Business Leadership and Innovation Summit

Marshall Hall, March 18 - 19, 2018

What is it?

The VMI Business Leadership and Innovation Summit is a collaborative effort to celebrate VMI alumni (and their friends) successes in business innovation. The goal is to provide a platform for alumni to come together to bond, educate, mentor and inspire the next generation of Keydet business leaders and innovators. The 2018 summit will be held at VMI in Marshall Hall.

Why this summit?

Research shows that people with military experience are more entrepreneurial and have higher entrepreneurial success rates. VMI is uniquely placed as an educational institution to be innovative in entrepreneurship and business leadership. It is little wonder that VMI has many successful alumni in the entrepreneurial and business community. The summit provides an avenue to reconnect, network and tap into the rich experiences of alumni in business to educate and inspire our cadets.  This initiative could not have come at a better time. The Superintendent has endorsed the newly launched Growth4VA campaign, which seeks reforms and reinvestment in Virginia’s top-ranked higher education system for job creation. The BLIS will augment this effort by providing cadets the education, mentoring, inspiration and networks relevant to support their self-growth in business.

Program Goals

The main goals of the summit are to educate, mentor, and inspire the next generation of alumni to be innovative leaders the business, military, government, and not-for-profit sectors. Cadets will learn from the experiences of alumni how a VMI education gives them an advantage in the business world.

We also hope that the summit will be a platform for collaborations between alumni, cadets, and the Institute. In our interactions with alumni, many have expressed the desire to give back to the Institute, not only financially, but also with their time and talent. This summit gives alumni an avenue to connect with the Institute at a more personal and rewarding level.

Topics (tentative)            

  • Idea to reality: Innovation and execution in corporations & startups
  • Considerations in funding your venture and when to seek venture funding
  • Crisis management: Managing and recovering from “big mistakes and blunders”
  • Building the right business culture: corporations and startups
  • Insights on generating sales in an entrepreneurial company
  • Going global: Challenges and opportunities
  • How to use the VMI/Military training to carve an edge in business

Sample Activities (tentative)

  • Keynote address (TBD)
  • Plenary sessions
  • Networking sessions
  • Cadet idea poster session
  • Alumni pitch sessions
  • Mentorship sessions for cadets on their entrepreneurial projects
  • Mentorship sessions for alumni entrepreneurs
  • Job and internship interviews
  • Exhibition of cadets and alumni products, prototypes or concepts
  • Open space technology: You lead discussions on a topic for which you are knowledgeable and passion
  • Department visits: Alumni will have the opportunity to visit their “Home” departments and other departments while on post.


Detailed program coming soon.

Program Summary

Detailed program coming soon.

  • Sunday, March 18, 2018
    5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
    Networking reception

  • Monday, March 19, 2018
    8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
    Main programming and activities

  • Monday, March 19, 2018
    6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
    Networking dinner

  • Tuesday, March 20, 2018
    Time TBD
    Organizing committee meets


Do you wonder whether it's time to take the leap and launch your new venture? A panel of experienced entrepreneurs will share their stories and advice about knowing when an idea is a business opportunity, getting started, quitting your job, acquiring financial and other resources, selecting your team and partners, and early equity allocation decisions. They will also deliberate on the ethical and moral considerations in navigating through these processes.

You feel you are ready to launch and you need funding. Are you really ready? Should you be seeking funding now? Which sources of funding should you prioritize? A panel of successful entrepreneurs, angel investors, venture capitalists and bankers share their experiences and insights in the venture financing process.

Startups generally fail due to lack of market need and/or poor sales execution. In this session sales and marketing experts will share their insights on how to approach the sales process and gain initial sales. Panelists will also deliberate on the ethical and moral considerations in navigating through these processes.

Who are you when the boss is not looking? The right business culture will determine your long-term success. Experienced business leaders and entrepreneurs discuss why you should actively invest in building the right business culture and insights on how to do it.

Experienced entrepreneurs will chat about recovering from poor decisions, problem-solving, risk assessment, and taking, understanding burn rate in terms of money, time, and resources, and learning from failures. Panelists will also deliberate on the ethical and moral considerations in navigating through these processes.

How do you strategize to take advantage of opportunities in global markets? Panelists will discuss their experiences and share insights in seeking opportunities outside of the United States and what the considerations should be in such endeavors.

The VMI network is one of the best in the country in terms of finding jobs, internships among others. But did you also know the VMI network could be leveraged to great benefit in your business and entrepreneurial ventures? Panelists will discuss how they have leveraged the VMI network in their business and professional lives.