Saturday, February 20, 2010

Wharton Entrepreneurship Conference

I attended my first Wharton Entrepreneurship conference in February. The theme of the conference was ‘Entrepreneurship in a rising economy’.

My favorite speaker was Andy Dunn, Founder and CEO of Banobos, a company that designs men's pants. Andy’s spoke to a packed room and was a thoroughly engaging speaker. He ran his session as a case study, in which he took students through the process of starting a company and asked them questions about what they would do in the entrepreneur's position.

He conveyed many lessons that I found useful. Most importantly, if you’re hoping to start a business in business school, the best thing you can do is meet people and network. Also, Andy discussed the merits of having a ‘contratrian’ viewpoint. This means trying to do things the opposite of how everyone does them to separate and differentiate your business from the competition.

The e-conference was apparently less exciting than in 2009, where the keynote speaker was Donny Deutsch (from CNBC’s Big Idea with Donny Deutsch). However, I do think that the conference could be shortened to be more impactful and that the conference theme could be highlighted a bit more. As always, I recommend more ways to elicit quality audience participation. Still, I'm glad I went and enjoyed meeting several student entrepreneurs.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Book Reviews: Nabokov, Thompson, Camus

Over the last few months, I have read several books from the 1950s:

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson
The Plague, Albert Camus
The Rum Diary, Hunter S. Thompson

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita is the story of a middle-aged man who has a strong desire for 'nymphets', or girls between the ages of 12 and 16. At times Lolita touched upon complex, brooding, and taboo feelings; however, in the end it fell well short of its potential. The moments where it truly spoke to the reader where overshadowed by many more pages of unnecessary details and trivialities.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter Thompson

After a disappointing read in Lolita, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was just what the 'gonzo' 'doctor of journalism' ordered. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a drunken and drug-fueled romp through 1950s LA and Las Vegas (and the road between the two) about.....nothing really. Or maybe it's about how the drug movement of the 60s had gone sour, or it is a meaningless search for meaning. I later watched the movie and concluded that the book was much better. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is an impressive novel about the 'extreme', and I highly recommend it.

The Plague, Albert Camus

To catch my breath from Thomson, I read The Plague by Albert Camus. The Plague is set in 1950s Oran, Algeria, and is the story of a city that is quarantined due to an outbreak of the plague. The novel discusses the philosophies of several characters towards life and religion. The Plague was similar to Lolita in that it had great potential, and at times it touched upon key sentiments; however, the characters were hollow and the brooding atmosphere that Camus wanted to develop simply didn't materialize. Still, I was inspired to visit Oran and Algeria, and almost booked a trip there this summer.

The Rum Diary, Hunter Thompson

The Rum Diary, written by a 22-year old Hunter Thompson about a 30-year wandering journalist in San Juan, Puerto Rico, did not disappoint. Though just 22, Thompson displayed keen insight to capture the mind of a 30-year old so well. Copious amounts of rum were consumed during the novel, with the signature drink being 'rum and ice' for about 75 cents on average. This whetted my appetite and I decided to try the drink myself, but for about $7 at the local bar. Thompson aptly captured the experience of westerners in San Juan who ultimately fail to understand and adapt to their new surroundings. At times there are glimmers of understanding, but for the most part the western journalists, who are all on the run from something, have to keep on the move.
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