1 Million Slices puts student spin on popular entrepreneurial event

Billy Martin, co-founder of Columbia startup SocialEyes, presents at the first meeting of 1 Million Cups on December 8 at the University of Missouri. | Courtesy of CLIMB/Twitter
Billy Martin of Columbia startup SocialEyes presents at the first meeting of 1 Million Slices. | Courtesy of CLIMB/Twitter

More than 50 people gathered Monday night at the University of Missouri to listen to entrepreneurs and grab a slice or two of pizza at the first meeting of 1 Million Slices. The newly formed student organization traces its roots to 1 Million Cups, a program that provides a platform for entrepreneurs to present their startups fellow entrepreneurs and mentors from around the community.

There was a casual vibe at the first 1 Million Slices meeting, as most of the audience consisted of MU students, with a few businesspeople from the community mixed in.

Two student organizations — the MU Entrepreneur Club and CLIMB — and two community partners — Columbia’s Regional Economic Development, Inc. and the local Small Business & Technology Development Center — collaborated to put on the event.

“There’s been nothing that brings student entrepreneurs and community entrepreneurs together, until now,” said Connor Hall, an MU student and co-founder of 1MS. “The students and community have always been very separated, so we made it our goal to bring them together so they can really create something great.”

The event follows a format similar to that of 1 Million Cups, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation program that started in Kansas City and has spread to four more cities in Missouri and close to 75 across the U.S. Presentations are limited to six minutes, followed by 20 minutes of question-and-answer with the audience.

Billy Martin of SocialEyes and Matt Murrie of the What If…? Conference presented at the inaugural 1 Million Slices. Hall met Martin in one of his entrepreneurship classes at MU and asked Martin to speak at 1MS after hearing him talk about SocialEyes, a mobile app that provides a real-time video feed of the crowds at restaurants, bars and other establishments.

Collin Bunch, one of the organizers of 1 Million Cups in Columbia and a co-founder of 1MS, extended an invitation to Murrie, co-founder of the What If…? Conference, an entrepreneurial event centered around asking questions and engaging in dialogue.

The overarching theme of the night was one of support, as many questions were focused on how the community could help each entrepreneur grow and succeed.

“Student entrepreneurs are pretty difficult to come by, but the community, especially here in Columbia, is great,” Hall said. “Everyone is just so willing to come and help out.”

Gabe Owens, the chief technology officer for SocialEyes, said that he and Martin were honored to be asked to present at 1MS. They were eager to participate not just for the sake of showcasing their app to more people, but also because they’re always looking for ways to help other startups.

“1 Million Slices has the potential to help lots of young entrepreneurs get a better idea of what all goes into starting their own business and get their idea off the ground,” Owens said.

Hall deemed the first event a success, saying he was pleased that 1MS was able to secure both a student entrepreneur and an entrepreneur from the Columbia community.

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