Brad Keywell was the keynote speaker at the 2010 Illinois Launch Summer Startup Development Program.
Illinois Launch, a new venture pipeline program designed to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation in Champaign-Urbana, began with the Summer Startup Development Program in the summer of 2010. Students had access to mentors, seed funding, incubator space and more. The Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership collaborated with the Technology Entrepreneur Center (TEC) to create a week long workshop in Chicago, in order to introduce students to some of the who’s who in Illinois innovation, entrepreneurship and venture capital. The week consisted of visits and tours to Illinois businesses, lectures and roundtable discussions with successful entrepreneurs, corporate leaders and venture capitalists. Students had many opportunities to network with these potential mentors.
Brad Keywell delivered the keynote address to this first Illinois Launch cohort. Keywell, a serial entrepreneur who has created a number of technology-based service companies, may be best known as a co-founder of the social shopping site Groupon, Inc. But at the University of Illinois, he is also known for his guidance of and collaboration with Illinois Launch participants.
Upon returning to Champaign-Urbana from the Chicago Bootcamp, the teams worked on bringing their ideas closer to launch. The Academy, in partnership with Enterprise Works, provided incubator space for teams. Teams continued to work with their coaches and sought additional funds as needed. The weeks also included workshops and learning opportunities, often presented by Illini entrepreneurs.
Certain Launch teams were selected to participate in the iV10Boost. These teams received $25,000 and specific, hands-on coaching from the professionals at IllinoisVENTURES.
At the end of summer, teams presented to an audience of coaches and mentors. At Demo Day, teams received constructive criticism and final words. Several teams went on to present successfully to investors.
Other outcomes: with the assistance of Brad Keywell, several months later Tiesta Tea co-founders Dan Klein and Patrick Tannous ran a successful Groupon in several U.S. markets. Keywell’s relationship with the Academy has also given Launch entrepreneurs access to representatives from Lightbank, a venture fund launched in 2010 to invest in technology firms in the Midwest; their staff have lectured and advised Launch companies throughout their program.
Illinois Champions and community partners are playing a crucial role in the success of these new ventures.