There is a business conference where the host wears an old t-shirt, the participants regularly leave successful ventures for risky passions, and where everyone in sight has a chartable side project. The Summit Series conference is an invite-only, Generation Y-focused networking conference where many of the most savvy young entrepreneurs discuss 21st century challenges and solutions. On my first day, I observed a few characteristics that will likely linger as the new generation takes the reins of the economy.
They are Connection Obsessed
I met my first participant as the plane was taxiing to our gate. During a red-eye flight from SFO to Washington, DC, a startup founder made a late-night tweet wondering if anyone else was on the flight. I was a few rows behind, recognized his curly hair from his Twitter avatar, and struck up a conversation. We took a shuttle van together, and wound up in an engaging conversation with 3 other entrepreneurs who happened to be Summit Series attendees sitting in the backseats.
Distractions Are Cool
Ordinarily, I have to apologize when I check email or send a text during conversation – not here. Participants juggle multiple conversations in a seamless stop-and-go fashion. For instance, if I see my new friend check his email, I'll take the initiative to start speaking, while he or she nods in attention. If I sense I'm being ignored, I turn around and pickup on a conversation that was probably previously interrupted by technology. As distractions become ubiquitous, it seems that businessmen are learning to become productive in micro-windows of idleness
They Care About Education
The very first panel on the very first day was a star-studded set of education leaders, including Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for American, and musician John Legend, an education activist. James Shelton, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement at US Department of Education, was mobbed by a crowd of entrepreneurs eager to discuss their education side projects.
The Information Age seems to be breeding a mind that feels at home in a world of chaotic information and a desire for others to share in their success.