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Watch: Student Entrepreneurs Network with Seasoned Pros at Annual Lax Conference


The 2014 Lax Conference featured the culmination of SwatTank; above, the finalists and judges.

The Lax Conference for Entrepreneurship opened earlier this month with remarks from Joseph Turner '73, a financial expert with a background in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. Now in its 15th year, the conference honors Jonathan Lax '71, who followed his entrepreneurial spirit and created a mutual fund in his room in Hallowell Hall. 

For the second year in a row, the conference featured the culmination of SwatTank, a year-long innovation competition for students. Shalom Saar '74, a senior lecturer at MIT and owner of the Center for Leadership Development, reprised his role as moderator for the event, during which four teams competed for $3,000. Brennan Klein '14, a psychology and cognitive science major from Tucson, Ariz., who was mentored by Nicholas Lum '04, took the top prize for his presentation on Wall.It, which provides a platform for users to discover new brands, connect with friends, and get rewarded for their consumer habits. 

Other SwatTank finalists included Jason Heo '15, mentored by Gus Alberelli '00 for his project, a smarter and "more beautiful" RSS reader; Dakota Pekerti '16, Thomas Kim '16, Patrick Han '16, and Haseeb Bajwa '16,who were mentored by Mischa Stephens '06 for On the Spot, an app that provides a variety of travel services ; and Andy Lee '16, mentored by Elliot Ingram '94 for  BackPack, which presents a new approach to learning languages.

SwatTalks, new to this year's conference, featured short presentations from two alumni and a member of the faculty discussing creative ideas and challenges related to entrepreneurship. Alan Gershenfeld '84, president and founder of E-Line Media and chairman of Games for Change, presented "Games for Good: Entrepreneurs and Gaming's Double Bottom Line," Assistant Professor of Economics Erin Todd Bronchetti discussed "When is a Nudge Enough? Using Behavioral Economics to Understand and Influence Decision Making," and Jenny Hourihan Bailin '80, president and CEO of ORBIS International, offered "Will Someone's Life be Better Because You Were Here? Setting a 'Big Hairy Audacious Goal' (BHAG) and Using It to Work Toward Success." Conference attendees also met in small groups to discuss a range of topics, such as what constitutes a successful start-up, bringing Swarthmore values to the entrepreneurial experience, and current models for life science start-ups, among others.

The annual event honors Jonathan Lax '71 and is funded by the Jonathan R. Lax Fund, an endowment created by his bequest in 1996. In the 1990s, he founded Marketing Audit, a market research and consulting firm in Philadelphia.

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