Our 8th Class had the good fortune of having our University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce and one of the top Venture Capitalist in the U.S. Seattle’s own Matt McIlwain, Managing Director of Madronna Venture Group.

First it isn’t often that any class has the University President and for that honor both the students and the instructors were very appreciative.

Ana Mari talked about leading (managing) a complex organization that is totally unlike any other, as it doesn’t have a Board of Directors, as she doesn’t answer to stockholders or to customers but to the Board of Regents who are appointed by the Governor. Her duties none the less are huge with fiduciary responsibilities, policies and procedures, mission and direction. She is very much the CEO it’s just different Governance structure from a non profit organization.

Her bottom-line In leading complex organizations is it’s all about hiring and managing great people. If you are the smartest person in the room on any specific issue “you haven’t hired the right people.”

Our President was a popular speaker that the students really enjoyed and learned a great deal about how an $8 Billion Non-Profit enterprise with 30,000 employees is really run without a typical Corporate Board.

Matt of course is a accomplished Technology Venture Capitalist but his roll in our class was to talk about the differences in Board Governance between a complex not for profit organization and normal for profit corporations. Matt is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Matt’s engaging teaching style really resonated with the students. He first asked some general Board Leadership and Governance questions used to transition from normal boards to that of non profits. He got many interesting questions and Matt was on top of his game in answering. The complexities of board governance is a huge successful research institution like Fred Hutch are similar yet vastly different from normal corporation’s and were clearly described in great teaching points by Matt. He talked about how professionally the FH board decides on licensing technology. On occasion investors have current or previous involvement with FH and the extreme care given to avoid conflict of interest was fascinating and obviously very important part of the Boards duties. Fascinating.