1. Headline
  1. Headline
By
updated 9/30/2013 12:46:44 PM ET 2013-09-30T16:46:44

It's not unusual for a city or region to hold events designed to attract and foster entrepreneurship. What's impressive about Chicago Ideas Week (CIW), the Windy City's foray into this area of economic development, is how quickly it's grown and the notable people it has attracted. Groupon co-founder Brad Keywell founded the event, which takes place October 14 through 23. Here's how they went from zero to an expected 25,000+ attendees in three years.

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. 'Cosby Show' turns 30, here's show's best parenting advice

      Those babies Cliff Huxtable delivered are old enough to be parents themselves. "The Cosby Show" premiered 30 years ago Sat...

    2. Roger Goodell’s apology criticized for lack of specifics
    3. Volunteers flood campus center to search for missing UVA student
    4. Life's too short! 9 things you're over-thinking
    5. Generous customer surprises bartender with $1,000 tip on $14 tab

Groupon is one of Chicago's hometown success stories and Keywell wanted to foster entrepreneurship and new ideas in his own backyard. He formed Chicago Ideas Week as a nonprofit and has enlisted the involvement of the mayors' offices—first Richard Daley and now Rahm Emanuel -- for each event. Using Keywell's cachet as a highly successful entrepreneur and tapping other Chicago-based successes like advertising agency Leo Burnett, t-shirt company Threadless, and various regional institutions like the Adler Planetarium, Illinios Institute of Technology and others.

These high-profile participants and venues have helped the event attract other luminaries. Among this year's 200 speakers are former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Meet the Press host David Gregory, and activist Elizabeth Smart, to name a few.

Instead of creating an event that was all business all the time, the CIW team develops programs across a broad swath of disciplines ranging from art and music to technology and crime-fighting. Keywell wanted to find solutions and fresh ideas by sharing information with people who have different life experiences and cultural influences.

Related: Groupon's New CEO May Be Its Best Deal Yet

The event includes dozens of talks, labs and master classes in business, technology, architecture, art, and even butchering. CIW's full-day Edison Talks component requires application and is limited to 900 attendees. Additional features like the GE Garage will be equipped with 3D printers, CNC mills, laser cutters, and other tools, and staffed with experts to help you learn these systems. Evening technology and financial programs are "like intellectual rock concerts. They're exciting, and there's surprise, and there's music. There's great conversation," he says.

Keywell says this was important to allow attendees to choose a variety of subjects based on their interest levels and differentiate them from typical seminars. Rather than being exclusive and expensive, he wanted everything to be as accessible as possible to encourage people of different means to attend. Tickets for the dozens of talks, labs and master classes can be purchased a la carte for $15 each.

"There are not a lot of organizations [bring together] diverse people like scientists, poets, entrepreneurs, artists," says Keywell. "When I created Ideas Week, part of the vision is this can be a connective tissue among all these provocative thinkers and doers in our community to create a solutions platform."

Related: How Groupon Thinks It Can Become a $100 Billion Company

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Alan Singer / NBCU Photo Bank

    'Cosby Show' turns 30, here's show's best parenting advice

    9/20/2014 12:23:51 PM +00:00 2014-09-20T12:23:51
  1. Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP - Getty Images

    Sushi or Thai? Life’s too short! 9 things you’re over-thinking

    9/20/2014 1:08:04 PM +00:00 2014-09-20T13:08:04
  1. Jason Winslow / Splash News / Splash News

    Mama June and Sugar Bear of 'Honey Boo Boo' have called it quits

    9/19/2014 6:27:15 PM +00:00 2014-09-19T18:27:15
  1. NFL chief vows to ‘get it right’ after scandals

    Roger Goodell told reporters on Friday that he made a mistake when he originally suspended Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens for only two games, and in how he investigated an altercation between Rice and his fiancee. 

    9/19/2014 4:33:23 PM +00:00 2014-09-19T16:33:23