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Student-led company Bottomline earns third-place finish in UW Buerk Center’s Dempsey Startup Competition

Five smiling students posed in front of Paccar Hall
The Bottomline team, left to right: Lukas Joswiak, Elton Carr, Mitali Palekar, Adam Towers, and Mayank Maheshwari (Not pictured: Jeremy Peronto).

Bottomline, a startup co-founded by students in the Allen School and Foster School of Business at the University of Washington, earned third place at the recent Dempsey Startup Competition hosted by the UW Foster School’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship. The company provides data analytics that empowers job candidates and employers in the technology sector to evaluate the value and competitiveness of multiple job offers. Bottomline was co-founded by Allen School seniors Lukas Joswiak and Mitali Palekar, sophomore Adam Towers, professional master’s student Elton Carr, and Mayank Maheshwari and Jeremy Peronto of the Foster School’s evening MBA program.

Working under the motto “no two offers are created equally,” the team behind Bottomline focused on bringing more transparency and equity to technology recruitment and compensation practices. To that end, they developed a service that breaks down the various components of complex job offers to enable candidates to compare their relative value. The resulting “bottom line” for each offer accounts for variables that contribute to a candidate’s overall compensation, including base salary, stock options, bonuses, benefits, and more. Candidates can adjust the comparison to account for external factors, such as regional cost of living and local taxes, to understand how these will affect their take-home pay.

The same data that helps individual candidates to assess the value of each offer received can also be used by recruiters, hiring managers, and businesses interested in analyzing how their company’s compensation packages measure up to those of their peers. With the help of Bottomline, employers are able to gauge how their offers compare to the rest of the industry and stay abreast of compensation trends to ensure they remain competitive in the quest for talent. The service is also useful for ensuring that companies are offering fair and equitable compensation across their workforce.

“Given the increasing focus on hiring, promotion and compensation practices across the tech industry, the concept behind Bottomline couldn’t be more timely,” noted Allen School professor Ed Lazowska. “Not only that, but the team executed on that idea in a way that benefits those on both sides of the interview table, bringing more clarity and transparency to what can be a fraught — not to mention opaque — process. It is great to see our students take on this challenge and come up with a service that will not only empower job seekers and inform recruiters, but also encourage equitable practices across the industry as a whole.”

Bottomline grew out of a class project for the Allen School’s entrepreneurship course, CSE 599, taught by Lazowska and Greg Gottesman, Managing Director of Pioneer Square Labs. The course, which is open to students in the Allen School, Foster School MBA program, Human-Centered Design & Engineering master’s program, and Interaction Design program, provides a hands-on, team-based experience in what it takes to build a company, from startup to exit. Along the way, students learn how to validate an idea with potential customers, assess potential financing strategies, hone their investor pitch, develop a product as well as a go-to-market and operating plan, and deal with legal issues associated with launching a new business. Those lessons would prove invaluable to the Bottomline founders as they progressed through the competition.

“We would not have been anywhere without this class,” said Palekar, one of Bottomline’s student co-founders who will graduate from the Allen School this month. “Throughout the quarter, we iterated week after week on our idea based on feedback from experienced entrepreneurs, whose insights helped us understand what would and wouldn’t work. Moreover, we received an immense amount of constructive criticism and guidance in terms of our pitch as well as our business models — things that had previously not been our strong suit. We are immensely grateful for this class for giving us the platform to come up with an idea, refine our product, and create a sustainable business over the long term.”

The class instructors were just as impressed with the team’s work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit. “I love this team, it’s just a perfect mix of computer science students and MBAs,” said Gottesman. “The interesting part of the Bottomline story is how entrepreneurial they were as a team. The compensation and offer-analytics idea was not even the first one they worked on in the class — they killed an earlier project based on customer feedback and pivoted to this new space, because several of the team members had direct experience comparing multiple offers. They then executed on the product like rabid dogs.”

The Dempsey Startup Competition, formerly known as the Business Plan Competition, attracted a total of 113 submissions from teams at 16 schools across the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. Bottomline advanced through the first stage of competition in April, when it was among 36 teams chosen to compete for a “sweet 16” spot and earn a shot at being among the finalists last month. The students’ third-place finish was the highest of any UW competitor, earning them the “Friends of the Dempsey Startup” Prize and a check for $7,500. Brennan Colberg, a sophomore in the Allen School, contributed to the team in the early stages of the competition.

Read the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship’s announcement here, and a related GeekWire article here. Learn more about the Dempsey Startup Competition here.

Congratulations to the whole team!