By Jessen O'Brien, Class of 2012, New Media Editor
Photo by Emily Lo, Class of 2012
Guimar Vaca Sittic, a third-year Economics major, is the kind of guy who gets things done. While at UChicago, he’s helped start a company, Cena Plus, an RSO, Global Business Brigades, and a national conference, TEDxUChicago. Vaca Sittic is the guy people go to when they have an idea, the guy with enough enthusiasm and entrepreneurial expertise to transform a vague musing into concrete reality.
“I’ve always shown a huge interest in business,” said Vaca Sittic. “I like starting new ventures. I like working a lot on things I am passionate about.” Consequently, when three of his friends from high school thought about starting a company last April, they immediately contacted Vaca Sittic. In December the four launched Cena Plus, a website similar to Open Table that allows users to book restaurant reservations in Argentina.
Vaca Sittic is in charge of online marketing for the site. He is also negotiating a deal with one of the largest NGOs in Argentina, the name of which must remain anonymous until the contract has been signed. They will help with online marketing and, in return, Cena Plus will donate a peso for every reservation booked through them. All the donations will then go towards giving food to poor children.
It might seem counterintuitive, but a dual interest in community service and business prevails throughout Vaca Sittic’s entrepreneurial endeavors. Unsurprisingly, Vaca Sittic started the UChicago chapter of Global Business Brigades (GBB). Student volunteers travel to Panama for a week and hold free business seminars with locals, mostly farmers 30 to 50 years old. As Co-President, Vaca Sittic held fundraisers and organized consulting lessons for the volunteers, some drawn to GBB because of their experience with community service, others because of their business experience, and still others because, like Vaca Sittic, they are equally passionate about both.
“I’m an advocate of capitalism,” said Vaca Sittic about GBB’s particular approach to community service. “I think that’s the way to help people and take them out of poverty—by establishing new ventures, investments, and open markets.”
Currently, Vaca Sittic is on the board for the upcoming TEDxUChicago conference, to be held April 17th. The conference is called: Reinventing the Life of the Mind. “I started watching TED talks in high school and have loved them ever since,” said Vaca Sittic. “It’s a great way to educate people and to learn about different subjects. TED has the power of teaching people a lot of things in a very short time.”
In 1984, architect and graphic designer Richard Saul Wurman founded the first TED conference. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. It has evolved into an annual four day event with speakers ranging from Al Gore to Sarah Silverman. TEDxUChicago is an independent TED event organized by a team of 15 students. It will follow the same format of 18 minute talks, all of which will also be posted online.
“We chose the theme Reinventing the Life of the Mind because we wanted to combine the ideas of UChicago with all of these new, revolutionaries thoughts that TED brings to people,” said Vaca Sittic. “Our main idea is to provide this day full of inspiration, passion, and tools for all of our community.”
Vaca Sittic plans to go back to Argentina this summer so he can work full time on Cena Plus. He will head to Panama in September with GBB, and he hopes to be working on a second TEDxUChicago conference next year. “I think I’m a risky person. I like big challenges— having the uncertainty of what’s going to happen next,” he said. But even more than the risk, Vaca Sittic declares the best part of initiating an organization to be “just seeing it grow.”
“When you start something and you reach the second milestone, and the third milestone, and you look back and see how things have changed, how you have personally grown — I think that’s one of the most rewarding things.”