By Allison Pennington, Communications Intern, Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship
“If everything you do is a success, I’m willing to bet you haven’t risked much.” – Ricky Van Veen
On Thursday, April 21, Ricky Van Veen (’03), a Wake Forest graduate and the co-founder of CollegeHumor, BustedTees, and Vimeo, joined Provost Rogan Kersh for a fireside chat in Broyhill Auditorium as part of the ICE Excellence Awards Celebration. After the informal conversation, Van Veen was presented with the Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award, which recognizes an individual who has demonstrated outstanding entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, achievement, and social responsibility. Van Veen’s success as an entrepreneur and innovator is an inspiration to students, faculty, and staff at Wake Forest University.
Van Veen shared his own entrepreneurial story with the students, faculty, and others in attendance. While working on his Information Systems degree as an undergraduate at Wake Forest University, he co-founded CollegeHumor in the Johnson basement in 1999. Since then, CollegeHumor has exploded into the largest comedy property on the internet and the most viewed comedy channel on YouTube. Van Veen also co-founded the hit video-sharing site, Vimeo, as well as BustedTees, one of the leading Internet based t-shirt brands. He is a pioneer in digital content development, production, and marketing, as well as brand management.
When asked what advice he would give to students, Van Veen explained the importance of taking risks. “If everything you do is a success, I’m willing to bet you haven’t risked much,” he said. Though Van Veen’s story is definitely one of entrepreneurial success, he explained that he has had his fair share of projects that did not work out. He encouraged students to consider the scalability and defensibility of their idea, but in the end, be willing to take the risk that is needed to become a success. Van Veen also encouraged students to take advantage of the resources they have available to them today as college students in order to start their own businesses: “It’s easier than ever to start a business in college. I started CollegeHumor in 1999, then the Dotcom Crash hit in 2001, but I had a safety net: my meal card,” he explained amidst laughs from the audience.
Van Veen reminded students to take advantage of their college careers to build the entrepreneurial skills that employers are looking for, whether they want to eventually start their own business or not. “Technology is obliterating a lot of jobs today, but it cannot obliterate the people who come up with ideas,” he said. “To come up with good ideas, you need a little knowledge from a lot of areas. That’s the benefit of a liberal arts education, so absorb as much as you can and take it all in.”
To learn more about the ICE Awards Celebration or other award winners, you can read WFU News’ coverage here.