By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Keynote speakers are expected to be thought-provoking, insightful and inspiring, and Jay Rogers more than met the challenge on Friday as he kicked-off the inaugural “Endeavor Young Professionals Summit” at Knoxville’s Mill & Mine events venue.
The Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Local Motors used a combination of his life story thus far and his company’s business model to disrupt a 120-year old industry to make his points to a large audience of mostly millennials.
“You live in an amazing time as young professionals,” Rogers said as he challenged the attendees to meet their obligation to be great as individuals and also to do something great for their community.
Both messages were at the heart of what the planners of the event described in this recent teknovation.biz article.
“Be a great example for the next generation that follows you,” Rogers said, citing his four young sons who live in the community. “Make Knoxville a beacon for greatness.”
During his high-energy presentation, the ex-Marine reiterated a point that others have made – millennials might change careers or at least jobs seven times. Yet, Rogers put his own spin on the point, drawing from his early years.
He explained that he went to Princeton University to major in engineering and eventually build cars. After three years, Rogers said he was unhappy in engineering, so he shifted to international relations. Six years later, he was still trying to find his career path and decided to enlist in the Marine Corps at age 27.
“It’s OK to not know where you are going,” Rogers says. “Take a deep breath; don’t worry about it.”
It was in the Marines, which he described as “an amazing experience,” where Rogers found satisfaction and the inspiration to go forward with Local Motors. “When bullets start flying, don’t worry if you are comfortable,” he said.
The analogy could not have been lost on entrepreneurs in the audience who thrive on the challenges when others are figuratively firing at them. This is certainly the life that Rogers has found most satisfying as Local Motors challenges what he described as the hardest industry to disrupt. He picked it because of his long-held passion to make cars and an important philosophical belief.
“I want to make a difference in the short time I have on this earth,” he said.
Local Motors sits in the sweet spot between prototyping and mass manufacturing as it prepares to open its micro-factory in the Hardin Valley area of West Knoxville. One of the vehicles that will be produced is the Olli, an autonomous vehicle.
Rogers told the attendees that self-driving technology is a silent revolution underway at this time.
“I guarantee you that your children will not have a driver’s license the way you do,” he said as he cited existing challenges like texting and drinking while driving. “Autonomous vehicles are all about saving lives.”
Rogers challenged those in the audience to remove the “we versus them” thinking from their minds.
“We should not be us versus them,” he said. “It’s about how we can all be good. We have the opportunity to show the world what is great about Knoxville.”
Kayla Witt, the Knoxville Chamber’s Marketing Coordinator for Economic Development, said 550 people pre-registered for the event.