Entrepreneurial

Summit Series: Entrepreneurs set sail

December 4, 2010

Katharine Herrup is the Opinion Editor for Reuters.com. This is the second of a three-part series on Summit Series. Read the first part here.

The first major Summit Series event happened in May of 2010. Just after starting the company two years ago, the team of seven young men between the ages of 24 and 26, were able to get President Bill Clinton, media mogul Ted Turner and co-founder of the Carlyle Group David Rubinstein to come and speak. They were a part of an impressive group of 750 attendees.

“We hosted the country’s most innovative young minds and thought leaders from presidents to astronauts to social media gurus to photographers to celebrities,” Josh Zabar, one of the original seven members, said.

For three and half days, Summit Series guests had access to a slew of leading professionals in their fields. They also participated in activities such as rock climbing, yoga, a casino night and jamming with musicians.

“One of the reasons why I think it’s taken off the way it has is because of the experience,” said Thayer Walker, who is the director of reconnaissance for Summit Series and one of the four co-founders of it. “We get people out of normal day-to-day business events, and provide intellectual conversation and discussions and physical activity.”

With so many kinds of experts and people, it begs the question: what is their goal?

“Our focus is to build a community of the most innovative, incredible, ambitious young people to make positive change in the world,” Walker explained. “We organize the most impactful people on the planet to catalyze them to do more and we’re doing that through a peer group of inspiring young people.”

For their next event, though, Summit Series is providing a focus — the ocean.

“The ocean is the most important topic in the world right now,” said Walker, a former journalist. “All life came from the ocean. It’s estimated that between 70 and 80 percent of the oxygen in the atmosphere is produced by marine plants. It’s in a really dangerous state right now and no one’s paying attention.”

According to EarthSky, a global science website, scientists believe that phytoplankton contribute between 50 to 85 percent of the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere.

“My goal is to create a generation of people that champion (the ocean),” Walker added. “Our survival depends on the ocean’s survival.”

The Summit Series annual event for 2011, for which registration has recently begun, will be aboard an ocean cruise liner. This time, they will host about 1,000 people and include entertainment from musical act The Roots and magician David Blaine.

“We’ve been using the ocean as our salad bar and our sewer for way too long,” said Walker. “Being out at sea is a great way to educate people about it.”

Despite the event being centered around — and on — the ocean, Walker emphasized that it’s not an ocean conference. The main goal for the summit is to build a community of people who encourage one another and give back to the world in a more meaningful way.

“It feels like the right way to build something,” said Jeremy Schwartz, another co-founder of Summit Series and the chief creative officer of it. “It’s progress in every direction and moving the needle in the right direction.”

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