Tuesday, August 28, 2018

New Kaplan Institute Building Tour

Why Cleaning House Can Create a Bigger Mess

Why Cleaning House Can Create a Bigger Mess
Replacing the CEO of a struggling startup is relatively easy. But when the new boss then decides to obliterate existing top management, the troubles seem to multiply.

Executive director, Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, Illinois Institute of Technology

I have been concerned for a while now--even as the stock market continues to lurch upward and carry tech stocks to new heights-- that things are getting tougher in the trenches. Securing follow-on financing is more challenging these days and investors are both more realistic and more demanding as well as far less patient than they've been in the past. Not good news for newbies. 

I'm also seeing strategics take a step or two back and disappear at the last minute from deals that were "done" but for the ceremonial dinner. Except that they weren't all done and the businesses waiting to cash those checks blew up instead of celebrating. From the corporate's perspective, it's a lot better to have wasted a bunch of time examining a deal than to lose a lot of money investing in a bad one. In the first case, it's likely to lead to a slap on the hand while the other's gonna be a kick in the pants.

Maybe this is all an investor reaction to the reduced upside and liquidity (ease of exits) that the market is currently offering as compared with the risks, brain damage, and multi-year struggles that even the best of startups represent. When things are taking longer to blossom, and the far-off promise and remote horizon of actual profits continues to recede, the idea of making 50% to 100% returns on your money every 6 months with a couple of phone orders to buy stocks like Stitchfix or Netflix starts to look awfully attractive.

But there's a bigger issue for the entrepreneurs running businesses that are now caught (hopefully momentarily) in that nasty space between nothing and nirvana.  Boards and investors start to get antsy, too, and look for quick fixes, fire sale liquidations, or-- perish the thought-- changes in management. The typical tenure of a startup CEO isn't that long to begin with and when everyone is looking for "change" -- without any real idea of what that means for a particular business--it's easy for the person running the business to feel like there's a target painted on his or her back.

This is not a happy prospect, and I think we are gonna see a lot more coming. But I'm actually okay with replacing the CEO when the ship has stalled and there's no real salvation in sight.  The problem is with directors and investors who bring in a new leader who then shows the rest of the management team the door. In this ritual house cleaning the new CEO too often ends up throwing out the baby with the bath water.

If this kind of wholesale dumping of the incumbent C-level team is even arguably appropriate, then both the board and the prior CEO have been asleep at the switch for years. And I'm seeing this happen every week now in larger and smaller businesses, where the mantra of change (almost for change's sake) without any real guidance, direction or plan is the flavor of the week.  Instead, it's another way for investors and directors to buy time, ignore certain obvious realities about the business, and watch while the deck chairs are shuffled for the umpteenth time.

So, here are a few hints for both incoming CEOs and the boards that bring them in:

(1) The new CEO doesn't know where all the bodies are buried and what closets hold the most skeletons, but others on the team do know. So, even if they aren't the best bet for the business in the long run, tossing them out prematurely is a sure formula for failure. And, I might add, the board doesn't really know the new CEO that well either on Day One; giving the new leader unlimited license and adopting a laissez-faire approach makes very little sense. You don't have to look any further than the revolving doors at Hewlett Packard over the last ten years for clear evidence. Counting on your search firm to get the pick 100% right is equally foolish. Even the best headhunters suck at telling you the real story--they're just looking to close the sale.

(2) Adding a bunch of new people to any enterprise at the same time (even if they've previously worked with each other at different places and under different circumstances) exponentially increases the risks of making major mistakes in the early going. Changes, especially in company culture, don't come easily and they rarely begin until the new management starts taking actions rather than just talking about what's going to happen. But, if a half dozen people are running around and making random decisions (especially about people) before there's even a clear alignment on direction and strategy, the message to the rest of the business couldn't be any worse or less productive. Measure twice, cut once.

(3)  Your key employees (the ones you need to keep and re-recruit to the new mission) and your most important customers are also likely to be plenty nervous about the changes being made and looking for as much stability and continuity as possible. In every case I've seen, senior people who were quickly shoved out not only knew a great deal about the business, they also knew and had long-standing personal relationships with a lot of the key customers.
Here again, some of those relationships and even customers may not have been helpful (or even profitable), but you can't really determine that without spending some time looking under the covers.  That's why it helps to have a few knowledgeable people on board to assist and guide you in that process of discovering what's what.

Bottom line: wholesale house cleaning without taking the time to do it right can be very hazardous to the health of your business.

Are You Planning a Trip to Mars? Why It's Important to Dream Big

Are You Planning a Trip to Mars? Why It's Important to Dream Big
Elon Musk may be having some very down-to-earth problems at Tesla, but his SpaceX venture shows the value of reaching beyond the ordinary and the proven. To hell with small gains.

If you just want to get what you’ve always gotten, keep doing what you’ve always done. If you want to change the old rules and get better, you’ve got to start aiming higher and thinking bigger. There’s always a best seat in the house, the best row at the show, and something desperately worth shooting for which we all know that you may not always get. But shame on you if you don’t at least go for it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always “No.” 

And today, I think there’s no better example of reaching for the stars for companies and entrepreneurs of every size than SpaceX and its semi-combustible founder Elon Musk.
Notwithstanding Elon’s current angst at his automobile firm, Tesla -; which is about nuts-and-bolts production, not vision -; the SpaceX engine that he built (almost as an afterthought) continues to fire on all cylinders. SpaceX is making the impossible seem commonplace and raising the bar for big dreams being backed up by awesome deliverables. Dockless bikes, slick little scooters, and new offerings of gluten-free whatever all seem depressingly trivial compared with Elon’s grand ambitions.

Things in the space biz may take a little longer than expected, but some of the beneficial by-products may even turn out to be better than initially expected. The scale and the scope of what SpaceX has already achieved since it was founded in 2002 is unlike anything that has come before or after. Keep in mind that NASA was formed in 1958, more than 60 years ago, and these days it’s getting help from SpaceX in Hawthorne and taking Dream Chaser directions from the Sierra Nevada orbital vehicle builders in Louisville, Colorado. Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin) has been in the “space” business since 2000 and he’s got bupkes to show for it. Richard Branson is another big talker with Virgin Galactic, which he founded in 2004, but it seems that he’s perpetually “just six months away” from being in space. Don’t hold your breath.

And, as you might expect, seeing in this case just makes believing that much easier. You can't visit the SpaceX factory without coming away with the overwhelming impression that there's a palpable sense of possibility and the belief that virtually anything is achievable with enough time, effort, and perseverance. This isn't some cheap Silicon Valley talk or “pie in the sky” (no pun intended) prediction. It's an outgrowth and extension of an attitude that is as compelling as it is contagious. And that attitude is backed in facts and in demonstrable results. These people are hard-core professionals -; engineers and scientists -; who spend their days head down making things happen. Elon does the dreaming, scheming and sweating, but these are the hundreds of people who get the job done every day.

They might technically be manufacturing machines and missiles, but what they really make here are “believers.” People who believe that the world is leaning in their direction and that success (albeit over time) is far more probable (not just possible) than any other outcome. I wish you could bottle this attitude because it's such a special combination of pride and practicality as well as concrete grounding and vast visioning that I think we should add it to the drinking water at every school and startup in the country.

So, what’s the main message from SpaceX for the rest of us? We need to look further and wider if we’re going to up the ante, make major changes, and leapfrog the competition.  Using the best available data and basing our plans, programs and designs on real metrics and milestones (rather than make-believe) is an essential methodology. But, if it’s the only view you have of the future, you’ll find that your focus is far narrower than it should be and that your energies end up being directed mainly to short, sure wins instead of big jumps and new horizons.

This conservative approach leads to designs and choices that tend to be marginal improvements and incremental gains rather than game-changing moves. Successive approximation and consistent iteration are great tools (“getting a little better every day”), but the key word is “little” and what we need more and more of are bigger leaps and longer look-aheads.

Simply trying to keep getting closer and closer to a known goal is not enough, because that approach and that perspective can often keep us from looking further down the road and really thinking about going for the gold.  

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Kaplan Institute Exec Director Howard Tullman Keynotes ICPAS Summit

How to Get the Most Out of College Frank Bruni

How to Get the Most Out of College
They’re privileged, pivotal years. Navigate them with as much care as you did the path that got you there.

Opinion Columnist
We overwhelm teenagers with advice about choosing a college. Go big. Go small. Put prestige above cost. Do the opposite.

We inundate them with tips for getting in. Spend summers this way. Write essays that way. Play a niche sport. Play an obscure instrument.

And then? We go mum, mustering less urgency and fewer words for the subject of actually navigating the crucial college years to best effect. It’s strange. And it’s stupid, because how a student goes to school matters much, much more than where.

So for several years — during visits to campuses, interviews with experts on higher education and interactions with recent graduates — I’ve been gathering wisdom along those lines.

My interest isn’t which types of programs at which kinds of institutions yield the surest employment and highest salaries. That information is already out there and always changing. I also worry that it casts college as purely vocational and plants the false notion that, at the age of 18, you know yourself well enough to plot out the entirety of your professional life.

My focus is on optimal ways to socialize, to prioritize, to pick up skills integral to any career and to open up exciting opportunities both en route to a degree and after you’ve acquired it. Not nearly enough of the roughly 20 million Americans who are beginning or resuming college over the coming weeks pause, in their trepidation and exhilaration, to think about that.

Many don’t have the luxury: College for them is a slapdash scramble to grab credits as they can while working a demanding job, caring for family members or both. More than a third of the students enrolled in higher education in this country attend two-year institutions. Those at four-year institutions often don’t participate in the romantic ideal of nurturing dormitories and verdant quadrangles. They live with parents. They pray for parking.

But others do have the freedom to tailor their time. They just neglect to take advantage of it. My friend Eric Johnson, who provides guidance to underprivileged students at my alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, put it to me this way: “The more you regard college as a credentialing exercise, the less likely you are to get the benefits.”
Johnson is as thoughtful and insightful about higher education as just about anyone I’ve come across. The wisest students, he said, “move into a peer relationship with the institution rather than a consumer relationship with it.” They seize leadership roles. They serve as research assistants.

And they build social capital, realizing that above all else, they’re in college “to widen the circle of human beings who know you and care about you,” he said. That’s perfectly put.
Many students, nervous about a new environment, follow friends from high school or people whose demographic backgrounds match their own into homogeneous cocoons. That can indeed provide solace and support. But it’s also a wasted opportunity — educationally, morally, strategically. Diversity opens you to an array and wealth of ideas, and being comfortable with it is an asset in just about any workplace or career. You can decide to establish that comfort in college.

But perhaps the most important relationships to invest in are those with members of the school’s faculty. Most students don’t fully get that. They’re not very good at identifying the professors worth knowing — the ones who aren’t such academic rock stars that they’re inaccessible, the ones with a track record of serious mentoring — and then getting to know them well.

As part of my research, I collected surveys from about 30 recipients of the prestigious Mitchell scholarship, a rough analogue of the Rhodes that sends 12 recent American college graduates every year to universities in Ireland to pursue master’s degrees. (I was on the panel of judges who selected the winners from 2015 through 2017.) I asked them to reflect on college and to rank, in order of importance, such activities and dynamics as coursework, travel abroad, internships, relationships with classmates, involvement in campus groups and reading done apart from any class obligation.

Relationships with faculty members was also an option, and it was the clear winner, placed near the top by almost all of the scholars and at the top by many, including Azza Cohen, a documentary filmmaker who graduated from Princeton in 2016. To explain that ranking, she directed me to a 2014 essay of hers for The Daily Princetonian that was titled “Empty Chairs.” It charted her realization and regret that she and so many classmates skipped professors’ office hours and didn’t avail themselves of invaluable conversations and counsel. “In the routine rush to finish our assignments, sometimes the breadth of the surrounding intellectual force field slips our minds,” she wrote. She was then a sophomore, and she mended her ways.

Reading her essay, I was reminded of an interview I did several years ago with Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, about her days at the University of Denver. She said she liked to sign up for the front end of office hours, because she wanted to catch professors when they weren’t feeling depleted and watching the clock. She read up on professors beforehand and, if their written work was accessible, familiarized herself with it, so she could make mention of it. That flattered them and pegged her as a serious, considerate person.

Taking that too far, of course, could be repulsively obsequious. The correct calibration is everything. And it’s worth acing, because a professor or administrator who takes a genuine interest in you can be a bridge to other influential people inside and outside the school, to limited-space seminars, to special collaborations, to exclusive summer programs, to competitive internships, to graduate work and more.

Damian Walker saw that at U.N.C.-Chapel Hill, from which he graduated last spring. “The most influential thing I did here was find mentors,” he told me. And he found them largely by opening up to them.

Walker attended U.N.C.-Chapel Hill as a Carolina Covenant scholar, which means that his family was poor enough for him to qualify for full financial aid. He told me that early on he went to an open campus discussion about police violence against minorities. Several faculty members were also there, and he approached Judith Cone, the vice chancellor for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development.

“I didn’t know who she was,” he recalled. “Short lady. I shared my story about how police shootings affected my life, my family. She gave me her business card and said, ‘Follow up.’ I still have that business card to this day.” He went to see her in her office and kept going to see her in her office, and with the encouragement and help of her and other faculty members, he cobbled together the money to go to an educational conference in Massachusetts, to meet with entrepreneurs in New York City and to spend the summer between his junior and senior years interning for a company in China. He’s about to head back to China to teach English for a while. He’s well on his way to fluency in Mandarin, which he thinks will give him a definite edge in any future business career.

Walker is an example of what a mammoth study by Gallup, Purdue University and the Strada Education Network has found. Previously known as the Gallup-Purdue Index and now called the Strada-Gallup Alumni Survey, it has questioned about 100,000 American college graduates of all ages about their college experiences, looking for connections between how they spent their time in college and how fulfilled they say they are now.

The study has not found that attending a private college or a highly selective one foretells greater satisfaction. Instead, the game changers include establishing a deep connection with a mentor, taking on a sustained academic project and playing a significant part in a campus organization. What all of these reflect are engagement and commitment, which I’ve come to think of as overlapping muscles that college can and must be used to build. They’re part of an assertive rather than a passive disposition, and they’re key to professional success.
I’m not saying that this is a cinch, nor am I ignoring the demons in the way. Anxiety and depression are legion on campuses today, holes that too many students fall into and never crawl out of. More than ever, students should be on the lookout for them and take the necessary steps to mitigate them.

Be careful, especially at the beginning of college, about spending too much time alone. Isolation can become its own bad habit, and prying eyes can be the best insurance policy against destructive behavior. Regulate time on social media, where discourse can be barbed and peers curate honeyed alter egos that stoke insecurity in those looking at them. Don’t drink too much and don’t shortchange sleep, as prosaic as that sounds. And work out in some way.
“We know that exercise is very, very important,” said Jan Collins-Eaglin, the associate dean for wellness at Pomona College in Southern California. “It will calm you down.” She noted, too, that many schools have invested in their mental health services but that many students hesitate to use them. “Seeking help is not taboo,” she said. “If you get over that, you are one step ahead of the game.”

One crossroads that students often get needlessly worked up about is choosing a major. It’s less make-or-break than you think. I hear that from a majority of thriving college graduates, and the professors I speak with strongly caution students against wedding themselves to a single field of study before being exposed to several of them. College’s greatest gifts can be an introduction to a passion you didn’t previously have and a pivot into an occupation you never before envisioned.

“You have to ask yourself what lies closest to your heart,” said Jim Gates, a renowned theoretical physicist at Brown University who previously taught at the University of Maryland and M.I.T. “If you are fortunate enough to find something that you’re totally obsessed with, you’re likely to work very hard at it. If you’re a human being of average intelligence and you work very hard at something, you’re likely to become very good at it. And if you become very good at it, people are likely to notice.” That means they’re likely to employ and reward you as well.

Regardless of major, there are skills to insist on acquiring because they transcend any particular career. Communication — clear writing, cogent speaking — is one of them, and many different courses can hone it.

Another of those skills, frequently overlooked, is storytelling. It’s different from communication: a next step. Every successful pitch for a new policy, new product or new company is essentially a story, with a shape and logic intended to stir its audience. So is every successful job interview. The best moment in a workplace meeting belongs to the colleague who tells the best story. So take a course in Greek mythology, British literature, political rhetoric or anything else that exposes you to the structure of narrative and the art of persuasion.

I asked Mitchell scholars if there was a department or discipline that they wished they had paid more heed. Science majors mentioned humanities. Humanities majors mentioned computer science and statistics. In retrospect, if not in real time, intellectually curious people appreciate and want the benefits of balance. So incorporate it, to some degree, in your college years.

Several Mitchell scholars also fretted that they’d lost out on some of what college had to offer by sticking to predetermined scripts, sweating perfection and avoiding risks. That dovetailed with a concern that many professors articulate to me — that students aren’t learning to stumble and to right themselves, which they can do in college with lower stakes than later on.

One of those scholars, Aaron Kurman, who graduated from the University of Virginia in 2005 and now works as a human rights lawyer in Israel, copped to all of that and more, writing: “I didn’t learn how to fail. I didn’t learn how resilient I was. I didn’t learn to distinguish between what was truly important to me and what I was doing because I thought it was important in others’ eyes. I didn’t learn how freeing it is to pursue what drives you even when others whose opinions you deeply value don’t understand or support it. I didn’t learn the value of doing something truly open-ended, where you don’t already know at the outset what you are going to do next.” All of that came later. But it could have come in college — at least the beginnings of it.

Something else that can come in college is an enormously expanded self-knowledge that translates into a hugely improved design for living. But that hinges on an adventurous spirit, especially outside the classroom.

“The mistake is to confuse career success, financial success and reputation with happiness,” said Andrew Delbanco, a Columbia University professor who is the president of the Teagle Foundation, which promotes liberal arts education, and the author of the 2012 book “College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be.” Delbanco added that an important component of real contentment is figuring out what lights your emotional and intellectual fires, not necessarily for the purpose of a job but for the purpose of reflections and pastimes that fill in all those hours away from work.

Is it poetry? Music? Sport? Those and more are abundant on college campuses. “You’re trying to shape a life that leads you to a happy place,” Delbanco said. Let college do precisely that.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

New INC Magazine Blog by Kaplan Institute Executive Director Howard Tullman

It's a Whole New Ball Game
In the fight to grab customers' time, attention and dollars, professional sports teams are changing the rules and even neglecting tradition. That's a lesson for all kinds of businesses.

Executive director, Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, Illinois Institute of Technology @tullman

 When our parents told us time and again to pay attention, we mostly thought it was a matter of courtesy and not of consequence. But, as it turns out today, attention has become a currency of its own, which we are each free to spend or squander. If you want me to pay attention to your message, you've got to find me at the right time and place and give me a compelling reason to listen. Show me quickly how you're going to make my life better (save or spare me something--time, money, work, bad decisions, etc.) or I'll quickly show you the virtual door and be long gone.

Billions of dollars are being spent every day by millions of marketers trying desperately and increasingly unsuccessfully -- amidst the growing noise and clutter -- to attract, engage and direct our attention to their clients' wares and wonders. And, if it wasn't challenging enough in its organic form, the task is made ever so much more difficult in the digital world by the abundance of hucksters, scammers, bots, viral shysters and every other manner of market manipulator selling phony video views, valueless virality, illegitimate likes, two-bit tweets and useless users.

Outbound and conquest marketing is just going to continue to get harder and harder and even less cost-effective, which is why more and more effort is being directed toward improving and deepening the connection and the experience of the customers that companies already have.  These folks are the lowest hanging fruit, the easiest to reach, and the most inclined to pay attention as long as you're meeting their progressively rising expectations and especially their increasingly shorter attention span.

The game today isn't being played in weeks or days or even hours. It's a double-overtime, all-the-time, battle over seconds and -- as far as I can see -- no one is giving this more thought than the sports guys. Watching the changes we're seeing in sports broadcasting and the way sports are being presented to, and shared with, the fans offers a number of important lessons for the rest of us.

With the data now available and the mass of real-time metrics that mobile users supply, everyone has a far more accurate window on what works in every single second of these games. The smartest sports executives are using all this information to better manage user experiences and--at the same time -- to remake the games themselves to better suit both the core fans and to attract new populations to the pool.

MLB, the NBA, and the NFL continue to have a unique edge, being live, over so much other media that can be readily and easily time-shifted.  But this hasn't blinded them to the growing need to get ahead of fidgety fans always looking for alternatives. Their small steps and the experiments have been fairly modest because, while the club owners are good businessmen, they're also very conservative people (apart from my friend Mark Cuban) and baseball, basketball and football are highly entrenched and sacrosanct parts of the culture and traditions of this country.

Still, the concerns they're starting to address are very relevant to the ways that every business will need to evaluate how they are interacting with consumers and prospects, and how the overall experiences they are creating and delivering to their customers can be improved. All the dimensions are in play -- how, when, where, what and to whom you are delivering your products and/or services.

Here are a few of the most important things to be looking out for:

(1) How Available Is It? (Access)
Everything is going global. Games will need to be played in the afternoon for European viewers and on weekend mornings for Asian audiences. Streaming games on Facebook (not contractually permitted in the U.S.) is already happening in India. How equipped is your business to sell to, service and support customers around the world? It's relatively easy to have your app downloaded in 100 countries. It's much harder to provide 24/7 customer support worldwide.

(2) How Long Is It? (Time)
Everything in business is now a function of time. No one wants to wait for anything. Games are being shortened with fewer time-outs and briefer halftimes, reducing coaches' trips to the mound, quicker pitching sequences, etc. because the average fan is only watching about half of any game. How quickly can you respond to your customers' inquiries, ship their goods, or dispatch service personnel to their sites when needed? The best businesses today respond to inbound customer calls in less than a minute.

(3) How Painless Is It? (Friction)
Sports customers want a quick, easy and friction-free solution. In this era of mass customization, the individual wants to create and share his or her personal experience on the fly. The teams continue to work aggressively to add increased functionality to the in-home and mobile experiences, including multiple selectable camera views, multi-lingual commentary choices, player, coach and referee microphones, fan cameras, etc. The goal is to supply everything you'd get in the stadium except the spilled beers and the screaming slob sitting next to you. In our own companies, the test is similar. How easy is it to do business with your business? How long does it take to reach the right person or department? How many layers and gatekeepers do I need to deal with to get my problem resolved? How readily is help available if I get stuck on the website? These are all quantifiable and relatively simple questions to answer. But the process starts when you start paying attention because, if you don't care about these critical outcomes, no one else in your company will either.

(4) How Do I Find Out What's Going On? (Awareness and Discovery)
We're all connected, and nothing is more immediate or interruptive than a text. FOMO is rampant, and teams are starting to use your phones and mobile messaging to let you know what's happening (or about to happen) and what you're gonna miss. Everyone wants to be in the room when it happens. This digital outreach has been especially effective in pulling in incidental and occasional fans and even newbies who don't want to miss the moment. How are you getting your messages out to the right audience at the right time and place so that they reach and resonant with both your current customers and new prospects as well?

(5) How Much of Me Do You Get? (Share of Attention/Stomach)
These days no one does anything important alone. Given everyone's limited time and the difficulties of reaching the most desirable targets, new distribution and channel partnerships are being developed in sports and the teams are willing to "share" access to critical audiences and mindshare as well with their advertisers and sponsors in ways that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Split screens continue to display on-court or on-field action right alongside ads to avoid bathroom breaks and snack streaks during which the audience disappears entirely. In the same fashion, most new and smaller businesses today are absolutely going to have to ride on others' platforms and rails or have no chance of reaching sufficient numbers of end users. 

None of this is simple except for the guy who doesn't have to make it all happen himself. But it's worth paying attention to, trying to get a little bit better all the time, and understanding that standing still is never an option. And, in the end, it all comes down to Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon's rule: "Try not to suck."

Sunday, August 12, 2018

New eSports Space at IT

Bad Girl


The Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS) is raising its annual event to an entirely new level – beginning with a new name.
What used to be known as the Midwest Accounting & Finance Showcase is now ICPAS SUMMIT18. The two-day program, featuring presentations from key thought leaders, innovative learning sessions and top-tier exhibitors, will be held on August 28 - 29 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL.
“The future is happening now, with advanced technologies and other disruptors quickly changing the way work gets done. ICPAS SUMMIT18 is all about preparing professionals to stay ahead of the curve and be the disruptors,” said Todd Shapiro, President and CEO of the Illinois CPA Society. “In thinking about the future of our profession, we’ve re-designed our signature event to encompass everything people loved about our previous showcases while adding new sessions to help attendees master tomorrow’s technologies today.”
New this year is the Xero Theater, where visitors can take part in hands-on adventures in new technology during five interactive sessions on artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity.
Professional education sessions will cover key topic areas such as tax reform, accounting & auditing, not-for-profit, corporate strategy and government. Plus, new topics have been added focusing on blockchain, data analytics, virtual reality and more.
Influential Keynote Speakers
The ever-popular keynote addresses will feature leading experts covering the latest developments in the accounting profession – with a look toward the future. The opening keynote session, “The Future of the CPA Profession is Now,” will feature Shapiro and Illinois CPA Society Board Chairperson, Rose Cammarata, CPA, CGMA.
Other keynote speakers include:
  • Howard Tullman, former CEO of Chicago tech start-up incubator, 1871, and current Executive Director of the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship at the Illinois Institute of Technology, will discuss the topic of “Future Proofing your Business: Critical Trends and Technologies.”
  • “The 2018 U.S. Economic Outlook” session will feature Lindsey Piegza, Ph.D., Chief Economist and Managing Director at Stifel Investment Services with Ilyce R. Glink, CEO of Best Money Moves and Think Glink Media.
  • Well-known accounting technology futurist, Dana R. “Rick” Richardson, CPA, CITP, CGMA will present his “2018 Technology Forecast.” 

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

With startups, BMO puts its money where its mouth is

With startups, BMO puts its money where its mouth is

After partnering with 1871, the bank becomes a client of two women-led startups

Heather Holmes of Genivity
One of the most popular ideas for bringing innovation to big companies and giving young businesses a valuable boost they can’t get from investment alone is to pair them up. But aside from Demo Days, a sort of speed-dating event, results have been elusive.
That’s why it’s worth paying attention to a partnership between BMO Harris and 1871. It began a year ago with a mentorship program and ended with the bank becoming a customer of two women-led Chicago tech companies out of six that participated in the program.
Genivity, a 4-year-old company, makes software that assesses how long someone might expect to live based on lifestyle, medical history and other factors in an effort to make sure people don’t outlive their retirement savings. It also identifies potential financial risks related to health. The software is being rolled out to BMO Harris financial advisers in a pilot.
“It’s different than other models I’ve seen,” said Heather Holmes, CEO of Genivity, which has six employees. “It’s the difference between having a Demo Day and rolling up your sleeves and wanting to bring innovation into your company. Our mentors at BMO recruited other mentors. It was the opportunity to get direct feedback from a large enterprise customer. BMO had people assigned to us who wanted to make sure we got the support we needed.”
BMO also is using SpringFour, which makes software to help consumers at risk of missing loan payments or otherwise falling behind financially to improve their cash flow and avoid default or other problems.
“We had a chance to have a dialogue with senior members of the management team who could help us figure out how to work with different units within the bank,” said CEO Rochelle Nawrocki Gorey. SpringFour, an eight-person company founded in 2005, has other customers, but the BMO partnership “is another validation point.”
Both Genivity and SpringFour participated in 1871’s WiSTEM program for women entrepreneurs.
The right formula for collaboration is still evolving; getting a foot in the door is just a start. 
“Once the C-level guys say, 'Do something,' it still doesn’t happen unless they identify a business unit within their companies and some line—not staff—people who will work to actually implement something that helps both sides,” says Howard Tullman, a former CEO of 1871 and an investor in Genivity. “Small wins to start but with real P&L consequences and benefits. If you don’t get someone inside as your champion, who actually has some skin in the game and a career interest in seeing the project succeed, then you won’t be going anywhere.” 

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