Chicago Ideas Week brings industry leaders to town

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The fifth year of Chicago Ideas Week kicks off Monday, with people like David Petraeus and Martha Stewart expected in town discussing ways to grow big ideas.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, ABC's "The Chew" chef Mario Batali and bestselling author Terry McMillan are just a few of the many thought-leaders who have graced the stage at the Cadillac Palace for Chicago Ideas Week, all in effort to spark the next big idea.

It started as a one-day conference back in 2010. Before that day was done, founder Brad Keywell knew he was onto something bigger.

"The idea behind Chicago Ideas Week was to create something intellectually unique that brought great speakers and thinkers and doers from around the world to us, to Chicago," he said.

The inaugural week-long festival in 2011 kicked off with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Atlanta's Mayor Kasim Reed talking about what makes their cities great.

"I think having Mayor Emanuel involved as a co-chair and we came to be in the same year that he came to be in the first year that he came to be in office," said Executive Director Jessica Malkin. "I think a lot of stars were aligning around people being really excited about an ideas and innovation platform that would be open to all."

With the help of Malkin and creative director Carrie Kennedy, the trio set out to make Chicago Ideas Week a global destination event.

"It was unchartered territory, but it was really exciting," Kennedy said. "Every door that we knocked on, people were really excited about it."

Keywell, who is also co-founder of Groupon and started several other companies, says the non-profit venture aims to include everyone. It has expanded to add hands-on labs and a youth program to offer fresh opportunities to Chicago students.

"All of these things were not a part of the initial vision, but that's what's so beautiful about this. Every year it becomes more a part of our city, more the fabric of who Chicago is which is curious, resourceful, connected people," he said.

The 2015 Chicago Ideas Week runs through October 18.

ABC7 is a media partner and will be live streaming several of the talks.

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