Entrepreneurial

Summit Series: Capitalizing on ideas?

December 7, 2010

Katharine Herrup is the Opinion Editor for Reuters.com. This is the last of a three-part series on Summit Series. Read Part I: “A new kind of currency” and Part II: “Entrepreneurs set sail”.

Every member of Summit Series sold their belongings or shipped them back home to their parents’ place so they could travel with just one suitcase and live in different cities every six weeks. The idea is to meet “interesting” people face-to-face who are doing something good.

“It’s a time in our life to see the world,” Summit Series co-creator Elliott Bisnow said. “And to do that and to live with your best friends and work with them is incredible.”

“It’s cheaper to travel and rent places than live in a city,” added Josh Zabar, one of Summit Series’s members.

Part of their travels include aid missions. In the spring of 2010, the group went to Haiti with actress Kristen Bell and Bobby Chang. They gave out 1,000 LifeStraws, a couple hundred Incase backpacks and $10,000 worth of school supplies from Staples, which has been a sponsor of previous Summit Series events.

Just several weeks ago, the group went to Jamaica with Neil Blumenthal of Warby Parker eyeglasses to provide 216 eye exams and 160-plus glasses to residents of Kingston.

Before these aid missions began, Summit Series, which is less than three years old, was asked by the Obama administration in March of 2009 to plan an event at the White House to discuss economic recovery and innovation with 35 young business leaders that included Ivanka Trump, Marc Ecko of Ecko Unlimited, Aaron Patzer of Mint.com, and Chad Hurley of YouTube.

This past August, Summit Series received one of the eight Global Youth Leadership Awards from performing artist Usher’s New Look Foundation. (President Clinton and Justin Beiber were also recipients of the award).

All of the seven samurai, as they call themselves, (but now eight as they recently brought on another young man), have some sort of a business background. Bisnow is the co-founder of e-newsletter on niche businesses, called Bisnow, which makes more than $1 million in revenue.

Before joining Summit Series Thayer Walker had a contracting business, which also made upwards of $1 million in revenue when it was in business. Jeff Rosenthal was — and still is — involved with a jewelry company, Black & Blue Jewelry.

“We all have these companies that we’re running and building but in different industries and we’re passionate about building something,” said, Jeremy Schwartz, who was in the music business before joining Summit Series. “We had the drive and ambition but no idea how to do it.”

As for Zabar, he had been a head hunter in New York for CEOs of private equity and hedge funds, but had an “inkling to do something non-traditional and business oriented,” he said.

“I was striving for something more and didn’t realize what that was until I joined Summit,” Zabar said. “And it was doing something for the greater good and making an impact.”

Over the last two and a half years, Summit Series has thrown nine events and raised $2 million for over a dozen foundations such as charity: water, Invisible Children and the UN Foundation. “It’s been the right mix of people and timing,” remarked Bisnow.

As for funding their own group, a startup with a top-down approach, their revenue model is a sponsorship one.

“If you have the right product, it’s always the right time,” Bisnow elaborated. “With that said, proceed with caution.”

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