Resource Nights: Balancing Risk and Opportunity

This recap of the Business Plan Practicum (Resource Nights) course at UW features three tips all entrepreneurs need to know from Ambika Singh, CEO of Armoire.Each week you can read a recap of the previous Entrepreneurship Resource Nights (Business Plan Practicum) session. This past week, instructor John Zagula (founder, Ignition Capital) led a class focused on balancing risk and opportunity with special guest speaker Jim Xiao, CEO and founder of Mason. Reminder: Lectures are recorded and the links posted to our website weekly.



“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” – Warren Buffett

“I read, I study, I examine, I listen, I think, and out of all that I try to form an idea into which I put as much common sense as I can.” – Marquis de Lafayette


As John says, “we left the dreaming phase of our class and entered the thinking planning phase” at this session. Core to that is truly understanding and balancing risk and opportunity. The discussion on this idea was approached from many angles and included the introduction of various tools and approaches. Specifically the “3 C’s” and “SWOT” and how they can be used to understand the playing field and landscape of what you are up against in turning your ideas into a real business.

Special guest speaker Jim Xiao, CEO and founder of Mason, talked about how he’s taken a “little known Seattle startup” and turned it into one that has $25 million in funding. Mason uses “mobile infrastructure as a service” tech, in other words custom-built mobile hardware and software, “so customers can customize their own devices, operating systems, apps, and related services.”

He talked about how “product market fit is not something you can just ask for. Product market fit hits you like gravity. When the market wants you, it will pummel you. So when it does happen, be ready for it.” Xiao talked about how cash equals oxygen and while as a startup you are going to burn through it, you cannot lie about your burn rate.

He’s also hiring and offered students the opportunity to reach out to him personally.

Watch the class in its entirety now or skip ahead to 29:30 to hear more from Jim Xiao!

Following the presentation by Jim Xiao, the Resource Nights class relocated to Anthony’s Forum in Dempsey Hall for the largest Team Formation Event of the year, hosted by the Buerk Center and the Science and Engineering Business Association (SEBA). The event coincided with the awards portion of the 2020 Science and Technology Showcase and offered students an opportunity to network with each other and the students on the 18 STS teams.

Read the recap of the STS competition here.


Resource Nights (ENTRE 440/540 Business Plan Practicum) are each Tuesday through March 10, 2020 from 6 to 7:50 pm in PACCAR Hall 192 (Shansby Auditorium). Can’t make it in person? Lectures will be recorded and the links posted to our website weekly. View the Resource Night schedule for links and complete listing of topics and guest speakers.


Tuesday, February 4 at 6:00 pm in PACCAR Hall, Shansby Auditorium (room 192)

In this session, we will continue to build our plan by discussing ideas generated by student teams. We’ll learn proactive approaches to starting your company, navigating the playing field, and bootstrapping your product.

Our first guest speaker for the evening will be Tom Gonser, founder of DocuSign. DocuSign was founded in 2003 with the goal of helping individuals and enterprises transact business more efficiently and securely with electronic signatures. DocuSign now has more than 500,000 paying customers and hundreds of millions of users worldwide.

Our second speaker will be Christy Johnson, founder and CEO of Artemis Connection. Christy is an intrapreneur, entrepreneur, and strategist. She is currently building her fourth startup, Artemis Connection! She loves working for forward thinking executives who want results. Recently she designed and launched a course on women in entreprepreneurship leadership for the University of Washington. She has also facilitated courses on strategy, critical analytical thinking, storytelling, and designing organizations for creativity and innovation at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Christy believes that people are an organization’s most important asset and by having a diverse workforce, organizations will have the most innovative solutions. She has seven years of experience working in corporate strategy, including nearly four years at McKinsey & Co. Before that, Christy was an award-winning economics and mathematics teacher. In 2005, Junior Achievement recognized Christy as its National Teacher of the Year.

Reminder, you can drop-in or catch the recording of this weekly course.


Apply for the Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge by Monday, Feb. 10 at
Apply for the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge by Tuesday, Feb. 18 at

Learn more about the Buerk Center student competitions at

Students can can apply to both the HIC and EIC! We see several student teams from around the region compete in one or both before advancing their idea beyond the prototype stage and setting themselves up for startup success in the Dempsey Startup Competition. Our competitions are open to undergrads and grad students at accredited colleges and universities across the Cascadia Corridor–Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia, as well as Alaska.

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