Akamai co-founder Jonathan Seelig was the keynote speaker. Jonathan co-founded his company while a MBA student at MIT-Sloan. He had done exactly what I was aspiring to do, so I got there early for a front row seat for his talk.
As it turns out, my eagerness was not necessary. I could have had my pick of over 1,000 empty seats. The internet/tech bubble had burst, but this event had been planned based on the 1999 attendance. Since then many people's interest in entrepreneurship and technology had evaporated, but the Philadelphia Convention Center had been booked and paid for well in advance.
Jonathan was bemused but gracious as he leaned over the lectern looking out at the sea of empty seats and remarked "Where is everybody?". He went on with his talk anyway. I was especially grateful because the lessons I learned there were crucial to the founding of SightSpeed six months later, and Mezmeriz six years later. He told his story in plain terms about meeting the professor/grad student inventors, building the business plan, and launching the company with the help of experienced entrepreneurial investors. That then became my game plan.
The next year the symposium changed it's name and location, but continued their practice of outstanding speakers. It is now split up into two conferences, and the second part is called the Wharton Private Equity Conference and it's happening January 18th.
I don't know if I'll be able to make this year, but if you can, do. They have fair pricing, including big discounts for students. To learn more, click here.