oregon MBA opens the door to some great summer internship opportunities. We have a strong network in the Pacific Northwest that spans across the country and around the globe. Our students land internships at many of the top companies in technology, sustainability, finance, and sports. Explore our internship map to discover the diverse range of places and companies where Oregon MBA students have interned.
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As we watch San Jose fade in the rearview mirror and close the book on the 2011 Cleantech Open Academy for semi-finalists, a few final thoughts:
- $ilicon Valley: If California is the world’s 8th leading economy, Silicon Valley is the hub that finances the whole operation. This was my first trip to San Jose, and I was blown away by the access to investment firms aspiring tech (and cleantech) entrepreneurs have. My jaw literally dropped to see double the VC firms in one block than likely exist in the Portland Metro area. It was amazing.
- Raves: Congratulations to Christina Ellwood and company for pulling off an amazing Cleantech Open Academy. Ellwood and a mostly volunteer crew slogged away at a daunting Academy schedule with discipline and flair … not an easy balance, for sure. Yes, there were snags along the way, but most of these were balanced out with Ellwood’s command of the stage and improvisational skills and a never-say-die team that worked like the dickens in the background. The speaker set was fantastic. Leading local professionals and educators in finance, patent law, and marketing offered semi-finalists great (and FREE) advice. But as an MBA grad, it was the headliners that blew me away: Steve Blank and Randy Komisar, in particular, were superb.
- Rants: To some extent, the Academy is held hostage by its own objective to get every participant ready to compete in the next round. The conference schedule was brutal—8 a.m. to 7 p.m. with an hour-and-change in breaks. Even though I generally got something out of every session, some flexibility for our group to pick and choose what we felt we needed would have been nice. Let’s face it: The vast majority of these sessions (speaker & PPT format) could have been done virtually (Think: A green alternative!). Instead, more focus on facilitating valuable mentor meetings and connections between attendees would have been nice. Finally, I know the world of the entrepreneur is fluid, but that sort of hour-to-hour uncertainty shouldn’t carry over to the conference. Even a basic timeline of the schedule was hard to get in advance and technical miscues made it challenging to follow workshop activities. I realize speakers may cancel last minute, but the general backbone of the show should always be in place.
- What Now? Paul, Ihab, and I will be trying our darnedest to make it to the regional finals where only three lucky teams will move on to nationals in the fall. The challenge will be enormous. (Did I mention that we need to find a customer?), but we have a plan we think will help see us through: Talk to lots and lots of people—there has to be a buyer in there somewhere.
- Doug Anderson, MBA ’11
You can follow Doug, Paul, and Innovative Invironments team in their Cleantech Open experience on Twitter @douglassander.
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth and final installment in the series of blog posts that followed two Oregon MBA graduates from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices as they participated in the semi-final round of the Cleantech Open 2011 to commercialize the SolarStream™ Awning System.
Business plans in aspiring ventures are amazingly fluid things. In five minutes, a team discussion can turn what was essential strategy on its head.
Steve Blank, lean start-up guru and author of “Four Steps to the Epiphany,” said entrepreneurs are visionaries in search of prospective customers who get it. But here’s the rub: There’s a fine line between being a visionary and the local nut. Some start-up founders (not to mention VCs) are stunned when the customers they designed a product or service for eschew it. Sales are flat. Heads roll. The business tanks.
What investors and founders don’t realize, says Blank, is that the start-up process is actually iterative. The problem with spending countless hours building and refining a business plan for entrepreneurs is that they start to believe the assumptions they build into it are the gospel truth—something infallible.
Says Blank: “No business plan survives first contact with customers.”
It’s not the first customers—the group the product was actually designed for—who often end up being the most valuable target market, said Blank. To find out who the most likely customer would be, organizations have to get out of the office and canvas the prospects. When you begin talking to people consistently, plans change—regularly.
Inspired by Blank’s “do-it-now!” attitude, our team made two executives decisions: First, we decided to scrap fund-raising altogether. (More on that momentarily.) Next, we decided to take an extended lunch.
No offense to the fine organizers of the Cleantech Open Academy, but opting to bootstrap means we need a customer—desperately. And being we felt our optimal target customer would be the owner of a three-to-four-story office building (San Jose is a giant, continuous business park), we wanted to get started that day. No, we didn’t start knocking doors, but we did take a lot of pictures of buildings we felt would be perfect candidates for the SolarStream Awning, so that we could later superimpose the product on these images … then knock doors.
Maybe that doesn’t seem like a big step, but it actually may be the first one in prepping to nail down that first customer—whoever he or she may be. Ultimately, we decided we’re not a good fit for VC or even angel capital, especially now: We’re just too busy figuring out who wants to buy.
- Doug Anderson, MBA ’11
You can follow Doug, Paul, and Innovative Invironments team in their Cleantech Open experience on Twitter @douglassander.
Editor’s Note: This is the third in the series of blog posts that will follow two Oregon MBA graduates from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices as they participate in the semi-final round of the Cleantech Open 2011 to commercialize the SolarStream™ Awning System.
I suspect that what is on the mind of pending U of O MBA students, current, and recent graduated is if the education received is relevant and valid. Well I can say, after the first day of the Cleantech Open Academy, the answer to that question is a resounding YES!
After getting over the awkward start of once again trying to define sustainability within a room of entrepreneurs dedicated to developing sustainable and green products and services, we got off to a shocking start with the announcement that business plans are obsolete! This of course is not a shock to many of us, who have traveled down the road to entrepreneurship, be it in the Venture Start-up program within the University, or out there on our own. But for many in the room such a statement seems like heresy. The dogma out there, when looking to raise money, is that you need a business plan, and I suspect that for many of the competitors in the Cleantech Open, they had the impression that the whole purpose of this event is to write a winning business plan.
That is not the case for this competition. What they want from all of us is not a plan, but a solid business. In the past this competition had focused a great amount of energy in creating a solid business plan, but now they say investors are even not interested in reading them. Over the next several weeks, with the help of our assigned mentor, we are going to walk through a process that creates a compelling and engaging executive summary, and 10 slide PowerPoint presentation, and 10 worksheets. This body of work will be what we are judged on later in the Fall.
So with that cat out of the bag, the real work of this Academy got underway. Randy Komisar, author of the Monk and the Riddle, and Getting to Plan B, launched us into a conversation about the importance of failure as a learning tool, and pointing out that our first customer in not going to be our planned customer (thus the irrelevance of the business plan), thus the need for a plan B. Not that a plan B is once again something that your “plan” for thus write into your business plan, but have a built in process to test all the assumptions you are making when creating your business model. And let’s not kid ourselves, new venture planning is all about making assumptions; sometimes stacking assumptions upon assumptions, and this is what makes the business plan irrelevant.
With these plan B strategies in mind, we then headed down the road of customer selection. The main theme here – “get out of the building.” It is not unusual for a start-up venture to be founded upon a brilliant idea, dredged deep from the mind of the inventor. However an idea is rarely robust enough to become a viable business. There has to be a customer that is hungry for the idea, sees the value of the idea, AND has the ability to pay for the solution. The best way to evaluate the market validity of your business idea is to show it to potential customers, but to make this a more efficient process, have a clear understanding of the value your idea has to your potential customer.
With face-to-face time with real customers they will tell you if your assumptions about value are real, and if they are not, hopefully they can tell you what they value, and your plan B mentality can kick in. A formal business plan is too static to capture this important process, thus the need to build in flexibility and a focus on developing a process to form your business model.
So with all this being said, at the end of the day, we still don’t have an exact indication of the contents of those 10 pending worksheets, but if I was to give my best guess, I have a feeling that they will be looking for detailed information about how we know our customer and how we are confident that our product offering is a very profitable match to this customer’s need. This will be the contents of our Cleantech “business plan,” and competition aside, this will be a very powerful go-forward strategy.
So all said and done, a business plan will still be created, but we are going to approach its creation in a completely different way. At the end of the day, the mantra was this: Think Big, Start Small, and Move Fast. Big ideas brought us here. Now we have to go out there and find that first viable customer, and waste no time adapting and learning from them. This same mantra applies to the U of O MBA studies. We are well prepared to make it happen, even in a green, clean way!
- Paul Clark, MBA ‘11
You can follow Doug, Paul, and Innovative Invironments team in their Cleantech Open experience on Twitter @douglassander.
Editor’s Note: This is the second in the series of blog posts that will follow two Oregon MBA graduates from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices as they participate in the semi-final round of the Cleantech Open 2011 to commercialize the SolarStream™ Awning System.
I never wanted to be an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs always seem to be portrayed as brilliant individuals who take big gambles that pay off. No thanks, I thought. I have a natural aversion to risk (as evidenced by my propensity to choose tried and tested items from the menu when I eat out), and quite frankly, I’m just not bright enough to come up with a commercially viable idea and then make it a winner. So there you have it—I’ll take my skills to some established organization, if you please.
Then I met Paul, a fellow student in the UO MBA program. He intrigued me with discussions about a product he was working to develop with a small company based in Eugene. He needed some marketing help. I knew something about that, so we began working together. After conducting some marketing research with prospective customers, we presented our ideas that (we thought) made a rudimentary business plan to faculty at the Lundquist Entrepreneurship Center (LCE). After politely being told we had a long way to go, we were told we could receive more substantial guidance through the Venture Pathway—keystone courses of the LCE program. We found other students to join our team, and soon we were analyzing markets, determining distribution channels, and pitching a solid business plan to wonderful and insightful mentors and serial entrepreneurs.
I was part of an entrepreneurial team, and I loved it.
I recalled how much I enjoyed working as part of team as I traveled today with Paul and Professor Ihab Elzeyadi from the UO Department of Architecture to San Jose from Eugene. Team building for us today consisted of conversations on the freeway (Paul’s life story and Ihab’s take on the Egyptian Revolution) and my first ever stop at In-N-Out Burger in Redding. It’s in those moments that I remember true entrepreneurship is more than the genius of one individual—it’s a team endeavor at its core.
And just beyond that core, entrepreneurship is often laden with mentors, collaborators, champions, and family members who believe you can do it. Today, I’m reminded of UO faculty who encouraged us and students from the J-school who helped give us a jump start on branding. It truly takes a village to raise a business.
–Doug Anderson, MBA ’11
Editor’s Note: This is the first in the series of blog posts following two Oregon MBA graduates from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices track as they participate in the semi-final round of the Cleantech Open 2011 to commercialize the SolarStream™ Awning System.
It has been about a month since I donned my graduation attire, and the feeling of freedom from homework, exams, and term papers is now settling in. “These two years of the MBA will go by quick,” said most everyone I talked to before packing up my truck and moving across the country. They were right. Now it’s time for another entrance into my craft and career, and a new class of Ducks will fill the classrooms in Lillis to learn about strategy, finance, operations, and the many other areas of business I studied throughout my days in grad school.
Before I sign off and turn in my keys, however, I get to write my last blog. I won’t use it to push for overhauls of our tax code, de-regulations of our industries, or any other MBA jargon-filled topics. I’d just like to take this time to say thank you, so long, and fare-thee-well. This past year I served as the Marketing Graduate Teaching Fellow inside the Lundquist College of Business, and it was an awesome opportunity to share the stories of the college, our cohort, and the experience with all of you. I hope that you now know a bit more about us, and I’m sure that your understanding of what it means to be a Duck inside the Oregon MBA is much more clear if you read the blogs and watch the videos we produce.
The best part of this particular blog, by far, is that I get to introduce you to the next Marketing Graduate Teaching Fellow. His name is Tashi, and I know he’s going to come in here and take things to the next level. At this point I want to pass the reins over to him, but I look forward to staying a part of the Ducks’ family for years to come. So, make sure to stay tuned for Tashi’s turn at the helm, and look for me in Portland as I wander the streets in search of a pizza shop that can fill my cravings for Track Town.
Take care and Go Ducks!
Nate Kalaf | Oregon MBA ’11
Founder, Tall Palms Creative
VisiRay is back from a successful trip to Louisville, KY – we won third place in the Brown-Forman Cardinal Challenge MBA business plan competition for which we were awarded $3,000! This was our very first competition outside the University of Oregon and we are very proud.
The six members of the University of Oregon’s team for the competition were VisiRay members – Walther Buecklers, Andrew Cook, Jim St Clair and Orit Ofri – and advisors – Al Cochrane and Randy Swangard.
The night before the competition we met other competition participants at the reception dinner. It was interesting to chat with other MABs and to learn how things are done at other great schools – every program has its own focus and its own way of igniting entrepreneurial thinking.
Early next morning we headed to the semi-final round. The teams were divided into four tracks and the judges – experienced business people from Louisville community – had to select one team from each track to advance to the finals. Thanks to the organizing team, who noticed the time difference between Oregon and Kentucky, we were third in our track. We gave our 15-minutes investors’ pitch presentation followed by a Q&A session.
After the presentation we were concerned. The judges only used 10 minutes out of the 15 minutes allotted to Q&A. Were we not convincing? Did they just find it boring? Did they already make up their mind on one of the other teams before we presented? We couldn’t watch presentations by other teams in our track– so we really in the dark. My pessimistic self decided we were out of the race.
About an hour later they announced the finalists and we were in. Ha!
The judges gave us some great pointers and had encouraging feedback; there have been times in the past where we didn’t get important points across—it takes a lot of fine-tuning—but this time we got it right. We had a quick team meeting to plan for the final round; then we took some time off. We had about two hours before our final round presentation.
The final round took place in a much bigger scene – big screen, big room, big crowd – with the presentations broadcasted live on the competition’s website, it had all the ingredients for an exciting event. And it was exciting indeed. The judges had all sorts of questions for us, drilling deep to get answers. We did okay, though we could have done better. Then we watched the other finalists present – they were impressive. We knew we were not going to win – not necessarily due to our presentation, but mainly because other teams were closer to their target (e.g. with some revenues on initial products).
That night, at the final event the winners were announced. Purdue University’s Medtric Biotech team earned the fourth-place award of $1,500; we were third; the first and second place winners: StAthletes from the University of Western Ontario and Hydraulic Wind Power from Indiana University received $10,000 each, which is unusual – first place was supposed to win $15,000 and second $5,000. The first place team, StAthletes, also won an automatic invitation to compete in Venture Labs over the spring.
During the evening one of the final-round judges invited us to sit with him and with another judge, both very successful entrepreneurs/investors from Louisville, so that they can give us detailed feedback. They had so many ideas and thoughts about our business you’d think it was theirs. We are now working hard and fast to incorporate many of their ideas into our plan.
After that, all that was left to do was to have fun.
For VisiRay, this trip was highly motivating. The judges were excited with our plan, our business, and with our team. Our next competition will be in Carnegie Mellon on March 9th and we are already preparing – twitching our plan and tuning our pitch.
University of Oregon – MBA 2011
Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship
I spoke with a few of my classmates who just got adjusted again to the west coast time zone. After a week meeting with top sports execs, media leaders, and industry businesses, the group took a few moments to reflect on this year’s trip.
Matt Geschke is a classmate of mine in the Oregon MBA program and he is helping to change the world using the power of sport. As the Graduate Teaching Fellow of O Heroes, a registered non-profit organization inside of the university’s athletic department, Matt is using his experience as a change-maker to grow a pilot program that has the attention of many in the collegiate athletics community. It’s been interesting to me to see the approach Matt is taking to the job because I spent 7 years working inside of the University of Central Florida Athletic Association and I witnessed the influence student-athletes can have in a community if they get involved.
I took some time to ask Matt, a former NCAA basketball player and team captain at Johns Hopkins University, more about what he’s doing and why he’s doing it so that we all can understand more of the positive things our school helps student-athletes to do when they aren’t competing for championships.
Matt, what would you say O Heroes is about?
O Heroes provides an opportunity for student-athletes to serve their community in various ways from helping in the 4J school district to working with Special Olympians. O Heroes is a collective effort by the student-athletes and athletic department to be active members of the Eugene/Springfield community.
How can O Heroes do good in the world?
The impact that sports, especially athletes have on society is very powerful. We are seeing it right now with the excitement around the football team. If we can harness that influence in a positive way and use it to develop both the student-athletes and the community then you have something that is very compelling.
How did you get involved?
I have always been a believer in using sport for social change and was lucky to have an opportunity to travel to South Africa to work for an organization called PeacePlayers International. PPI uses basketball to educate children and their communities on social issues like HIV and AIDS. I was able to see the power of sport first hand. When I arrived in Eugene for school, I wanted to continue this work and O Heroes was a natural fit. My hope would be for every college and university to have an O Heroes type program.
How are you approaching your role as the GTF for O Heroes?
My job is to develop programming that is impactful for both the student-athletes and community, that is important to the student-athletes, and will work within their busy schedules. I would like to bring up the importance of community service for student-athletes to where it is part of their athletic and academic work.
What do these athletes accomplish when they participate?
I think the experience is two-fold. They receive the satisfaction of working with the community and positively impacting others lives as well as a realization of their position as a student-athlete for the UofO and how they can use that to help others. My goal is that student-athletes will develop a social conscious through O Heroes and will continue to participate in community service well beyond their years at the UofO.
How can these athletes make a difference in ways the typical student can’t?
Yes, because of their position as athletes gives them a different level of excitement when they show up to a school or hospital. In the short term it is exciting, but the key is to develop a way to ensure there is a long-term impact on both the community and student-athlete as well.
What is a common misperception on why they participate?
People think that they do so it because they have too or that it helps with marketing the program. Additionally, people see community service as a punishment for bad behavior and this is not the case.
Would it be fair to say that this introduces some athletes to a sense of community that they might not have experienced before?
Absolutely, at first the student-athletes are a little tentative, but once they realize the impact they can have and how much fun this can be, they are all asking to do more events. It is especially important for freshmen who are new to the Eugene community. It offers them a chance to interact with people and organizations that they will see over their next 4-5 years.
What are your hopes for growing O Heroes? What will that take?
The new athletic director, Rob Mullens, uses the term “communiversity” and O Heroes is a tremendous platform to be an active participant in the community. This past term O Heroes participated in 21 events with over 750 hours of community service by the student-athletes. In order to continue to grow this, we need committed student-athletes, coaches and staff to engage in the events. We are working on ways to increase our funding so we can do events that have a deeper impact on both the student-athletes and the community. We need to educate the community about O Heroes and what it is doing. Finally, we will look at ways of expanding outside of the Eugene/Springfield community to areas where there are Ducks fans in need.
How are you trying to get the buy in from coaches, administrators, and ultimately the players?
This is our challenge, given the busy schedules of all those involved, we look for events that are already developed and we can plug-in the student-athletes. For example, we were able to partner with the Special Olympics during one of their bowling practices. We had 26 student-athletes with the 50+ Special Olympians. It was a fantastic day. Additionally, we need to make sure the first time student-athletes participate in a O Heroes event they have fun, they tell their teammates and we get them to continue to return. This year the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee has developed its own O Heroes committee that will help with events and participation. That has been a great addition.
How is the MBA helping you approach your role as the GTF of O Heroes?
I use what I learn in school on a daily basis. Whether it is building a marketing plan to increase brand awareness or developing a strategic plan for the next 2-3 years, I am constantly using the skills from the classroom. Given my lack of business background before arriving in Eugene, it is very satisfying to see the obtained knowledge paying off immediately.
Are you applying lessons and theories from your graduate studies when designing O Heroes strategies?
You can use them all, from SWOT to Porter and everything in between. The MBA helps you to think critically and problem solve at a lot quicker pace then ever before.
At the end of the day, what is it about for you?
Nelson Mandela said, “Sport has the ability to change the world like little else can.” This is my mantra and O Heroes can be a huge part of that change in Eugene as well as all over Oregon.
To find out more about O Heroes or to get involved, click here to visit the official website. Images courtesy of GoDucks.com
I recently saw an urgent tweet from the University of Oregon Health Center that called for donations of neck braces to replenish dangerously low neck brace reserves. One of the campus docs followed with another tweet that she had never seen this many instances of neck strains on campus, and that they are looking into seeing if this is a national phenomenon, although they are pretty convinced it is localized to our campus in Eugene.
Malcolm Gladwell might call this whiplash phenomenon an “outlier” localized to the month of November. Levitt and Dubner will call it an “externality” – an unintended consequence of something bigger going on. I call it Movember, and it’s hit the campus of the University of Oregon hard.
Recent conversations with fellow lauders of the lipjacket have confirmed this whiplash trend, revealing that every single one of us who have been growing mustaches for Movember have seen an uncharacteristically high number of double-takes on campus. And those double-takes are taxing on any individual’s neck. For this, on behalf of my comrades, we apologize for having too much awesomeness on our upper lips.
For the past 21 days, over 200 mustachioed mercenaries have combined their efforts to raise awareness and funds for the Movember Movement. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last three weeks and haven’t heard about Movember, allow me to briefly fill you in. Movember is a month long charity event with the goal of changing the face of men’s health by inspiring conversation about means health issues, and raising funds for the Prostate Cancer Foundation and LIVESTRONG. A gentleman starts clean-shaven on November 1st and continues to grow and flow his stache until the end of the month, with his Charlie Chaplin-ed upper lip serving as a walking billboard.
It’s truly remarkable that the mustaches being sported here at the University of Oregon are receiving so much attention, especially given the amount of hairiness that this campus is characterized by. A look at the numbers and you will see that the University of Oregon is second only to Cal Berkeley in hair-growth per capita – but we all know that Cal’s growth is faux-growth, associated with some fleeting ideal that will be cast aside as soon as graduation comes along. Ergo, the University of Oregon is the most genuinely hairy campus in the nation, and for Movember and all of its mustaches to receive so much attention is, as said before, remarkable.
But that’s the goal of Movember – to be remarkable, to compel someone to approach another and say, “Sir, that is one hell of a mustache.” Once the ice is broken, and the awe of the Groucho Marx has been imbibed, an opportunity is created for conversation about the issues that challenge men’s health and take far too many lives.
While only 218 total people have officially registered for Movember, the conversations that have been had have spread the word all over campus. Student groups participating in Movember include MBA’s, law schoolers, Ducks athletes, fraternities and sororities, and Colleges Against Cancer. Our combined efforts have contributed over $5,000 to the research of prostate and testicular cancers. Additional funds are expected to roll in as we have seen some solid sales of the UO Movember T-Shirts at the Duck Store.
All in all, this has been a memorable experience for me and my Wyatt Earp-ed stache. In the words of fellow MBA mustachionado, Matt Geschke, “I love it when a plan comes together. To see something come to fruition in the manner that Movember has on campus is amazing.” I couldn’t agree more. I’ve never been apart of anything like this, but I can safely say that I will participate in Movember for years to come and hopefully grow this great movement to other campuses and organizations as well. But nothing will ever trump the adventure that has been Movember 2010 at the University of Oregon.
University of Oregon | MBA 2011
Warsaw Center for Sports Marketing