Is the Summit Series Davos for Gen Y?

By Antonio NevesBusiness on Main

‘Cool Runnings’ host Antonio Neves sets sail with 1,000 movers and shakers in entrepreneurship, philanthropy, technology and culture.

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After spending three days with 1,000 people on a boat — and then on a small island — I have a farmer’s tan, raccoon eyes and a feeling like I was hit in the face with a bag of nickels (in a good way).

No, it’s not a scene from an upcoming reality show. I attended the most recent Summit Series, Summit at Sea, and have new perspective on what it takes to be a world-changing innovator in 2011.

About the Summit Series

What’s the Summit Series, you ask? As described on its website, the Summit Series “engages the world’s most dynamic dreamers and doers through curated events and initiatives designed to make the world a better place.” Forbes previously labeled it “the Davos for Generation Y,” referring to the yearly World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland — and after attending the Summit at Sea, I can say this description isn’t far off.

This invite-only event brought together over 1,000 attendees who are among the best of the best in entrepreneurship, philanthropy, technology and culture. You may be familiar with the names of some of the people in attendance, like Richard Branson, Tony Hsieh, Beth Comstock, Tim Ferriss, Gary Vaynerchuk, Blake Mycoskie, Peter Thiel, Russell Simmons and Keith Ferrazzi.

So what’s it like to be in close quarters with so many movers and shakers? Well, if my ears didn't deceive me, Richard Branson started a statement with, “Yesterday, I was bottle-feeding a baby tiger.” That’s when I knew I was in the right place.

On Friday, April 8, we collectively set sail from Miami, Florida, made a pit stop at a private island, and returned as changed people on April 11. The word of the weekend was “epic,” and the energy was high.

A cruise with a purpose

This certainly wasn’t just a vacation. On the contrary, the weekend consisted of so many activities that I got a migraine trying to prioritize which ones to attend. How do you choose between presentations by Zappos CEO and “Cool Runnings” alumus Tony Hsieh and the author of “Never Eat Alone,” Keith Ferrazzi? (I went with Tony, because my interview with him remains one of my all-time favorites.)

To give you a sense of the kind of thinking that was going on, some of the workshops had ambitious but catchy titles like “Sell Big, Sell Fast: Preparing for a Great Exit,” “Digital Altruism,” “Monetizing Your IDR,” “Investing in the Human Tribe,” “The Mathematical Mantras to Happiness” and my personal favorite, “Your New Job Competition Is Coding in the Lunch Line.” To that end, my cabin mate was the 22-year-old CEO of SEE College Prep.

When attendees weren’t in workshops, we were having life-changing conversations filled with nods of encouragement and set to the backdrop of cold beverages, gourmet meals and live music from the Roots. Not a bad environment for inspiration.

But perhaps what was most remarkable for aspiring innovators who attended the Summit at Sea was how accessible the big names were. It’s not every day you wind up on a sun deck next to Russell Simmons, or bump into celebrity authors Tim Ferriss or Gary Vaynerchuk and have a chance to ask them for advice. For me, it was also fun to help make connections, like introducing “Cool Runnings” alumnus and author Chip Conley to Charles Best, the founder of

Where partnerships are formed

The World Economic Forum in Davos brings together political, business and thought leaders to form global partnerships that help change the world. In the same vein, the Summit Series is very much about forming lasting connections and thought partnerships that change the way people view using innovation to better the world.

One thing I noticed about the Summit at Sea is that the attendees came to grow, learn and build together — they weren’t there to pitch or make a hard sell. Though I arrived fresh after launching my first entrepreneurial endeavor — THINQACTION, which provides coaching for young professionals working in the media industry — we all simply talked about our passion for what we do and how we can do it better.

Over the course of the weekend, I formed friendships and business connections and was challenged to consistently think about how my work can help others and create social good.

I also lost my voice and slept a total of 10 hours, but it was completely worth it. On board, new businesses were born and meaningful partnerships were spawned — and hopefully in the near future, we’ll be profiling some of the summit’s young leaders and innovators in an episode of “Cool Runnings.”

What do you think?

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