Fundamentals for Startups

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Fundamentals for Startups is our popular lecture series open to anyone interested in learning about entrepreneurship and building a startup. From raising capital to scaling to exit strategies, these presentations feature experienced entrepreneurs, investors, and industry experts who share startup-related information, experience, and insights. The sessions take place weekly during the academic year over the lunch hour and are open to the general public as well as the UW community. All sessions are recorded, archived, and searchable on CoMotion’s website.

The spring series is presented both in-person and streaming via YouTube. RSVP using the links below.

Spring lineup

  • 3/31 | Grant Canary, founder and CEO, Mast Reforestation
  • 4/07 | Katherine Sizov, co-founder and CEO, Strella
  • 4/14 | Kenny Lee, co-founder and CEO, Aigen
  • 4/21 | Mark Sincell, career and transition coach, volunteer for Climate Coaching Alliance
  • 4/28 | Scott Tupper, founder and CEO, Onda Origins Coffee Roasting and Sourcing
  • 5/05 | Marius Ciocirlan, managing director, Techstars Seattle
3/31 | 12-1 p.m.

Grant Canary, founder and CEO, Mast Reforestation


Grant is founder and chief executive officer of Mast Reforestation, the largest vertically integrated reforestation company in the U.S. Grant has focused his entire career on sustainability—working at Vestas wind energy in China, the U.S. and Denmark, and for the U.S. Green Building Council in its infancy. He spent close to a decade founding and building a prior company in Bogotá, Colombia that utilized food waste to feed insect larvae for use as industrial fish feed— alleviating pressure on overfishing of small fish, utilizing food waste, and providing a protein source for farming fish to increase world food supplies most efficiently.

Grant is a Pacific Northwest native growing up in Oregon, who then attended Occidental College in Los Angeles, and followed with a masters degree at Politecnico di Torino Italy, and then Universidad de la Sabana in Bogotá. Grant is a Mulago Foundation Fellow and a climate tech investor, and Mast is a Techstars and Elemental Excelerator cohort company.


Aligning economic and ecological benefits in reforestation

Techstars helped realize the value of Mast Reforestation’s unique financial model for funding and executing reforestation projects. This discussion will showcase how Mast’s mission to scale reforestation comes to life through our vertically integrated reforestation model. From seed to seedling to reforestation services and carbon-removal-based financing, Mast is helping landowners affected by wildfires maximize the value of their land through ecological restoration and securing financial rewards for responsible forest stewardship. Hear Mast CEO Grant Canary explain how this unique model for reforestation will continue to evolve as it helps regenerate climate-resilient, CO2-removing forests.

4/07 | 12-1 p.m.

Katherine Sizov, co-founder and CEO, Strella


Katherine studied molecular biology at the University of Pennsylvania, where she picked up the stat that 40% of food is wasted before it’s consumed. She used her love of bio and application-based science to start her company, Strella, founded in 2019.


Catching the low-hanging fruit: My candid journey starting a company from idea to Series A

In the session, Katherine will discuss how she went from having an idea and zero dollars as a college student to having two revenue-generating product lines and raising $11.5M in funding. She’ll walk through the steps to getting to MVP, raising capital and navigating Silicon Valley venture capital, finding like-minded and talented folks for your team, and a few non-absolutes she’s picked up to make the climb a little easier. 

4/14 | 12-1 p.m.

Kenny Lee, co-founder and CEO, Aigen


Kenny is a co-founder and CEO at Aigen with the mission to accelerate the world’s transition to a healthy food ecosystem with robotics and AI.

Kenny spent his career in the tech industry, and before Aigen, he was a co-founder of a cybersecurity startup with a successful exit. Most recently, his focus has been learning and investing in environmental, social, and governance (ESG), climate change, and technologies that can transform people’s lives for the better. He is also a mentor, advisor, and board member of early-stage startups.

Kenny received a Bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management.


The power of purpose-driven startups: How sustainability drives innovation

This talk will explore the important role that startups with a clear sense of purpose play in driving innovation and sustainability. Companies with a clear purpose beyond just making money are better positioned to create positive change in the world.

Entrepreneurship has the power to drive change and promote sustainability, which are catalysts for attracting and retaining talented employees. Kenny will aim to explore what inspires individuals and organizations to embrace sustainability as a driver for innovation, and to see the potential of purpose-driven startups to create positive change in the world.

4/21 | 12-1 p.m.

Mark Sincell, career and transition coach, volunteer with Climate Coaching Alliance


Mark is a career and transition coach who typically works with seasoned technology professionals. Mark provides a supportive, trustworthy, and independent sounding board to accomplished individuals who have reached a fork in their professional path and need to do some out-of-the-box thinking to help them make progress towards a new set of goals.  He is also creating a climate change coaching practice to help individuals and organizations develop sustainable and regenerative practices.

Prior to coaching, Mark earned his PhD in astrophysics and did original research on pulsars, active galaxies, and quasars. He transitioned from doing scientific research to reporting on science research as a freelance science writer. Following this, he spent several years working as a patent agent helping inventors protect innovations in processor design and fabrication, wireless communication, artificial intelligence/machine learning, virtual/augmented/mixed reality, and energy.


Start round to end round: Why every startup must include sustainability in their business plan

Startup founders always have more things to do than time to do them. Is it worth spending your precious time developing a plan for environmental sustainability?  Can’t that wait until your company is established, growing, and (hopefully) profitable? The short answer is no. This talk will explore what it means to be a sustainable (or better yet, regenerative) business, what competitive advantages your business gains by being sustainable, and why startups can’t afford to wait until later to start thinking about sustainability. Hint: investors prefer sustainable companies.

4/28 | 12-1 p.m.

Scott Tupper, founder and CEO, Onda Origins Coffee Roasting and Sourcing


Scott is the founder and CEO of Onda Origins, a local coffee business (incubated at Startup Hall) which is inverting the coffee value chain by including farmers in the end sale of their product. He and his brother, Paul, started Onda Origins in 2016, and it thrives to this day, now possessing five retail locations and a growing e-commerce presence. In the midst of launching the company, the brothers also launched a tech startup called Yave, which used blockchain technology to trace cacao and coffee from origins around the world. Yave got into Techstars, but could not weather the storm of COVID-19 due to myriad reasons. Scott is excited to share his perspective through the ups, downs, successes, and failures that he has lived firsthand. 


A hill of beans: Promises and pitfalls of “impact startup” dogma

Scott launched one successful company, and failed with his second. In both instances, he dove headlong into impact startup culture: pitch competitions, co-working spaces, more advisors than he can remember, grant writing, raising venture capital, you name it. Seven years into being an entrepreneur, he wants to share some of the lessons he’s learned. 

5/5 | 12-1 p.m.

Marius Ciocirlan, managing director, Techstars Seattle


Bio to come


Topic to come


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Anyone interested in startup creation is encouraged to attend our Fundamentals for Startups lecture series. It occurs on Fridays over lunch during the school year and features experienced entrepreneurs, investors, and industry experts who help close the gap in startup knowledge. It is open to the general public so go ahead and sign up below to get notified about the next series.