May 19, 2010

summit series 2010: day 1

(read first: what is summit series?)

registration was wild.  after receiving the standard packet, i was asked to sign the kauffman foundation's entrepreneur's pledge.  i picked up a gift bag -- contents included goodies like two reusable water bottles, a copy of up in the air, a laser pointer, a sexy john varvatos skinny tie, and a $100 donors choose "gift card."  next up was a stop at the free-for-all table of threadless t-shirts before i received my first minglestick.  after the prior week's experience with moblaic at TEDxEast, it seems like technology is making exchanging paper business cards at conferences a thing of the past.  the minglestick was a little USB stick attached to the nametags that hung around our necks.  it was loaded with our contact information, and we could exchange info with others simply by holding them up each other (a bit like the bump app for the iphone).

russell simmons, interviewed by charles best of donors choose, talked about his successes as a result of many failures:  "i'm really good at sticking with bad ventures," he said, recalling the early challenges of most of his businesses. "but with resilience and faith, bad ventures turn good."  after a wild youth during which he admits to doing every bad thing under the sun, russell now does yoga every day.  "i like it better than drugs and other shit.  nothing happens except when you're still."  russell's advice to entrepreneurs was repeated in conversations throughout the weekend:  "build an idea, have focus, then find someone smarter than you so they can kick you out."  money quote of the talk -- russell speaking to the audience of hundreds of twenty- and thirty-something entrepreneurs:  "we need you, because old people really fuck things up."

russell's talk was followed by a panel on education in america.  despite the superstars on the stage (including don moody, jim shelton from the department of education, and teach for america founder wendy kopp), the content didn't really get good until musician/activist john legend finally had the balls to give the audience a political breakdown: "not everyone has access to good teachers," he explained, giving a shout out to (my education policy hero) chancellor of DC schools michelle rhee, who has taken controversial positions that have been unpopular with the tenure-system-loving teachers unions.  rhee closed the session with a very concrete and (unfortunately) revolutionary suggestion:  replacing the lowest-performing 6-10% of teachers with average teachers would propel the US into the top 10 education systems in the world.  money quote from rhee:  "schools are jacked up because you cannot run an organization  using these crazy practices."  preach, sister.

at dinner, futurist ray kurzweil talked about the exponential acceleration of technology.  he shared his theory of singularity under which technology advances so rapidly that we cannot follow it unless we merge with it, enhancing our intelligence by becoming one with technology.  basically, i'm going to be a robot in the not too distant future.

the night finished out with epic ice sculptures, impromptu table top dance parties at k street, and widespread happiness when we came back to the lounge and found mountains of pizza waiting for us.  while noshing on my pizza, i had a classic anneke moment:  after joking with him about his cordarounds, i ask tim ferriss, "so buddy, what do you do?"

one other highlight of the day:  modeling a hot new blazer prototype (inside-out) from the fashion geniuses at bonobos.

read more:
recap of summit series 2010: day 2
recap of summit series 2010: day 3

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