Discovery Channel founder to speak at E Day

John Hendricks
John Hendricks

Phil Castle, The Business Times

An entrepreneur who was the driving force behind both a global cable television operation and Mesa County resort will share his experiences during an upcoming event celebrating entrepreneurship.

John Hendricks, founder and former chairman of Discovery Communications, will deliver the keynote address at Colorado Mesa University Entrepreneurship Day scheduled for April 23 in Grand Junction.

Hendricks also was involved in developing the Gateway Canyons Resort southwest of Grand Junction. He now serves as founder and chairman of the Curiosity Project offering video-on-demand streaming service as well as retreats.

The E Day luncheon, set for noon in the University Center Ballroom, serves as a fund-raiser for scholarships for business students at CMU. Tickets sell for $50 for individuals and $500 for tables for eight and two sponsored students. Major sponsorships also are available for $2,500 and include tables for eight and two students. More than 500 people are expected to attend.

E Day also includes a series of morning presentations on business topics for students and a competition in which students pitch their ideas for new products and services.

E Day also will feature a new event called IgniteCMU. The free event is set for 5:30 p.m. in the West Ballroom at the University Center and will include a social hour followed by a Web chat with Haley Jackson, a CMU almuna who founded Documentaries Etc. Jackson helps adventurers, explorers and scientists tell their stories through film, the Internet and television.

Admittedly obsessed with bringing documentary programming to television, Hendricks launched the Discovery Channel in 1985. Hendricks traces the origin of the company to his time as a history student at the University of Alabama. As part of a work study job, he ordered documentary films for professors to show in classes and wondered why the films couldn’t be shown on TV.

By the time Hendricks retired from Discovery in 2014, the operation had grown to 49 network entertainment brands reaching a total of more than 2.5 billion subscribers in 220 countries.

Hendricks also developed Gateway Canyons, a luxury resort that includes lodging, fine dining and a spa as well as a museum showcasing Hendricks’ collection of automobiles. Gateway Canyons was recognized in the Conde Naste Traveler 2014 Readers Choice Awards as the best resort in Colorado, third best resort in the United States and 12th best resort in the world.

Since his retirement, Hendricks has focused on the Curiosity Project, a venture run by his daughter, Elizabeth North, that includes CuriosityStream and Curiosity Retreats.

Launched earlier this year, CuriosityStream is a consumer subscription video-on-demand streaming service offering original factual content from leading documentarians and producers. Curiosity Retreats bring together scientists, professors and other experts — along with guests — at Gateway Canyons to discuss issues related to science, technology, civilization and the human spirit.

Hendricks has received numerous awards over the course of his career, including an Emmy and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Governors Award. Hendricks also has been honored for everything from expanding educational opportunities for schoolchildren to raising awareness about animal issues.

Hendricks’ memoir, titled “A Curious Discovery: An Entrepreneur’s Story,” was published in 2013.

Along with Hendricks’ speech, the E Day luncheon will include an elevator pitch competition in which students will offer brief presentations about their ideas for new products and services. They’ll vie for cash prizes that can be used as seed money to help fund their ventures.

The Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award will be presented to a local entrepreneur who’s started or expanded a venture, contributed to economic development in the region and exemplifies the spirit of entrepreneurship.

The MBA Chapter of the CMU Alumni Association will host IgniteCMU, a series of Web chats with CMU alumni who’ve excelled professionally.

Jackson works as a writer, director and producer in creating content for a variety of clients through a range of mediums. She’s worked with such clients as Al Gore, James Cameron and the XPrize.

 For tickets to or more information about Entrepreneurship Day visit the Web site at www.supportingcmu.org/events/2015-entrepreneurship-day-registration.