By Sholom Ber Nemanow
When Yosef Levine of Deloitte & Touche opened the program at the second annual Crown Heights Young Entrepreneurs (CHYE) Founders Circle event, he didn’t spend a lot of time talking about all the things CHYE had already accomplished, now at it’s 3rd anniversary. He was focused on the future: “CHYE is all about one generation of experts and entrepreneurs helping out the next, and we need to accelerate that process” he said. “The growth must become exponential. CHYE is now an organization with a quarter million dollar yearly budget; by next year that number needs to be a million.”
This theme was brought home repeatedly over the course of the evening, as an array of influential speakers and panelists stressed the importance of growing as quickly as possible, wherever possible. This sense of urgency was underscored by the constant reminders of just how big the aspiring entrepreneurs in attendance should be dreaming.
The event took place on Monday, February 1st - 22 Shevat, and was hosted by Deloitte & Touche at their 40th floor Rockefeller Center offices. Deloitte is the world’s 2nd largest professional services network and cleared over $35 Billion in revenue in the 2015 fiscal year. Why would a corporate giant of that magnitude get involved with a community-level entrepreneurial organization? Because they specialize in supporting people who are trying to make big ideas work, and they recognize what it means to go out there and put it all out in the line to chase down that dream.
Roger G. Arrieux Jr. is a partner at Deloitte serving within the alternative asset management industry and he is one of CHYE’s biggest fans within Deloitte. “I’ve been involved with CHYE for several years and I’m involved because I believe strongly in its mission” he says. “This kind of investment into a community is really powerful; it doesn’t just help one person but it creates a wave of success that can help lift up everybody now and in future generations.” Glen Rosenthal, a general partner at Deloitte made a similar point. “I remain impressed by CHYE’s work. These are the kind of ideas that can transform a community.”
The evening began with relaxed networking time accompanied by delicious food and beverages as well as the sweet music of the Leviim Band. The structured part of the program got underway with opening remarks by Meyer Eichler, SVP Signature Bank and Board member of CHYE, , and was followed by a short video presentation that celebrated what CHYE had accomplished over the last 3 years.
The director of CHYE, Rabbi Yehoshua Werde, then gave a short speech. He thanked everyone for their incredible support over the last three years and promised that the future is going to be even bigger. “ We’ve reached the maturation of phase 1,” he said. “Phase 2 is going to take us to a level that I didn’t think would be possible when we first started. But thanks to your dedication and generosity, the future of CHYE is looking brighter I ever could have imagined”
Yosef Levine then came on to introduce Shelly Palmer, a technology and media savant with a worldwide presence, and the evening's featured entertainment: A panel discussion on “Harnessing Innovation and Globalization to Grow Your Business”, featuring some of the biggest names in technology, venture capital, and online retail. Moderated by Shelly Palmer, the panelists were: Eric Sirkin, a genius computer engineer who worked at some the world’s most important technology companies like Xerox and Apple, and is now living in Israel where he helps promising startups get off the ground. Chaim Piekarski, an eCommerce pioneer who has made a habit of reinventing his company, C&A Marketing, and has sent shock-waves through the industry every time. And Howard Morgan, a former professor of Decision Sciences at the Wharton School of business and current partner at First Round Capital, a venture capital firm that has seen some very big bets pay off recently, like Uber for example.
The panel was a lively and entertaining affair, as well a glimpse into to the kind of mindset it takes to build technologies and companies that compete at a truly global scale. The panel discussed and debated question like, “What is the future for brick-and-mortar retail?” “Should selling out to a massive company be the main goal I strive toward when building my business?” “How can I compete with those people out there who have the advantage of having gone to the best schools in the country?”, and even some real long term question like, “How will virtual reality affect shopping?”
As the panel was debating these global-scale issues, at that moment, if one were to look out the window onto the streets of Manhattan way down below below, it would be almost impossible to escape coming to this conclusion: For the aspiring entrepreneurs in the audience, and for CHYE as an organization, this is only the beginning.