There have been so many conferences taking place these past few weeks! This week we’ll learn about Seedcon, an annual conference co-sponsored by the Polsky Center and the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Group. Vanessa Xu, a first-year student and enthusiastic DSAC blogger, gives us her unique perspective as a volunteer for the event.
I was very drawn to Booth because of its rich environment of intellectual curiosity where amazing ideas are born and everyone comes from diverse backgrounds and is willing to share and learn from one another. When ideas and passions collide, as they often do here, fantastic things happen. Once such occasion where this happens is SeedCon, an annual entrepreneurship and venture capital conference hosted by Booth’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Group (EVC) on November 16th at Gleacher and November 17th at Venue SIX10. As a member of EVC, I volunteered for this 2 day conference. Part of my job over these two days was working at the registration desk and being assigned to Sam Yagan, a key speaker, as his handler to make sure he is where he needs to be at all times. Don’t know Sam Yagan? Have you heard of eDonkey, SparkNotes or OkCupid? He’s the guy who co-founded all of these start-ups!
SeedCon really allowed me to be near the energy of entrepreneurs in the vibrant Chicago start-up scene. Arguably the most fun part of the conference was the Fast Pitch competition on opening night, during which 6 finalist teams competed for a chance to win $100,000+ in awards and consulting hours in front of a panel of 8 distinguished judges for 4 minutes of pitch and 6 minutes of intense Q&A. Two of the teams were composed of Booth students; a team of first-years actually took 3rd place for their idea of bringing a new infrared technology to market. The other teams were equally impressive in their start-up ambitions; two particularly memorable ones include a team from IE Business School in Madrid pitching their idea on “Bet Me,” a low-cost online gambling site, and a team of two ex-beauty and makeup consultants pitching their idea on “Stylisted,” a service that matched freelance beauty professionals with professional women. The winner of the competition was Intelligent Loop, a B2B service that employed real-time scanning technology to help companies track industrial assets. I had a feeling this was the winner as soon as the judge commented during Q&A that this kind of technology can really help governments keep track of crumbling infrastructure like railways and highways.
On Day 2 of the conference, my day started early at 7:30AM to help set up and grab breakfast with the other volunteers. We were all excited to hear keynote speaker Mark Suster, a partner at GRP Partners, who was present at SeedCon for the first time after many years of wooing from the EVC group. He delivered a powerful presentation, preferring to use highly visual slides to punctuate his points on what it’s really like to be an entrepreneur – the highs are higher and the lows are lower than any other career. You can read his blog post describing his experiences at SeedCon.
There was plenty of time for networking, where I found people were eager to meet others in search of partners, funders, or just for pure socializing. I met many start-up founders and a ton of students who were excited about entrepreneurship and venture capital. One of the best things I got out of the conference was also learning more about my fellow classmates and their aspirations. A friend shared an insight that resonated with me again and again as I listened to Sam Yagan, Bryce Johnson (the founder of Braintree), and Matt Matros (the founder of Protein Bar) speak about their entrepreneurial journeys: to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to have a certain kind of grit that allows you to not give a hoot about what anyone else thinks. Sam Yagan spoke unapologetically about his how his team came up with the idea of building OkCupid: they were trying to find internet industries where it is possible to leverage “cheaper, easier and more fun,” and after ruling out pornography and gambling, they decided on a dating website. True story.
About your blogger: I grew up in NYC with a background in finance and accounting. I always knew an MBA was in my destiny, and the question of “where?” was easily solved when I attended Booth Live; I was blown away by the faculty, the beauty of the Harper Center, and the caliber of the student body. Now that I’ve been a full-fledged Boothie for the past 2.5 months, I am the happiest I have ever been in my life (only a slight exaggeration) and so very glad I made the decision to come to Booth. The two years will go by faster than I can say “recruiting overload” so I’m trying hard to hold onto my seat as I take in each and every second of this journey.