Entrepreneurs try to give kids a winning hand

May 15, 2006


Poker. I don't play well. I have a face that can't hide a good hand or disguise a bad one. I wouldn't know a river card from the Chicago River. But I'm showing up at the Smart Bet charity poker event Thursday evening at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Some 350 of Chicago's leading entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial wannabes will be playing poker, aiming to raise an expected $30,000 to help the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center's "Youth Entrepreneurship Initiative," which is supported by Motorola.

CEC President David Weinstein says, "The money is being raised to provide paid summer internships at some of Chicago's top entrepreneurial businesses for students from Gwendolyn Brooks High School, North Lawndale High School and Dunbar Vocational High School."

Tournament director and local entrepreneur Al Wasserberger says, "There are parallels between great poker play and great entrepreneurial prowess. If we play our cards right, Smart Bet will provide funding and spotlight the need for education in entrepreneurship."

Wasserberger is CEO of Intellext, a local startup hoping to cash in on search technology created at Northwestern University's Development Lab. He's betting on a deal with Microsoft in the search engine wars. This week, Wasserberger is focused on entrepreneurial education and charitable fund-raising.

Wasserberger hopes Smart Bet will encourage more local entrepreneurs to volunteer their time as mentors for the bright, young, innovative students who participate in the CEC's Youth Entrepreneurship Initiative.

One local entrepreneur who has the fever is Flowerpedal.com founder and President Brian Crummy. Crummy says his on-line flower business is "rocking. It's busy times for us right now." But the Mother's Day crush hasn't kept Crummy from mentoring students at Dunbar.

Flowerpedal's floral arrangements are phenomenal, but there's no word yet on whether Crummy is a great poker player. He's definitely committed to our community.

Says Crummy, "Our goal is to educate underprivileged kids on the process of starting a business. The program allows students to express themselves creatively, choosing a market sector and business model that interests them. It requires students to display discipline, and plan the launch of their business. The work in small groups is a great experience."

The ante for Smart Bet began in 2004, when Weinstein and local entrepreneurs Chris Gladwin (MusicNow and Cleversafe), Wes Shepherd (ChannelVelocity), Joe Jablonski (Acumence) and Chuck Templeton (OpenTable and SignMeUp) started meeting and playing poker for charity.

Wasserberger estimates they raised $20,000 last year.

To learn more go to www.Smartbet.org.

Bloom connects entrepreneurs

Bell, Boyd & Lloyd law partner Chris Bloom is passionate about Chicago's tech entrepreneurship potential. Bloom is the driving force behind the Economic Development Council's Technology Commercialization Task Force. Last October the group drafted a thoughtful tech road map for our region.

Today Bloom is back hosting a major conclave at the Chicago Federal Reserve.

"To create an entrepreneurial ecosystem, it's important to strengthen connectivity," Bloom says. "Chicago has all the ingredients to be a vibrant tech commercialization center. To be successful, our assets need to be connected, mobilized and supported."

Bloom believes Chicago must establish a resource organization to provide connectivity, benchmarking, marketing and support for tech commercialization.

Headlining his program at the Fed are leaders who succeeded here and elsewhere, including: Ovation Pharmaceuticals Executive Chairman Bill Gantz, CONNECT San Diego CEO Duane Roth, Deloitte Europe biotech practice leader Stuart Henderson, St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association CEO Richard Fleming and Illinois Medical District chief of staff Mich Hein.

Re-outsourcing from India

Can rural communities beat India at outsourcing? Kathy Brittain White, president of Jonesboro, Ark.-based Rural Sourcing Inc., is proving it's possible. Brittain White headlines a Society for Information Management panel on insourcing, co-sourcing and rural sourcing at noon Wednesday at Spiaggia.

Also speaking on the panel are Career Education CIO Mark Griesbaum and Transition Partners managing director Dennis Conley.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.


 ©2006 Marion Consulting Partners