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TrepCon: 10th Annual Entrepreneurship Conference ‘Recalculates’ for COVID-19

“You are not working from home. You are in a crisis, trying to work from home,” Lindsey Pollak, keynote speaker and NYTimes bestselling author, reminded the virtual audience at TrepCon, Fordham’s annual entrepreneurship conference.

Pollak’s latest book Recalculating: Navigate Your Career Through the Changing World of Work, hit home for the attendees, many of whom are recalculating what it means to be an entrepreneur, a student, a consumer, or a teacher in the time of COVID-19. 

“Companies and organizations need to recalculate by listening to their employees,” noted Pollak. “One of the positives of COVID is that a lot of employees started having town halls, asking questions and surveying their employees because they aren’t seeing them as frequently. They had to get that insight and didn’t make assumptions. The assumption that many companies made is that younger employees were perfectly happy to work from home for the rest of their lives, but surveys have shown us that it’s the opposite. A lot of young employees want to come back to the office because it’s social, and that’s where they find mentors.” 

COVID an Accelerating Mechanism

The conference—which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year—offered Gabelli School students and other attendees a view into the future of work as forecasted by CEOs and other experts. 

“In my view, we are in the midst of a tech cycle that’s going to make a big change. In the next five years, we will see a merge of virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. This tech trend will change the way we live,” said Lyron Bentovim, president and CEO at the Glimpse Group, a virtual reality and augmented reality platform. 

“The ability for us to be where we need to be without physically being there, to interact with people and objects in a way that catapults us as consumers and big businesses,” said Bentovim, will transform the modern office. “Instead of seeing pictures of us on a screen, I think we will be sitting together in a space without being together.”

The idea of recalculating can be scary, speakers said, but for entrepreneurs, disruption opens doors. COVID has been an accelerating mechanism for many in the e-commerce or virtual industries that provide connectivity, like Zoom, Amazon, and Netflix. 

Many existing trends that were on the cusp exploded during COVID-19, including telehealth, said an executive.

“[Before COVID-19] telehealth was the tiniest fraction of how to deliver care. Almost immediately, it became 15, 18, 20% of people’s low hanging fruit. It was always going in that direction, and COVID helped it skip five years ahead. Individual doctors and hospitals who had never considered it before were forced to move in that direction. And through all the tumult, it turns out people like it. Patients like it, doctors like it,” said Reed Mollins, cofounder, and chief strategy officer at 

The conference itself pushed the boundaries of what was possible at a virtual event. Attendees were able to see the latest in virtual reality and augmented reality thanks to reps from PagoniVR and D6 VR. The presentations by the two companies included demos of virtual spaces, avatars, and 3D charting. 

Eye Contact Still Matters

The event provided an opportunity for alumni to reconnect with Fordham and each other. Currently head of sales & business development at Block Renovation, Steve Treacy, GSB ’14, described the lessons he learned from working at Mike’s Deli on Arthur Avenue before landing his first big tech job at Tesla.

 “It was awesome. I managed their office, did some accounting for them, some social media. Then it got to a point where I needed to quit that job and believe it or not I left in order to join Tesla.” 

Treacy often thinks back on a communications class at Fordham that taught him the essentials of eye contact, shaking hands, and how to present in front of a room. Those skills are invaluable in business, he said. 

“I also learned how to listen to people. This is one of my biggest assets is to be able to listen to what the customer wants. If it weren’t for that class, I may not have worked at Mike’s Deli and then later Tesla, or now be able to build a team from the ground up at Block Renovation.” 

Another central idea present in many of the panels was the notion of controlling what you can and not letting the rest get to you because change is inevitable. Even databases will change dramatically, said Mollins, and that change will bring new opportunities for collaboration.

“The most disruptive technology in the next five years is the interoperability of databases and the digitization of all records and the development of those relationships. One of the side victories of most people moving to three main cloud services is it makes it possible for different software to gain access to each other,” Mollins said. 

This event was sponsored by the Gabelli School of Business and Deloitte.


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