Students no longer have to choose "between making a profit and making a difference," said Jay Walker '77, founder of Priceline.com and Walker Digital, in delivering his keynote speech as Cornell Entreprenuer of the Year, April 16.
"If you want to be an entrepreneur, we need you. The world needs you," Walker told the packed crowd in Statler Auditorium, as he described the "Org Dot Com" as the business of the future. "Now is the time to harness the power of self-interest in the service of community interest," he said. His keynote was part of the Entrepreneurship@Cornell's Celebration 2009.
Walker has founded a number of successful startups that have more than 75 million customers; he's also named on more than 800 issued and pending U.S. and international patents. One of his current projects is yappr.com, the world's leading Web site for English-language learning.
Walker said that today's global communication networks can put many formerly insurmountable obstacles and problems within reach.
"Today's digital network is ideal for the entrepreneur who has only a few people and a little bit of money," he said. "The Internet is the most powerful megaphone in history."
Walker says a time is coming when cell phones could be used as portable schoolrooms where no schools are nearby, and video games could help people monitor ocean life and record what they see for researchers.
"Creating an Org Dot Com won't take a lot of capital, but it will take a lot of imagination," he said.
Walker's speech was a highlight of the two-day Celebration event, which also featured symposia from 11 different Cornell schools, colleges and programs on topics related to entrepreneurship in real estate, regional economic development, computing sciences, venture capital, hospitality, engineering, health administration and other areas.
"The seminars I went to were right in line with my business," said Rashida Bobb '99, of New York City, who's recently launched her first entrepreneurial venture, lunchtimedeals.com, and is working on another business related to recycling water bottles. "I spoke to someone who gave me five great ideas of things to do to organize and build my brand."
For other alumni who returned to campus, the event offers a chance to connect with friends.
"This is really our reunion weekend," said Ron Rigores '99, chief strategy officer of Technodyne and a member of the Entrepreneurship@Cornell Advisory Council. "When I was a student, interacting with alumni and entrepreneurs is what made the program so successful. Now it's my opportunity to give back by being involved with the advisory council. And I also get a chance to learn what's going on and talk to other people in my industry."
More than 800 people, including some 200 alumni, attended at least one of the many activities.
Many of the sessions were recorded on eClips and will be available on the Entrepreneurship@Cornell Web site on April 24.
Kathy Hovis is a writer and editor for Entrepreneurship@Cornell.