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Students Mingle with Chicago Entrepreneurs

July 24, 2013

Ira Chadha, ’14, isn’t a golfer, but she was curious to learn more about a start-up that helps golfers improve their swings through sensor technology.

So she stopped by to talk with one of the founders of Chicago-based Swingbyte, one of 60 companies that were represented at the second annual Start-up Networking Night on May 14 at Gleacher Center.

“Swingbyte has really cool technology,” Chadha said. “I’m interested in the kinds of companies that offer direct personal services.”

Swingbyte was founded in 2011 by three Booth students—their start-up tied for third place in the 2011 Edward L. Kaplan ’71, New Venture Challenge. Using information from sensors attached to golf clubs, the company offers motion analysis that can be accessed through apps on smart phones, tablets, or computers.

“Because all three of us are Booth people, we wanted to participate in this event,” said Nathan Wojtkiewicz, ’13, who founded Swingbyte with Alex Pedenko, ’13, and Brian Payne, ’13. “We’re not looking to hire at the moment, but we hope to meet some people and see if anything clicks for down the road. It’s also a great way to network with other entrepreneurs.”

Entrepreneurship continues to be a growing career interest at Booth, as demonstrated by it being the second largest concentration for students. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the Start-up Networking Night drew about 60 start-ups and more than 200 students from the Full-Time, Evening, and Weekend MBA Programs, more than double last year’s student attendance.

This networking event, sponsored by Career Services and the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, was created to help students expand their networks within the burgeoning entrepreneurial community in Chicago and offer start-ups a place to seek out talent.

Sadia Sindhu, assistant director for Career Services, said three times as many companies participated as compared to the inaugural event last year. “The bump in attendance is tied to increased demand among students for start-up opportunities and heightened recognition of the value Booth students bring to the start-up space,” she said. “The companies are able to get to know a range of students and ultimately recruit the talent they need to move to the next level.”

Many students are curious about entrepreneurship, and as such, working at a start-up can be a great way to learn the ropes before launching their own enterprises.

Michael Tam, ’14, a Full-Time student, wanted to know both what it’s like to work for a start-up and what it takes to launch one. “I’m interested in learning about different models—how they [start-ups] obtain funding, for example. And I want to understand the skillsets they seek in candidates.”

Kasra Moshkani, ’12, cofounder of HireBrite, a company that helps students find internships and jobs at start-ups, helped Career Services and the Polsky Center coordinate the event. HireBrite launched a webpage that helped Booth students research in advance the start-ups that would be attending. Students could upload their resume for the companies they were most interested in, and prior to the event, start-ups received resumes of students interested in their firms. Moshkani has six on his team and came to the event seeking potential interns. The Booth experience helped him get started, he reflected. “I probably wouldn’t be here without all the programming, mentorship, and support the school offers.”—Kevin Davis