Category Archives: Social Entrepreneur

TAKE YOUR FOOT OFF THE BAG

John Jonelis

I’ve asked it before, “The way you conduct business—is it meaningful to those left behind?”  Is it? 

I’m here at the Levy Entrepreneurship Group, talking with some of the most brilliant business minds in Chicago.  This group’s been meeting for over 60 years.  It’s the genius of Joe Levy, the prolific entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist—the son of a south Michigan Ave car dealer.  Joe was an endless entrepreneur—constantly learning, constantly experimenting—the quintessential gentleman who gave everybody an at-bat—who spoke quietly but directly and told the truth as he saw it.  He pushed people off the bag“You’re lousy at this.  What are you good at?  Contribute.  Help somebody.”  People found inspiration and hope.  Never a disparaging word about Joe.  “If you don’t have a satisfied customer, you’re compromising your future.”  He was the original automobile mega dealer, angel investor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist.  “God put me on this earth to produce, not to consume.”  Joe Levy is dead at 92.

 

Joe Levy by Anne Elisabeth Hogh

Now I’m sitting with his group—face to face with his family.  We hope to make them understand why we all loved our Saturday morning meetings—why Joe loved them.  The moderator opens the meeting:  “Welcome to the special clubhouse we’re in.  This is a magical place.”  Then we each take turns telling stories to the family:

The Levy Group by Joel Berman

Entrepreneurship Stories

  • Joe told me, “Take your foot off the bag.” It was a constant voice in my head.  Every time I thought, “Should I start this business that I really don’t know much about?” I’d hear that phrase, “Take your foot off the bag.” Sometimes I might take it off a little bit too much.  But I would never be able to start what I’ve done multiple times without that voice in my head and without the support I’ve had from the group.

Take your foot off the bag

  • Joe and I were at the Bryn Mawr Country Club having lunch. Outside the window was this pond with two swans and during the meal, he made a point of the swans, saying, “Aren’t those swans beautiful?”  I said yeah.  Then he did it a second time.  And a third time.  After the meal, we took a walk right up to that pond.  And he said it a fourth time, “Aren’t those swans beautiful?”  I’m like, “Yeah Joe, they are, but what’s your point?”  He said, “Those swans are rental swans.  They’re a business.  I know this guy.  He rents them to all these country clubs.  It’s a beautiful business.”  So the guy puts them out in the spring and he picks them up in the fall and he takes them somewhere to feed them all winter and breed, and then he brings them back again.  It’s got no competition.  Who even would know it exists?  But his point was not only that it was a great business—it’s that it was a simple business in a niche.
  • When Joe found out that I was running my business from my home, he said, “No, you can’t do that.” He said the building next door was empty. He had bought it to store the Levy Center furniture, so we moved in.  That was a big help for us.  A year later, he sat me down.  He said, “Now buy the building.”  The timing was right, so we did.
  • This is the honorary Joe Levy tie. They named a street after him in Evanston where the dealership was.  Following the street dedication, we got ties, and no better day to wear it than today.

The Joe Levy Way Tie – Photo by Rachel Kaberon

  • I recall when they named the street after him. As usual, everybody gave elevator pitches at the start of the meeting.  When it was time for Joe’s introduction, he said, “I’m Joe Levy and now I’m a street.”
  • Twenty years ago Joe wrote a play about internet funerals called Cyber Mourning. It was at the Northlight playhouse in Skokie.
  • When I first met Joe, he asked me what I wanted from him. I knew he had so much to offer a guy like me—a poor immigrant from Greece.  Knowing that people always ask Joe for investment, I thought about his question for a second or so and responded, “Your friendship.”  What I received in return was much more than I could have imagined or hoped for.  He became a friend and a mentor—a man who could address any business issue, and some personal ones as well.  The other thing that we talked about was Joe’s faith—both of our faiths.
  • Not only did Joe teach us the art of being a gentleman—which is very, very hard to do—but he also taught us that entrepreneurship is endless. We took Joe’s words of wisdom, and put them in a placard.”

Plaque presented to the family – Photo by Rachel Kaberon

 The Levy Group

  • The group to me was a way to get working on Saturday without working on Saturday—to get my mind working as an entrepreneur.
  • I remember just 20 years ago coming to the Levy Group and feeling like it was a continuing business education. I call each Saturday a class.  In those classes we talked about business but I also learned about life, loving, giving, and family, and sometimes even death.
  • The ultimate benefit of this group was becoming a ‘Friend of Joe.’ That meant you were part of a group that spanned many a decade and you became aware of the wisdom that came from the experiences shared through the years.
  • I’m having lunch with Joe one day and make a comment to him. And he looks back at me and says, “Do you have a twin brother?”  So I say, “No Joe. Why do you think I have a twin brother?”  He looks at me and says, “Because no one person could be that f’n stupid.”  I use that line all the time today.

Joe in his Flintmobile – Joe Levy Collection

Joe’s Automobiles

  • One Saturday, he brought me into the garage to see his Flintmobile. A full size Flintmobile!
  • He was first at multi-dealerships. Back when Joe was in car dealership, he had eighteen.  People have one, maybe two.  He was the first one to have many.  At one time, he owned 18 dealerships.
  • Car dealerships wouldn’t give a woman the time of day, even if she was with her husband. If she wasn’t with her husband, they took total advantage of her.  Not Joe.  Joe was courteous at all times, and he built an incredible business.  He became the largest Buick dealer in the world.
  • Joe hired a clown for the dealership to entertain the kids. The clown also spied on the spouse.  What she wanted was crucial to the deal.
  • When Buick sold a model called the Wildcat, Joe made sure the Northwestern coaches all drove them.

Joe Levy – Photo by Nathan Mandell

Life

  • One day Joe heard on the radio that they were going to auction off a rare stamp in New York. He gets on a plane, goes to New York, buys the stamp, and before he gets on the plane to come back home, he called Carol and said, “Hey, I’m gonna be late for dinner.”
  • The first thing that will come to my mind when I’m at the racetrack or around horses is Joe Levy. He used to take us there as kids.  He gave us each an envelope with Win, Place, and Show for every single horse.  That was one of Joe’s ways of making sure everybody was a winner.
  • At my daughter’s wedding, my father-in-law took a scissors and snipped away Joe’s tie. Joe thought a moment, then went over and he cut my father-in-law’s tie off.  It was like a Laurel and Hardy thing.  So there they were, the whole evening, with these ties that looked sort of like bow ties without the bows.
  • We had a horse race in the parking lot that included questions about Joe that only the regular group could answer. We had them on silks—sewn numbers on the horses.
  • He gave me an appreciation that family was not just flesh and blood, and giving was not all about money. Time and caring in helping others were way more important in your life, in your learning.
  • Most of the people in cognitive behavior haven’t caught on yet. And all these theorists—they just haven’t caught on to how important kindness and helping and giving are to being able to be an entrepreneur.
  • And if I look back at Joe, what I think about is what he left behind, and that is teaching people how to be good human beings.
  • My dad loved this group. This group was his favorite thing, I think.  All week he looked forward to it—and just so proud of where everybody had come from and gone to.  So, I just—I don’t know what to say—this is just so moving.  So thanks, everybody.

So I ask you, “The way Joe conducted business—is it meaningful to those left behind?” 

 

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money..Copyright © 2019 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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MILLENNIALS ARE BECOMING OBSOLETE—ALREADY!

by Tom McBride

The first time I heard the word “obsolete” was when I overheard my father talking to a stranger on a bus. They were speaking about a new expressway that the city had built, and the stranger said, “That thing was obsolete before they ever opened it.”social media MS OFFICE

I was impressed. I went home and looked up the word. And in time I realized the stranger was right. The builders of the new road had put in four lanes but should have put in six. Soon enough, traffic was snarled, and eventually cars started avoiding the route altogether. Then the side streets became overcrowded with autos. The whole thing was a mess.

“Obsolete” was a terrible word. It still is. If something or someone is obsolete, then he, she, or it no longer works. He, she, or it languishes in irrelevance. And then he, she, or it comes to be avoided altogether. Everyone would rather take the side streets. Obsolete things are just in the way. They are like old professors on college campuses. The young sneak behind buildings in order to avoid them.

Today’s Millennials are not obsolete—yet. Born between 1980 and 2000 they came to this planet during a fairly prosperous time, so they represent a population glut. There are already more Millennials alive than Baby Boomers, who constituted the mother of all population explosions.

percent of workforce MS OFFICE

Corporations are working overtime to figure out how to market to this bunch of fickle young consumers, who have an embarrassment of choices. Human resources directors are wondering how to motivate them in the workplace. They are praised for wanting a more healthy balance between work and life (some of them think overtime is evil), and they are feared, almost, for being digital natives. Unlike the rest of us, they grew up high-tech, so what do they know about cyberspace that we don’t?

phones and tablets MS OFFICE

Others can’t stand them—why won’t they look us in the eye at Starbuck’s instead of staring at their phones all the time? And a few of us older people see them as symbols of a world we don’t want to have much to do with. The whole idea of “looking something up on your phone” (which has more data than your local public library) seems repugnant somehow.

infographic MS OFFICE

But there’s one thing these non-obsolete Millennials can’t avoid: In time, they will become obsolete, like the city expressway of my childhood. They will seem irrelevant. They will be in the way. Young people will hide from them. The new generation will have to work around them.

The question, though, is how can Millennials tell when they’re becoming outmoded?

startup venture MS Office

Like, invest in my startup, huh?

The answer is simple. It’s when they start beginning sentences with “These kids nowadays…” I’ve heard early rumblings of this sentence, as when an older Millennial said of younger Millennials, “These people just take wireless computing for granted.” He was too young to say “these kids,” but give him another ten years.

loft MS Office

The truth is that older Millennials are already far enough along to have teen-aged children. A Millennial born in 1980 is now thirty-six and may well have a fourteen-year-old around. In just ten years that will be true for Millennials born in 1990. They will enter that most dreaded source of becoming old-fashioned and resented: parenthood. And then you will hear such sentences as these:

“You kids have it so lucky. We actually had to flip switches to get lights on in a room—none of this decadent voice-activation stuff.”

“You’re lucky, you kids: When I was your age we couldn’t get our genes edited at birth to make us better-looking.”

robot MS Office“When I was your age, we didn’t have to pay extra to get an actual human being to teach us calculus—unless you kids can learn on a machine, you’re going to bankrupt me.”

“Yes, that’s right, kids. Only when a political party isn’t in power does it object to big government deficits. That’s the way it’s always been. Don’t think that you kids can change it!”

“You kids just trust technology too much. I don’t want to have a robot remove my appendix even if it is cheaper.”

Do you hear the notes of weary impatience in these sentences? Do you detect the tone of resentment in the voice of older people when they encounter the youth and idealism of their kids? Do you sense the envy of the young? Do you pick up on the fatigue of bearing parental burdens?

time magazine MS OFFICE

Yet every one of these sentences will be spoken by…a Millennial. They will be speaking to their offspring, which will be called something like Generation Alpha.

And what about the rest of us—old Boomers and Gen X types? Most of us will be even better than obsolete. We’ll be dead.

But don’t you feel better knowing that these young whippersnappers today will also go the way of all flesh? That’ll be true even if, as predicted, people will be immortal by having their brains downloaded into a computer.

Eventually, even the computer will become…obsolete! Ha!

Cell Phone Girl MS Office

Tom McBride is co-author of The Mindset Lists of American History

and The Mindset List of the Obscure,

and the author The Great American Lay: An All Too Brief History of Sex.

He lives in southern Wisconsin.

Graphics from MS Office.

This article appeared in News From Heartland

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WHY MILLENNIALS KEEP DUMPING YOU

An Open Letter to Management

by Lisa Earle McLeod

Attracting and keeping top millennial talent is a burning issue for leaders. Millennials are 35% of the workforce. By 2020 they’ll be 46% of the working population.

Some of our most successful clients — organizations like G Adventures, Google, and Hootsuite — are filled with millennials who are on fire for their jobs. Yet many organizations struggle to attract, and retain, top millennial talent.

One of us, Elizabeth, wrote this letter, to share insights about what top-performing millennials want and how leaders can ignite the “energy of a thousand suns.”

~ ~ ~

An Open Letter to Management:

You hired us thinking this one might be different; this one might be in it for the long haul. We’re six months in, giving everything we have, then suddenly, we drop a bomb on you. We’re quitting.

We know the stereotypes. Millennials never settle down. We’re drowning in debt for useless degrees. We refuse to put our phone away. We are addicted to lattes even at the expense of our water bill. Our bosses are not wrong about these perceptions. But, pointing to our sometimes irresponsible spending and fear of interpersonal commitment isn’t going to solve your problem. You still need us. We’re the ones who’ve mastered social media, who have the energy of a thousand suns, and who will knock back 5-dollar macchiatos until the job is done perfectly.

I’ve worked in corporate America, administrative offices, advertising agencies, and restaurants. I’ve had bosses ranging from 24 to 64. I’ve had bosses I loved, and bosses I didn’t. I’ve seen my peers quit, and I’ve quit a few times myself. Here’s what’s really behind your millennials’ resignation letter:

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-1- You tolerate low-performance

It’s downright debilitating to a high achiever. I’m working my heart out and every time I look up Donna-Do-Nothing is contemplating how long is too long to take for lunch. I start wondering why leadership tolerates this.

Is that the standard here? No thanks.

Fact: Poor performers have a chilling effect on everyone.

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-2- ROI is not enough for me

I spent Sunday thinking about how I can make a difference to our customers. Now it’s Monday morning, what do I hear? Stock price. Billing. ROI. Suddenly, my Monday power playlist seems useless. I’m sitting in a conference room listening to you drag on about cash flow.

I was making more money bartending in college than I am at this entry-level job. You say I’ll get a raise in a year if the company hits a certain number? So what? I need something to care about today. Talk to me about how we make a difference, not your ROI report.

Fact: Organizations with a purpose bigger than money have a growth rate triple that of their competitors.

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-3- Culture is more than free Panera

Don’t confuse culture with collateral. Yes, I am a cash-strapped millennial who really appreciates free lunch. But I don’t wake up at 6AM every day to play foosball in the break room. I’m not inspired to be more innovative over a Bacon Turkey Bravo.

I need to be surrounded by people who are on fire for what we’re doing. I need a manager who is motivated to push boundaries and think differently. Working in a cool office is really awesome. So is free lunch. But a purposeful culture is more important.

Fact: A culture of purpose drives exponential sales growth

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-4- It’s ok to get personal

Treat me like a number? I’ll return the favor. This job will quickly become nothing more than my rent payment. I’ll start living for Friday and counting down the minutes until 5. After a few months of that, I’ll probably have a drunken epiphany and realize I want more out of my life than this.

Then I’ll prove your assumptions right. 8 months in, I’ll quit and leave. Or worse, I’ll quit and stay, just like Donna-Do-Nothing.

That’s not good for either of us. Here’s what you need to know:

I was raised to believe I could change the world. I’m desperate for you to show me that the work we do here matters, even just a little bit. I’ll make copies, I’ll fetch coffee, I’ll do the grunt work. But I’m not doing it to help you get a new Mercedes.

I’ll give you everything I’ve got, but I need to know it makes a difference to something bigger than your bottom line.

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Signed,

A Millennial

~ ~ ~

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The millennials are telling us what we already know in our hearts to be true. People want to make money; they also want to make a difference. Successful leaders put purpose before profit, and they wind up with teams who drive revenue through the roof.

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This article was co-written with Elizabeth McLeod, a millennial and cum laude graduate of Boston University, and daughter of Lisa Earle McLeod.

Lisa Earle McLeod is the creator of the popular business concept Noble Purpose and author of the bestselling books, SELLING WITH NOBLE PURPOSE and LEADING WITH NOBLE PURPOSE. Lisa is a sales leadership consultant and keynote speaker who helps organizations improve competitive differentiation and emotional engagement. www.mcleodandmore.com

This article previously appeared in Forbes

Image credit: Lisa Earle McLeod

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Also by Lisa Earle McLeod:

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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INQUIRY AND INNOVATION

by John Jonelis

What happens when you invite the community into your high school and send your high school students into the community?

Amazing things! You create a THIRD SPACE in people’s lives.

[Britta McKenna is the Chief Innovation Officer at IMSA.]

Britta – “You have your home and you have your work and you have third spaces in your life where you feel comfortable and find a community. Robert Putnam believed in third spaces. He has a book called Bowling Alone 1. It used to be that bowling leagues were that third space. People at the bar. Cheers. We want IN2 to be that third space in people’s lives.”

“Look at the ceiling. Look at the lights. Do you see the pattern?

IN2 – Symbolism in Architecture

It’s that intersection of outside and inside. Community coming together to make this a real learning laboratory experience. We want to come in and work on real-world problems and opportunities.

“People can bring problems and opportunities to us and say, let’s figure out how we can work together. Like the State of Illinois with the hackathon we just did—finding solutions to childhood lead poisoning.

“Think about all the things kids are doing that are not helping. Here’s a great place. I hope IN2 can be a third space in people’s lives.”

[The grandness of the idea and the imaginative scope hit home, but ask Britta how IN2 will implement it.]

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Innovation

“We can’t stand still. Education—if it’s doing the same thing over and over and over—is not moving ahead—it’s falling behind.

“IN2 is the intersection of what we do at IMSA and the community. We’re partnering with Invest Aurora, the Woman’s Business Development Center, the Fox Valley Entrepreneurship Center—they are all resources to help what we’re doing here grow and scale.

Business Mentor

[Britta anticipates my next question and gets even more specific.]

“We’ve opened up a cohort of LINKubators 2 These are actual startup companies.  We have three working in the space as a pilot.  Our students intern with them and our network can help them grow.  Our MENTORS, our IDEA BARISTAS, our SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS can all help them grow. 

“Next fall we hope to have ten LINKubator startups working in the IN2 space during the day when the kids are in class. We’re trying to see what we’re good at and get a rhythm to the space.

“So whether it’s somebody in the community with an idea or a problem—whether it’s students that want to accomplish something new—whether it’s mentors from the community coming here to help the next generation of learners—whether it’s subject matter experts helping a non-profit grow—we want IN2 to inspire students and community to go on and be entrepreneurs and develop their ideas.

“Our goal at IN2 is to blend in with IMSA and be that resource for students and community beyond the classroom. That’s what this is all about.”

Student Entrepreneur

Inquiry

“I think one of our signature programs is our STUDENT INQUIRY AND RESEARCH program or SIR. That really distinguishes us because we don’t have class on ‘I-DAYS.’ Those are inquiry days—that happens most every Wednesday. Traditional class shuts down. We have class Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

“‘I-DAYS are meant for independent exploration—inquiry or research. On ‘I-DAYS, student go down to 1871 and other locations to intern for startups. Now, with the new IN2 facility, our students can work with entrepreneurs right here as well. Either way, through the SIR program, they’re doing research with mentors and business teams.”

Sue Fricano & Tami Armstrong

[I’m joined by Sue Fricano—IN2 site coordinator, Tami Armstrong—Director of Public Affairs]

Sue – “MONDAY NIGHT LIVE is an event put on by Dr. Carl Heine each week. He brings in speakers and he develops programs for entrepreneurs.

Carl Heine

“He puts external students on his TALENT board—entrepreneurial students coming in to learn the different stages of building a business and different skills used in building businesses.”

Tami – “A lot of the students here are part of that as well as members of the community that come to learn more about entrepreneurship.”

Sue – “At IN2 we are trying to give them the expertise to go out and make the initial steps of developing.”

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[Betty Hart is the Innovation Center Program Manager.]

Betty – “We have girls in the STEM program, which is a mentoring peer-to-peer program for girls in 6th to 12th grade.  We have events such as IMSA DAY OF CYBER, which focuses on encouraging students to seek cyber security careers.” 

Betty Hart

Betty – “We have TEAM STEM CAFE, which is a network of local high school students who host quarterly events focused on STEM related topics. And we have THINK CAFE, which is a community initiative that invites organizations to come in and pitch a problem or an idea.”

Britta – “Our charges really are this: The first is to be a STEM teaching/learning laboratory for our best and brightest students across the state. Then we have the FUSION programs.3 These are after-school programs at schools, grade 4-8, all around the state. And we also have the charge of educating the educators. We bring the teachers in and give them professional development, which helps them in science and math.”

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Bring Back Socrates

[I pose a thorny question:  Why teach entrepreneurship at such an early age, rather than prepare the students for college or jobs?]

Tami – “What we’re doing is launching the students so when they leave here, they’re prepared. There’s a big demand for ideas and innovation. Innovation is valuable, and very coveted. We’re supplying that to the workforce.

“We’re also launching research. How can students advance the human condition and solve the world’s grandest challenges?

“That’s what comes from IN2—the ability to make very difficult innovations. When you can harness them, bring them to a place like this, and connect the students with business and industry, dream and idea become reality.”

[Suddenly I get it. I asked the wrong question and now realize the goal is really quite straightforward—to encourage students to think for themselves—to let them discover how to learn. IMSA does it the same way it was done almost 2,500 years ago—self-directed inquiry and innovation—the Socratic Method.]

Student Entrepreneur

Possibilities

Britta – “People think we’re just this gifted school for 650 sophomores, juniors, and seniors from around the state, but we’re not. And people think we’re a private school and we’re not—we’re public. We don’t want to be the best-kept secret in Illinois.”

“And we have a student team called IMSA ELEMENT that teaches the lean startup methodology. Build—measure—learn. Students developed a whole curriculum and teach it to each other. We’re entertaining possibilities.”

  • “We need to be open to ideas, be able to move quickly, and say YES.”
  • “And have FAST FAILS.”
  • “And move toward SUCCESS and ITERATE.”

“We’re not afraid to do that here. In a world where you’re dealing with high-caliber students who don’t fail often, failure is a difficult concept. But once they get the hang of it, they actually become quite good at fast fails.”

Entrepreneur with a solution

The 17%

Britta – “We’re not looking for the vast majority to really understand this space, because we can’t hold everybody. But about 17% in the world are innovators. That’s who we’re looking for—that 17%. Once we get a few of those, they bring their networks. Those are the early adopters, innovators, and they see things much earlier.”

Those are the people IN2 was built to serve.

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This is the final article in this series.

Go to Part 1 – THE NAME IS IN2

Go to Part 2 – POWER PITCH

 Go to next series – TOP OF THE LIST

 

References

  1. BOWLING ALONE – Robert Putnam
  2. IN2 Launches LINKubator for Fox Valley Startups
  3. IMSA FUSION

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IN2 Contact Info

Address – 1500 Sullivan Rd. Aurora, IL 60506

Website – https://www.imsa.edu/

Carl Heine – heine@imsa.edu

Britta McKenna – bmckenna@imsa.edu

Tami Armstrong – tarmstrong@imsa.edu

 

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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POWER PITCH

by John Jonelis

What happens when you give kids—kids gifted in math and science—a real chance to bust out with their God given talents and excel?

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  • What if you trust them to lay their greasy little hands on equipment normally available only at elite universities?
  • What if you allow them to direct their own time?
  • What if you challenge them to construct their own goals and learn by themselves how to accomplish them?
  • What if you dare them to build real startup businesses at such a tender age?
  • And what if you throw them into a competition against a panel of critical judges from the real private equity world?

What happens? Good things! Good things happen! They happen here at IMSA – the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. I’ll give you an intimate peek at the inner works of this educational powerhouse so you can see for yourself what makes this one of the biggest success stories in the country.

Showcase – Chandra Gangavarapu

This is a high school with a serious entrepreneurship program. Many of the ideas, business models, and pitches produced here outshine what we’re accustomed to in the business world. Mere students, you say? Some of their companies have gained funding and gone to market. And many of these same students intern at real-world startups throughout Chicago.

According to Britta McKenna, Chief Innovation Officer at IN2, “Kids love to have real-world problems to actually work at. This space provides that opportunity.”

Today’s event is the grueling POWER PITCH. Each team presents its company twice before separate panels of judges—the finalists pitch three times.

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What Do the Judges Say?

The judges are all smiles as they feed at the idea bar after the first round. Competitors get whittled down by secret ballot. I corner John Lump. He’s a colleague at Heartland Angels and a professor at DePaul where I’ve lectured at his invitation on risk profiles in private equity. See IN YOUR FACE RISK.

This a practical guy who’s knee-deep in the real world of business as VP of Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago. I can count on him for an honest opinion. Here it is verbatim:

John Lump — Judge

“I love being a judge here. Second year I’ve been doing it. And it’s exciting and a lot of fun. The enthusiasm and energy of the kids is just fantastic.”

Swelly – Tyler Stock

“I saw several interesting businesses.

  • Swelly is a temporary insurance company.
  • Blabl is a company to help students with speech disabilities.
  • Rethink Numeracy is one that helps students with Downs Syndrome learn math—a more visual approach.

Some really cool ideas here.”

Blabl – Ayan Agarwal

“Obviously these entrepreneurs are quite young. There are some still in Jr. High. You’re talking kids that are 10, 12, 13 years old and already starting businesses! At Heartland Angels, we see entrepreneurs in their 20s up to their 50s and 60s. So these kids need much more mentoring. But I think you’re going to see some business opportunities here.”

Rethink Numeracy – Akshaya Raghavan

I touch base with Moises Goldman. As I’ve said before, he’s an old hand at private equity in Chicago and a VIP here at IMSA. I’ve known him a long time, and trust what he says. He’s a guy that projects humility, but receives deference and respect.

Moises Goldman – Judge

Today Moises is bursting with exuberance and he speaks with more passion than I’ve ever seen. What he says is as intuitive and emotional as it is insightful.

“Two of these kids blew me away. The company is called Fast Exit. One brother is 12 and the other is 15. Twelve and fifteen! I looked at the father and just jokingly said to him, what is it that you do? These kids are very, bright. Very, very bright—both of them.

[Moises is talking about the Orr brothers, Joshua and Maxwell. The older brother is in 8th grade at Avery Coonley. They are each pitching their own companies today.]

“What blew me away was that they’re two brothers, so I look at the father and I just wonder, what are his challenges as a dad with these two amazing kids? Because the social environment that they have—it must be an alternative universe to the one that I’m used to—that I grew up in.”

Jim Gerry with Joshua Orr of Fast Exit

[I suggest to Moises that their home life must be very nurturing.]

“Yes, somehow. But I’m amazed. That really blew me away—that blew me away. Last year, the older boy had a drone project that was a game you could adapt to Dave and Busters in that kind of environment.”

[I recall that drone project and ask if they’re both planning to attend IMSA.]

“The 12-year old—I don’t know. The 15-year old is applying for the coming year.”

OneNote Quiz – Maxwell Orr

Today there are 17 judges at Power Pitch – Patrick Bresnahan, Dane Christianson, Moises Goldman, Joe Jordan, Sanza Kazadi, Christine Krause, Maria Kuhn, John Lump, Josh Metnick, Nancy Munro, Kelly Page, Jacob Plumber, Lance Pressl, Julia Sanberger, Chris Stiegal, Tom Voigt, Joe Zlotniki. I agreed to be an alternate and fortunately don’t get that tap on the shoulder. I want to see the whole event.

Shop Cheetah – Catelyn Rounds, Julian Kroschke

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Entrepreneurship

IMSA’s entrepreneurship program is called TALENT—Total Applied Learning for Entrepreneurship—led by Dr. Carl Heine, Britta McKenna, and Jim Gerry. Jim is technically retired from the program but still volunteers his time. This is too much fun to stay away.

Heat2Heal – Sushil and Pranav Upadhyayula

At this place, students get real-life experience and opportunities to solve real-world problems and bring ideas to market. The goal is to instill the thinking patterns and mindset of an entrepreneur:

  • Develop a product
  • Form a team
  • Communicate ideas
  • Formulate a business plan
  • Protect intellectual property
  • Work your network
  • Raise funding
  • Start the business

Really? These are high school kids—some even younger. In a world of schools dominated by gangs, drugs, and fear, who would think them capable of such positive desires and accomplishments? Then I come across one of the quotes on the wall:

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IMSA Fast Facts

  • Teaching philosophy – The Socratic approach. Self-directed learning and problem-based learning.
  • 99.8% of IMSA students attend college.
  • 70.1% pursue majors in science or math.
  • 47% of faculty is PhD.
  • Alumni hail from every district in Illinois.
  • This is the school’s 30th year.

The IN2 Entrepreneurship Center at IMSA

I snag Dr Carl Heine, as he moves between presentations. He’s director of IMSA TALENT, their entrepreneurship program. I ask him if IMSA still has a presence at 1871, the huge incubator in downtown Chicago, or if all the activity is at the new IN2 facility.

Dr. Carl Heine, Director of IMSA TALENT

“IMSA is still a member of 1871. We take our students on Wednesdays to intern at companies. They’re embedded in startup teams. We can’t teach a class that’s better than that.”

“We do it every Wednesday. 1871 is just one location. We have students at the James Jordan Foundation downtown. Three of them are interning there right now, working on summer curriculum. There are students at a variety of other spots, too.”

[“This year’s Power Pitch is better than I’ve ever seen.”]

“POWER PITCH is an event that makes people feel good about the future. I hope you feel that way as a result of your involvement.

“The top three high school teams are advancing to the Next Launch regional competition in Indianapolis on May 17. If you would like to continue to work with your favorite team as a thought partner, a mentor or more, the purpose of IN2 and TALENT is to make that happen.”

Yoda

[I decide that Carl is the Yoda of IN2. I ask him, “What other events are coming up?”]

“This has been an academy for 30 years now, so we’d like to have a celebration. We’ve put it on March 30th this year, so there’s a 30 and a 30. As part of that, we’re doing the ribbon cutting for the IN2 space, and the new science labs that are part of a capital campaign that just wrapped up as well. And we’re celebrating the accomplishments of the institution over the last 30 years.”

This is just brilliant!

IMSA trains students not to fear any subject. I noticed THEORY OF ANALYSIS on the course syllabus. Normally, that’s offered only at the university level and it’s a course that’s hated and avoided by math majors nationwide. Never be intimidated by difficult subjects.

Award Ceremony

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17 Student Teams

IMSA’s President, Jose׳ M Torres, and the Stephanie Pace Marshall Endowment present the awards.

The top three high school teams—Blabl, Heat2Heal and Flameless—advance to the Next Launch Regional Competition in Indianapolis on May 17. The two winning middle school teams are Fast Exit and Shop Cheetah.

Blabl– Ayan Agarwal

 

Social Good Category Finalists & Winners

  • BlablAyan Agarwal – A mobile application that engages speech impaired children in conversation with an avatar – $1000 prize, Top 3 HS team
  • Heat2HealSushil Upadhyayula, Pranav Upadhyayula – A hands-free, self-powered Arthritis Wrap that converts body heat into electricity to provide targeted massaging & heat therapy for stiff joints – $500, Top 3 HS team
  • Rethink NumeracyAkshaya Raghavan – Teaching numeracy to children with Down Syndrome, leveraging their learning strengths.
  • Double-CheckRishi Modi – A protective biometric alternative to prevent ID theft.

Heat2Heal– Sushil Upadhyayula & Pranav Upadhyayula

Social entrepreneurs create self-sustaining businesses that promote social good. The STEM category is for-profit tech companies.

Fast Exit – Joshua Orr

STEM Category Finalists & Winners

  • FastExitJoshua Orr – A life-saving solution for managing exit signs – $1,000 prize, middle school team.
  • Shop CheetahCatelyn Rounds, Julian KroschkeA groundbreaking store navigation system that saves times and routes customers through the store$500 prize, middle school team.
  • FlamelessSivam Bhatt, Nikhil Madugula – Extinguishing cooking fires automatically with sound waves – Top 3 HS team.
  • SwellyAneesh Kudaravalli, Tyler Stock – A mobile app that allows users to get flexible insurance on personal items in an instant.

Shop Cheetah – Catelyn Rounds & Julian Kroschke

 

Other Competing Teams

  • AlertAshritha Karuturi, Priya Kumar – An app that efficiently connects homeowners to rescue workers, saving time and lives.
  • Be BettahZoe Mitchell – The food search engine and cookbook series that allows for bettah nutrition without changing your lifestyle.
  • Electrofood Alex Orlov – A microbial fuel cell that converts food waste to electricity.
  • OneNote QuizMax Orr – The personalized quiz generator.

Flameless – Sivam Bhatt & Nikhil Madugula

  • SafeSeatElliott Cleven – An app to alert parents if their child is left in a car unattended.
  • ShowcaseChandra Gangavarapu – A web app for musicians and dancers to gain recognition for their art.
  • Social BreadVainius Normantas – Using social media advertisements to raise funding and awareness for communities in need.
  • StrobeJayant Kumar, Zaid Kazmi – LED light strip supplements for fire and carbon monoxide alarms to assist the hearing impaired.
  • Verifact!Shreya Pattisapu – An effective and efficient way to couter fake news.

 

Go to Part 1 – THE NAME IS IN2

Hope you enjoyed Part 2 – POWER PITCH

Read Part 3 – INQUIRY & INNOVATION

 

 

IN2 Contact Info

Address – 1500 Sullivan Rd. Aurora, IL 60506

Website – https://www.imsa.edu/

Carl Heine – heine@imsa.edu

Britta McKenna – bmckenna@imsa.edu

Tami Armstrong – tarmstrong@imsa.edu

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Photography by John Jonelis

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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4 Comments

Filed under 1871, angel, angel investor, Chicago Startup, Chicago Ventures, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Events, IMSA, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Invention, investor, MIT, MIT Enterprise Forum, MIT Enterprise Forum Chicago, MITEF, MITEF Chicago, Social Entrepreneur, Startup, startup company, vc, venture capital

THE NAME IS IN2

by John Jonelis

What happens when you give kids—highly gifted in math and science—a state-of-the-art facility entirely dedicated to entrepreneurship? This could be the best-designed business incubator on the planet and the students are going to create real businesses here. Hey—this is too much fun! It sure doesn’t look like high school to me! Where did they put the usual long halls walled by the usual rows of lockers? Where are the standardized rigid rectangular classrooms?

This is IN2, the new entrepreneurship center at IMSA—the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy—the Statewide high school for the best and the brightest. It’s located near Chicago and students live on campus, as if attending a university four years too soon.

IMSA will host a big party and ribbon cutting for the new IN2 innovation space on the 30th of the month—that’s the 30th anniversary of the school’s founding. I had the unique opportunity to preview this amazing facility. Here’s a sneak peek:

IN2 at IMSA (Note the unique tables and ping pong net)

Britta McKenna is the Chief Innovation Officer here, and led the team that put this together. As I fumble to get my recorder going, I ask her how they pulled it off. Without any hesitation, she pours out an amazing story—so here it is, verbatim:

[First of all, I asked about the name—IN2. What does it mean?]

“Innovation and Inquiry. When people were in focus groups and asked about IMSA, those were the two words that came up over and over. So the company we worked with used Inquiry & Innovation as IN-IN. That’s why it’s called IN2. So you can say, ‘What are you IN2?’ It can be playful.”

Britta McKenna, Chief Innovation Officer

“The story actually goes back 10 years. It was decided an innovation hub would be built—a physical space and a virtual space.

“Three and a half years ago, we got a gift of one million dollars from Steve Chen to build the innovation center, so then the work really began.”

[Chen is an IMSA alum and co-founder of YouTube and AVOS. I asked Britta how they came up with such a wonderful design]

“I got tapped, as chief innovation officer, to figure out what this would be, what it would look like, how it would operate, how it would be funded. It would have to be a private revenue stream to support this.”

[ALERT—All you budget hawks. She’s talking private funding—and she’s got the corporate connections and alumni to do it.]

Maker Space

“So I brought along students to Silicon Valley—15 of them. We went through Chicago to spaces like Northwestern, IIT, University of Chicago, Fermilab, Argon, 1871, Private Industry Chicago, Next Door, and we also went out to Boston to visit MIT Media Lab, and other spaces out there, including artist colonies to be inspired to by what people were doing coast-to-coast in innovation spaces.”

Multi-use conference rooms

“That was a 2-year research project and included the students all the way. They worked in three teams—Developing Technology, Programming, and Facilities. They helped co-design the space, because they are the users, and too many times, we design things in a box outside of the users. So we implemented a user-designed thinking approach.”

Lab space

“We went to Facebook, Google, Dropbox, AVOS, which is Steve Chen’s newest startup, WeWork, which is a co-working space, and Stanford’s StartX, so we literally have done our due diligence.

“And I asked, ‘What space gets used the most? What’s your favorite thing? And what did you do wrong?’

“It doesn’t mean that those things will all work here, but it’s likely that we might have success if somebody else already has. So we synthesized all of that and I became what is known as the ‘hashtag’ Super-User. And the Super-User is the one that funnels all of this information to the architects, because now it actually has to be designed.”

Idea space

“We went to the community. We came together—58 of us—anyone from a Chicago Public School teacher to a city administrator with City of St. Charles. We got public, private, parents, past parents, teachers—everybody came together and literally built models of this space. We went through the design process with architects, we used Cordogan Clark in Aurora, and we built this—it took about a year to build from the time we broke ground and now we’re opening up.”

Sharing space

“So all the spaces here are influenced either by student ideas or places coast-to-coast that we visited. And so we’d probably say that we’re the first secondary school innovation center in Illinois, and dare we say the United States because we haven’t been able to find something like this. First-to-market is great for Illinois, great for Aurora, and puts IMSA on the map. We invite people to come in and see what we’ve built here.”

Collaboration space

“This is really meant as a convening space. Innovation doesn’t happen unless there are people here. We learned from going coast-to-coast that you can have the coolest space ever, but if there’s nobody there, there’s no innovation happening. There’s nothing happening. It’s all about connecting people.”

Coffee Bar

“One of the biggest places we found is around food. So we have a built-in cafe around the corner because you want to meet somebody for a cup of coffee. You just want to have a casual conversation. You want to have a back-of-the-napkin sketch, that can happen there or it can happen in our idea bar.

“We have Idea Baristas that we’re training. They actually wear aprons, and will help people advance their ideas here. They’re all volunteers.”

Idea Baristas.

We’ve got a mentoring office like 1871. We hope by the fall to have regular office hours. So I am a non-profit mentor. On Tuesdays from 4-6:00, I volunteer my time to mentor non-profits in the community. I can go to them. They can come to us.”

Mentoring Office

“Mike McCool, who’s an alum and a software engineer, wanted to donate and I said, ‘How ‘bout we get the McCool View?’ So he funded the beautiful windows that we have.”

The McCool View

“Our reach—about advancing the human condition—can, I think, really be actualized through this space. Not that we weren’t doing it—it just gives us that new front door. The space is just literally right by the front door.”

A huge competition between student startup companies— POWER PITCH—is going on here today. I’ll give you an inside look at that in the second article in this series.

Moises Goldman – Judge at POWER PITCH

I run into an old friend, Moises Goldman—angel investor, a big driver at MIT, and an important contributor at IMSA. Today he’s one of 17 judges at POWER PITCH. I ask him what he thinks of the new facility. Moises responds in his gentle, deliberate, and old-world manner, condensing his thoughts into a few words:

“I think it’s always been the desire to be in a type of space that recognized talented students. This is our recognition of these students. That makes a difference to me.”

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Notable IMSA Alums

The school’s alumni reflect its excellence. Browse through a few:

Steve Chen – Co-founder/Chief Technology Officer of YouTube and AVOS. Early engineer at PayPal.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Chen

Steve Crutchfield – Chicago Trading Company. CBOE Advisory Board, Head of Options, ETPs, Bonds at NYSE Euronext.  2012 Crain’s Forty Under 40.

http://marketswiki.com/wiki/Steven_Crutchfield

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Dr. Julia Comerford – Astronomer. Discovered several supermassive black hole pairs—occurring in the merger of galaxies.

http://www.sci-news.com/astronomy/pair-black-holes-distant-galaxy-03546.html

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Dr. Scott Gaudi – Astronomer, discovered over a dozen new planets and a new solar system.

https://www.imsa.edu/news/releases/2012/08/06/president-obama-honors-dr-b-scott-gaudi-91-highest-honor-early-career-scien

http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/~gaudi/

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Nathan Gettings – Co-founder of Palantir. Founder of robotics company Robotex.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palantir_Technologies

Also – http://www.robotex.com/

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Ramez Naam – Software developer and international bestselling author. Developer at Microsoft Outlook and Internet Explorer projects.

https://www.amazon.com/Ramez-Naam/e/B001IOH84S/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1489516515&sr=8-2-ent

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Mike McCool – Software Engineer at Google, Robot Invader, Aechelon Technology, Netscape, and many others.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.robotinvader.fooding&hl=en

Rob McCool – Software developer and author. Developed the original NCSA Web server, later known as the Apache HTTP Server. Part of original NCSA Mosaic team with his twin brother Mike.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_McCool

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Tim Meyer, PhD – Chief Operating Officer, Fermilab

http://www.fnal.gov/pub/about/timothy-meyer.html

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Yu Pan – Co-creator of PayPal and the first employee at You Tube. Co-founder of kid’s kraft company Kiwi Crate.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yu_Pan

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Dwan Prude – Financial Analyst, Boeing Company. Motivational speaker.

https://www.imsa.edu/news/releases/2012/08/20/dwan-prude-97-gives-passionate-and-motivational-2012-convocation-address

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Russel Simmons – Co-founder of Yelp. Early developer at PayPal.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russel_Simmons

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Clara Shih – Bestselling author, THE FACEBOOK ERA. Founder of Hearsay systems. In 2010, she was named one of most influential women in tech.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Shih

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Kevin Wang – Founder of TL;DR Legal. Theil Foundation fellowship recipient.

https://www.imsa.edu/academics/talent/kevin-wang-new-thiel-fellow

Also – http://www.geekwire.com/2012/kevin-wang/

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Sam Yagan – American internet entrepreneur. Co-founder of SparkNotes and OkCupid. CEO Match.com. Named in Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world list.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Yagan

 

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Hope you enjoyed Part 1 – THE NAME IS IN2

Read Part 2 – POWER PITCH

Go to Part 3 – INQUIRY & INNOVATION

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IN2 Contact Info

Address – 1500 Sullivan Rd. Aurora, IL 60506

Website – https://www.imsa.edu/

Carl Heine – heine@imsa.edu

Britta McKenna – bmckenna@imsa.edu

Tami Armstrong – tarmstrong@imsa.edu

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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.

4 Comments

Filed under Chicago Startup, Chicago Ventures, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, IMSA, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Invention, new companies, Public Schools, Social Entrepreneur, Startup, startup company

ALIEN ABDUCTS FISH, THROWS FISHERMAN BACK

20161004-_jajdscn0159tby Jim Kren

Avid fisherman John Jonelis was enjoying some late night fly-fishing on the Pere Marquette River in Michigan when he had a close encounter with something not swimming upstream.

“I’m casting a fly called a Crystal Bullet with a number 4 hook on a sink tip,” said Jonelis. “This beautiful Chinook Salmon practically bends my number 10 Recon in half but after about an hour, I land it. Al snaps a picture, then all this happens. Me and my salmon get lifted by a glowing ray into some giant saucer-like ship that smells of fish inside.”

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Taken moments before alien abduction – Photo by Al Faleskin

“A tiny man in a silver suit approaches me carrying a long stick with knobs and buttons. He points it at me and the salmon I caught, and babbles something I can’t understand. Then in a flash, I drop like a lead sinker back in the river. But the alien keeps my fish!

“I think those aliens are fishing with some kinda tractor beam.” said Jonelis  “That’s not sporting and it’s against the regs for sure.”  

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Pere Marquette River, Michigan

Jonelis was found by his fellow fishermen at 5:00 am the next morning and carried back to Bueter’s Salmon Camp. His fishing partners, Al Faleskin and Bob Paine, were not available for comment.

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Small flies, big fish

John Bueter examined Jonelis. “He was soaked through and babbling about losing the big one and space aliens and whatnot, and still trying to cast even though he lost his fly and tippet and was sitting at a picnic table. I’ve seen fishermen act like that before, so I administered a stiff belt of Wild Turkey bourbon. Someone should let those spacemen know it’s catch-and-release around here. The warden will get after them if they don’t throw their fish back. He could confiscate their ship.”

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Taken the following day

Even after losing his salmon, Jonelis displayed an upbeat attitude. “The fishing’s great—and it’s an easy drive from Chicago!  I’m definitely coming back every year. I just hope those aliens catch their own fish next time.  They shouldn’t steal mine—that’s just not the way fishermen treat each other.”

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Jonelis’ classic Eureka Timberline

Jonelis refused any more questions and retired to his tent with the bottle of Wild Turkey. “He’ll be okay after he sleeps it off,” said Bueter. “I’ve seen it before. A good fisherman always gets back at it.”

Read next in series – TOO MUCH FUN

Also read – HOW TO TREAT THE OLD MAN

WARNING: Angling is addictive and expensive can be hazardous to your health. Please fish responsibly.

Bueter’s Salmon Camp runs every year, the last weekend of September and sometimes the following weekend too. It’s walking distance from Bueter’s Cloud 9 Resort and an easy day’s drive from Chicago.

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Bueter’s Salmon Camp

For more information, contact John Bueter: j.bueter@sbcglobal.net

Cloud 9 Resort, 3360 S M-37, Baldwin, Michigan 49304, phone 231-745-3070 www.cloud9baldwin.com

Read a great article on Bueter’s Salmon Camp.  Also Bueter’s Salmon Camp Facebook Page Then see more Salmon Camp on Facebook

 

Image credits, Al Faleskin, John Jonelis.


Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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