Start @ a Startup: Opening Remarks

Thank you, Vaasvi.  Hello, everyone!  And welcome to the 2015 Start @ a Startup Conference.  As Vaasvi said, I’m Kelly Zhou, and I am the Startup Conference Director at Business Today.  I can’t tell you how excited I am to welcome you all to this year’s conference.  After countless emails, Facebook posts, and tweets, our digital messages have finally come to life, as we gather here for a weekend of connecting the top students and startups.

After months of preparation, reaching out to startups, reaching out to students, and sleepless nights of making folders and stuffing swag bags—get excited for those, by the way, lots of super cool swag coming this weekend!—we cannot believe this event is finally happening and are so excited to be here.

Firstly, I would like to congratulate you all for being here.  The overwhelming amount of interest we received for this conference, as evidenced through an outstanding and incredibly large pool of applicants this year, is a clear indication that the startup and entrepreneurship world we are exploring is a relevant one and more importantly, an exciting one.

Being here today means that you have already distinguished yourselves as innovative leaders in this space, and you have taken the initiative to give yourselves this unique opportunity to explore the startup world from a new lens.

In the room right now, we have people from over sixty different schools and countless different majors, ranging from computer science and engineering to literature and fine arts.  In addition to the incredible diversity we have here, all of you have been brought together by a common passion.

This weekend, you have the unique opportunity of being surrounded by people who share a passion for innovation, an intellectual curiosity to learn, and a desire to transform the world we live in through new ideas.

So, take advantage of this opportunity to meet each other.  Connect with the students who share your interests.  Learn from the students who don’t.  Work together to make the most of your weekend together.  Ask questions.  Challenge each other.  Take advantage of this opportunity to explore the startup world, or the world in general, from a different perspective.

In addition to the outstanding students we have today, let’s not forget about what is probably the main reason you’re here—the startups.  This weekend, we have brought together the most exciting and revolutionary companies to speak with you.  We’re excited to welcome back startups from last year and welcome the startups attending the conference for the first time today.  You have unique access to the most innovative and inspiring startup founders and executives here from all over the startup world.  These people have built the technologies and developed the ideas that transform the world we live in today.  We have startups from all different industries, sizes, and customer segments—these are the companies that are changing the way we travel, the way we learn, the way we invest, and ultimately the way we live.

Take advantage of this opportunity to ask the questions you want to know.  Fall in love with the glamorous aspects of their work.  Remember the not-so-great parts of the job.  Listen to their stories.  Be inspired by their successes.  Learn from their mistakes.

Use the discussion groups to ask your pressing questions.  Use the keynotes and panels to hear inspiring stories.  Use the breaks to meet other students and startup executives. Use the mobile app to stay in contact with the people you meet here, as the person sitting next to you could very well end up your colleague, or even your co-founder.

This conference may be a two-day event, but we hope this is much more than a two-day experience.  This weekend, we encourage you to build a network that you’ll have for years to come.  We challenge you to start conversations that will continue after you all leave New York City tomorrow.

With that in mind, I welcome you all to the 2015 Start @ a Startup Conference, and hope you all have an amazing weekend.