Eric Koester
Photo: Jessica Hershatter

The 2nd Annual Emory Entrepreneurship Summit, a two-day conference designed to encourage, celebrate and enhance entrepreneurship among Emory students, opened March 31 at Goizueta with a keynote speech by author and serial technology entrepreneur, Eric Koester. Aptly titled, “Live Your Life Like it’s a Startup,” Koester encouraged students, the majority of them undergraduates, to be “Life-preneurs.”

Koester has built his own early-stage start-ups into sustainable businesses and is now dedicated to helping others do so. He founded online marketplace Zaarly, is co-founder and CEO of Main Street Genome, the managing director for NextGen Venture Partners and general partner at FastRope Labs.

He shared his own experience, noting an entrepreneurial life requires  being prepared, remaining unafraid of challenges and thinking big.

“I’ve raised tens of millions and I’ve shut down companies,” Koester said. “It’s ultimately part of your story as a start-up. Think of it has having the highest highs and the lowest lows every day.”

Although the 39-year old began his career on a more traditional note, as a CPA with a law degree, Koester decided quickly corporate life wasn’t for him.

“You’ll get lots of advice,” he told the students. “It’s to be processed. Use it to make your own decisions. It’s your journey.”

To help them navigate that journey, Koester, who teaches “Startup Factory” at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, shared tips on how to live life like it’s a startup

“Don’t just show up,” he said, “show up better,” which requires having the skills and vision to take advantage of opportunities.

Next? Explore.

“Be a DaVinci,” Koester continued. “If you’re curious and you’re interested in it, you’ll make something out of it.”

He then told students to embrace “hustlegy” — a combination of hustle and strategy.

“The key to success in startups and in life is strategic, hard ass, work,” Koester’s other tips included making one’s own luck, and not just writing down goals, but revisiting them continuously.

Finally, he encouraged the audience to work with inspiring people and to be willing to be daring and adventurous. .

“Life is a blast,” he said. “Collect stories.”

Day two of the Entrepreneurial Summit featured three panel discussions featuring nearly a dozen Goizueta and Emory alumni entrepreneurs, and the final rounds of the Bernard Pitch the Summit competition with almost $20,000 in cash and prizes, along with  ample time for networking and sharing ideas.

Andrea Hershatter, Senior Associate Dean, Director of Goizueta’s BBA Program, and founding chair of the Emory Entrepreneurship Ecosystem, considers the Summit important as a signature annual event, but she also believes it represents something more as a showcase for entrepreneurial community-building that has become part of the fabric of Emory life.”

“Our alumni are always willing to help the next generation of students along, but in the case of those who create ventures, they do so with particular enthusiasm for fostering entrepreneurship at Emory,” Hershatter said.

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Allison Shirreffs
A writer and photographer, Allison Shirreffs has worked with various organizations and publications, including The Coca-Cola Company, Fortune and the Atlanta Braves. She has a degree in economics from Tulane University and a graduate degree in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.