Banner showing capstone advisor Scott Grout, framed in a circle, with five of his advisees.

Executive MBA Capstone Advisor Pays It Forward


What’s your next move when you’ve served as CEO for two venture-backed startups and one public company and finally settled in to your second retirement—the one you claim is really going to stick?

If you’re Scott Grout, the answer is simple. You pay it forward by mentoring the next generation of business leaders and rising entrepreneurs, both as an angel investor and through your work as a capstone advisor at the Oregon Executive MBA in Portland.

Each year, Grout spends about nine months mentoring a handful of second-year MBA students. Through weekly one-on-one conversations—typically conducted via Zoom—Grout guides each of his assigned students through the steps of the capstone process, from zeroing in on an initial concept, building financial and marketing plans, and developing a business pitch, to preparing for the spring term’s final presentations. 

“I’m blessed with the students I advise. They have a high level of passion for their ideas and are undauntable in their pursuit of these,” said Grout.

For some of Grout’s advisees, the guidance extends beyond the capstone process. Benefiting from the many years Grout spent in the C-suite and his connections to the world of new venture financing, these students go on to lead companies or build their own startup ventures.

Making a Childhood Dream a Reality 

2022 graduate Erin Corbett came to Grout with the idea of making an unsolicited offer to acquire a privately owned company behind the model horses she’s loved ever since she was a child. 

“I told Erin this was an excellent project and that she’d learn so much. But she had to realize that the odds of it happening in the real world were next to zero,” said Grout. “But Erin went on to prove it could be done and is a poster child for undauntability.”

With Grout’s support, Corbett got started and kept moving the process down the line. Persevering through a highly complex process, Corbett lined up investors and became CEO and president of Stone Horses in January 2023. 

“Scott’s guidance was absolutely critical as I navigated the bumpy road to purchasing my dream business. His specific advice around interacting with the merger and acquisition processes helped me move much more quickly and approach each challenge from a more informed place. Plus, Scott is just fun to talk to!” said Corbett. 

Starting as a CEO

Mackie Swan, another 2022 grad, had just started in her first CEO role—leading women’s sexual health company WOO More Play—when she began working with Grout. The capstone project was the ideal forum for Swan to develop an overall strategy for WOO in real-time. She created an investor pitch and secured venture funding for the company—with expert advice from Grout. In January 2024, WOO kicked off a crowdfunding campaign that has already raised more than half a million dollars for the company.

“I am so proud of what Mackie has accomplished in her first few years as a venture-backed CEO,” said Grout.

Reshaping the Career Search Process

Experienced HR professional Jana Chapman had the idea for a new online space that would help people find meaningful work by identifying their core values, while simultaneously enabling companies to hire high-caliber talent. 

With Grout as her advisor, Chapman chose to focus on developing this idea into an initiative she named Paloma. Chapman’s classmate Alyssa Varela McKee acted as a sounding board throughout the capstone journey—and eagerly became a co-founder when Chapman decided to build Paloma into a real business. In 2023, the pair were selected to present at Portland Incubator Experiment’s highly competitive PIE Demo Day

Bringing Machine Learning to the Vineyard

Ye Feng came to Grout wanting to use his expertise in machine learning to improve the environment by applying artificial intelligence to agriculture. After working through the concept, Feng and Grout landed on the idea of using optical sensing technology to detect smoke taint on grapes in real-time before the winemaker ferments them into wine, a significant improvement in detection. 

While juggling his family responsibilities and an impressive new position at Intel, Feng developed the technology, secured grant funding, and recruited faculty members at an area university. After graduating in 2022, Feng has continued to pursue the project and keeps Grout current with regular conversations.

“Ye is an amazing tech entrepreneur and has demonstrated that the product works,” said Grout. “Now it's time to focus on go-to-market and product line extensions.”

Leading Organizational Change

Brandi Martin, MBA ’23, had started as president and CEO of steel fabrication and installation company InstaFab a few months before beginning her capstone project with Grout as her advisor. 

As Martin worked to bring her own management style to the previously founder-run company, Grout served as a sounding board, offering insights from his multiple experiences as a CEO. 

“Seeing Brandi’s leadership take hold in the company, and then the growth derived from it, has been highly rewarding. Brandi is an amazing leader,” said Grout.

Why Mentoring Matters

For Grout—in his work with founders at the Oregon Venture Fund as well as with Oregon Executive MBA students—it’s all about providing the kind of powerful mentorship that he benefitted from throughout his career. 

“The top advice that I give to all young professionals is to really work on developing a good mentor network,” said Grout.  “Great mentors are invaluable resources as one advances their career.”

—Kit Alderdice, Lundquist College Communications