New Opportunities Fuel Technology Management MBA Student Bree Fraser

Opportunities Fuel Technology Management MBA Student Bree Fraser

Dempsey Startup Competition offers real-world experience for Foster student entrepreneurs

Bree Fraser is embracing the opportunity to get out of her comfort zone and meet challenges head-on as co-chair of the 2024 Dempsey Startup Competition.

“Tackling Dempsey Startup as a co-chair before I’ve even competed in it is nerve-wracking,” said Fraser, a first-year student in the Technology Management MBA program at the University of Washington Foster School of Business. “But if something gets my palms sweaty or makes me nervous, I’m going to lean into that space.”

The Dempsey Startup Competition, organized by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at Foster, provides real-world experience for student entrepreneurs, promoting student ideas and new venture creation to the entrepreneurial community.

2023 Dempsey Startup Competitors
2023 Dempsey Startup Competitors

As co-chair, Fraser took on additional responsibilities during her first quarter in the Technology Management MBA program, helping promote Dempsey Startup to universities and colleges around the Pacific Northwest. She and fellow co-chair Amélie Touroyan, a second-year student in the Foster Full-Time MBA, will also review all applications, and coordinate four competitive elimination rounds that culminate with an Awards Ceremony the co-chairs emcee on May 23, 2024.

“It’s a good balance of presenting as emcee as well as back-end support and program management,” Fraser said. “Since I also want to enter Dempsey Startup next year, this experience gives me the opportunity to be a sponge, learning and absorbing everything.”

What is the Dempsey Startup Competition?

The Dempsey Startup Competition is a platform for student-led ventures. It provides student teams with mentoring from entrepreneurs and investors, the opportunity to tell their stories to the Seattle startup community, and the visibility they need to get going. More than 6,400 students have participated in this annual new venture competition since its inception in 1998, and the Buerk Center has awarded more than 230 teams with over $2.77 million in seed funding. The competition is open to students across Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and Alaska.

“It’s really focused on providing a learning experience for students in addition to cultivating the work experience,” Fraser said. As part of the application, students must submit a five- to seven-page business summary, but they also have access to workshops to help them improve their business plan and practice their pitch, along with other resources throughout the journey.

2023 Dempsey Startup participants

As co-chairs, Fraser and Touroyan are focused on highlighting these workshops and other learning opportunities during their outreach. “I really think of myself as a resource to these schools, clubs and other organizations that we’re reaching out to, as well as to my Technology Management MBA cohort,” Fraser said.

One of the main reasons Fraser decided to pursue the co-chair role was to give back to the community, as well as to help build her network, she said.

“Community is really important to me, and this is such a great way to get involved,” Fraser said. “I’m on the main Seattle campus every week and really feel connected to that campus as well as to our Kirkland campus. I’m building a network within the Technology Management MBA, within the Foster School of Business, and also within the startup community.”

MBA program tackles technology with a diverse cohort

The Technology Management MBA is one of the Foster School of Business’s four MBA programs for working professionals. Of the four, the Technology Management MBA is the fastest path to a degree with an accelerated 18-month program focused on technology management.

“The Technology Management MBA is a magnet program for engineers and tech-focused professionals from Seattle’s largest employers,” said Technology Management MBA Director Erin Duran. “But we have students from diverse industries to help build cohorts that can learn from each other and share knowledge. They come in with a genuine curiosity and leave with a multi-layered understanding of how to lead companies through the next innovation.”

With a Bachelor of Kinesiology from the University of British Columbia, Fraser is eager to learn from other students while also offering them a unique perspective based on her own experiences. After she began working as a kinesiologist, her career quickly morphed into program and project management at the university’s Centre for Student Development and Leadership, eventually leading her to take on its Associate Director role.

“I’m not here to just do an MBA. I’m here to do a career pivot and explore how my experience in project and program management can translate into technology.”

Bree Fraser

She’s already taking advantage of the Technology Management MBA’s valuable career management resources, and has started working for startup OneCourt, which placed third in the Dempsey Startup in 2022.

Bree Fraser
What advice does Fraser offer incoming UW Foster students? Say yes to new opportunities and seek out ways to get involved early on.

“The support from the career team has been huge,” Fraser said. “I meet with my career coach every two weeks. We’ve gone from me not knowing what I want to do to taking on a role that I’m super passionate about.”

She’s also thankful to her cohort for helping her learn the tech lingo and getting up to speed on the tech industry in general. “Having teammates that are willing to translate this for me has been integral to my development so far,” Fraser said.

Saying “yes” to new opportunities at UW Foster

Even though she just wrapped up her first quarter with the Technology Management MBA program, Fraser already has advice to share with incoming students and others exploring MBA opportunities.

“Say yes to new opportunities and seek out ways to get involved early on,” said Fraser, who actually credits that advice to fellow Technology Management MBA student Sheena Chen. At the orientation dinner before classes even started for Fraser’s cohort, Chen spoke about her first year in the program, including her experience participating in the Dempsey Startup with a team of upper-level students.

Weeks later, when Fraser read in an entrepreneurship newsletter that the competition was looking for co-chairs, she didn’t hesitate to throw her hat in the ring. “Sheena said the biggest thing she got out of the program was saying yes to new programs and opportunities,” Fraser said.

“I don’t know much about entrepreneurship, so I’m really leaning into this opportunity to learn about the type of roles that are going to fill my skillset.”

Visit the Foster School of Business Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship’s website to learn more about The Dempsey Startup Competition