At the Business Innovation Factory Summit’s seventh year in 2011, 350 participants came from more than 150 different companies. Eighty of the attendees were CEOs, presidents, founders or senior leaders from within their organizations. This year, BIF-8 stands to outstrip its previous events with more than 30 “storytellers” meant to instruct, intrigue and inspire the 400-odd expected attendees.
The nearly sold out BIF-8 Summit, slated to take place at the Trinity Repertory Co. in Providence on Sept. 19-20, has attracted both audience members and speakers from around the world. Attendees represent five countries and more than 200 companies. This year’s storytellers vary in age, culture, education and disciplines and include CEOs, authors, professors, artists and a 14-year-old entrepreneur, among others.
As always, the host of the event is BIF’s self-titled “chief catalyst,” Saul Kaplan. Kaplan, former director of the R.I. Economic Development Corporation, believes “stories are what move us. Stories are what we become emotionally connected to. Stories are what we can see ourselves in and what engages us.”
Unlike other similar events, BIF speakers, who are unpaid, tell their personal stories rather than the canned presentations they are paid to give elsewhere. “Listening to someone give a talk that they’ve given 20 times before, I don’t learn anything new. When somebody shares a personal story, a personal experience, and describes what they’ve learned through that experience, that makes a real difference,” Kaplan told Providence Business News.
The presenters rounded up for BIF-8 certainly have stories to tell. Fourteen-year-old Nicholas Lowinger of Cranston will tell the audience how he turned his bar mitzvah service project into a nonprofit that has raised more than $250,000 in monetary and footwear donations for children in homeless shelters. By August 2012, Lowinger’s company – Gotta Have Sole – donated footwear to 5,300 children in 11 states.
Felice Frankel, a science photographer and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher, plans to tell BIF-8 attendees about her photography, which she uses to communicate complex scientific ideas to the layman inside the pages of publications such as Nature, Science, Wired, Newsweek, Scientific American and Discover Magazine.
In addition to young social justice entrepreneurs like Lowinger and researchers like Frankel, BIF-8 attendees will also hear from what some may call more “typical” speakers, such as Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh and Robin Chase, co-founder of Zipcar.