Live from the Forbes U30 Conference

Well… half live.

Pre-Conference Thoughts

This year the Forbes Under 30 Conference is being hosted in Boston, which means that thousands of young people in tech, entrepreneurship, and investing are going to be in Boston this week. The hype surrounds the legendary Forbes 30 Under 30 lists – which are a collection and celebration of the brightest young minds in 20 different categories. In addition to putting out a list of these game-changers, Forbes also hosts a 3-day conference with several panels and festivals in hopes of bringing together the future leaders of every industry.

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There are several parts of the conference that I’m looking forward to:
  1. To see amazing friends and mentors like Rebecca Liebman and Jesse Beyroutey recognized for their accomplishments. A deeper dive on Rebecca will come in a future blog post, since she is the #GirlBoss changing the way millennials approach financial literacy. Jesse is investing in technology startups with AI ventures 6 years ago and has sourced countless companies since.
  2. To learn about big topics in tech: AI, machine learning, drones, Ashton Kutcher…
  3. The panels about diversity in tech, the future of banking, and “Profits for Purpose” with Victoria Song (coolest person on Earth).

Post-Conference Thoughts

The Forbes U30 Conference was much different than I expected. I had thought that many of the conference events would be more intimate, and allow attendees to meet each other and learn about new companies in Boston that people were a part of. However, the opposite was true. People were from everywhere – I actually met very few people from Boston, as most people had traveled from out of town for the conference. The event was also very spread out. There were four content stages that hosted many thought leaders in categories of create, impact, capital, and tech; however, each stage was ~15 drive from each other, making it difficult to migrate from stage to stage.

I spent most of the time at the Capital stage and I was able to learn a lot from the panels. Many of the panels were comprised of venture capitalists and CEOs of startups that had experienced rapid growth and become extremely successful. There were many takeaways from the panels, and below are some worth outlining.
  1. Everyone loved to talk about how big artificial intelligence is going to be. I had heard of AI incorporated in businesses, but I honestly thought it was a buzzword for fancy tech. Jim Breyer (#11 on the Midas List) said that he wouldn’t invest in a company that doesn’t use AI in some capacity. Many investors and tech leaders talked about AI as the most probable intersection of human capital and machine intelligence. Though we haven’t quite reached the height of AI in businesses, it will definitely be a part of the digital revolution in the next 10 years.
  2. Social media during the conference panels was insane, both in terms of panelists speaking about it and the engagement on Twitter from the event. One panelist who was speaking about starting a company lamented on the “old days” when it was difficult to get a product to market and start a venture. However, with the introduction of social media and the tools that come along with the platforms, anyone can virtually get a product to market. The barriers to entry have nearly been eliminated. Competition is no longer based on who can introduce a platform or product, but rather who can execute their vision the strongest. Engagement through  #ForbesU30Summit and @ForbesUnder30 also communicated the presence of the conference on social media. That’s 25 favorites people, aka major Twitter love for an account like mine.

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  1. My favorite panel was called “Profits for Purpose”. The panel consisted of Victoria Song, Sallie Krawcheck, and Zach Finkelstein, who  discussed how businesses in today’s age cannot merely have a “department for social responsibility”, but the company as a whole must embody values to give back to society (@emmaharney21). Victoria noted that many successful digital businesses, such as Warby Parker and Toms, are founded with the purpose to not only be profitable, but also contribute in more impactful ways. There were many startups at the Summit that echoed this idea, one of my favorites being ArtLifting. I was lucky enough to be introduced to the founder, who really showed her passion for the company’s mission to enable disabled and homeless people to sell their artwork. While this could be mistaken for a nonprofit company, Artlifting is actually a B-corp, and makes ~44% of each art sale, which is a similar profit margin of many art galleries.

The Forbes U30 Conference was a very well-executed event. Thousands of people were able to travel from all over the world to learn more from major thought leaders about changes occurring in the world. While much of the hype surrounded Michael Phelps and Jessica Alba, I think the real value was in the people who spoke about growing businesses through the power of social and digital platforms. Rebecca did get a photo with Ashton Kutcher though, which could be the greatest photo from the event.
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6 comments

  1. mikeknoll98 · ·

    Really interesting to hear that Jim Breyer would not invest in a company not using AI. Breyer obviously has been right with former tech predictions being an early investor in Facebook. It will be interesting to see if his hunch plays out. Great blog and good work!

  2. adawsisys · ·

    Great Post! I thought it was very interesting when you talked about the introduction of social media allowing virtually anyone to bring a product to market, and that now competition is based on who can execute a vision the strongest. This phenomenon may be contributing to the decline in the returns of VC funds in recent years. Before social media, when it was more difficult to bring a product to market, a small number of VC back companies were competing to offer a similar product or service. Now, with the rise of social media and the ability to bring a product to market, there seems to be a much larger number of VC back companies competing to offer the same product. In either scenario its likely that only 1 or 2 of the companies will be successful, but 1/5 odds are certainly a lot better than 1/20 odds. Today, the ability to execute the vision seems more important than ever before.

  3. Austin Ellis · ·

    Entertaining and informative post. Sounds like a great event, and a great opportunity to hear what young tech thought leaders have to say. It is not surprising that there was so much talk about AI, it really does seem like it will be everywhere in a few years. Thanks for sharing all of these people with us, I look forward to learning more about them.

  4. First off, I am so jealous you went! I had really wanted to go! And secondly, when I saw the top of Ashton Kutcher’s head in that photo… I began to freak out a little bit because I thought it you was you next to him before I scrolled down! So many of these topics and talks must have aptly related to our class, and probably help you to apply all that we have talked about to the real-world. The “Profits for Purpose” talk reminds me of the Friedman v. Mackey debate that the Portico freshman I TA for just had. This would definitely support Mackey’s argument and I cannot wait to bring this as an example to my students. Thank you so much for the recap… even if I couldn’t go, I was glad to have your vivid recap :) .

  5. alinacasari · ·

    Really cool post!! I think what you mentioned about Jim Breyer will really stick with me. It’s interesting to consider what the implication is behind him refusing to get involved with companies who don’t use AI in some way. I agree with him in thinking that the future of businesses will need an AI component in some form.

    What you mentioned about social media is also really crazy to think about. The entire process for getting a product to market has been shifted with these social media advances. I know a lot of people who have started their own selling of a product (like someone who makes hair bows) that doesn’t need a store, but just relies on having a cute Instagram page and getting orders strictly based on her online presence. While this may not be a huge business, it does show how much easier it is to enter some markets. This example is pretty small scale so for larger businesses, being able to utilize social media can really make a huge difference. As a side note, that picture of Ashton Kutcher…just wow!

  6. emmaharney21 · ·

    Thanks for the tag! I love this post. I think that this conference gives us great insight into the future of business. I did a previous blog post on Artlifting you might be interested in (https://isys6621.com/2016/09/18/b-corps-and-digital-business-artlifting/). They are a great example of how young entrepreneurs are changing the way we typically think about the for profit, non profit divide in business. I would love to hear more about what they said around social enterprise and its future as a field. Thanks for sharing this!

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