Posted on 16 April 2011
I just got back from a 3 day cruise. I don’t quite know exactly where we went. I do know however that words can’t quite describe the experience I just had. To put things in perspective, one tweet I read today by @Tim_Rutten said “unreal & mind-blowing experience! ROI? A new life!”. I think that’s a great way to put it. Sure I am an entrepreneur and yes I loved meeting VCs, rock star CEOs and potential clients/partners, but that was only quarter of the story.
Our trip began on Friday where a thousand of us boarded a Celebrity Cruise Lines ship. Brett Leve (the Summit Series Co-founder) pointed out that never before had Celebrity let a DJ pump music thru the customs hall, but you have to set the tone right? Summit staffers walked around handing out cookies and brownies, a cocktail would have been nice, but I am sure they were already pushing the limits with the music. Right when we boarded we ran into Gary Vaynerchuk who would later
turn out to give one of the most inspiring speeches of the trip (he had a standing ovation). Gary’s friendly attitude kicked things off right. Here is a best selling author and Internet celebrity, yet on board he was just “one of us”. That to me was the main theme that kept swirling around my head on the ship. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was super cool. There wasn’t a sign that said “check your egos at the door” (actually it said “Make No Small Plans”) but their might as well have been.
Here is a ship that if it had sunk, global markets would have crashed yet the entire weekend I didn’t run into one asshole. Hard to believe I know.
If we were at SXSW, CES, TED or Davos there is always going to be this clear separation from the billionaire rock star celebrities and the hungry “up-and-coming CEOs” who just want to learn how to become billionaire rock star celebrities. However once you stepped foot on that ship, everyone was equal. There wasn’t a conversation I couldn’t step into and immediately get a warm welcome. I don’t care if it was Tony Hseih, Russell Simmons or Peter Theil, everyone was warm, generous and on the same page. What other conference has this class? Well if you know about one, please tell me because I haven’t experienced it until last weekend.
I attended Summit in D.C. last year and it was still a wonderful time, but there is just something about a captive audience. In D.C. there was other people staying at the hotel besides Summiters. Also you had a lot of people who lived in D.C. so I felt at times things were a bit cliqueish. However on the boat it was the ship’s crew and our crew. There was no outsiders to disrupt a conversation. Nobody to give you a weird stare if you were talking about a subject they didn’t care about.
Summit Series is invite only so as the old saying goes, “good people know good people”, and that’s what happened.
Balance in life is one of the most important things. Summit brought balance. It wasn’t heavily weighted towards Internet entrepreneurs. I must have met just as many people running socially responsible non-profits. One dude blew me away when he told me about these wood burning stoves they give out to the 200 million people world-wide who cook over an open fire each day, causing health problems and releasing tons of carbon in the air. They then sell the carbon offset rights to a broker who in turn would sell it to a company like Google. He explained to me that Google’s server farms release millions of tons of carbon so they buy these “offset rights” caused by the stoves they create and distribute. It’s a for profit non-profit. His company is helping people and the environment stay healthy, and then money doing it; are you kidding me?
It was moments like this when you are humbled. You start thinking about the next amazing product you are working on, and you realize in the long run it’s not the most important thing; I said to myself “Hey Jared it’s time you visited Africa to give back”. I was inspired by non-profits like Falling Whistles and Invisible Children, check em out.
Summit is one of those conferences that as you are standing on the outside of a forrest looking at trees, along comes a Virgin Galactic shuttle, scooping you up and into the atmosphere, giving you a view of your shit that you have never seen before. The forrest you thought was so big for so many years, now just looks like some pick up sticks a 5 year old was playing with.
I listened to a speech by Shai Agassi, SAP’s previous president. He is now working to get the world off of petroleum. His company “Better Place Electric Vehicles” raised $700 million dollars. He has a deal with the Israeli & Danish governments. I think he said that everyone in the country could drive an electric vehicle if we didn’t use gas for one week. His idea is a simple but brilliant one. He realized that we are many years away from a battery that runs for days, so he thought about a cell phone and how you can simply swap out the battery for a newly charged one. This dude had me so convinced we could get off of petroleum I started dumping my oil futures when we disembarked. Ok I don’t hold any futures of any kind, but if I did, I wouldn’t anymore.
The panels were great, and I loved hearing Greg Gunn and Tony Conrad talk about how to have a successful exit (note to mobileStorm employees, I am not ready to sell anytime soon). However the most amazing things didn’t happen in the panels. Brett’s opening comments hit the nail on the head. He said something to the affect “go with the flow, it’s those unexpected moments that will lead to new relationships and experiences”. Brett if you are reading this, please correct me. But his words couldn’t have been more true. I ran into a buddy of mine, a student in upstate New York named Tyler, most people know him as Tyler Do-Good, he has an amazing story of he traveled the country, doing random acts of kindness. We sat down for a chat and before you know it our group grew like amoebas splitting. This type of situation happened daily on the ship. You would start talking with someone and before you know it a whole crew of people would be gathered around, talking about how to change the world, how to sell your company, set up an amazing culture, or help those in need.
Another major highlight for me was the music. The Roots was the house band, ya no big deal. I realized they are the Grateful Dead of hip hop. They would go into these 15 minute long jams that had you dancing your ass off. Everyone kept telling me, “don’t miss Pretty Lights”; I now know why! Before I talk about PT, let me say that Axwell, of the Swedish House Mafia fame, tore a hole in the boat (another tweet I read today). But I expected Axwell to turn entrepreneurs into fist pumping hooligans.
What I didn’t expect was this young kid named Derek aka Pretty Lights, to absolutely demolish my understanding of music. You have to understand, I am a music connoisseur, I write music, i’ve produced music, I live music. It’s not often a DJ comes along that I haven’t heard of before and shares a new sound. I say “DJ” very lightly because that’s what you think he is but then you realize he is playing all of his own music; and he gives it all away for free at prettylightsmusic.com. I asked him afterwords what BPM (beats per minute) he was playing at because I couldn’t believe how slow his set was, and how much of a frenzy he worked up, I told him “bro, you were crushing it”. He looked at me and said “90 all night. 90′s the new crushing it”. Just to put things in perspective in his genre (if you can put him in a category), most DJs play at 120 to 140. To have the crowd that worked up at 90 was a thing of beauty.
So as I sit here in Palm Springs for another insane weekend (Coachella baby) I reminisce about the life long friends I made at Summit Series 2011. The conference will be in my memory until the day I am lying on my death bed with my family surrounding me, only to be drowned out by the amazing things that happened at Summit Series 2012. Guys, can you please give us a hint of what’s to come? This whole captive audience thing really worked. Another tweet I saw said “Next Summit will be on the moon with Tupac & Biggie”. I wouldn’t put it past you guys.
If you want an invite to next years conference hit me up. I can’t make any promises, but I can promise to get you infront of the right people.