Belly’s Mini-MBA: The Monthly Speaker Series


One of my favorite parts about working at Belly is getting a front row seat for The Belly Speaker Series. Every month, we invite a speaker to share their story with the entire company during lunch time. We’ve been lucky enough to have some big muscle people stop by our office. Each one of them leaves me feeling more inspired than the last. Here’s a summary of some of the heavy hitters who have been kind enough to share their words of wisdom with us:

Amanda Lannert, CEO, Jellyvision

Lannert was recently listed in Crain’s Tech 50 as one of Chicago’s top technological leaders and has been profiled in the Chicago Tribune. She is also active in Chicago’s startup community, serving on the advisory board of 1871 as well as mentoring at Excelerate Labs and Sandbox Industries. During her hour-long chat with us, Lannert talked about everything from leadership and taking ownership to culture, while cracking us up the entire time. One thing that stuck with me from her talk was when she said “I’ve been the CEO of every project I’ve ever owned.” No wonder she runs a company now. After Lannert’s talk, we all wanted to work with her and have a beer with her too.

John Paul Rollert, Behavioural Science Professor, University of Chicago

Rollert’s teaching and research focus on empathy and its application to business ethics and leadership. He’s been published in The Business and Society Review, The Journal of Law, Culture and the Humanities, and the Yale Law Journal Online. His work has also been featured in Slate, Politico, Bloomberg, The Harvard Business Review Online, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Paris Review and The New York Times. His discussion about business ethics brought me right back into a lecture hall. You can find his complete presentation here.

Chuck Templeton, Founder, OpenTable, Impact Engine & Entrepreneur

In 1998, Chuck Templeton founded OpenTable and has since launched a Chicago-based incubator, Impact Engine, to help startups dedicated to social change accelerate their growth and attract venture funding. As an investor in 22 companies, he is extremely involved in the Chicago tech community, awarded “Mentor of the Year” during the 2014 Moxie awards. Chuck shared with Belly CEO, Logan LaHive, and the rest of the team his thoughts on food, focus and culture and left our team feeling inspired to change the world.

Michael Slaby, Chief Innovation Officer, Obama for America

Michael Slaby is currently the Managing Director at Timshel, a social impact technology and strategy company, however, he is likely best known for his roles helping to elect the President of the United States in 2008 and again in 2012. He worked as CTO for Obama for America in 2008, and in 2012 was Chief Integration and Innovation Officer. He spoke about his experience rapidly growing efficient and effective teams, aligning around values and a clear mission, and how roles in the organization impact maintaining a collective vision. He left us with tons of great soundbites like “Funnel is the most offensive marketing term. It sounds like a sausage maker. We call it the ladder of engagement,” and “It was raining for everyone else, and we’re the only ones to did it.” I’d elect Michael Slaby for America.

Mike Gamson, SVP Global Solutions, LinkedIn

One of my colleagues at Belly said that Mike Gamson’s talk changed his life. Long after Mike left our office, we couldn’t stop talking about how great his talk was. Gamson leads the Global Solutions team at LinkedIn, and knows a thing or two about culture, transparency and growing an incredible global team. He reminded us to not be physically present somewhere if your mind and heart are not there and that leaders should set the standard, uphold the standard & demonstrate the standard.

Ben Horowitz, Co-founder Andreessen Horowitz

Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz, one of our investors, stopped by the office to chat with us about startup culture and hip hop. As a well-known investor, blogger, and author of The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, one of my favorite business books, Horowitz offered our team invaluable advice about building and running a business. We’re lucky to have him as a partner!

The Belly Speaker Series is a great way for us to come together as an organization, take a step back from our day to day work, and remember why we’re here and what we’re building. It reminds us of our values and keeps us pushing, even on hard days. I like to think the lessons learned from these seasoned vets is like getting a mini MBA, for free.

If you’re interested in speaking to our team, please contact [email protected]. We’ll pay you in food, booze, and a hearty round of applause.

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