BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Neal Rickner, a Silicon Valley tech executive and chief operating officer of Makani, a next-generation wind-turbine company owned by Alphabet, will speak September 6 at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business’ Entrepreneurial Connection Day.
Rickner has led several multidisciplinary teams across Makani, including those involving corporate strategy, project development, finance, legal, policy, communications, supply chain and facilities. Before joining Makani, Rickner led multiple teams at Google including a team on Google Helpouts, a live-video online learning startup within the company.
His presentation will begin at 1 p.m. in room 1055. of Hodge Hall Undergraduate Center, 1309 E. Tenth Street. It will be followed by an annual networking event for IU Kelley entrepreneur alumni and students from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., featuring alumni Theresa Krier, founder of Big T NYC, and Matt Hunckler, CEO of Powderkeg.
There is no cost to attend, but registration is required. This is the 12th year for the event, which is organized by the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
“This is a special opportunity to hear from one of Silicon Valley’s technology experts,” said Donald F. Kuratko, executive and academic director of the Johnson Center and the Jack M. Gill Chair of Entrepreneurship. “He worked closely with GoogleX and his company is a spinout from that futuristic organization. Neal’s energy and passion demonstrate why he is a great leader in Silicon Valley and his message can touch anyone interested in leadership in today’s disruptive world.”
Makani is developing energy kites that use a wing tethered to a ground station to efficiently harness energy from the wind, generating electricity at utility-scale. As the kite flies autonomously in loops, rotors on the wing spin as the wind moves through them, generating electricity that is sent down the tether to the grid.
The low mass of Makani’s system unlocks wind energy resources in places like deep-water offshore areas that are not economically viable for other ways to harness energy from the wind. This could provide more people around the world with access to clean, affordable wind power. The company recently completed its first offshore flight in the North Sea off the coast of Norway, as presented in the video below.
Before coming to Silicon Valley, Neal served 12 years on active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps as an F/A-18 pilot and forward air controller. He completed three tours in Iraq between 2003 and 2007, earning the Bronze Star with “Valor” device, and 13 Air Medals. He transitioned from active duty in 2009, earning dual master’s degrees in business and international affairs from Columbia University.
In addition to his professional activities, Rickner is a Tillman Scholar, is on the advisory boards of the International Refugee Assistance Project and Vets in Tech, and is a member of the Truman National Security Project’s Defense Council.
IU Entrepreneurial Connection Day is one of 100 events that are part of the Kelley School’s centennial celebration. Previous speakers have included Tom Ricketts, chairman of the Chicago Cubs and of Incapital LLC; Herb Kelleher, the late founder of Southwest Airlines Co.; Patricia Miller, co-founder of Vera Bradley; and Mickey Maurer, chairman of IBJ Media Corp.