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'Un-conference' tour energizes 'Gen Y' innovators


August 9, 2010

GenJuice, the 13-city national tour taking Generation Y entrepreneurs and innovators by storm, left its mark on about 50 Phoenicians July 25, at SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center.

“GenJuice Phoenix surpassed any set expectations,” said Virgilia Singh, co-founder of GenJuice. “The energy of the attendees was contagious, and the room was full of brilliant, young Phoenicians many of whom were working on some life-changing projects.” Download Full Image

The GenJuice revolution began last February. Virgilia Singh, Danielle Leslie and Arielle Scott, all in their early 20s, left their corporate jobs to pursue helping others pursue their dreams. This began the GenJuice revolution, which intended to inspire young people who believe they can be successful.

“Hearing that we've inspired one person to go and follow their passions is my personal drive,” Singh added.
Sean Coleman, a young entrepreneur, attended GenJuice for the potential networking opportunities.

“I knew GenJuice would be an excellent opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs and young people interested in innovation,” Coleman said.

Despite the fact that Coleman was inspired to attend the ‘un-conference’ by potential networking opportunities, he left motivated by the new information he learned. Coleman said that the most valuable information he learned from the ‘un-conference’ was a formula that “one brilliant Gen Y individual” wrote for tracking customer acquisition.

“It was very intriguing that he put down a marketing strategy in a mathematical formula,” Coleman said.
He plans on exploring this new concept with his business, http://OrangeSlyce.com" target="_blank">OrangeSlyce.com, which is an easy and affordable way to hire recommended students for graphic design projects. 

There is a common goal throughout the month and a tour that made stops in Portland, Boston, Austin and Atlanta, to name a few: to have every person attending the “un-conference” find another person to connect with.

“Finding that one person will help you get to the next step,” Scott said. The co-founders explained throughout the ‘un-conference’ that the key to success is connecting with like-minded, innovative Gen Y individuals.

“I know my team and I met dozens of individuals that will serve as great resources as OrangeSlyce grows,” Coleman said.

The un-conference featured guest speaker Corey Kossack, who has experience being a young and successful entrepreneur, having began an e-commerce business selling DVDs and video games out of his college dorm room. Within two years, the company became one of the world’s largest retailers on eBay. After selling the company in 2007 to pursue new internet and social media startups, Kossack began an online marketplace called Addoway that integrates Facebook.

Kossack presented “How Social Media is Changing the Game for Internet Startups”, and explained that social media is the most effective channel for new startups. Kossack also said that social media has changed the cost equation entirely, because startups can now advertise a multitude of ways without large advertising budgets. Additionally, he explained it is critical to connect with fellow young innovators.

Kossack and the co-founders stressed that social media is your friend; it has the potential to make or break a startup and is the most effective channel for new startups to spread their customer base. In addition to endless marketing potential, social media changes the advertising cost equation. Now, people can market new ideas without large advertising costs.

After the social media presentation, ‘un-conferencers’ wrote their ideas for breakout discussion topics on a whiteboard and then voted on which ones would be discussed. The topics included prioritizing your passions, bootstrapping vs. investment, how to find the perfect co-founder/partner/team, growing yourself through community improvement and sustainability and how to get users for your product or services.

Attendees then broke out in large groups and exchanged personal experiences, ideas and suggestions with each other. The groups were facilitated by the co-founders, who guided the discussions with their personal entrepreneurial experiences and advice. There were also several periods of short networking opportunities, in which ‘un-conferencers’ could simply mingle amongst each other, talk and exchange business information.

“The coolest part of GenJuice was the enthusiasm and array of personal experiences shared by fellow entrepreneurs and innovators in our age bracket,” Coleman said. “No other conference I have been to has had this level of excitement.”

“Connecting with others is a big part of the learning process,” Kossack said. “The best place to start is to start talking to people in the industry, and go from there.”

Enter the largest Google Doc ever

At the end of GenJuice Phoenix, in addition to every other tour stop, ‘un-conferencers’ add their names, respective areas of expertise and email addresses to an accumulating Google Doc. Singh, Scott and Leslie are attempting to make this Google Doc “the largest Google Doc ever”, featuring thousands of young, like-minded individuals’ information. The co-founders hope that registered Gen Y individuals will utilize the document when traveling, for example, and wanting to connect with a fellow innovative mind.

A university and city that supports entrepreneurship is key to successful Gen Y innovators. ASU’s grant-funded entrepreneurship program stresses to students that entrepreneurship can be a career choice, Coleman explained. It was not a coincidence that GenJuice Phoenix was held at ASU SkySong, which has established itself as a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.

“ASU SkySong is a supportive environment for entrepreneurial activity, especially as it relates to university students,” said Julia Rosen, ASU associate vice president for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “Hosting events like the GenJuice Tour allows us to provide a platform for these young entrepreneurs to learn, collaborate and hopefully accelerate their success.”

Singh has a great appreciation for the opportunities she encountered through her education at ASU. It is the combination of the quality education that Arizona State University has provided paired with the persistent motivation that resulted in Singh’s and GenJuice’s success.

“ASU taught me about understanding the power of sharing ideas with others and the impact a sole person can have on another,” Singh, who graduated from ASU at just 19, explained.

At the end of the ‘un-conference’, the co-founders shared some exciting news about the future of GenJuice: Gen Y folks will be able to connect with like-minded individuals with the help of GenJuice’s new website that is set to launch Oct. 3. Additionally, individuals can connect offline through the “GenJuice Global” model. The co-founders will be sending out some hints about the new website content and more information about the “GenJuice Global” model in the beginning of August.

“We are positioning GenJuice to become the destination for Gen Y innovators, entrepreneurs, content creators, artists, techies and change makers,” Singh said.

Young innovators, entrepreneurs and techies who attended GenJuice Phoenix were undoubetly inspired and motivated to continue pursuing their ideas. The ‘un-conference’ generated buzz among Gen Y Phoenicians and is sure to leave a lasting impression on the Valley’s young, innovative minds.

“Personally, the GenJuice Phoenix event made me think when and how I can move back to the Valley of the Sun and take advantage of the emerging ideas that are coming out of this great state,” Singh said.

The month and a half long “Gen Y Innovation Tour” began June 20 in San Francisco at the offices of Justin.tv, an internet site that allows users to watch live streaming video and has a following of about 2,000 viewers. Justin.tv has been broadcasting the GenJuice tour as it makes each stop around the country.

About the founding team

Singh, 23, is chief operating officer of GenJuice. Singh is known as “the harmonizer” of the bunch. The corporate strategist is enthusiastic about sustainability and is a former Sun Devil.

Leslie, 24, is chief revenue officer of GenJuice. Leslie, a ‘Do What You Love and the money will follow” believer is passionate about creative marketing, monetization and new business models.

Scott, 21, chief executive officer of GenJuice. Scott is considered “the achiever” and youth digital strategist. She attributes her position within GenJuice to “not doing what people told me to do” and breaking out of the status quo.

Communications Specialist, ASU Libraries