April 21, 2011

7 Leaders on the Rise

About a week before Summit at Sea, I was asked by media empress Shira Lazar to be a special correspondent on the boat for her new CBS News online hub and interactive show "What's Trending." I had the enviable job of selecting some brilliant young leaders who I think are doing interesting things and, in some cases, quite literally changing the world. Six interviews later, it was impossible to not feel inspired both by the innovation and vision of these young leaders, but also by the energy they've harnessed within the Summit Series community to create connections, ignite partnerships, and take real action to make the world a better place. These individuals are changing their industries with grace and having fun while doing it. They're inspiring role models for our generation — people whom I'm proud to call my peers, mentors, and friends. Without further ado, I present to you: 7 Leaders on the Rise.

Jessica (left) and Dana (right)
1 & 2. Jessica Jackley and Dana Mauriello, co-founders of Profounder
[click here for interview]
After founding Kiva.org, an innovative microlending website that empowered individuals to invest in entrepreneurs in developing countries, Jessica Jackley turned her sights to supporting for-profit entrepreneurs back at home. With her Stanford Graduate School of Business classmate, Dana Mauriello, she founded Profounder, an online crowdfunding platform that provides tools for entrepreneurs to raise their investment capital from their communities. Jackley was a returning featured attendee under the Summit Series banner of entrepreneurship. At DC10, Summit Series’ 2010 event, Jackley and Mauriello introduced Profounder and won the live venture capital simulated stock exchange, the earnings from which they “paid forward” with a live pitch event at Summit at Sea.

photo credit: Jahub
3. Sean Carasso, founder of Falling Whistles
[click here for interview]
When Sean Carasso traveled to the Congo in 2009, he learned that children too small to carry a gun were sent to the frontlines of war armed with only a whistle. This experience gave birth to Falling Whistles, a campaign to make their weapon their voice. A three-time Summit Series attendee, Sean is an important part of the Summit Series community of altruism and global action. His indelible mark on the community is evident in the quiet jingle of whistles hanging on the necks of the many “whistleblowers for peace” at Summit at Sea. Falling Whistles' current project is to bring awareness to the second democratic elections in Congo, which will happen later this year. They recently unveiled a petition to the US senate to tell President Barack Obama to send a convoy to the African country to aid with the democratic process of their elections. The first petition, which appealed to local congressmen, was signed by over 10,000 people, and 35 congressmen and women wrote to the President on the Congolese people's behalf.

photo credit: Bridget Best
4. Charles Best, founder of DonorsChoose.org
[click here for interview]
After five years as a social studies teacher in the Bronx, Charles Best founded DonorsChoose.org, an online platform for crowd-sourced classroom funding. Public school teachers across the country post classroom project requests on DonorsChoose.org, which donors can fund directly for a little as $1. Since inception, DonorsChoose.org has raised over $81 million to support local school teachers. After participating at DC10 as an interviewer for Russell Simmons in the opening plenary session, Best returned for Summit at Sea as a featured attendee under the Summit Series banner of altruism. In the interview, he shared the inside scoop on the viral video of Stephen Colbert performing Rebecca Black's "Friday" on Jimmy Fallon's show, and how a "secret video" helped support DonorsChoose.org.

photo credit: BIGB Photography
5. Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children
[click here for interview]
In 2003, Jason Russell traveled to Africa with two of his friends in search of a story. They found the tragedies of the war in northern Uganda and their groundbreaking documentary, Invisible Children: The Rough Cut, was born. Eight years later, Invisible Children is one of the world’s leading non-profit voices using the power of media to inspire young people to help end the longest running war in Africa. At Summit at Sea, the organizing team announced Summit Series’ new initiative to support global impact trips that enable the Summit Series community to get involved with global issues in a hands-on way. Invisible Children's treks to Uganda on 2010 were the inspiration for this program, and Jason talks in the interview about what that means to him and the organization.

photo credit: Nancy Hirsch
6. ELEW, rockjazz pianist
[click for interview]
With a thunderous roar, Eric Lewis (ELEW) has pioneered a new genre of rockjazz piano. His upbeat renditions of popular songs from bands like Coldplay, Nirvana, and The Killers have earned him top billing at events like the TED conference and the TechCrunch awards. After wowing the Summit Series community with an underground afterparty performance at DC10, the Summit Series 2010 event, ELEW was invited as a presenting attendee at Summit at Sea under the Summit Series banner of revelry. He opened the conference’s first plenary session, setting the stage for presentations from TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson.

photo credit: Ben Bator
7. Ben Bator, co-founder of Texts From Last Night
[click here for interview]
Accepted to law school and comfortably unemployed, Benjamin Bator changed his career path in 2009 when he co-founded Texts From Last Night, one of the most popular sites on the internet. TFLN’s curated collection of humorous text messages receives 3-5 million page views and 5,000-7,000 submissions daily. With a published book and TV show rumors abound, Bator is now at the forefront of archiving the experiences of his generation. He returns to Summit Series after being a featured attendee in 2010 under the Summit Series banner of business.

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