I’m pleased to be able to host a guest blog today by second-year student Leah Herscovici, who attended the recent Under 30 Summit event in Boston.
Boston is known for many things: it’s the city that helped spark a revolution, that holds the sound of Paul Revere’s mighty cry, that is the birth place of political upheaval. It is also the home of thousands upon thousands of Millennials (otherwise known as those who will one day take over the world).
Currently populating colleges and businesses across the nation, Millennials are the people who are holding the latest iPhone, know the difference between Uber and Lyft, and can sometimes repeat stories in 120 characters or less. These people are the driving force behind new ideas and innovations that are constantly appearing online, offline, and on platforms we have yet to even imagine.
For a weekend and one day, I was able to submerge myself among these amazing professionals during Forbes’ Under 30 Summit held in the tech-savvy center of Boston from October 16-19. More than 5,000 young professionals flocked to the massive event to join the many panels and discussions revolving around new media, professionalism in the 21st century, and how to make the next coolest gadget.
The panels were broken into four main areas: Tech, Capital, Impact, and Create. Capital was geared towards those interested in venture capital, trading, and banking while Impact was for those looking to make a difference in their community through the power of law, policy, and entrepreneurship. Being a law student who is interested in entertainment, you can imagine how torn I was to have to choose between Impact and Create, but Create ultimately won the battle.
On the first day, summit-goers were greeted with not only a concert but an entire hub dedicated to helping people further indulge in their professional passions. There were booths featuring start-up companies like Hubspot helping to encourage individuals to embrace their inner technologically-shy self and try to build something new. In fact, most people I spoke to never once imagined that they would grow up to create an app, or a biking company, or a way to make packing kids’ lunches easier. It was fascinating to see firsthand the power of imagination and the sheer willpower to trust yourself and “go for it.”
After peering around the hub, I decided to venture over to the concert area to await the talent of Delta Rae, Gallant, Halsey, and Jason Derulo. All four acts were under 30 and sure did not disappoint (I think my left ear is still buzzing)!
On Day 1 of the panel, I found myself at Harvard Business School in the heart of Cambridge. It was the perfect setting to hear from young creatives and their journey to finding success. Jessica Alba opened the panel by describing her venture into business after becoming a successful actress. Her biggest worry was the fear of not being taken seriously, of just being seen as a performer and not as the brilliant businesswoman she would soon become. After being turned down several times by investors, she never once stopped envisioning a successful future for her company. The Honest Company was birthed from Alba’s care and concern for sustainable and environmentally safe products for her children. She poured her heart and soul into her vision, surrounded herself with compassionate professionals, and ensured that her workers felt comfortable and appreciated at work. Her biggest piece of advice to us millennials? “Never look at no as the be all, end all. Fight for your visions.”
Singer-songwriter Halsey also graced the stage as a 22-year-old, chart-topping pop star. As a multiracial singer living on couches in Brooklyn, Halsey knew a thing or two about striving for your dreams. All she hoped to become was an artist, someone who created something with her hands, her heart, or her voice. It was her voice that ultimately catapulted Halsey to artist-status. Leading with the motto that “art is meant to evoke an emotion,” Halsey encouraged the audience to think outside of the box.
In addition to these two stars, there was a huge technological presence with guests ranging from YouTube celebrities to YouTube-based studio creators to online newsmakers. The conversation flowed around the rise of digital platforms and the alarmingly fast-paced desire of people to receive information without the hassle of waiting. Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg knew a thing about the importance of the latter as they developed the hotly read online news outlet, “The Skimm.” With over 35 employees now, the start-up company has managed to raise more than $8.5 million dollars with the help of huge sponsors like the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Both women developed the company after working at NBC News and realizing that their dreams were far bigger than their cubicles. Both women quit their jobs unexpectedly, used the money that they had saved from working, and lived in what would be considered little nicer than a box in Manhattan. Perseverance and hard work kept Zakin and Weisberg warm at night…and knowing that one day everything would turn out according to plan.
Other speakers honed in on the not-so-glamorous side of business—the fear of being faced with a lawsuit. Sam Tarantino of Grooveshark, one of the first music streaming services, broke down how his company ultimately tumbled after being faced with lawsuits from all the major record companies in America. Instead of crumbling and turning away from the business world, though, he mustered the strength to create a new business model based on his continued passion for music. He started Chromatic FM, a social-like radio that can be listened to around the world. He credits the success of his new business to the downfall of Grooveshark. “I would have never been strong enough to begin this venture had I not failed the first time,” he said.
The Forbes Summit was a shining example of how important it is to continue encouraging young adults to pursue their dreams and use their voices, their platforms, and their minds to speak out on issues and brainstorm new ways to grab the attention of the people around them. Many of these dreams involve starting businesses, but many do not. Steve Jobs was not successful overnight and neither will we be, but it helps to know that our voices, our ideas, and our new way of thinking will make just as large of an impact on the world. There are people, like myself, who want to become lawyers and protect the rise of digital content from getting into the wrong hands. Or others who hope to pursue more grassroots projects aimed at curing diseases around the world. Whatever the dream may be, Forbes shined a light on each and every one of them during their time here in historic Boston.