The Best and Brightest Minds in the Business Inspire the Audience of CIW’s 2013 Tech Summit

Chicago Ideas Week welcomes the best and brightest entrepreneurs to its Tech Summit on Oct. 18

The co-founder of PayPal,  senior vice president and chief marketing officer of GE, new owners of Myspace and CEO of Groupon were just a few of the people gracing  the Cadillac Palace Theatre stage for the Chicago Ideas Week (CIW) Tech Summit on Oct. 18.
“Welcome to Chicago, welcome to Illinois and welcome to innovation,” said surprise guest and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who kicked off the event with CIW founder and co-chairman, Brad Keywell.
The grand tech fest featured almost 20 innovative leaders who wowed the audience from for five hours that Friday afternoon during three sessions: Creative Destruction, Big Data, Small World and View from the Cloud.
Beth Comstock, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of CIW sponsor GE, sat down with Keywell to chat about how a more than 100-year-old company keeps innovation running through its veins. She said GE’s machines are coming online to create the emerging “online-industrial internet.” Imagining 50 billion machines coming online and sending updates to users is something that’s just around the corner, Comstock said. One example she gave was jet engines sending updates like tweets to the computers or people monitoring them.
“Places like Chicago are going to be a great hotbed for these things to come together,” she said. 
Keywell asked her what makes a great executive to lead such creative efforts.
“It’s just a lifelong journey of learning,” she said. “They’re not a leader because they are right– they want to do right.”
Tom Kelley, a partner at the design and innovation consulting firm IDEO, organized his presentation around two main ideas: balancing technology with humanity and wrapping data into a story. Kelley said he has used these two ideas in projects to supply clean water to Third World countries.
Attendees soak up wisdom from the most innovative minds in business.
Chuck Salter, the Tech Summit host and senior writer at CIW sponsor Fast Company, then sat down with brothers and Myspace co-owners Chris and Tim Vanderhook. They bought Myspace in 2011 and successfully redesigned the site with their celebrity business partner, Justin Timberlake. Glitches in the original platform forced them to throw the entire old site away and start from scratch, the Vanderhooks said.
They said they involved Justin Timberlake because of his booming career in music, as they want Myspace to serve as a platform for artists to distribute their products and give them a way to have direct relationships with their audience.
Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson
Chad Dickerson, CEO of Etsy, and Ben Kaufman, founder and CEO of Quirky, a company that helps individuals launch their ideas then tackled the topic of 3-D printers. Dickerson said many sellers on Etsy use 3-D printers to make small jewelry pieces – and Kaufman agreed it was changing the entrepreneurial landscape.
“What we will do with it is still unanswered, but it will change manufacturing,” Kaufman said.
In between the three sessions between 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., everyone gathered in the lobby to talk, interact with displays and get their books signed by the speakers.
“My dream is to become an entrepreneur…just getting more ideas and getting inspired, that’s what CIW is about,” said CIW volunteer Jennifer Chan, 20, from the Chicago suburbs. “I just loved all of the speakers that came in, they were very engaging and young, and it was very inspiring for me to see people like myself.”

The next session kicked off with Max Levchin, the founder of incubator HVF and co-founder of PayPal, receiving the Innovation Award from CIW sponsor EY. Keywell took the stage to interview him about his childhood, as well as his road to success. Levchin admitted to failing many companies, but said that someone who makes it always has failed in the past.
Lulu CEO Alexandra Chong
Alexandra Chong, the CEO of the women’s-only app Lulu, then shared her tech story.  App users can rate men that they have been on dates with, been friends with, or just had sexual relations with as part of a virtual girls-only club. She said girls have different conversations when there are boys present, which is why Lulu is strictly for women. And she marketed it in a grassroots effort starting with sororities – which led to its popularity exploding across the country.
“I built it for a genuine need that me and my girlfriends had,” Chong said.
Vineet Singal, co-founder and CEO of Anjna and a 2013 BHSI Fellow, told his story after Chong left the stage. Anjna Patient Education is a nonprofit that helps health care providers engage with patients through mobile devices to help improve patient well-being.
Following Singal, Reshma Saujani spoke about her nonprofit, Girls Who Code, which teaches young girls about computer science and prepares them for jobs in the field. She said that less than 0.2 percent of high school girls are interested in computer science.
“My goal is to show one million girls how to code by 2020,” Saujani said.
Harry Weller, general partner at New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Bing Gordon, general partner at KPCB and others also shared their expertise throughout the summit – and Jason Harinstein, Groupon’s senior vice president of corporate development, and Eric Lefkofsky, Groupon’s CEO and a co-chairman of CIW, closed the day by discussing the problems with big data and how to manage so much of it.
“For the first time, not only is data available, but there’s data available in real time,” Lefkofsky said.
As audience members spilled out into the lobby after the event, 50-year-old Danny Grant from the North Shore said he loved it and has been a loyal CIW attendee since it started in 2011.
“I just love the whole idea that I can become inspired, learn new things, meet new people, have new experiences,” said Grant, who attended the summit with his son, Jonah Grant.
The 17-year-old developer said he liked diving into a program whose sole purpose is to connect and inspire people with new ideas.
“I definitely use the ideas I take away from CIW and apply them to my existing relationships in business, and my practices and product development,” he said.

*Check out in January to see full videos of  the Talks each of our dynamic speakers gave!*

Written by: Marlee Septak

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