Conference inspires Gates wannabes

The Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour stopped at the U of C last Friday, offering advice for students interested in creating start-ups

By Jake Smith

Over 100 members of the University community poured into Kent Hall last Friday for the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour, where messages of “Make it Happen!” and “Get Awesome!” replaced the usual chemical equations on the blackboards.

The ins and outs of modern entrepreneurship were discussed during the four-hour conference, which included a series of presentations from successful young businesspeople, a workshop for students’ ideas, and networking opportunities.

According to the Tour’s co-owner Arel Moodie, the group travels around the country to inspire students by presenting images of success to which they can relate.

“Most of the time when entrepreneurship speakers come in, it’s the Bill Gates’, the Jeff Bezos’,” he said—individuals who are “very successful, but usually fifty, sixty years old.”

Moodie challenged attendees to examine the “paradigm you might have about what is possible for you, what is happening right now in this economy, and the steps you can take to move forward.”

One of the Tour’s main messages was that a start-up business venture is “not something I can do someday, this is something I can do today,” Moodie said.

Started in 2006 by New York University graduate students Sheena Lindahl and Michael Simmons, the Tour aims to show students that entrepreneurship is always a viable option, at any age.

Third-year and head organizer for the event Ted Gonder encouraged Simmons to visit campus after noticing a crop of new start-ups and ventures by U of C students.

“The campus is in the midst of becoming more entrepreneurial, it’s kind of a culture shift that’s going on,” Gonder said.

To date, the Tour has held over 400 events and keynotes in 43 states. It is sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with additional contributions from the National Chamber Foundation and various corporate sponsors. The University of Chicago visit was part of a nine-school tour of Chicagoland area colleges funded by the Coleman Foundation.

“The concept was to tour around the country like a rock-star show,” Moodie said.