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Groupon Founder is Keynote at Confab for Budding Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneur@NU conference matches would-be entrepreneurs with startup experts

EVANSTON, Ill. --- More than 500 people are expected at Northwestern University’s second entrepreneurship conference when Groupon founder and Northwestern alumnus Andrew Mason and venture capitalist Peter Barris deliver the keynote speech Wednesday, May 23. The conference will showcase the University’s entrepreneurial community and provide would-be entrepreneurs with counseling sessions with top lawyers and venture capitalists.

Also known as the entrepreneur@NU conference, the event will take place on the second floor of Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In addition to the Northwestern Venture Challenge from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 pm -- where startups compete for a grand prize of $15,000 -- the event will include panels on topics related to starting a business. Among those topics are technology for non-techies; legal basics and common pitfalls; raising capital and growth in Chicago; finding talent and a team; and paths to owning your own company.  

Those registered for the conference through Eventbrite are also welcome to register for a legal clinic appointment in the morning and for venture capital and “angel” appointments in the afternoon. Both sessions offer general advice (and networking, but no funding or employment) from top lawyers and investors in the Chicago area and are complimentary. 

Represented law firms include Sidley Austin LLP, Goldberg Kohn, Horwood Marcus & Berk, and Johnston Greene LLC. Investors come from Excelerate, TechNexus and Wildcat Angels among others. While walk-ins are welcome, space is limited. 

From 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., at least a dozen Northwestern businesses will present their products and services in a demo and networking session. Attendees will be encouraged to learn about recently developed businesses from Northwestern and the diverse backgrounds of the people who started them. The showcased startups vary from Web to environmental to candy. 

From 3 to 4 p.m., Mason and Barris will discuss the past, present, and future of Groupon as well as “The Groupon Effect” on the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Northwestern, Chicago and the Midwest. Barris is leading a group of trustees who are expanding the role of entrepreneurs. He and Mason hope to inspire more Northwestern students and alumni to become entrepreneurs. 

The conference results from a partnership of university centers and offices concerned with entrepreneurship and reflects the growing collaborative culture and interdisciplinary model of Northwestern entrepreneurial community.

Participants include representatives from McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science’s Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Kellogg School of Management, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences’ Kapnick Business Institutions Program, University Career Services, INVO (Innovation and New Ventures Office), alumni relations and InNUvation, the interdisciplinary, student-run organization that promotes the entrepreneurial spirit on campus. 

While the conference is open to the public, priority at the legal and venture capital clinics will be given to businesses directly affiliated with Northwestern. With less than 100 seats still available, tickets are selling quickly. Costs of the conference vary.  

For general information including conference entrance costs, visit or call Patricia Fitzgibbons at the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at (847) 467-3753.

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