Albers School of Business and Economics
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  • Leo Hindery

    Posted by Bill Thompson on 5/30/2013 07:49:43 AM

    Leo Hindery, Managing Partner of InterMedia Partners and former CEO of AT&T Broadband and The YES Network, visited campus on May 28th. Leo graduated from the Albers School as an economics major in 1969, so it was great to welcome him back to campus. He spent the day speaking to classes and finished off as the final speaker in the 2012-13 Albers Executive Speaker Series.

    Throughout the day, Leo emphasized several themes that are import to him. First, he is concerned about the decline of manufacturing employment in the. US. He feels it is essential in order to supply decent jobs and income to a significant share of the population. He laments that the US does not have a manufacturing policy and tolerates what he sees as unfair competition from China. He notes that our manufacturing trade deficit largely stems from China, yet we let China manipulate its currency and heavily subsidize its industrial sector.

    A second concern is the large federal deficit, which he ties to excesses in defense spending, social security, and Medicare. He noted how the deficits force us to borrow overseas from nations such as China, but was unsure of whether that gave China leverage on the US or the US on China. Either way, it is the case that if a nation is borrowing from abroad a nation must run a trade deficit -- the two go hand in hand, which is not a well understood phenomenon.

    A third concern is the growing inequality in income and wealth in the US. He focused on the outsized compensation of CEOs, who on average earn more than 350 times what the average employee in the firm makes. It was not so long ago when that was 75 to 1. He traced this to the rise of the belief that maximizing shareholder value is the one and only duty of a firm, as well as the rise of "trickle down" economics.

    This has all been solidified with corporate campaign contributions that distort the electoral process and are changing the effectiveness of government. He estimates that in the 2012 campaign cycle $8.5 billion was spent by industry to influence the election.

    He believes that growing inequality and loss of voice in public policy are a civil rights issue. He feels that the SEC, FCC, public pension plans, and civil rights groups all have it within their power to challenge these trends and push back the rising tide of inequality.

    Later in his career, Leo has become identified with the Democratic Party and like minded causes, so it was not a surprise that this CEO did not sound like the typical CEO. Earlier in the day, in answer to a question, he offered that one of his regrets is that he did not take up these issues earlier in his career -- that he was too focused on his business career. That may be, but if he had not been working so hard and established the track record of success he has, he would not have the same credibility and moral authority he has today to speak to these important issues.

    It was great to have Leo Hindery on campus and a great opportunity for our students to hear from arguably one of Seattle University's most influential alums. Leo recently had back surgery and we may have asked him to do too much in one day, but he was a real trooper and rose to the occasion. That shows his commitment to SU is strong!

    41st Annual Accounting Awards Banquet

    Posted by Kevin Leahy on 5/23/2013 11:54:19 AM

    The 41st  Annual Accounting Awards Banquet was held on May 22nd.  It is one of the longest standing traditions at SU and a strong testimony to the vitality of our accounting program.  At the banquet, 22 students received scholarships, three received academic awards, and four received awards for their work in Beta Alpha Psi, the accounting academic honorary.


    Those attending the banquet included over 100 accounting students, faculty, staff, advisory board members, and representatives from the professional community.  The event is impressive in demonstrating the strength of our accounting students and the support our program receives from the professional community.  The advisory board in particular has been extremely helpful in recent initiatives such as the valuation program and the move to establish an internal audit program.


    Each year the Chair's Award goes to a student, staff member, faculty member, or professional who has provided exceptional service to the accounting program.  This year's recipient was Catherine Banks, who represents Ernst and Young on the department advisory board and has chaired the board for a number of years.  This award is very well deserved as Catherine has provided exceptional support to our program.  Congratulations and thank you to Catherine!


    Jani Medeiros, Administrative Assistant for the department, and Bruce Koch, chair of the department, did a great job of organizing and orchestrating the event.   Congratulations to Bruce and Jani and to the department for maintaining this SU tradition for so many years!



    2013 Business Plan Competition

    Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on 5/17/2013 09:46:57 AM

    The 15th Annual Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition took place on May 15th.  The winning team was Recurrence, headed up by Albers alum Brayden Olson (BSBA, 2008) and MSF student Juan Arango.  Recurrence is a game simulation designed to improve leadership skills.  Interestingly enough, its initial target market is higher education - business schools!  Recurrence has teamed up with professors from UW to design its first game and is looking for other schools to partner with.  Maybe it will be the Albers School someday!


    First runner up was Nutraberry, a supplier of raspberry seed powder and oil to be used as an anti-oxidant food supplement.  The company has been developed by Albers alums David Wishnick (MBA, 2011) and Elana Lausberg (MBA, 2008), and is already shipping product to manufacturers.


    The second runner-ups were Octave and Universal Charge.  Octave is an app that teaches you how to sing.  Universal Charge will provide a payment system to electric vehicle owners for use at charging stations.  Octave was founded by five undergraduate students, headed up by senior Alex Tsway and including Brett Kennedy, Chenyu Wang, Michael Fogarty, and Thanh Huynh.  Universal Charge was developed by Brett Phillips, a current MBA student.  Octave took the Community Choice award at the finals, I am guessing largely on the strength of the interesting concept and Adam's authentic and congenial presentation style.


    The business plan competition is a great learning experience for our students and involves many volunteers as judges and mentors.  The deeper the students get into the competition, (which includes a trade show and elevator pitch competition) the more mentoring and coaching they receive, and the more powerful the experience.  The many volunteer judges and mentors are an important part of that and it could not happen without them!


    And let's not forget that sometimes these businesses become a reality - the students go out and start them!  In the process, they will almost always get assistance from members of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center Advisory Board and other friends of Albers.  For example, we estimate that students have raised over $4.5 million in start-up funding through the competition as investors are exposed to the concepts and want to back them.


    The business plan competition was a big success in its 15th year.  IEC director, Sue Oliver, and program administrative assistant, Nettasha Reese, did an excellent job of organizing the process.  Congratulations to them!


    2013 Albers Award Ceremony

    Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on 5/12/2013 08:32:37 PM

    The 2013 Albers Award Ceremony was held on May 10th.  Some 23 students received awards for academic excellence, service, and leadership.


    Some of the top academic awards included the Paul A. Volpe Award for the graduating senior with the highest academic performance, awarded to Kalison Shilvock.  Ha Nguyen received the Academic Achievement Award for the Outstanding Transfer Student. Receiving the Jerry A. Viscione Award for the highest academic performance among our graduate students was Professional MBA student, Thomas Smith.


    The top leadership award went to Christopher Clem, who received the Spirit of Albers Award, which is presented to the student who best embodies leadership, enthusiasm, dedication, commitment to service, and compassion towards others.  Christopher, an economics major, was recognized for his work for social justice both on campus and overseas.  This includes working with micro-lending organizations both in Argentina and Seattle.


    Receiving the top service awards were Jonas Harris, who received the undergraduate award, and Daniel Klein, who received the graduate student award.  Jonas received his award for his work with ENACTUS and Redeeming Soles.  Daniel received his award for his work to organize professional and social events for our graduate students.


    The awards ceremony was followed by the Beta Gamma Sigma (BGS) induction ceremony.  BGS is the academic honorary for business students at AACSB accredited business schools.  Some 25undergraduate and 42 graduate students were inducted.  Dr. Fred Dekay does a great job of organizing the BGS students and getting them to accept the invitation to join BGS.  Year after year our chapter is designated a Premier Chapter by BGS because so many of our students accept the invitation.  Only our top performing students receive an invitation to join BGS.


    Dr. Peter Brous, Professor of Finance, received this year's BGS Teacher of the Year Award.  We also had four faculty members inducted into BGS - Dr. Bonnie Buchanan, Dr. Holly Ferraro, Dr. Jessica Ludescher, and Dr. Rubina Mahsud.


    We are very proud of the academic achievements of our students!  Congratulations to all our awardees!!

    Red Winged Leadership Award 2013

    Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on 5/10/2013 09:40:42 AM

    The fourth annual Red Winged Leadership Award ceremony took place on May 9th.  The award recognizes individuals who have applied exceptional leadership skills and business acumen towards socially responsible goals in our community.  The event is organized by students in the Graduate Leadership Formation Specialization (GLFS).  For more on that program, you can go to:


    This year's finalists were Lynette Johnson (Soulumination), Paul Shoemaker (Social Venture Partners), and Molly Stearns (Overlake Hospital Medical Center Foundation). Molly Stearns received the Red Winged Leadership Award for 2013.  The award recognizes the great work she has done at the Seattle Foundation and Overlake Medical Center Foundation.  Although Molly received the award, all the finalists are winners!  For more information on the finalists and the great work they do, go to:


    The Red Winged Leadership Award is becoming a singular event for Seattle University.  Inspired by Seattle University's experience as a host school for the Opus Award, it is taking on a life of its own because our students are doing such a great job with organizing the process.  Its alignment with the mission of Seattle University and the Albers School also make it very compelling.


    This year's GLFS students did a phenomenal job of managing the award process and staging the event.  Each year, the students put their special stamp on the program.  This year, the students introduced a scholarship named for the winner that will be awarded to a Seattle University student.  That is a great idea!


    Albers is very proud of the work our GLFS students do with Red Winged Leadership Award, under the guidance of Professor Jennifer Marrone.  Hats off to all the students and Professor Marrone for a job well done!


    Spencer Rascoff

    Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on 5/7/2013 09:31:40 PM

    On April 30th, Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow, joined us as part of the Albers Executive Speaker Series.  Zillow is a web-based provider of information about the residential real estate market.  Anyone buying, renting, selling, and borrowing in this market probably knows about Zillow.


    Rascoff helped found Zillow in 2005 and became CEO in 2010.  Zillow is expanding rapidly at the moment, hiring new employees not just in Seattle, but in California, as well.  Spencer noted several times that Zillow sees its role as empowering the consumer by unlocking information.  Zillow does not see itself as making the real estate broker obsolete, as there will always be a need for assistance with a complex and critical transaction such as buying or selling a house.  Zillow sees the role of the agent as having changed from "information gate keeper" to " transaction consultant."


    Rascoff opened by discussing his early career in investment banking and private equity, which proved to be valuable training for his later exploits, but also was too transactional and not satisfying for him in the long run.  Ultimately, though, that experience set the stage for co-founding Hotwire and then Zillow.


    In moving from Hotwire to Zillow, Rascoff said he grew weary of the travel industry and looked for another sector that could be impacted by the Internet.  Real estate seemed like another market where industry databases were locked away from the consumer.  Zillow set out to unlock that information and succeeded.


    While starting out in the home sale vertical, Zillow has now moved to home lending, rentals, and, most recently, home improvements.  Rascoff said this was enough to keep them fully occupied at the moment, and they planned to focus on the domestic market.  In entering the global market they would start from scratch and bring little to the table.  In the mean time, strong competitors have already adopted the Zillow model and have a head start.  A rapidly growing segment of their business is on mobile phones, and they have found it easier to monetize mobile than the web.


    In case you have not noticed, Zillow has done six acquisitions of late.  Rascoff said they have all been in "adjacent spaces" and they have worked hard to keep the existing management teams in place.  They have sold the acquisition by telling the target firm it can do what it does better with Zillow, where it will have access to more resources.  They have also used stock options to align the interests of management teams with shareholders.


    When asked about his leadership style, Rascoff said he was there to serve his direct reports and help them be successful.  He sees himself as a "player coach," and noted the higher up in the organization you are, the less you are responsible for actually doing things!


    When asked what advice he would give recent college graduates, he suggested students look at people who are 10 to 15 years into their career and ask if you want to live like they do!  Also, keep in mind that in a high growth company you are likely to have more opportunities for career development.  If a company is not growing, there are fewer opportunities and you tend to get pigeon-holed in a particular role.


    If he had to do it over again, what is one thing he would have done differently at Zillow?  Communicate more with brokers.  Zillow was an outsider and the industry was suspicious of the company, giving the most negative interpretation of the moves it saw Zillow making.  Only later did Zillow figure out how its actions were being interpreted by agents.  Today, the lines of communication are much better and brokers are forthcoming with suggestions for improvements.


    Spencer Rascoff gave a fascinating presentation on Zillow and his career leading up to its founding.  He also provided excellent career advice to the many students in the audience.  The final speaker for this year in the Albers Executive Speaker Series is SU alum Leo Hindery, Managing Partner of Intermedia Partners.  Hindery has a long career in the cable TV industry and is visiting from New York City on May 28th.  See you there!