2015 MBA To Watch: Chris Metcalfe

Chris Metcalfe

Christian “Chris” Metcalfe

University of Washington, Michael G. Foster School of Business

Chris Metcalfe didn’t have it easy at Foster when he entered the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington. As a 39-year-old, he fought to be a good husband and father while being a fully engaged, full-time MBA student. At the same time, he wrestled with ADD while juggling his academic responsibilities and startup launch. “I had a lot of competing interests and obligations to manage,” he says. In the end, he became one of Foster’s most accomplished graduates in 2015. His food startup, Korvata, won several awards in competitions. His secret: “Be present” wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

Age: 40

Hometown: Weston, Massachusetts

Undergraduate School: University of Pennsylvania

Undergraduate Degree: B.A. Economics, B.A.S. Computer Science

Graduate School: Massachusetts Institute of Technology—Media Lab

Graduate Degree: M.S. Media Technology

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Co-Founder and VP of Products, Context Relevant

Where did you intern during the summer of 2014? Co-Founder and President, Korvata Inc.

Where will you be working after graduation? Co-Founder and President of (revenue generating) Korvata Inc.

Favorite Courses: Entrepreneurial Strategy, Macro Economics / Strategy, Neuroventures, Competing in the Global Economy, Entrepreneurial Environmental Practicum (The course where the idea for Korvata came from!).

Which academic or professional achievements are you most proud of? I’m most proud of having the support from family to attend school later in life than most choose to / or are able. It is an honor to be a student and very humbling to remember how much we all have to learn (if we are open to it).

Who would you most want to thank for your success (and why)? I showed up to business school as a 38 year-old with some advanced skills from my working years, but with what I like to describe as some significant barnacles that had been holding me back. The teachers and staff are amazing at Foster and offered me a level of support both as a student and a student entrepreneur that far exceeded my expectations.

My colleagues (both in my class, above and below) truly helped me to chip off some of my barnacles—at times as a result of hard lessons and/or coping with mistakes that I made. I am eternally grateful to them and believe I leave Foster still with a thirst (and need) to keep learning, but so much stronger than when I first walked through the doors of Paccar Hall on the 1st day of my first quarter.

Why did you choose this business school? I’d been curious about business school for a long time, and ironically when I had worked as a Sr. Analyst for Atlas Venture 2001 – 2003 and I nearly wasn’t selected because I didn’t have an MBA.

After deciding to leave Context Relevant, a good friend (and at the time 2nd year Foster MBA Student) suggested I apply. Foster was my first and only choice for business school. As a father of two young boys, I knew I wanted to remain in the area and believed (and still believe) Foster to be the best choice and fit for me. I also honed in on a full-time program (as opposed to nights or EMBA) because I do a lot better in immersive experiences.

What did you enjoy most about business school? Really, and I mean this, the whole thing. Between my family and startup, I was limited in my ability to participate in most of the extra curricular / social activities, but believe I still managed to “suck the marrow” out of my time at Foster. I most enjoyed learning from my colleagues, having the opportunity to work through some difficult situations (and still maintain relationships) and to have the privilege to get to know many of my professors both inside and outside of the classroom.

What is your most memorable moment from business school? I probably shouldn’t have been looking at my cell phone during an exam, but back in March 2014, I’ll never forget receiving the email that Korvata’s first (and my first) provisional patent had been filed and accepted by the U.S. Patent and Trade Office. I shot my hands up in the air and shouted “YES!!!!”

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…while having coffee with Sloan DuRoss (‘13) at Uptown Espresso in South Lake Union in February 2013 when he told me there was still time to apply.”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…moving through the water more slowly. Foster helped me chip, sand and scrape off some pretty big barnacles.”

What are your long-term professional goals? At my core, I’m an entrepreneur who is passionate about solving problems that others overlook. My primary focus is to work doggedly to bring Korvata’s products to market and to help our customers innovate. As I wrote in my Foster MBA application, I believe I’ll start more companies in the future, it’s just hard to say when. (And I never thought it’d be WHILE I was in the full-time MBA program!).

Fun fact about yourself: I honed my simulation game skills by playing an endless number of games (SimCity, SimLife, Railroad Tycoon, etc.) during my six years at boarding school. As such I LOVED PharmaSim and the Blue Sky simulation we completed as a part of our MBA. (I may be one of the few MBA students on the planet that loved PharmaSim).

Favorite book: The Old Man and the Sea

Favorite movie: Glory

Favorite musical performer: U2

Favorite television show: The Sopranos or Nurse Jackie (it’s a tossup)

Favorite vacation spot: Akumal, Mexico

What are your hobbies? SCUBA Instructor, Private Helicopter Pilot, Networking (both people and computer based)

Twitter Handle: @capsmet

What made Chris such an invaluable addition to the class of 2015?

“In one of Chris Metcalfe’s application essays he wrote that he wanted to leverage his business and academic networks “to make introductions, help set up events, and assist the efforts of the career development office.” That might be a big endeavor for someone in their 20’s, but Chris’ life experience allowed him to bring his desires to fruition and is one example of the value he brought to the Foster School of Business class of 2015. For example, Chris used his connections in the Bay Area to open doors for his classmates and our MBA Career Center. He also enlisted connections to orchestrate multiple events, including some exclusive evenings at the Seattle Repertory Theater which drew fellow students, along with alumni, faculty and staff.

Another facet of Chris’ value within the class of 2015 was his entrepreneurial nature and his appreciation for teamwork. While attending one of his first-year courses, Chris found inspiration for a business he launched later that year—Korvata, where he and his team invented a patent-pending food-grade alternative to the nitrous oxide cartridges commonly used by food and beverage retailers to make whipped cream. Why bother? Nitrous oxide (N2O) is the fourth most common greenhouse gas, and has 300 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Korvata’s solution emits 50% less greenhouse gas without altering the end product. And the value to the program? Chris’s venture is a great example of Foster MBA’s. First, it recognizes a double bottom line. More so, Chris involved a handful of his MBA colleagues in the process of launching the company.” – Andrew Krueger, Director of Alumni Engagement