NEW YORK — On Thursday evening, the Yale Entrepreneurial Society and the Yale School of Management hosted a panel discussion and networking event for approximately 100 students and alumni at the Chelsea Piers sports complex in New York City.
The panel featured speeches from Yale Corporation member Roland Betts ’68 and Tom Bernstein ’74 LAW ’77, co-owners of Chelsea Piers, as well as Stephen Greenberg ’70 and Brian Bedol, co-founders of College Sports Television.
During the panel, the speakers shared insights on how they generated and carried out their ideas. They emphasized the importance of passion, finding a good partner, and remaining flexible in the face of obstacles. Also important, they said, is the element of chance that shapes every stage of a business’ development.
“[The event] was highly successful,” YES President Nathan Taft SOM ’04 said. “The purpose was to bring together students, alumni and friends in the greater Yale community, and especially to expose current students to [alumni] who have had success with entrepreneurship.”
Betts and Bernstein began with the story of how they established a sports and entertainment complex at Chelsea Piers — and how they made it profitable. Previously, they had been partners in companies including Silver Screen Management and the Texas Rangers Baseball Club.
Betts said the four piers were “falling apart” when he first saw them in 1991. Bernstein said many New Yorkers doubted the plan for Chelsea Piers would be successful because of factors such as its location.
But last year, Chelsea Piers was the third most visited destination in the city.
“First of all, the idea has to be fundamentally a good one,” Betts said. “But you have to be almost maniacal in your dedication to that idea, because there isn’t any form of adversity that you won’t encounter.”
Building a positive culture for employees has also been important to the success of Chelsea Piers, Bernstein said.
“What’s happened here is that we have 1,000 people doing all sorts of different jobs, and they all feel that they have a proprietary interest in this place,” he said.
Although they started a different type of business, Greenberg and Bedol stressed many of the same themes. In 1993, they co-founded Classic Sports Network, which they sold to ESPN four years later.
“It is truly a daunting task to start something new,” Greenberg said. “If it was easy to do, someone would’ve done it already … But having a partner with you that lives it and dies it, and after a period of time can complete your sentences, is critical.”
Greenberg said he serendipitously met Bedol while he was considering what to do after leaving his position as Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer of Major League Baseball in 1993.
“There were many options [open to me],” Greenberg said. “One of them was certainly not doing this start-up cable network with this guy I didn’t know from Shaker Heights.”
Bedol and Greenberg said the most daunting aspect of realizing their plan was obtaining the rights to classic sports footage. Bedol said they decided they had to do a better job of articulating their vision when Major League Baseball offered them 250 hours of footage for $64 million.
Following the panel, the speakers took questions from the audience.
Sherman Wang ’07 said he appreciated the opportunity to talk with alumni in addition to hearing from the panel.
“I think it was very inspirational in terms of getting started for yourself and seeing from an experienced perspective how they got started,” he said.
Taft, who has been president of YES for nearly two years, said the group plans to host networking events in Boston and Washington, D.C., in addition to speakers on campus during the next year.