Start-up Financing 101: Cash is King and Always Extend Your Runway

With Valentine’s Day coming up I felt I would try to spread the love and passion of business a little. The idea of starting your own business is such a romantic notion. Snuffing the system, being your own boss, working your behind off for what you’re passionate about, and creating something amazing and (hopefully) disruptive enough to make the world a better place! But then reality comes crashing down when you realize that in order to accomplish this you need money. Potentially a lot of money. Not many of us have the luxury of having a wealthy (and highly understanding) partner who can support us during our entrepreneurial endeavor or a nest egg that is able to be invested (or risked depending on your perspective). As much as I hate to admit it: Money makes the world go ‘round and it is even more imperative for start-ups.

As someone who would love to work for a start-up (or small yet rapidly growing company) and who is immersed in this world as an entrepreneurship MBA (trust me: it’s not an oxymoron) thinking about financing for such ventures is daunting. Luckily, I’m in Oregon which provides multiple opportunities to fight the ever shrinking runway of start-up finance. We have an extensive network of traditional funding paths. Oregon hosts many angel investment opportunities including the Bend Venture Conference, the Oregon Angel Fund, Angel Oregon, and the Willamette Angel Conference. We also have opportunities for seed stage investments with the Portland Seed Fund and the newly established UO Foundation Seed Fund. But there is a rapidly growing form of funding taking root and thriving in the Pacific Northwest!

Crowdfunding: the wave of...now?

According to a study done by the Crowd Data Center, Oregon ranked 4th in the best states for crowdfunding. Portland ranked 3rd for the top city while Seattle ranked 7th and San Francisco ranked 1st! I know San Francisco isn’t technically in the Pacific Northwest, but it is just a hop, skip, and jump away and is almost like an older, more experienced sibling when it comes to start-up financing. (Sand Hill Road, anyone?) Now I know what you are thinking…crowdfunding?!?! Yes. Crowdfunding. Changes to SEC regulations have allowed platforms such as Kickstarter, Kiva, Crowdfunder, and multiple others to tap into the pockets of the masses to help finance fledgling companies and products get off the ground. (Check out this Forbes article for more.) No longer do you have to be an accredited investor or give up thousands (potentially millions) of dollars to play a major part in the economic development of your community. After all, small businesses are a powerful driver in job creation. And if one is going to have a job, why not do something that speaks directly to and of you? Not everyone is an entrepreneur. But thanks to the great support shown through the success of crowdfunding, almost anyone can help an entrepreneur be that much closer to success.

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.

In Portland, Unconventional Business Makes Sense

From Portlandia to Grimm, Portland has become known for its unique yet endearing quirks through pop culture. The shows feature handmade artisanal foods, communities of enthusiastic outdoorsmen, and few fairy tale creatures. Reality was not so distant from fiction when the UO Entrepreneurship Club went to the Rose City this past weekend to hear from different businesses about the keys of their success.

Walking into Evo Sportswear, the first thing you notice is how unlike a sportswear company the location looks. A fake pink storefront sits in the middle of the store with the name of Uncle Jacks Bakery; the building itself is a renovated Salvation Army; and the second floor has walls painted with faux stained-glass windows. All in all, a little quirky for a place that’s known for selling skis and snowboards. But as our guide—general manager Kevin—explained, all of these elements are play a part in staying true to the Evo brand. Started 14 years ago by Bryce Phillips, Evo began in Seattle as an online retailer selling skis and snowboards. Eventually the first brick-and-mortar store opened and the product line now includes everything from yoga mats to surf boards. Phillips used the location as not only a store front, a place where people could buy something and leave, but as a community gathering place where local winter sports enthusiasts could discuss their favorite pastime, create an event space, art gallery, provide giveaways, have launch parties, organize trips to mountains, hold training courses, and use the space for fundraisers and clubs as well as meetings.

With online sales booming (the company sells 25 percent of all European winter sportswear through Evo.com) the second Evo location opened its doors in Southeast Portland this past October. So when so many mom-and-pop-style sports stores are closing their doors for good, why would Evo choose to invest so much in a new location? The simple answer is that shopping online, though cheaper, has cost the industry a lot. As Kevin talked about his last trip to the mountain for a day on the slopes he saw tons of people with their skis on the wrong side, grips not properly installed, and frustrated in general because their online purchases failed to live up to their expectations. By having a brick-and-mortar location near their target market, Evo is able to provide the community with an immense amount of support through customer service and by allowing people to handle the products before they spend hundreds of dollars. Even if someone can’t find the perfect piece of equipment they’re looking for (only 5-10 percent of Evo’s total inventory can be found in the 11,000 square foot retail location), there are multiple iPads throughout the store so an employee can help you search through the company website. This click-and-mortar approach has been the determining factor in Evo’s success balancing tech and face-to-face customer service.

The next stop of the day was Salt and Straw, nationally recognized gourmet ice cream makers. Just a few days before our tour, cofounder and head chef Tyler Malek was recognized by Forbes magazine as one of their 30 under 30 for changing the way Americans eat. Known for creating ice-cream flavor combinations such as sea urchin and mint, and mashed potatoes and gravy, Tyler has shaped Salt and Straw to become an iconic part of Portland. Kim Malek, Tyler’s cousin and cofounder and president of the company, provided a tour of the manufacturing facilities where all the ice cream Salt and Straw sells in Oregon is made. Club members saw the R&D facilities where all the unconventional flavors are concocted, the actual process of how they produce hundreds of gallons of ice cream, and the administrative side that keeps everything running smoothly. Amazingly, three small ice cream machines are responsible for churning out more than 20 flavors. As a fresh batch of the almond brittle with salted ganache came straight out of a machine, members were treated to a taste of the incredible ice cream and learned that the milk used to make the delicious concoction was as close to butter in consistency as you could get.

Malek explained how the core principle of her business idea—creating a neighborhood gathering spot—is still felt in the manufacturing process through terroir, a French word that means “taste of place.” By partnering with other local companies for ingredients, Salt and Straw keeps their flavors local both in Portland and in their newest scoop shop in Los Angeles, California. Throughout this rapid growth (the company began four years ago as a food cart), staying true to their identity as community minded foodies has been the key to Malek’s success.

Our takeaway: in Portland, community matters. Treating customers as neighbors rather than profit margins means a lot in gaining loyalty. Finding a way to make that experience more than just a transaction can be a game-changer for not only customers, but for an entire industry. Knowing how this community approach has created such success, Portland’s reputation as a hub for the unorthodox will likely outlast any cable TV series.

Written by Jordan Johnson

Senior at the UO, majoring in business administration, minoring in art. Current President of the UO Entrepreneurship Club.

Sunny in Seattle? Only when we arrive!

The past week (week 3 of our 10 week terms) allowed the first year students from the Finance, Sustainability, and Entrepreneurship Centers to travel to Seattle, WA. This was a first time to the city for many individuals but for me it was a pleasant return to familiarity. I lived in Seattle for 4 years right after undergraduate and it was amazing to see how the city has changed since I left in 2010. Our faculty set up some great meetings with companies throughout the area covering addressing all of our various interests. It was great to join the first years on this trip because I could compare it to my trip last year. While some visitations were the same, many were not.

While the focus of these trips is experiential learning and getting out of the classroom, that does not mean we are all work! Our first night in Seattle was a party to great times at the Rhein Haus. German food, beer, and some very competitive games of bocce ball helped the cohort further strengthen the bonds of camaraderie. I think that spending this time with your classmates is just as important as visiting companies.

Our first day of company visits started with an extended time spent up at Microsoft. Since it is such a large and leading company, we were able to cover multiple areas of the business including finance, Microsoft ventures and support of the start-up world, their internal and external sustainability efforts, and marketing. The final marketing panel was different from my previous visit and it was unique in that it allowed us to ask people what it was really like to work at Microsoft. Seeing how people from various (i.e. non-computer science) backgrounds have found their place in a tech/computer company is definitely an eye opener for many students.   We then continued down to T-Mobile (for the LCE and CSBP) and Wells Fargo (FSAC). For a company going through a serious re-brand, T-Mobile provided some interesting perspective into a very competitive and complex telecommunications industry. We wrapped up the day at the Woodland Park Zoo. While we didn’t have a chance to wander around the zoo and see the animals (who doesn’t like zoo animals after all?), we did get to see a business area that is in need of highly skilled MBA graduates and who face many of the same challenges as traditional business: non-profits. In many cases, non-profits have greater challenges to overcome n order to generate the same type of revenue as other companies.

Our second day was just a filled as the first with visits to McKinstry, Amazon, UBS (FSAC), We Work, and the Bullitt Center. The day began, however, with a breakfast meeting with Threshold and the newly created Canopy group. It was one of the few meetings where finance, entrepreneurship, and sustainability all interconnected in one company. Rather than talk to each focus individually, the Canopy Group had a hard time separating the three strands. It was a great spin on a growing field. After a great breakfast we toured McKinstry. The group then split with Finance doing financial things and the rest doing sustainable and entrepreneurial things. Our visits to Amazon and We Work in South Lake Union were amazing! I used to live in that area, so seeing how the neighborhood has transformed since 2010 was mind blowing to me. Our day then ended at the Bullitt Center—a definite highlight from previous years.

Our last day was mostly travel but we were able to allow students time to organize their own meetings. While this can be challenging, if Seattle is a place you want to work, meeting people where they are can be a great benefit for future connections. I spent the time reconnecting with individuals and making sure everyone was where they needed to be. On the way home we made a slight detour to REI headquarters in Kent and had a great discussion with finance and marketing individuals. Since REI embraces many of the unique aspects of the programs at the Oregon MBA, there could be no better company to end our whirlwind tour.

I love Seattle and I really enjoyed being able to spend time with the first year students. Being able to travel and meet with companies beyond the canned student presentation is one thing that makes the Oregon MBA a great place to study.

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.

The LCE at the BVC

Two weeks ago, students from the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship attended the 11th annual Bend Venture Conference. While there, we saw entrepreneurs from 11 unique companies pitch their business plans to compete for grant and investment funding.

On our way out east, we stopped for breakfast at the home of John Rosen, MBA ’72.  John was gracious enough to spend time getting to know each one of us, inviting us to share the interests, experiences and passions that brought us to Oregon and the MBA program.  His words of advice and encouragement were all the more valuable given his own impressive career as an innovator and entrepreneur in product technology.  John then gave us a tour of his beautiful cabin, which reflected the personal dedication, ingenuity and attention to detail that have made him a great business leader.  Best of all, we ended the tour at the zip line John had built on his property—proving that a harness, an incline, and a rush of wind can make a “respected businessman” and “mature grad students” inexplicably excited.

Sufficiently caffeinated and adrenaline-pumped, we continued our drive to Bend.  Of course we wouldn’t be very good business students if we didn’t capitalize (bad pun intended) on our opportunity to learn even more from a few of the many companies that call Bend home.  Over the course of the afternoon, we had interesting discussions with folks at Hydroflask, Kialoa Paddles, and Deschutes Brewery.

The conference began bright and early the next day at the Tower Theatre in downtown Bend. Five “concept stage” companies pitched anything from aquaponic food systems to veterinary vaccine licensing in front of a sold-out audience. Everyone was divided into smaller groups for lunch among various nearby restaurants, where we all got some valuable and more informal face time with other local entrepreneurs, investors and students.  I was personally impressed with the high level of collaboration and camaraderie that characterizes Bend’s unique startup “ecosystem” of “brew, bio, rec and tech.”  After pitches from six more “launch stage” companies, the day came to a close with the awards reception.  Just about $1 million in funding was awarded to several winning companies, based on votes from the audience and judges.    It was truly inspiring to be a part of the enthusiasm and support that the conference devotes to innovative thinking and creative vision. As students, I think we all benefited from seeing the different presentation styles, levels of preparedness and poise from each of the competing entrepreneurs.

We’re back in Eugene and have survived the busy weeks of midterms, looking forward to the next opportunity to learn more from the start-up world—and, of course, some more Duck victories on the field! 

Written by amaclean@uoregon.edu

A native of Atlanta, GA, Ally is pursuing dual degrees with the UO’s MBA and M.Arch programs. After studying architecture at the University of Virginia, she spent several years working and learning at a highly regarded hospitality design firm in Washington, D.C. She values any opportunity to apply creative problem solving, and believes that good design should be a standard for any venture, no matter the scale. After graduation, MacLean aspires to bring an entrepreneurial attitude to the architecture and urban development industries.

An Enlightening Experience

See your music come alive—this is the promise that new Eugene company Light Dance makes to its customers. Light Dance is an unassuming box that allows people to plug in a couple of light sources, their music, and then watch in amazement as their living room turns into a professionally lit dance floor where lights pulse beautifully to both the bass and treble of their own music. Though the product has just been posted to the popular crowdfunding site, Kickstarter.com, this business has been years in the making.

The idea began over four years ago when founder Dylan Garrett developed a device that allowed light to pulse to music for a party he had for a few friends back in high school. Needless to say, the party ended up being a big success and everyone asked Dylan where they could buy one of the devices for themselves. Dylan ended up going to USC to pursue what he needed to know in order to take this device to market.

Light Dance

Light Dance is a simple device that brings music to life

After graduating Dylan returned to Eugene with the drive to make this product happen. His dad Paul got on board with the idea and the two used their network to get experienced electrical engineer Craig Godwin as their chief technical officer. In February 2014 the team was invited into the UO Entrepreneurship Club, where they shared the struggles they had experienced and insights that they had gained as a founding team. Right off the bat, the product was a huge hit with students as people requested songs to be played and seen with the lights. Over the next several months, Light Dance made several more trips into the club as they further developed the product and their venture. The club became a space for the entrepreneurs to get market validation, to answer important questions about their business model, and to recruit students to join their growing team. The team of Eugene locals became a favorite visitor for club members and always had a packed room.

One bachelor’s degree and tons of elbow grease later, the product that was made from a few parts in the garage is now getting ready for its first production run through Kickstarter.com. Just days away from launching on the platform, Craig, Dylan, and Paul brought their product back to the club with a mission of informing students on how to run a successful campaign. The three talked about everything from designing a webpage that will last far longer than a Kickstarter campaign to the choice of hiring a professional PR representative for the duration of the campaign and deciding what their funding goal should be.

Being able to witness the journey that this company has made from just a loose idea to a fully functional device with a strong team behind it has been extremely educational and fun for our students. Going forward I think that there are great things to see from Light Dance, besides just cool light shows.

Happy Halloween

There’s no limit to the fun you can have


Written by Jordan Johnson

Senior at the UO, majoring in business administration, minoring in art. Current President of the UO Entrepreneurship Club.

Entrepreneurship Club Hits the 2014 Bend Venture Conference

The entrepreneurial community of Bend Oregon proved itself to be alive and thriving the weekend of October 16 and 17 as business professionals flocked to the Bend Venture Conference (BVC). Between visiting highly successful local companies like Hydro Flask, Kialoa Paddles, Deschutes Brewery, and seeing the amazing startup companies competing for capital at the BVC, Chad Wiley and I (we’re the VP and president of the UO Entrepreneurship Club, respectively) got to see a fully supportive and connected community that values the determination and innovation of their entrepreneurs.

On Thursday, the day before the final competition, Chad and I accompanied 12 Oregon MBA students from the entrepreneurship track and Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship program manager Nathan Lillegard as they went on several site visits.

Bend’s outdoor recreational activities—kayaking, mountain climbing, skiing, running, biking, and more—play a huge role in the direction and environment of local business. At all three companies, a culture of sustainability and taking time to enjoy the outdoors was present and fully encouraged amongst employees. When the group arrived at Hydro Flask, our host had just gotten back from a run. Deschutes Brewery invests $20,000 every year in the Deschutes River watershed to make sure that the river is fit for water sports during the summer months, and Kialoa Paddles are designed to be the best possible paddles for specific types of boat racers and are tested thoroughly by employees before ever hitting the market.

At Hydro Flask, Lucas the marketing director discussed how the six-year-old company became successful by determining their target customers and building a brand focused on fulfilling the values of those customers. By refusing to compromise their brand through cutting costs in production or selling to retailers with unaligned values, Hydro Flask has proven their authenticity to core customers and created an evangelical following.

After an evening touring the production facility of Deschutes Brewery and sampling some of the newest additions and seasonal offerings off the brew list, the UO cohort prepared to attend the conference and see a day’s worth of pitches, speeches, networking, and awards. Starting at early check-in, the feeling at the conference was full of excitement. Professionals from all over the state of Oregon gathered to view new ideas and create a stronger network to promote business innovation.

During the first round of pitches, where concept-stage startups displayed a promising future of a diversified economy being built locally, attendees heard from individuals like the winning team Shannon & Jimmy Sbarra of Volcano Veggies. The venture promises to create hyper-localized organic produce across the country. By streamlining aquaponic technology, in which fish production fertilizes vegetable production in a closed loop ecosystem, Volcano Veggies wants to cut production costs and CO2 emissions of produce for anyone using their system. With the $10,000 prize, Shannon and Jimmy want to validate their business model by expanding current operations.

By the launch-stage round of pitches, the entire conference was buzzing. BVC had yet to really get started and still the audience had already seen six amazing concepts with enormous potential. Attendees had also heard from an inspirational keynote speaker. Steve Silwa, the former CEO of Insitu, an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) company located in The Gorge.  A literal rocket scientist, Silwa unexpectedly provided not only a logical approach to business but hilarious anecdotal evidence about how a little dash of luck is key to the success of any venture. He described how a team member created a code that stabilized aerial video by chance, just a couple of days before a surprise test from the US military that made Insitu’s UAV perform significantly better than the military’s own favorite, the Predator drone. This happenstance was instrumental in the success of the company and Silwa fully admitted that luck was on his side.

The first launch-stage pitch of the day competing for a grand prize of more than $250.000, Amplion Research, aims provides an easily navigable database to pharmaceutical companies to increase the success of their new product testing based on genetic biomarkers. The science and potential market of their product, is impressive, over $500,000,000 in annual revenue impressive. Another medical company, Bright.md, the second pitch of the day, presented a solution to combat a problem that everyone faces, long waits for professional medical care. Bright.md allows patients to interact with their care providers through a survey of typical symptoms to diagnose everything from earaches to stomach flu without the days of waiting in discomfort.

Third in line, Crowd Street, democratizes industrial real estate projects through crowdfunding and makes investment in those projects easier than ever for accredited investors. Currently, only 3 percent of accredited investors have real estate in their portfolio despite it currently being one of the most desirable securities on the market. Fourth, Homeschool, a winter sports apparel company from Portland, proved that they were nothing more than dead serious about disrupting the current market. Over the last year the company experienced 100% growth and have produced apparel rated far above their larger counterparts like North Face, Columbia, and Volcom. Last up to the stage was Poached. The website aims to ease the pain of over 80 percent employee turnover in the restaurant industry. By filling in the gap between professional hiring websites like Monster.com and more general sites like Craigslist, Poachedjobs.com has already become a favorite tool for HR in the Portland restaurant industry and is being used by heavy hitters like Panera Bread and Starbucks.

Amplion proved to be the champion of the day winning $250,000 and Poached followed with a check of $100,000. Overall, every business proved to be well chosen to pitch in front of the crowd and looked to have plenty of opportunity in the near future. Before the awards ceremony, no one could pick a guaranteed front runner. Besides the official BVC prizes, over $550,000 in venture capital was awarded to both concept and launch stage ventures. The conference this year blew previous Oregon venture competitions records out of the water with near $1,000,000 given to entrepreneurs from the community.

At the end of the day, I sat convinced that Oregon’s commitment to new ventures and the community behind that commitment is stronger than ever. The Bend Venture Conference shows only a sliver of the small businesses around today but displays the larger more diversified economy in the state’s future.

— Jordan G. Johnson ’15


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.

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.

Duck feet all over the WAC

Oregonians are generally averse to self-promotion. We’re a humble lot (mostly) that figure it’s better to let our achievements speak for themselves than spend time and energy seeking recognition. It’s something we do and part of the culture. But I’m going to step out of that mold for now and praise some of our students and community friends after witnessing the Willamette Angel Conference today.

First, I want to thank everyone who has helped bring the Matthew Knight Arena and Ford Alumni Center together. The WAC was hosted in the Guistina Ballroom at the Ford Alumni Center this year. Finally, the UO has a world-class facility to have formal events! Don’t get me wrong, the old EMU Ballroom and a couple of other facilities on campus are great. However, the modern and uniquely Oregon design of the FAC really stands out for people coming into town. Having Matt Arena right next door gives the East campus area a center of gravity that the whole university needed.

Second, let’s recognize all of the University of Oregon students and alumni involved in the Willamette Angel Conference. The list is long, so let’s bullet point for brevity:

  • The Concept Stage winner was Orchid Health – A local Eugene company creating direct primary care clinics in medically under-served communities. Started by a one-year-ago grad and a soon-to-be graduate. That’s right, early twenty-somethings starting a health care company. Cool.
  • Other Concept Stage companies representing UO ties:
    • Dyscover.me: a start-up company targeting ERP of Human Resources co-founded by an Oregon MBA alumnus
    • Manage my co-op: a husband/wife team of OMB (Marching Band) alumni building tools to enable group buying clubs for everything
  • Blue Dog Mead, a well-established beverage company, was represented at the event by CEO and co-founder Simon Blatz. Keeping the dream alive and mead flowing.
  • The Oregon MBA and other Lundquist College of Business students helped with the due diligence process and as volunteers for the event.

Dune Sciences, one of the five finalist companies has strong ties to the UO. The company was founded by John Miller and Jim Hutchison based on research from their lab in the Materials Science Institute at the University of Oregon. I know that this team has been working at this for a long time to bring their technology to market. Making it to the WAC Finals was a big accomplishment for them. I know that Dune Sciences is going to continue to grow and be a big UO and Eugene success story.

Finally, let’s talk about RAIN. The Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network is finally up and running in Eugene. Joe Maruschak, a UO art major and game development entrepreneur, is taking the reins of the local node of this program. Joe is a community builder who understands the role an accelerator and incubator can play in developing an ecosystem for startups. Good things are on the horizon. The support that the Office for Research Innovation and Graduate Education has provided getting RAIN going has been invaluable. Associate Vice President for Research & Innovation Patrick Jones has brought his experiences building a similar community in Tucson, Arizona, and at the U. of Arizona to bear to help make this a reality. Without this kind of fundamental support in place, building a thriving entrepreneurial community is harder. With this high-level support, we’re all pulling together to improve the community and build a place where students can stay after they graduate.

So be on the lookout for more great things happening here in Eugene. You may need to ask to hear about it. We’ll be busy letting our successes speak for themselves.

Written by Nathan Lillegard

I manage the programs and activities of the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. In this role, I work to build relationships between the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Oregon (and beyond) and our students. As an entrepreneur (in recovery) myself, I help others learn about and navigate the challenges of starting and building great companies.

NVC 2014 is in the books!

Every spring for the past 23 years the University of Oregon has hosted a business plan competition. What started with just a few teams from within Oregon has evolved to be an international event with teams competing from all around the world! The New Venture Championship (NVC) is held in Portland, Oregon, giving global student teams a chance to visit the beautiful Pacific Northwest. This year NVC teams came from across the United States, Thailand, Hong Kong, and India.

There are several different competitions within the business plan championship including Best Written Business Plan, Best Elevator Pitch, Trade Show Exhibition, and the overall championship. All 16 competing teams left the competition with cash to help them pursue the launch of their business. With over $55,000 awarded under three days each day and event proved to be very exciting and competitive.

NVC 2014 was a wonderful success and as a first-time attendee I was truly inspired by the business plans and teams that competed. The collaborative nature of these teams meant students of business, law, and the sciences were well represented giving a very well rounded turnout.

Additionally, the judges that volunteered their time, energy, and resources proved to be invaluable! Each team had interactions with several judging panels, each of which provided insightful feedback. These judges range in expertise and industry, but represent some of the brightest minds in business and otherwise in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. We are fortunate to have such a dedicated group of judges year after year!

Though I will be graduated, I will make every effort to attend this event next year. Not only are the businesses quite impressive, but the students are engaging and the atmosphere is electric! I strongly encourage those interested in business and entrepreneurship to attend NVC and competitions like it!

Final results from NVC 2014 can be found here! Also, please visit NVC’s YouTube channel to see Elevator Pitches and more from this year’s competition!

Here are some highlights from NVC 2014:

Team RediGen from Thailand took home the grand prize of $25,000


An NVC competitor competing in the 60 second elevator pitch competition on Thursday night.


Friday night bowling: Team members from Chiron Medical, CYANO Solutions, LifeM, and uHoo

Written by lloepp

Lauren is an MBA Candidate in the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. She is a native Oregonian who came to the Oregon MBA after receiving a BS in Psychology from Linfield College and working in business development at an Oregon Research and Development company. She plans to work with businesses in organizational behavior and culture to manage organizational change.

Portland Site Visits: CPUsage and Salt & Straw

On a chilly Saturday in early February, fifteen undergraduate members of the University of Oregon Entrepreneurship Club took a trip up to Portland and had the opportunity to interact on-site with two very different entrepreneurs: Jeff Martins of CPUsage and Kim Malek of Salt & Straw.

Martins, the co-founder and CEO of CPUsage, a company that sets up infrastructure for businesses to do high-performance cloud computing, welcomed the club to the downtown office on Davis and Third. Students learned how he had begun just at Startup weekends with a completely different idea and—through a process of pivots, collaboration, and angel investments—now operates with four employees and works with Amazon on their cloud services.

Members of the club asked questions about everything from the benefits of operating as a tech company in Portland rather than Silicon Valley to making the transition of working as an employee for a multi-billion dollar company to starting from scratch and building a business. Martins stressed the high-risk/high-reward aspect of entrepreneurship and told the group that, even though it’s not easy, he’s “never going to work for someone else again in my life.”

At Salt & Straw in northwest Portland, members got to meet the owner and co-founder, Kim Malek. The artisanal ice cream parlor opened two-and-a-half years ago in a pushcart and is now boasting three brick-and-mortar locations in Portland and is fast expanding both locally and down the coast to Los Angeles. Malek shared her goals of creating a community-based product and described the way every aspect of her business—from the ingredients used to the training employees undergo before even scooping one cone of ice cream—is all about facilitating a local connection with and between her customers.

After the discussion, club members wrapped up the day with free scoops of Grandma Malek’s Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache ice cream.

Despite their very different products and the different industries that these two entrepreneurs operate in, they both had pretty similar advice. Success is not done on your own. It is about the relationships you build with those in the industry, the community, and your customer. Focus and flexibility are key in creating a product that consumers want. Because growth will not happen on its own, entrepreneurship is all about motivation and finding new opportunities.

Jordan Johnson ’15
Public Relations Officer
University of Oregon Entrepreneurship Club

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.