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Kellogg’s entrepreneur@nu Conference Features Northwestern Alum and Groupon Founder Andrew Mason

 The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University last week hosted the 2012 entrepreneur@nu Conference, featuring a keynote fireside chat with Northwestern graduate and Groupon founder Andrew Mason. The conference, now in its second year, drew students, alumni and entrepreneurs from Kellogg, the McCormick School of Engineering and the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation for a range of entrepreneurship-focused programs.

Addressing an audience of 200, Mason shared Groupon’s journey as part of an hour-long program called “The Groupon Effect on Northwestern, Chicago and the Midwest.” Together with another Northwestern alum, Peter Barris, managing general partner at New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and one of Groupon’s earliest investors, Mason touched on issues ranging from competitive barriers to retaining culture to being a public company.

Groupon’s success, according to Mason, lies in the fact that it manages to solve a problem for both merchants and customers. Its focus on building a culture in which talented employees have the freedom to build is important. “People who do great things are persistent and surround themselves with good people,” he said.

Chicago, too, provided a critical entrepreneurial climate, Mason said. “Chicago was the perfect spot with its Midwestern pragmatism and its openness to using people to solve problems rather than technology,” he said. Together, he and Barris both expressed their commitment to advancing entrepreneurship among Northwestern’s students and alumni.

Additional programs as part of the entrepreneur@nu event sought to spotlight the evolving “entrepreneurial ecosystem” both at Northwestern and in Chicago. These included a range of panel discussions, including one on creating a startup based on university research and another on raising capital and growing in Chicago. The conference also featured 30-minute legal clinic sessions with Chicago area firms that assist startups, a demonstration area showcasing 14 local startups and VC and angel investors to provide entrepreneurs with feedback on their sales approach.

Finally, the conference also included the final round of the Northwestern Venture Challenge (NUVC), which awarded top honors and a grand prize of $15,000 to NuMat Technologies, a startup that computationally designs and synthesizes high-performing nanomaterials for gas storage and separation applications.


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