I recently attended a Chicago Conversations event in our hometown of Chicago. Chicago Conversations are industry-specific events where bright minds are brought together to discuss and engage in stimulating conversation surrounding a specific topic. This particular event focused on Technology Start-Ups.
This hot-topic brought out a large number of attendees and it was great to see alumni, prospective and admitted students, industry professionals, as well as a large number of current and aspiring entrepreneurs.
After a welcome from Dean Sunil Kumar, the moderator Jason Heltzer, ’07, General Partner, OCA Ventures and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship at Chicago Booth, allowed panelists to share their personal experiences, discuss current trends in the industry, and offer advice to others looking to get started in technology start-ups. Having worked at a technology start-up for a short period myself, it was exciting to see the level of enthusiasm and depth of conversation surrounding this topic.
The panel featured industry experts, all of whom had great experience either founding or managing a recent technology company. The panel – all Booth alums - included: Seyi Fabode, ’10, Co-Founder and CEO, Power2Switch Inc.; Ashish Rangnekar, ’11, CEO and Co-Founder, BenchPrep; Steve Sanger, ’05, VP of Business Development, GrubHub; Kevin Willer, ’10, President and Chief Executive Officer, Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center. A few great takeaways from the session included:
* The importance of choosing the right team from the start and how critical it is to have people with different strengths on that team – i.e. a marketer, an engineer etc.
* The necessity of being prepared before meetings with investors, and how much forethought needs to go in to the planning aspect.
* Thoughts behind taking a product or idea and turning it into a business.
* How to successfully build a client base and how to create strategic partnerships to grow the business.
* The steps and thoughts necessary when considering expanding markets.
* The potential for this industry’s growth in Chicago and the need to tap into the resources that currently exist in the city.
* The idea of how one becomes an entrepreneur. What skills and talents are needed to be successful, and are those skills innate or learned?
After the discussion, I spent some time chatting with our fantastic alumni and impressive recently admitted students. All in all, it was a successful event with an incredible turnout and a lot of really good discussion and networking. The next Chicago Conversations event will be in São Paulo on May 17 and focus on Global Financial Markets. I encourage anyone that is interested in learning more about this specific industry and meeting others in the field to check it out.