Oren Etzioni on Entrepreneurship at UW

2 minute read

Notes from his lecture today. Check out the entire lecture series.

Oren Etzioni

WRF Entrepreneurship Professor

The UW Presidential Entrepreneurial Faculty Fellows lecture series is designed to inspire UW researchers to pursue commercialization of their innovations by showcasing UW Faculty who have succeeded in translating their research into products and therapies, initiated groundbreaking programs for translation, or established model collaborations with industry. Read more

“A variety of personality types can lead to success…You don’t have to study CS at Harvard”

“They were passionately devoted to their day jobs - at the University.” There had to be some way to start a company that didn’t compromise that.

Been kicked out of various business clubs in Seattle for not wearing the proper attire.

Genius Drive Charisma are important, but so are being nosy, and not taking no for an answer. Having the energy and enthusiasm for constantly opening the question.

Inventor of FareCast.

“Does entrepreneurship have any place in the University?” “A bunch of small entrepreneurs joined together by a grievance about parking”

Personal goal: impact

At burning man, wearing a miniskirt, ran into a couple of students who loved his class. Loves teaching does not usually wear mini-skirts.

There are a lot of ways to have an impact beyond writing a research paper or book.

Best answer for VCs: Why are you starting this company? Because I want to make a lot of money.

Researchers are Entrepreneurs:

  1. Start from scratch
  2. Limited resources, but ample vision!
  3. Small teams of talented students
  4. Tremendous uncertainty
  5. Optimisim to defy naysayers

“I eat what I kill” I don’t bring in money, I don’t eat.

Universities breed founders. Google Facebook and Yahoo came out of universities. You don’t have to go to Stanford to start a great company. Many come from UW. UW companies: Visio, Farecast, Webcrawler, Asta networks, illumita, metacrawler, Etch

Why doesn’t everyone do it?

  • many startups fail
  • it’s an emotional rollercoaster
  • you get told “no” a lot
  • the hours? not everyone likes to work hard. Not all the time, but yes, when you have an entrepreneurship

When you have freedom, why not give it a shot?

“What are the pieces of the puzzle? There are fewer pieces than you might think?”

  1. Passion, determination
  2. Value Proposition - real pain point - people have a problem
  3. Secret weapon - people, research
  4. Ecosystem - C4C, WRF, Madrona Ventures
  5. Team
  6. Funding
  7. Validation - response to press release or other prototype

Value proposition - there is a difference between nice to have and must have.

Decide.com - no regrets on technology purchases


  1. What risk? For software people, a startup is not a risk. Not living life to its fullest is the real risk!
  2. Why not keep money “under a mattress”? It’s guaranteed that inflation will slowly eat at it until it’s worth half of what it is.