IDEA Week 2024 promises innovation with a twist as event organizers announce the first round of entertainers and speakers who will serve up humor, Hollywood, market disruption and the art of influencing. The annual event celebrating innovation, entrepreneurs and the incubation of world-changing ideas will be held April 24 to 26 at various locations throughout the South Bend-Elkhart region.
Leading the IDEA Week 2024 lineup announcement is award-winning comedian, political satirist and entrepreneur Hasan Minhaj, who will perform on April 25 (Thursday) at the Morris Performing Arts Center in downtown South Bend. Minhaj is best known for his breakout Netflix special “Homecoming King” and his critically acclaimed political satire Netflix show “Patriot Act” for which he won a Peabody, Emmy and Television Academy Honor.
A former senior correspondent for Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” Minhaj recently segued into the startup world by co-founding 186K Films, which is producing its first feature film, “For the Culture,” with Amazon Studios. Minhaj is co-writing the script with Prashanth Venkataramanujam and will also star in the film. Tickets to see Minhaj range from $48.50 to $118.50 and go on sale Nov. 16 (Thursday) at the Morris Box Office, by phone at 800-537-6415 and online at www.morriscenter.org.
“Our goal is to celebrate and encourage all levels of entrepreneurship in our region,” said Kristopher Priemer, one of IDEA Week’s leaders and organizer of the week’s entertainment events. “Mixing in high-caliber mainstream performances gives another opportunity for individuals to connect and highlight the positive impact entrepreneurs have to our economy.”
IDEA Week 2024’s first major keynote speaker of the week is Maya French, a serial entrepreneur and alumna of the 2019 Forbes 30 under 30 class. A multiple startup founder, French is the creator of Koia, a renowned name in the plant-based nutrition industry. In 2023 she launched M.A.D. Projects, a venture studio specializing in building exceptional consumer packaged goods brands. Her aim is to transform concepts into thriving brands that resonate with underserved audiences. French will be speaking April 24 (Wednesday) at the Century Center in South Bend.
In addition to her speaking role, French will also serve as a final-round judge for the University of Notre Dame’s signature innovation event, the McCloskey New Venture Competition, on April 26 (Friday). The annual competition attracts more than 150 student, faculty, alumni and local community-led startups that prepare for months for a chance to be one of the final teams selected to compete for more than $600,000 in prize money and investor connections, up $200,000 from previous years.
Additionally, entrepreneurs and actors Lexi Hensler and Patrick Schwarzenegger will speak at IDEA Week’s “Starting Small Summit,” scheduled for April 25 (Thursday) at the Century Center in downtown South Bend.
Although Schwarzenegger is best known for his celebrity parents, Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor starred in the HBO true crime series “The Staircase” alongside Colin Firth and in “Gen V” on Prime Video. Schwarzenegger is also an entrepreneur. In 2021, he co-founded Mosh, a startup that exists to create a conversation around brain health through food, education, research and providing tools for a “mindstyle” lifestyle. Schwarzenegger is also Mosh’s current CEO and an active investor in early-stage startup companies.
With more than 5.3 million subscribers and over 1 billion video views on her YouTube channel, Hensler is a prolific product promoter, influencer and entrepreneur. Her film credits include “Craziest Vacation Ever,” “Amp World” and “Date Takeover.” She is also the founder of Hugz, a line of therapeutic weighted plush animals designed to relieve symptoms from stress, anxiety and depression.
“We are truly excited to announce this diverse group of individuals who have embraced entrepreneurship from the starting points of business and entertainment to IDEA Week 2024,” said Kelley Rich, interim vice president and associate provost for innovation at the IDEA Center. “Hasan Minhaj and Maya French are sure to inspire us all having brought their unique perspectives and experiences to legacy industries, entertainment and consumer products that are embracing diversity.”
Rich added, “I’m sure everyone will also enjoy the journeys of Lexi Hensler and Patrick Schwarzenegger, who are charting their own careers paths, blending acting with entrepreneurialism, investing and the cultural phenomenon of product influencers.”
Now in its sixth year, IDEA Week is hosted by Notre Dame, the South Bend-Elkhart region, Starting Small Summit and various community organizations and businesses. Events will be held at Notre Dame and other locations throughout South Bend and Elkhart and will be open to the public. Find more information and register for updates at www.ideaweek.com.