Thursday, May 30, 2013
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
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
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
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!
Thursday, May 23, 2013
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!
Friday, May 17, 2013
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!
Sunday, May 12, 2013
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
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
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!!
Friday, May 10, 2013
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: http://www.seattleu.edu/albers/inner.aspx?id=90709.
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: http://www.seattleu.edu/albers/inner.aspx?id=111890.
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!
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
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
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
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
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!