The Entrepreneurship in the Digital Age Conference, hosted by the Carnegie Club, started off with an ironic twist: a two minute long microphone malfunction. However, the conference quickly overcame its screeching start, with a host of speakers discussing the idea of entrepreneurship in our technologically advancing age.
Todd Morely, CEO of G2 Investment Group, provided a funny and engaging start to the talks, telling the audience that entrepreneurs are “the crazy ones” who discern what the world needs and attempt to fill that need. As CEO of an investment company, Morely was in a position to offer experienced insight on various companies that have done just that, such as a stem cell company working on a cure for baldness. At the end of his speech, he offered uplifting advice for budding entrepreneurs to not worry so much about the current economic environment, but to just go out and create something.
However, in a later interview, Morely expressed frustration at the level of apathy found in the student population here. This was exemplified when he asked if anyone knew who Eric Schmidt is (answer: the CEO of Google) and only four people responded yes. He encouraged students to shake the mentality that we are a small school and a small town and are thus isolated, as with the Internet nowhere is truly isolated anymore. He wants students to drag themselves out of intellectual apathy and embrace self-education, which he says is an important part of being an entrepreneur.
The next speaker was one who embodied the spirit of the conference— a young entrepreneur, named Dominic Hoffmann, who talked to the audience via Skype from Singapore. He ultimately advised soon-to-be graduates that entrepreneurship is not truly about a goal or dream, but about how you get there.
Neena Patel, the following speaker and CEO of the New Entrepreneurs foundation, started off by talking about how much technology has progressed in the last 30 years. This progress has lead to an ever-changing workplace, and according to Patel, “the world is changing so quickly so you have to change with it.” She also encouraged women, who she says are not thought of as entrepreneurs, even by themselves, to “just do it” and try out new ideas, and embrace failure as a part of learning.
Dr Ross Brown, lecturer in the St Andrews School of Management brought a dose of realism, which was missing with the previous speakers. In the previous talks, encouragements to just get out there and try and to embrace failure were common themes. Dr Brown, on the other hand set a slightly more down to earth tone, giving the listeners the rather startling statistic that only 3% of new firms in the UK obtain a turnover of £1 million after three years.
The final speaker, Javier Marti, CEO of Bitcoin Global Investments, continued the realistic thread even further. On his first slide, he warned of revolutions and social unrest, higher unemployment and banking collapses to come. In perhaps too earnest of a way, he outlined how Bitcoin could prevent against these things, given its decentralized and verifiable nature. When Q&A rolled around, it was obvious that he was fighting a losing battle to begin with, as many of the questioners did not take Mr Marti or Bitcoin particularly seriously.
Despite various technological mishaps, including a malfunctioning overhead projector, the Carnegie Club’s Entrepreneurship in the Digital Age provided an enlightening line-up of speakers, with a good mix of light-heartedness, optimism and realism.