Business & Tech, Features

Student emcees to host ‘eye-opening’ IdeaCon

Catherine Zoe Marsiglia, a junior in the College of Arts and Science, got her start with innovation by working at the front desk of BU’s BUild lab. She started working on more and more projects with the center, and is also involved in the First Year Innovation Fellowship Program, where she helps first years and transfers enter the world of innovation.

Now, she’s one of IdeaCon’s student emcees.

“Being on stage now will be a little different, but I’m excited for it,” she said.

While Innovate@BU’s Ideacon may not be new, this year will be different than previous conventions. The 2021 convention was held virtually, and 2022’s was not at its full capacity due to the pandemic. This year’s, which will be held on Feb. 11 at the Questrom School of Business, is already overshooting expectations.

The BUild Lab interior
The BUild Lab interior. Innovate@BU is hosting its first full capacity IdeaCon this year. The conference will be emceed by BU students, Catherine Zoe Marsiglia and Justin DiRaddo, to connect with other students in attendance. SOPHIE PARK/ DFP FILE

The conference is an innovation convention with speakers who are successful in innovation, venture capital and education. Marsiglia said most of the speakers are either recent graduates or still students themselves.

Justin Diraddo, a senior in Questrom and Marsiglia’s co-emcee, has worked in ventures with Kevin Tang, who graduated Questrom in 2022, and was a speaker at last year’s Ideacon.

Diraddo now runs a podcast, “heyfounded,” which interviews young founders and investors in the Boston area who can provide advice on running a venture and building a company.

“I’ve interviewed a lot of the previous Ideacon speakers on podcasts,” Diraddo said. “I think they felt it was natural to have me on.”

Marsiglia said having students emcee the event bridges the gap between the student attendees and the audience.

“Ideacon is ultimately a student innovation conference,” Marsiglia said. “I think the beauty of it is that it is very largely student-run and aimed towards that audience.”

Students might think “‘But yeah I have to graduate and then start my business,’” Wendy Swart Grossman, a Graduate School of Arts Administration lecturer, said.

“No, you can start your business out of your dorm room. And we can help you.”

The event tries to help students every step of the way.

When Marsiglia worked at a front desk of the BUild lab, she got the opportunity to work at Ideacon as well. She said she volunteered to run a few workshops and facilitate Q&As during the speeches.

The experience led to her nomination for the emcee position.

Swart Grossman said Marsiglia and Diraddo have a “lovely dynamic.”

“[They] really play off with each other really well and kind of represent all the pieces that the BUild lab is trying to inspire in other young folks,” Swart Grossman said.

Ideacon started in 2018 with the idea that it could be a cross-college experience, Swart Grossman said. That means that students from all colleges within BU are encouraged to go.

“The whole idea of innovation isn’t owned by the business school,” Swart Grossman said. “Even though we’re holding Ideacon at Questrom, it’s just as equally part of CFA and hospitality as it is, the business school, engineering and computer science.”

For Diraddo, becoming emcee makes his time at BU come full circle, as he attended the event during his freshman year. He said it was “a pretty great experience” that exposed him to the possibility of being an entrepreneur.

“I thought you just went to go get a job after college and that was basically all you could do,” Diraddo said. “It’s definitely a good eye-opening experience to at least understand there are students out there that are maybe a few years older than me, who are really going about it themselves.”

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