IBM SmartCamp by Keith Gapol
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Guest post by Keith Gapol. Keith is an experienced operations manager, who enjoys streamlining business processes to improve efficiencies through my passion and commitment for technology in face of the new information frontier.
From over 1200 global startups working with IBM innovation programs, eight global companies converged in San Francisco to compete for the 2013 title of Entrepreneur of the year! Filled with entrepreneurs from around the world, I was taking back by the shear supportive environment the smothered the room!
Right from the start at the breakfast table, a pair of creative minds from Germany’s leading social banking company, Fidor, shared their love for Fidor’s groundbreaking products. The discussion quickly shifted to technology hurdles and was a rich encouraging discussion of defeating these hurdles. The day would continue to be riddled with like-minded doers that would foster opportunity.
Sandy Carter of IBM’s Ecosystem development did an awesome job moderating the morning speaker half of the day. Sandy provided clear purpose of why IBM invests in Entrepreneur week, global year-round IBM innovation centers, mentors and this Ecosystem. IBM strongly believes that successful growth of a startup can be furthered with the integration of the IBM Ecosystem leading to advantages for entrepreneurs. 2012’s Global Entreprenuer, MoDe, presented and praised the benefits of working with IBM, highlighting the use of IBM’s infrastructure to enter new markets that have generated several million dollars a day in revenue.
Sandy scheduled presenters for topics such as Early growth, Rapid growth, and continuous growth. Michelle Munson, CEO of Aspera (recently acquired by IBM) spoke on the topic of continuous growth. Her candid but professional conversation was awe-inspiring and highlighted my time at the conference. As a software engineer by trade, her and her partner successfully grew the company over 10 years. Her tale spoke to the strategies, outside influences, and many blessings the company had. The audience was engaged, and the buzz of her speech permeated the lunch networking mixer.
During the first mixer, I talked to Maria Furi of IBM’s Ecosystem team about my entrepreneurship endeavors. She was quick to direct me to Kurt Peckman, director of my local IBM Innovation Center. The discussion was inviting, supportive, and educational to end with an introduction to a like-minded startup CEO for potential mentorship. I was blown away!
As the slotted intermediate scheduled times for networking occurred, I was absolutely amazed of the actual networking that occurred. Having attended many conferences, I must say I was most impressed with the openness and encouraging supportive positions of every person I ran into. At a normal conference I find myself talking with at most three or four people, but the ambiance of the room was so electric you could see everyone wanting to network and I lost count of how many people I was networking with. Every turn, seat, and minute lead me to a new person open to sharing.
The day continued on with vibrant atmosphere, reflecting the beautifully lit venue and concluded with the crowning of the 2013 wining company Coriell Life Sciences. As an aspiring entrepreneur or IT/IS professional, I must recommend this event and IBM’s innovation centers as a resource. I valued speaking to other startups and benefited from connecting with several complimentary companies, technological resources, and, even a few investment contacts. Participating in this event has been an inspiring, beneficial experience.