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Remembering Laura Wiley…a Serendipitous Collider

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by in Stories
January 14, 2016

We launched the first Venture Cafe Gathering in St. Louis at 3pm on October 2, 2014. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I was optimistic (as I generally am). I did know I took care of a very important ingredient necessary for success: I engaged smart people to jump into the Venture Cafe madness. Our very first session in the Havana Room, which is our largest meeting room at Venture Cafe, was hosted by the smart people of the St. Louis Inventors Association. Inventors, and those who support them, had to be part of this kickoff event, right? We knew that the people working away in basements and garages had a place at Venture Cafe. Prior to the October 2 session, we had a few meetings with Gary Kellmann and Laura Wiley. They were both taking on new leadership roles with the Inventors Association and looked to relaunch that group. So we jumped into the figurative bed together to kick off the relaunch of their association as part of the launch of Venture Cafe’s programming.

Laura WileyI just recently learned that Laura lost her long and valiant battle with cancer. I learned of this the same week I learned of the passing of David Bowie and Alan Rickman…both who also battled cancer. While I admired the latter two people for their entertainment talent and the innovation they brought to their respective crafts. I admire Laura for very different reasons. I knew her. I liked her. I respected her. She wanted to be part of the excitement of Venture Cafe, but valued the importance of building relationships. She was warm, funny, and always had a smile and hug for members of the Venture Cafe team. Most of all, she was wicked smart.

I didn’t know her personally, and like many of the people with whom I interact, a professional relationship is all we’ll ever have. That is perfectly fine. The thing I want us all to remember about Laura is that she made professional relationships feel personal. She embodied the essence of serendipitous collisions. I often talk about the fact that the serendipity is related to how people feel during an interaction; however, there is a lot of engineering and purpose that goes into creating the right setting for serendipity. Laura knew that. Laura got that. Laura lived that.

Laura, we are going to miss you. You were here from day one. We’ve had more than 500 educational sessions in our 15 1/2 months of programming. We’ve had more than 20,000 attendees. But the important thing is that we had people like Laura, then and even now, who come together to build the community.

There are two companies in St. Louis with which I’ve interacted that are trying kick cancer in the ass. Get to know the team at Immunophotonics and spend a few minutes talking to Dr. Milind Sant from LipoSpectrum. Or you can get to know Dan Duffy (Cancer survivor) and The Half Fund. I am getting tired of losing innovators to cancer.

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