Twenty-seven state representatives toured the University of Washington’s innovation centers on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015 for UW Innovation Day. The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship’s director, Connie Bourassa-Shaw, spoke to the representatives about the Buerk Center’s programs and successes.
Several graduates of the Buerk Center’s programs and competitions were also able to speak to the representatives about their entrepreneurial experiences, including Suzanne Scharlock, a recent Foster School and Lavin Entrepreneurship Program graduate. Below is a transcript of her talk.
“I was a Lavin student, which [is a program that] gives out scholarships for entrepreneurial-minded students. It basically has a scholarship program which gives out scholarships for getting a job at a startup, not toward your tuition. So I took advantage of my Lavin scholarship while I was a freshman and I was connected with a startup in South Lake Union. It actually came out of the Techstars program when the startup office was located in South Lake Union, not in its current office today.
That was absolutely the best experience I could have ever had. I was connected with a wide community of Seattle entrepreneurs. I was the first employee after the CTO and the CEO, so I really had the experience of being on the founding team. I signed stock options when I was 19 years old [and] I got to go to South by Southwest, the major tech competition in Texas, and assist with the pitch.
Our company actually ended up pivoting, and I became the head of product marketing and helped launch the new app in the app store. I managed that whole product launch. This past April, we were acquired by Rhapsody International. We were actually on-boarded onto that team, so I was employed after graduation!
So it was really exciting because while we were going through the acquisition, I was taking the entrepreneurial finance class in the entrepreneurship school, so I was learning about the entrepreneurship acquisition process in class and actually experiencing it in real life at the company that I was working for.
I absolutely, 100 percent accredit my ability to work in startups to the Lavin program. I would not have been connected to that company if it hadn’t been for Lavin and to have really built my network. As Connie [Bourassa-Shaw, the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship’s director] had said before, your network is your net worth. I really feel well-equipped to start my own company in the future because of the network I was able to build through the Lavin program.”