Chamber Welcomes Speaker Ellen Levy
By Julien R. Fielding
To Their 2013 Annual Meeting Tomorrow
The Daily Record
“Celebrating Entrepreneurship and Innovation.” That’s the theme of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 annual meeting, and they will be doing this, in part, by welcoming Ellen Levy, “the Most Connected Woman in Silicon Valley,” to be their keynote speaker tomorrow.
During her 30- to 45-minute presentation, she will “share key points on how networked innovation can make a difference in the way we do business. Attendees will walk away with practical tips to impact their business,” according to the Chamber.
Why was Levy, managing director of Silicon Valley Connect, the obvious choice for this honor?
“A big part of entrepreneurship and innovation is having the right connections in place,” said Dusty Reynolds, Chamber director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “And [Levy] is unique in that she was an early adopter of leveraging relationships.” In addition, he said, Levy, who was one of the first hires at LinkedIn, understands the value of the adage: “It isn’t what you know, but who you know.”
Another reason that Levy was selected?
“She is so well-respected in her community, but she wasn’t the stereotypical entrepreneur,” Reynolds said. “We were looking for someone who wasn’t the typical speaker. And we don’t put women at a podium nearly enough.”
Although Reynolds didn’t think that Levy had ever spoken previously in Omaha, she does have a connection to this city: Her twin sister, Lara Jana, is a local pediatrician.
Ellen Levy holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Stanford University. Throughout her nearly 20-year career, she has had about 50 jobs and board positions, ranging from executive assistant to the CAO and EVP Operations at Apple to deputy, Global Health Working Group at the Clinton Global Initiative.
Levy’s current position is managing director at Silicon Valley Connect, which, according to an article on fastcompnay.com, entails “angel investing, serving on some boards and advisory boards, and doing some consulting.”
She serves on several boards, including the Social Science Research Council, University of Southern California Stevens Institute for Innovation, Harvard University Decision Science Laboratory, spigit, UC Berkeley School of Information, RelateIQ, H2, and ClearSlide Inc.
Reynolds explained that he hopes that this event will “get people energized” and encourage them to celebrate entrepreneurship. He would also like to see the event act as a “catalyst” for corporations – ones that may have office space or mentoring opportunities – to connect and establish connections with start-ups.
On an average, between 1,000 and 1,200 people attend the Chamber’s annual meeting, and Reynolds said that he expects about the same number to attend this year. The exception to this rule was when Alan Greenspan was the keynote speaker. He drew a crowd of about 2,200, Reynolds said.
This year’s luncheon event will begin at 11:30 a.m. at CenturyLink Center. In addition to Levy’s speech, David G. Brown, Chamber president and CEO, will present these awards: The Chairman’s Award of Excellence to Brian Gubbels of DataShield Corporation; the Headliner of the Year Award to Silicon Prairie News; and the Volunteer of the Year Award to Roger Christianson of Omaha Public Power District.
Brian Gubbels is an experienced entrepreneur, having co-founded Firstar Fiber Corporation [Omaha’s recycling service] in 1998, and more recently, DataShield Corporation, a company focused on electronics and document destruction.
In 2004, he was honored as Omaha’s Entrepreneur of the Year. He is active in the community, sitting on the board of directors of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.
He has been a board member at the Strategic Air and Space Museum, and Nebraska State Recycling Association. He is also a graduate of Leadership Omaha, class 25. He received his bachelor of science degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. For more information about his company, go to www.datashieldcorp.com.
Silicon Prairie News is an Omaha-based digital media company that highlights and supports “entrepreneurs and creatives in the Silicon Prairie, while building an emerging model for grassroots entrepreneurial ecosystem development nationwide.” Founded in 2008, Silicon Prairie News also produces events, such as the Silicon Prairie Series (Big Omaha, Thinc Iowa, and the to-be-named Kansas City event), the Silicon Prairie Awards, and the Startup Job Crawl. The publication has received recognition from CNN, Time, Inc., Fast Company, The Next Web, Seth Godin, and more. They can be found at www.siliconprairienews.com.
Roger Christianson is manager of Economic Development for the Omaha Public Power District, the publicly owned, business-managed electric utility that serves more customers than any other electric utility in Nebraska. He has been very involved with the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, having served on its Site Investigation and Development Target Advisory Group, and on its board of directors.
He also has been an active member of its Headquarters, Retail and Data Center Tags. Furthermore, he has played a role in the Chamber’s efforts to attract the 2012 Fall Forum of the Industrial Asset Management Council to Omaha.
Christianson is a past president of Sarpy County Economic Development Corporation, Gateway Development, the Nebraska Economic Developers Association, and the Nebraska Diplomats.
In 2004, he was honored as Diplomat of the Year, and in 2011, as NEDA’s Economic Development Professional of the Year and SCEDC’s Partner in Economic Development. He continues to serve on the SCEDC Executive Committee.
He is a past recipient of Gateway Development’s Emmet Award. Finally, he has served on advisory boards for the Small Business Administration, and he was the first chair of the Curricula Committee for the State Chamber’s Leadership Nebraska Council.
Christianson has a bachelor of science degree in economics, and a master of science degree in journalism/mass communication from South Dakota State University. He has been a Certified Economic Developer since 1981.
Tickets for the Chamber’s annual meeting cost, for members, $75 per person; and, for nonmembers, $100. To find out more information, go to OmahaChamber.org/AnnualMeeting.
Sponsors for this event are Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, McGrath North, Mutual of Omaha, and Wells Fargo.