Evan Johnson ‘14
One of the biggest transformations over the past ten years at Booth is that tossing around new venture ideas has become as much a part of the language as Index-Match vs. VLookup debates. And while the school is long on people enthusiastic to work on these ideas, it is shorter on ideas that are worth more than the effort that was used to sketch them out on a whiteboard.
It is no surprise that actionable and potentially impactful ideas are so hard to find, given the relatively sheltered lives that Booth students live in Chicago after coming from such an incredibly diverse set of backgrounds. Luckily for those looking to join up with a new venture related to national security, there is a promising outlet coming to campus next weekend. The Defense Entrepreneurs Forum (DEF) is having its second conference next weekend from Friday, October 24th – Sunday, October 25th at the Gleacher Center and 1871.
The movement to have this conference at Booth started last year when the DEF co-founders noticed that there were several different groups of junior officers who wanted to bring in entrepreneurial thought into the US military. What sets DEF apart from other defense innovation acceleration programs is that it is led by junior leaders, is not tied to any specific bureaucracy, and actively includes private sector perspectives on how to change the military. Last year, thanks to the support of the Polsky Center, former 1871 CEO Kevin Willer, and Booth Professors Harry Davis and Scott Meadow, the conference tapped into an important movement, with remote and live participants engaging online through over 1,100 Tweets.
This year, the conference will also feature a wide variety of distinguished participants, to include senior corporate executives such as Tesla CIO Jay Vijian; senior military leaders such as US Air Force Brigadier General John Michel; and most importantly, young innovative thinkers who are looking to accelerate their commercial and policy ideas to transform the way we think about defense and how to deploy military capabilities.
On Sunday afternoon, participants will hear these young leaders pitch ideas on how to transform the world’s largest bureaucracy and accelerate new ventures. These topics will be as diverse as new ways to deploy drones, to how to employ distributed contracting work in the military.
Learn more at defenseentrepreneurs.org. No previous military or government experience is needed, just excitement to be part of an important movement. It is worth way more than the ink you’ll use scribbling your idea at Gleacher Center that afternoon anyway.
Evan Johnson ’14 was on the inaugural Defense Entrepreneurs Forum board last year.