EnterpriseCorp, the entrepreneurial support arm of GLI, welcomed nearly 300 people to the Kentucky Derby Museum for the annual Evening of Entrepreneurship, presented by Wyatt Tarrant & Combs, Wednesday evening. The event featured a keynote presentation by Frederique Dame, a well-known angel investor and former product engineer for Uber, and gave the region’s startup community a chance to celebrate their accomplishments and look ahead to the work that needs to be done to accelerate the region’s startup community.
“We’ve taken huge steps forward in just a year’s time and as other communities have taught us, once the ball is rolling it’s hard to stop it. We have every reason to be optimistic about the state of entrepreneurship in our region. Yes, there are challenges that we need to take head on to keep up the pace of this progress, but there is so much to be proud of and so many opportunities to connect, engage and grow our region’s startups,” Lisa Bajorinas, Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Talent for GLI, told the crowd during her State of Entrepreneurship address.
The theme of this year’s program was customer development, specifically the clients that have made the biggest impact on local startups and entrepreneurs. Dame’s speech centered on her time at Uber and how the company scaled from early stage to global success by listening to their drivers and customers pain points and working from that point.
“Building a product with the customer is not only essential. It’s also really fun,” Dame said. “If you’re not building for the customer, then what is your business actually doing?”
Dame also took the chance to comment on the landscape of tech startups and how established companies and entrepreneurs can work together.
“Being beta testers, as a large customer, would be incredible help to small startups and the large companies can benefit from the collaboration with startups to increase their agility within their markets,” Dame said.
In addition to Dame’s address, Mary Tapolsky took home 2017’s EnterpriseCorp Award, which recognizes an individual that has made a significant contribution to Louisville’s entrepreneurial community.
Tapolsky is the Director for Technology Commercialization and Program Administration for UofL’s Nucleus. She focuses on developing and administering programs and services to help facilitate the creation and success of startup and early stage companies. These programs include LaunchIt, an entrepreneur training program that has graduated over 380 entrepreneurs, RevIt – Accelerating Customer Growth, VetStart, Open Office Hours, e + i Entrepreneurs Meet Innovators, Nucleus MeetUps, and Startup Seminar Series – Educating Entrepreneurs. In addition, she administers the Nucleus Startup Grants program and has been instrumental in recruiting more than twenty technology-based companies to One Innovation Center.