RISE 2009 Reaches New Heights

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Record Participation in Third Annual Entrepreneurship Conference Signals Positive Outlook for Austin

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We've worked hard to make RISE an event that belongs to the community it serves and a proud symbol of what makes this city so great

In a show of entrepreneurial spirit undeterred by the current economy and a hopeful sign for Austin's future, aspiring, new and established entrepreneurs turned out in record numbers for the third annual Relationship & Information Series for Entrepreneurs (RISE) this week, doubling last year's attendance.

The four-day conference series, which featured more than 122 independently organized and peer-led sessions free of charge, connected more than 1,600 entrepreneurs of all sizes and industries with tools, resources, information and connections to help them grow their businesses. Texas Governor Rick Perry and Austin Mayor Will Wynn named the week of RISE Entrepreneurship Week.

"We've worked hard to make RISE an event that belongs to the community it serves and a proud symbol of what makes this city so great," said RISE co-creator Roy Sosa, general manager of MPOWER Ventures and CEO and co-founder of MPOWER Labs. "Our hosts, sponsors, volunteers and participants have proven again it's great to be an entrepreneur in Austin - no matter your size, stage, industry or background - and will be for generations to come."

The week began with a keynote and book signing from Roy Spence, CEO of GSD&M Idea City and author of It's Not What You Sell, It's What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business is Driven by Purpose. RISE continued with entrepreneurs gathering in venues all over the city to connect and exchange ideas.

Notable community and business leaders Elizabeth Avellán, vice president and co-owner of Troublemaker Studios; Philip Berber, founder of A Glimmer of Hope and CyBerCorp; Clayton Christopher, founder and CEO of Sweet Leaf Tea; Brett Hurt, founder and CEO of Bazaarvoice; Admiral Bobby R. Inman, one of Austin's best known angel investors; Doug Ulman, president of the Lance Armstrong Foundation; and Ellen Wood, president and CEO of vcfo were among the diverse range of speakers at RISE.

Unlike a traditional conference, RISE sessions are peer-led, limited to 25 participants and take place in venues throughout Greater Austin. Popular session themes at RISE09 included bootstrapping your way to the top, using social media to grow your business and leading the way out of the economic downturn.

RISE09 venues ranged from coffee shops, restaurants and the board rooms and lobbies of Enspire Learning and GSD&M Idea City to the classrooms of The Acton School and community spaces like Leadership Austin, Tech Ranch, the Mexican American Cultural Center and Austin's greenest boardroom at the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

"If you want to get something done, just ask an entrepreneur," said RISE co-creator Bertrand Sosa, founding partner of MPOWER Ventures and president and co-founder of MPOWER Labs. "Thanks to the incredible energy of the entrepreneurs among us, we've had an incredible year with amazing sessions at great venues and something to offer every entrepreneur."

New this year were the Austin Women Entrepreneurs series - more than 40 sessions - and the Hispanic Entrepreneurs series - more than 18 sessions - as well as sessions on filmmaking, music festivals, Spanish-language web site creation, social enterprise and Hispanic community engagement. This year, the conference also introduced online networking tools to help participants connect and interact before, during and after the conference.

Later in the week, some of Austin's youngest aspiring entrepreneurs participated in RISE high, an annual business plan competition where the winners receive a cash prize. The winning team from Austin's Liberal Arts and Science Academy presented a plan for a consulting business that would provide legal and social services for Austin's foreign-born professionals.

The week concluded with a talk by Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey and the release of Passion & Purpose: The Power of Conscious Capitalism a conversation with John Mackey, CEO, Whole Foods Market and Be the Solution: How Entrepreneurs and Conscious Capitalists Can Solve All the World's Problems by Michael Strong with a foreword by John Mackey.

RISE is co-hosted by MPOWER Foundation and the Acton School of Business, and participation is free due to the generosity of sponsors Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP; anthonyBarnum Public Relations; Austin Business Journal; Austin Ventures; Austin Women Entrepreneurs; Capital One Bank; Club E; Ernst & Young; Give Realty; GSD&M Idea City; Holtzman Moellenberg Panozzo and Perkins, LLP; Sante Ventures; and Silverton Foundation.

For more information on RISE, visit http://www.riseaustin.org.

About RISE
RISE, a Relationship and Information Series for Entrepreneurs, provides a forum for entrepreneurs to connect and exchange ideas that inspire the entrepreneurial spirit. RISE 2009 takes place March 2-5 when more than 1,500 entrepreneurs will participate in approximately 100 sessions hosted by successful business leaders throughout the Greater Austin area. There is no cost to participate. For more information, to register or to volunteer to host a session, visit http://www.riseaustin.org. RISE is an independent 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.

About the Acton School of Business
The Acton School of Business, located in Austin, Texas, is a one-year MBA in Entrepreneurship program taught by successful, practicing entrepreneurs. The program is based entirely on experiential learning, featuring intensive 90-hour work weeks where students stand in the shoes of the entrepreneur in over 300 case studies, run real assembly lines and must sell products door-to-door in order to graduate. The student-faculty ratio is lower than any MBA program in the country, allowing students to develop strong bonds with their entrepreneur teachers. The Princeton Review has ranked Acton's teachers among the top five MBA faculties in the country for the past five years and rates Acton as the second "Best Classroom Experience" in the nation. The Acton MBA in Entrepreneurship is offered through Hardin Simmons University.

About MPOWER Foundation
The MPOWER Foundation (http://www.mpowerfoundation.org) is the philanthropic arm of MPOWER Ventures (http://www.mpowerventures.com), a socially committed venture fund that identifies, creates and invests in early-stage businesses targeting underserved markets. The Foundation extends MPOWER Ventures' efforts to promote access to financial services and extend the global reach of markets by supporting mission-critical programs that cannot sustainably return revenues. It funds, conceives and operates financial education, research, policy and social initiatives independently and through strategic partnerships. The MPOWER Foundation awards grants by invitation only.


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