On a sunny summer day in Minneapolis, over 100 people gathered for the Inclusive Innovators Summit. The conference brought together Midwest graduate students, postdocs, and faculty with entrepreneurial leaders to build insights and solutions for inclusive commercialization and entrepreneurship. The conference, a program of the Great Lakes I-Corps Hub and hosted by the University of Minnesota, was a packed day with numerous speakers, panels, and networking opportunities.
Conference attendees listening to a presentation
Inspiring Panels and Activities
Along with the keynote speakers, an important element of the conference was the Panel Discussions. Two panels in particular, ‘From Idea to Impact’ and ‘From “Failure” to Success’ allowed young innovators to hear from, and ask questions to experienced and early entrepreneurs.
During the first panel, I-Corps Alumni Vince Truong shared the government and university resources that enabled his startup, Anatomic, to succeed. During the second panel, I-Corps Alumni Yingling Fan described the challenges she faced when trying to start her company, Daynamica. Multiple rejections discouraged Fan, but after perseverance and support from team members, her company was able to receive funding. Hearing from other innovators allowed attendees to understand the entrepreneurial process, and potentially inspire them to pursue their own ideas.
It was very valuable to hear from the panels about their failures and struggles. I think it’s easy to just show the bright side, but it really helps to put my own struggles in context with people who have made it. It makes me realize setbacks are a normal part of the process.
The From Idea to Impact Panel
Live Demos by Local Startups
The conference also featured a live demo by Eric Nelson, the CTO of the Minneapolis-based startup Brevity. Brevity’s technology allows salespeople, entrepreneurs, and others to create and refine their pitches and presentations. Using AI technology, the platform guides users through the process of creating compelling pitches. Attendees got the opportunity to test out the platform and even got 6 months of free access. They also got to hear from Brevity’s CEO, Kelvin Johnson about his experience starting the company.
Brevity’s CTO Eric Nelson demoing their product
The Midwest Engineering Entrepreneurship Network (MEEN)
Earlier in the week, representatives from numerous engineering entrepreneurship programs gathered at the University of Minnesota to discuss the innovation ecosystem and education in the Midwest. Since 2011, The Midwest Engineering Entrepreneurship Network (MEEN), has been an opportunity to share best practices and methods for overcoming challenges unique to Midwest engineering entrepreneurship centers. Topics of discussion included ethics in entrepreneurship, a SWOT analysis, and a keynote presentation from the CEO of VentureWell, Phil Weilerstein. Many of the discussions and topics carried over into the Inclusive Innovators Summit.
MEEN Conference attendees conducting a SWOT analysis
Advancing Entrepreneurship Education in the Midwest
The Midwest region has great potential for innovation and entrepreneurship in the 21st century. Programs like the Inclusive Innovators Summit and MEEN present an opportunity to foster the entrepreneurial spirit of student and faculty innovators.
Are you interested in exploring innovation or entrepreneurship? Check out our upcoming events: https://www.greatlakesicorps.org/coming-events/
Quotes Edited for Clarity
NSF I-Corps Hub: Great Lakes Region, 2023
Written by Chris Eakin