The UW Foster Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club (EVCC) of the Foster MBA Student Association (MBAA), serves as a facilitator to introduce students to the one-of-a-kind startup ecosystem of Seattle. Through various events such as speakers, treks, workshops, competitions, networking events and more, the club connects students to a wide assortment of startups and VC firms in Seattle and across the world. It also serves as a platform within Foster and the broader UW community for entrepreneurial students to work together on challenges within existing startups.
Please tell us a bit about yourselves.
Catherine: I grew up in Seattle, but spent the last 10 years away, working in LA and DC – it’s good to be home! I’ll be staying in the Seattle area post-graduation, working at Goldman Sachs in private wealth management.
Keenan: I grew up in Boulder CO where I started my career in brand management for startup Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies. My career took me out to Boston where I spent 5 years prior to coming to Foster. After graduation, I will be joining Accenture Strategy as a Consultant and couldn’t be more excited!
Mahek: I was born in India and my family immigrated to Seattle, WA when I was 11 years old. Pre-MBA, my professional experience was in new product development as an Electrical Engineer and Systems Engineer. I am extremely passionate about everything start-ups and venture capital. This summer, I will be working with Wells Fargo as a Summer Investment Banking Associate.
Dan: I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin where I started my career in the health insurance industry doing marketing and product development. This summer I will be working with Service Now as a Global Marketing Manager.
What unique role does EVCC play in promoting students’ goals at Foster?
Mahek & Dan: Entrepreneurship is an essential skill to develop as part of your MBA experience. Whether you chose to work at an early stage company, a mature firm or establish your own startup after school, understanding how to think like an entrepreneur provides a huge advantage. EVCC is committed to providing a space where students can develop their own entrepreneurial instincts, learn from others who’ve successfully founded companies, and ultimately provide a safe space for students to prototype and practice with other brilliant people from the community.
How has your club influenced the continued evolution of the Foster MBA program?
Catherine: I think all clubs are an active conversation with the program and academics – our goal is to complement and enrich the classes that are offered and create spaces for students to explore specific interests that make them tick.
Which EVCC events have been most popular or successful and why?
Keenan: Our flagship event is the Half-Baked Pitch Night. It’s a risk free environment for students to pitch any startup idea they have or have ever had to only a group of students with no recording and no judgment. Some students bring in “half-baked” startup ideas and the crowd serves as a sounding board for what to think about next or how to further the idea/company. Other students bring in out of this world satirical ideas that make for the undeniably funniest presentations you will see during your MBA. The event always fills up and serves as a great way to build camaraderie through the club while providing valuable feedback to the presenters from dozens of MBAs who have experience in every industry and all over the world.
What have you learned about leadership while in this role?
Catherine: The value of serving as a facilitator to external resources. The world of startups and entrepreneurship covers everything. It will never be possible for one leader or even one club to provide valuable direction and insight on say a tech software startup, a fashion retail company, and/or a whiskey start up. Entrepreneurship is so broad, that serving as a facilitator to connect Foster students to the wealth of resources that Seattle and UW have to offer is the best way to provide value.
What were your expectations and intentions as you took on the role? Did your experience line up?
Catherine: Upon starting out in the role, Keenan and I were very intentional about partnering to create structured opportunities for students to engage with entrepreneurship. We wanted to create more events and additional opportunities to hear stories from entrepreneurs – so often people think entrepreneurship is some big daunting task that absolutely requires VC funding. Certainly it’s not easy, but our goal was to inspire students to think more creatively about entrepreneurship, by making starting a new business a tangible reality that may happen now, or may happen ten, twenty years post-graduation. Most importantly, we wanted people to have fun presenting new ideas and meeting fellow entrepreneurially-minded classmates. And yes, it was a highly enjoyable experience. It’s so meaningful to give back to your classmates by facilitating new opportunities and connections. And, as with entrepreneurship, the hardest thing about leadership is just having the audacity to try.
Do you have a favorite memory of your time with EVCC?
Keenan: My favorite memory would have to be the spring quarter Half-Baked Pitch Night. We had two of the funniest pitches I have ever heard: a not so fortunate cookie and a waterless water bottle. The pitches had the whole room belly laughing and was a great way to spend some of the very short time in your MBA with other students.
How have you worked with other MBAA clubs or UW graduate schools to provide networking opportunities?
Catherine: Over the past two years, we’ve partnered with countless clubs. One highlight was partnering with The Finance Society (MBAA club), to host Stockpitch, an annual event that brings in finance professionals from around the PNW region to judge student’s stock picks, and ends the evening with a more entrepreneurially-minded investment networking session! Another fun event was with Women in Business (MBAA club) – we hosted a Storytelling Roundtable, bringing in entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship-focused professors to provide real-time feedback to students on delivering pitches and personal stories. Lastly, we worked with Net Impact to highlight the stories of local, seasoned entrepreneurs and the role that small businesses play in mitigating the worst of climate change.
Which students should join EVCC?
Mahek: If you’re intrigued by the world of startups and venture capital, EVCC will allow you to explore these interests. Perhaps you have a budding passion for entrepreneurship and are keen on understanding how businesses emerge from a simple idea to reality. Or maybe you’re curious about the financial intricacies involved in launching a business, specifically how venture capital operates and how entrepreneurs interact with investors. EVCC offers an invaluable platform for networking. By joining us, you’ll have the chance to connect with seasoned entrepreneurs, investors, and business professionals. Not only that, but you’ll also gain crucial skills necessary in the entrepreneurial world such as leadership, project management, marketing, sales, and financial planning. Most importantly, EVCC provides an environment where you can gain real-world experience. We encourage and guide our members in initiating their own projects or businesses. Through this practical application, you’ll be able to better understand the entrepreneurial journey. So, if you’re eager to delve into the dynamic startup landscape and enrich your entrepreneurial skills, our startup or entrepreneurship club would be an excellent place to start.
Dan: A wide variety of students chose to join EVCC, but what ties them all together is curiosity. Some students want to better understand how startups are financed and what goes into a venture capital firms’ strategy. Others are uniquely interested in the problems that early stage companies in Seattle are trying to solve. EVCC works hard to curate a broad set of perspectives and has brought together everything from entrepreneurs working with Generative AI to early stage companies solving big environmental problems like deforestation.
What tips do you have for incoming MBA students as to why they should join EVCC’s leadership?
Dan: Joining EVCC’s leadership team provides a unique opportunity to network across both the finance and entrepreneurship spaces. Seattle has a vibrant ecosystem of startups, many of which are quickly growing. With the power of your student email and an EVCC leadership position, you’ll be shocked at how many people are willing to connect and share incredible insights with you.
Mahek: As an incoming MBA student, joining the EVCC leadership can provide invaluable experience. You’ll enhance your leadership skills by making key decisions and planning strategic initiatives. You’ll deepen your understanding of entrepreneurship and venture capital through organizing relevant events and sessions. Networking opportunities abound, connecting you with industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists. Lastly, it’s an opportunity to make a tangible impact, shaping the club’s direction to foster a supportive environment for other interested students. This experience will enrich your MBA journey, offering practical leadership experience, industry insights, and robust networking.