Marissa Siebel (right), co-founder of IntelliWheels, networked with a potential investor during the Startup showcase. See more photos
By: Alyssa Schoeneman
The guest list at the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership’s Startup Illinois 2011 event was as diverse as the evening’s content; budding entrepreneurs from the Illinois Launch program networked with established entrepreneurs from as far as Indonesia, set to the backdrops of a film screening, an awards presentation and a delicious dinner. And that’s just the beginning.
Startup Illinois 2011 was held in celebration of the Illinois Launch program’s success to date, and in recognition of key players in the initiative’s success. All proceeds from the event went to support the Illinois Launch program.
The evening began with a Startup showcase and cocktail reception, in which representatives from most of Illinois Launch’s 30 startups met with colleagues and potential investors. During this same time period, V.I.P. guests joined Academy representatives in watching a screening of Academy Media Coordinator Melissa Chua’s “Startup Israel” documentary.
Chua’s documentary chronicled the Academy’s March 2011 trip to Israel; during the trip, Academy representatives met with Israeli VCs, incubator programs, foundations and entrepreneurs in efforts to network and to seek advice about how to make Illinois’ startup community more vibrant.
The documentary offered nine “Tips to Startup Success,” which included, “Embrace failure as success,” and “Take risks,” among a variety of other useful advice.
Immediately following the screening was a presentation given by recent University of Illinois graduates and Illinois Launch participants Angela Jiang and Atul Gupta. The pair explained that Illinois has the correct foundation for startup success – one that includes frugality, loyalty, urgency, and close professional and personal networks. What Illinoisans are missing, Jiang and Gupta disputed, are proper funding, investors with proactive risk appetites, and the abilities to embrace and learn from our failures.
Business brains stimulated, the V.I.P. guests in attendance were eager to engage with Gupta, Jiang and one another post-presentation; Dean of Insight Labs Jeff Leitner and Yariv Becher, economic consul at the Israeli Economic Mission to the U.S. Midwest, moderated a discussion.
The V.I.P. guests, Illinois Launch entrepreneurs, honored attendees and Academy staff next convened in the dining room for conversation, for awards presentations, and – of course – for dinner; they were joined by members of the Chicago entrepreneurship community – a group made up of entrepreneurs, investors and service providers. At that time, Distinguished Donors Steve Miller, Al Goldstein, Alex Goldstein and Tandeen Rustandy were recognized for their generous contributions to the Academy.
Keynote speaker and co-founder of Groupon Brad Keywell gave the evening’s keynote address, focusing on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory and denoting happiness as the meaning of life. Keywell played to the audience in an effort to identify thought patterns by engaging listeners in mental exercises and shows of hands, and reiterated ideas from the earlier “Startup Israel” presentation. The best time to start a business is today, Keywell said – a date that is surpassed only by tomorrow.
Guests in attendance at Startup Illinois 2011, which was held at Chicago’s theWit hotel, had nothing but good things to say following the event.
“[Startup Illinois 2011] was both elegant and friendly, which is nearly impossible to do together,” Leitner said. “[This event was] terrific, particularly for a first time out.”
Autonomic Materials, Inc. Vice President of Business Development Magnus Andersson agreed.
“It was a great event, very well organized and well attended with plenty of interesting people,” he said.
The Academy will bring Illinois Launch startup representatives back to Chicago on Wednesday, June 22 for a workshop and networking event. To learn more about the event, and to find out how you can get involved with Illinois Launch, visit http://business.illinois.edu/ael/illaunch/index.html.
See more photos of Startup Illinois