May 12, 2010

By Paul Feinberg and Justin Tang

UCLA Anderson's twenty-fifth annual Entrepreneurs Conference opened with an "X-pert" -- when Dr. Peter Diamandis kicked-off the proceedings with an inspiring opening keynote address. Diamandis, founder and chairman of the X Prize Foundation, reminded the aspiring entrepreneurs who packed Anderson's Korn Convocation Center that "Entrepreneurs (must) envision the world they want to create ... unless you're willing to take a risk, you won't have breakthroughs."

The Entrepreneurs Conference is Anderson's largest and highest profile student-organized event. According to the conference literature, the event "serves to showcase UCLA Anderson's leadership position in the area of entrepreneurship," and to further the school's goals of promoting entrepreneurship and fostering innovation; of providing a rich learning experience for entrepreneurs, students and business professionals; for sharing valuable insight on topics in entrepreneurship, critical business skills and emerging opportunities; and for offering a networking venue for entrepreneurs, students and business professionals. The day-long event features a host of talks, round-tables and break-out sessions, covering a wide-range of topics from food to fashion, from sports to social media and from real estate to recycling. Among the afternoon highlights is a fast-pitch competition, where students present their business ideas to a panel of experts in near rapid-fire style.

To Diamandis, this is the right time for entrepreneurs to cast their lines in the ocean of opportunity, believing not only that profits are possible, but that entrepreneurs are in position to make real impact on society. "We are living in a magical age," Diamandis said, citing three market forces sweeping the globe, including the strength of exponential technology that allows small groups to change the world, the number of millionaires and billionaires with the capital to empower these world-changing groups and the power of mobile broadband to give voice to millions who were once unheard. "Figure out what you want to do," Diamandis said. "Because anything is possible."

After Diamandis finished his address, the audience broke out into various panels that were split into three different sessions throughout the day. One panel discussed effective strategies to raise capital despite the challenging times for capital investors and entrepreneurs. Another panel looked at the future of mobile applications and how to market things like games for an iPhone.

Before the closing keynote address, the conference gathered in Korn Hall for the customary Fast Pitch competition, where students make a sixty-second pitch about their product in front of a panel of judges to win a cash prize. Preliminary rounds reduced the participants from twelve students to five. The winning participant was Seth Burns ('10) an Executive MBA student (EMBA) and currently an executive with Biogas & Electric LLC, a company that uses a substance to digest methane in order to reduce greenhouse gases.

In a sign of how times have changed, Jason Fried of 37signals delivered the closing keynote address over Skype videoconference because his flight to Los Angeles was cancelled. His address focused on different aspects of entrepreneurship. For example, he disagreed with the notion that entrepreneurs must first raise capital to begin business. Instead, he argues that, "Startup companies must first make money because it's a skill that you'll need throughout your career. This way, you'll have the mindset of making money instead of spending money." Fried also told the audience that they must "focus on the things that your business won't change. For example, speed is very important to our company therefore an investment in speed will always pay off."

Before he signed off of Skype, he told the audience of future entrepreneurs, "In today's world, it is impossible to go unnoticed if you do something well."

About UCLA Anderson School of Management
UCLA Anderson School of Management, established in 1935, is regarded among the leading business schools in the world. UCLA Anderson faculty members are renowned for their teaching excellence and research in advancing management thinking. Each year, UCLA Anderson provides management education to more than 1,800 students enrolled in MBA, Fully-Employed MBA, Executive MBA, UCLA-NUS Global Executive MBA, Master of Financial Engineering, and doctoral programs, and to more than 2,000 professional managers through executive education programs. Combining highly selective admissions, varied and innovative learning programs, and a world-wide network of 36,000 alumni, UCLA Anderson develops and prepares global leaders.

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