Disruptive. Authenticity. Passion. Define a problem and solve it. These were the top phrases heard at this week's Forbes Under 30 Summit.
Many of the innovators present were known in their fields as "disruptors." They were people who had a business idea and model that was totally outside the norm in their industry. They were able to create a new way of doing something that really revolutionized or transformed a way of living or doing business. It's hard to imagine that every new business can be a disruptor, but those that succeed in breaking through to new paradigms are handsomely rewarded by the market.
Authenticity was a word used by almost every entrepreneur that spoke. Afrojack, pictured in the interview above, discussed how he manages crowds of thousands during his DJ shows. He said the audience has to see and feel your passion. In other words, you need to authentically love what you are doing, or people will see through you. Authenticity naturally leads into.....
...passion. It's very difficult to develop a concept or business without passion. As I can attest first-hand, it's much more difficult to wake up every day and run a business you don't truly love than it is to work as an employee at a job you hate. You have to have passion and love what you do. Starting and running a business requires so much energy, so much time and so much money, that you simply cannot do it without love.
Finally, a great business finds a problem and aims to solve it. Sara Blakely, the billionaire owner of Spanx, talked about needing underwear that looked good under white pants. Finding a huge gap in the market between thongs and pantyhose, Blakely invented an entirely new industry that became known as shapewear simply by chopping the legs off an existing pair of pantyhose. Palmer Luckey, inventor of the Oculous Rift, a virtual reality device bought by Facebook for a few Billion dollars, described how his invention resulted from a dearth of quality and affordable devices in the virtual gaming space.
If you're starting a business, it's worth considering whether you are 1) disrupting an existing industry; 2) being authentic; 3) are passionate about your idea; and 4) are solving an existing problem. If you can manage all four of these, you have a huge chance at success and maybe you will be speaking at next year's Under 30 Summit.
What I Learned From Some of the Most Brilliant Millennials in America- recap of Forbes 30under30 Summit, part I
I had the great fortune of attending the recent, first-ever Forbes Under 30 Summit here in Philadelphia the past couple days. If you don't know, every year Forbes publishes a list of some of the most brilliant minds under 30 in 15 different categories, ranging from music to law to food and beyond. If one made the list or has been on the list in a prior year, an invite was extended to attend the conference. If you've never been on the list, the remainder of the limited seats available were by invitation only. I was extremely fortunate to be extended an invitation to attend. The speakers included a wide array of public figures, including Peter Thiel (co-founder Paypal), Monica Lewinsky, Petra Nemcova, Neil Blumenthal (Warby Parker), Danny Meyer (Shake Shake, Union Square Restaurants), Steve Case (AOL), Malala, Dr. Raj Panjabi, Afrojack, Sean Rad (Tinder), Kat Cole (Cinnabon), Sara Blakely (SPANX), Palmer Luckey (Oculus Rift) and many more.
Day one started with a speech by Monica Lewinsky about how one's reputation can be affected by the internet and her recent work to combat cyber-bullying. This was her first public statement in 13 years. She started by saying she was a 22-year old that fell in love with her boss, but her boss happened to be the President of the United States. The FBI threatened her and her family with decades of imprisonment and her entire life was picked apart and dissected by the special prosecutor, Ken Starr. After Starr's report was published online, the entire world suddenly knew every intimate detail of her life. Critics attacked her looks, her character, her family and every part of her being. She became the subject of jokes and ridicule around the world. It became impossible for her to move on. As she described it, she was "patient zero:" the first person to have her reputation shredded by the internet.
As anyone who reads recent news knows, cyber bullying has become a big issue. Kids are bullied, harassed and ganged up on online and in some cases, it has led to children committing suicide. Lewinsky's new mission is to combat cyber bullying and attempt to bring a level of compassion back to every day behavior, especially online. It was a brave speech and she received a standing ovation. If you'd like to read the text of her speech in its entirety, you can do so here.
Up next: part II: panel of successful women leaders, women in tech, Tinder, and more
Sarah E. Holmes is a Philadelphia business attorney and strategist that helps start ups and established businesses looking to expand, protect their assets and increase their profits in an approachable, down-to-earth way.