About an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City, lies Utah’s Powder Mountain. The once sleepy mountain town is about to be reinvigorated as a destination for the world’s most talented creators, artists, entrepreneurs, activists, philanthropists and musicians.
After 5-years of hosting epic events for entrepreneurs including Summit Basecamp, Summit at Sea and DC10, The Summit Series team decided it was time to grow roots, and found its home in a place called Eden, Utah. Here, the 40-person Summit Series team, led by co-founders Elliott Bisnow, Brett Leve, Jeff Rosenthal and Jeremy Schwartz, is anything but “settling down.” Today, the team announces that after 20 months, it’s officially closed the $40 million dollar deal to become the owners of Powder Mountain, the largest ski resort in the United States.
The historic purchase marks the Summit team as the youngest ownership group of any mountain in the country. Adding to this feat, is the impressive story of how a small collective of 20-somethings raised $40 million dollars from more than 40 people and pulled it off with the local county’s blessing in the form of an additional $18.5 million infrastructure bond to refurbish local roads, sewer and water systems.
In April 2008, the Summit Series’ beginnings began dubiously when 22-year old media entrepreneur Elliott Bisnow invited the nation’s top entrepreneurs out for a ski weekend to Utah’s Alta resort and put the entire bill on his credit card. In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Bisnow said, “Instead of calling them and trying to get a meeting, I decided to convince them all to come to Utah with me. I told them, ‘I will fly you for free and pay for the trip if you come.’” And come they did.
Since then, Bisnow and his growing Summit team have welcomed guests like Sir Richard Branson, President Bill Clinton, entrepreneur Mark Cuban, rapper Jazzy Jeff, Tom’s Shoes’ Blake Mycoskie, social media expert Gary V, Twitter’s Evan Williams, WordPress’ Matt Mullenweg, author Eric Ries and artist Peter Tunney.
From connections made between entrepreneurs, artists and investors, Summit events have raised tens of millions of dollars for business and nonprofit ventures. In late 2011, Summit rallied the community to raise nearly $1 million to create a marine reserve the size of Manhattan in the island chain that hosted Summit at Sea. They connected Founders Fund to Spotify, which catalyzed the music service’s North American launch. They helped the health technology company Basis raise its Series A through the Summit community. Summit also has it’s own investment fund which includes companies like Uber and Warby Parker.
On the hunt for a permanent home, the team looked at Soho House type models, beaches and other mountain communities. But once they saw Eden, Utah the decision to move solidified quickly. “It’s 55 minutes from an international airport and in the center of our country,” says Summit Team founder Jeff Rosenthal (pictured above, center with Summit Team Partner and former pro-soccer player Natalie Spigler and Summit Team Founder Elliott Bisnow). “There are no streetlights or stop lights in town. From the top of Powder Mountain, you can look out over 4 states. It’s an idyllic rural valley… It’s Narnian.”
The $40 million dollar investment to buy the mountain was secured from Summit Eden’s 40+ founding members including billionaire Peter Thiel; bestselling author Tim Ferriss; Elle Magazine founder Sunny Bates; Heroku founder James Lindenbaum; Particle Code founder Galia BenArtzi and TV host Dhani Jones.
The investment isn’t structured with equity in the resort but with plots of land on Powder Mountain (lots were rumored to have sold for $500K to $2 million a piece). Membership to Summit Eden includes access to a private lodge and ten thousand acres of skiing, riding, hiking and biking in addition to a year-round program of events, speakers and concerts.
When asked to spend $1 million on a home in Eden, the rationale from entrepreneurs is two-fold. There are the financial payoffs, as many can secure hundreds in thousands of dollars in new business in just a weekend. But most founders answered that it was this “connection to the creative spirit and the power to move things forward” that drew them in. One founding member called it a “tribe of creativity.”
“This is no ordinary real estate project; it’s an effort to create an epicenter of culture, innovation, and thought-leadership. Our founding group includes an Iranian-refugee-turned-neuroscientist, one of the top snowboarders in the world, the leader of a non-profit dedicated to ending war in the Congo, one of the most successful female producers in Hollywood, a best-selling author, the former head of UNICEF, and some of the most influential entrepreneurs of the last 50 years,” says Thayer Walker, Summit’s Chief Reconnaissance Officer.
To get a more visual understanding of where they’re going, check out this video for Summit Eden:
“The Summit team makes Powder Mountain feel like the next Aspen,” explains Rameet Chawla, a “Summiteer” and the founder of Fueled. “Everything from the celebrity chefs, powder skiing, famous DJs and the people (some of the most successful in the world). And these kids are building it from their hearts. They aren’t private equity backers attempting to overbuild and maximize profits. They’re delivering a curated experience rich in detail and delivery, which is what people are most attracted to.”
Summit’s development plan is modest in comparison to the strip malls and golf courses other developers had in mind, and includes 500 single family homes (the largest home is around 4,000 sq feet), a small mountain village with a recording studio, art galleries and bohemian retail shops, a few boutique hotels, a members-only lodge and a mountain-top activity center. The mountain will otherwise be left untouched, allowing for enjoyable skiing. Walker says they’re the first development group that hasn’t had plans to pincushion the mountain with a dozen or more new lifts.
“I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want to own.”
“We’re more influenced by Silicon Valley than traditional developers or the ski industry in general, so we’d like to incorporate some of that disruptive ethos into Powder Mountain,” Walker says. To this effect, the Summit team has already discussed the ideas like using drones for avalanche control, search and rescue. Kale will also be introduced to the mountain’s menu (but the chili bowls aren’t going anywhere).
While the Summit team is just getting started, they have some exciting community plans in the works. “Right now, we’re focused on developing local partnerships and integrating the expertise of the Summit community into Utah’s community,” says Walker. For example, Summit is a partner in Learn Capital, a global education fund with the largest portfolio of ed-tech companies around the world, including Edmodo, General Assembly and Udemy. Through their Learn Capital partnership, they’re working to get cutting-edge education technology into local schools.
Local entrepreneur Alex Lawrence predicts that Summit’s influence on the area will mean that Northern Utah will have more startups than ever before, specifically Ogden where organizations like StartUp Ogden already exist. We spoke with DODOcase founder Patrick Buckley, a founding member of Summit Eden, this past weekend while he was in Utah scoping out land for his future home. Buckley is in talks with the local community and hopes to build a manufacturing incubator in nearby Ogden, Utah.
For the thousands of Summit members who can’t afford million dollar-housing, plans for home shares, need-based lodging and subsidized cabins are in the works. The Summit team has already announced their summer plans to invite back the rest of the community for weekend retreats now that the investment is locked down.
“It’s really important for us to have artist residencies and homes for writers, non-profit founders, and people who are innovating culturally but they can’t afford it. For a cost comparable to going to a Summit event, they will receive a fractional timeshare in one of the cabins,” explains Rosenthal. The team is also working to bring in the young, next generation of nonprofit founders; not necessarily 16-year old app creators but the 16-year olds curing cancer kind of innovators.
For those who want to get involved in Summit, invitations are given on a word of mouth basis. They’re looking for people who are disrupting their fields and framing their work in terms of social enterprise. “A big component of Summit is ‘great people doing great things’. It’s an inclusive community for anyone that’s on that path,” adds Rosenthal.
“At Summit Eden, we envision a recording studio +at 9,000 feet; literary, artistic, and scientific residencies; a start-up incubator and innovation lab; and place to host micro-conferencing and peace and reconciliation talks. It’s salon culture as a tool to drive innovation and creation,” says Walker.
True to their tagline of #MakeNoSmallPlans, the Summit team is on a mission to build a community around a shared ethos, one that can drive positive, disruptive growth at a global level. And so like a tree that now has its roots, it seems the Summit community will only grow stronger and taller in the years to come.
Rendezvous is an upcoming mobile application built at the TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 hackathon by San Francisco developer Taran Gill and designer Mehtab Bajawa. The app intends to connect you with others nearby who share your interests, as based on Facebook profile data. But while other mobile apps, including those in the recently trendy “ambient location” space often do the same, the difference with Rendezvous is that it keeps track of your location history, too. That way, you can scroll back to see who you met and when, as well as perhaps discover other missed connections.
The mobile app was built using the Facebook API alongside the NewAer API for location data. And also unlike other location apps, Rendezvous doesn’t use GPS data – which means it won’t kill your smartphone’s battery. (Hooray!) Instead, Rendezvous will be able to tell if users are connected to the same Wi-Fi router or cell tower in order to determine their proximity to each other.
Though the build created this weekend focused on using Facebook data, Gill explains that the app will be developed further after the event wraps to include other APIs and data sources, in order to do things like connecting users’ Pandora’s playlists, for example. Users may be able to manually enter in data, too. (E.g. “what’s on my mind right now”). Friending functionality is also on the way, and that could be really interesting, since it could tell you others places you and your new friend had both visited together in the past, unknowingly.
“It’s a lot of data that nobody has ever collected before,” says Gill. He adds that didn’t know that he would be working on when he arrived at Disrupt this weekend, but wanted to start a new project. In San Francisco, he had been working on a cloud storage startup for many months, but acknowledges that space is now dominated by major players like Google. Meanwhile, co-creator Bajawa recently left his job in the finance industry to begin working on startups and tech.
For those who attend a lot of hackathons like this one and other networking events, an app like this could come in handy to help you not only find people you would want to know, but also help you remember who you met at a later date.
Some of the creators of TechCrunch Disrupt NY hackathon project Espace are still learning to code, and this was the perfect event at which to hone their skills. The six-person team designed a site this weekend to connect meetup groups with venues offering space where events can be hosted. Organizers and venue owners use the site to sign up and list their needs or what they have to offer, respectively. Espace then helps to put them in touch to broker the deal.
The idea resonated with two of the group’s members in particular: husband and wife team Jamal and Felicia O’Garro. Both started learning Ruby recently, and today host a meetup group of their own. This group, started in January, is focused on helping others who are also learning to code, by offering training classes and coffee-and-coding sessions. The group meets Sundays at New York-based co-working space, Alley NYC, and despite its young age, it has already grown to around 550 members, with 30 or so showing up at each weekly session.
Others working on the Espace team this weekend include David Lau, Adam Waxman, Cavaughn Noel and Linda Peng. The site uses the Twilio API, which gives both the vendor owner and meetup organizer a virtual number that they can use to connect to discuss the details of the group’s meeting space needs. Asked if meeting organizers were really all that concerned about sharing their real phone numbers with venue owners, Jamal admitted that he was mainly interested in playing around with the Twilio API.
Jamal may be a newer coder, but he’s already building software for another area startup, CommonBond a recently seed-funded company that connects student borrowers with alumni to crowdsource funding of student loans. Whether or not Espace continues after this weekend is unknown: Jamal is turning into a hackathon junkie, it seems – this is his third in just a few months’ time, he says.
EverSlide is a basic, but potentially very useful, hack built over the weekend at the TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 hackathon. As you might guess by the name, the service turns your Evernote notes into slideshow presentations. And it’s crazy simple to use, too. The first line of text in your Evernote note becomes the slide’s title, the second line becomes the slide’s content, and to create a second slide, you just insert a horizontal line from Evernote’s editing menu at the top. Then, boom, instant slideshow!
The hack was created by computer science student Michelle Fernandez and Andrew Leung, who’s currently in between work. The team met at the hackathon, and said they got the idea for the project by reading the Evernote forums where employees had posted ideas for hacks. (And word has it, the Evernote staff here, too, got pretty excited for this idea as well – they told EverSlide’s founders that they talked about the hack amongst themselves for some fifteen minutes after hearing about the team’s plans.)
The service is very minimal right now, given it was built over the weekend in between those midnight Nerf Gun wars and all, but the plan is to add more customization options in the future, including the ability to edit the fonts or colors of the text, perhaps, the ability to add photos, and more.
Read the original post: EverSlide Turns Evernote Notes Into Slideshows
CodeNow, a nonprofit program that teaches coding basics to high schoolers (with an emphasis on reaching girls, ethnic minorities, and other underrepresented groups), is in the middle of a significant expansion.
After launching in Washington, D.C., in 2011, the program has now launched in New York City and is currently holding training sessions with its first NYC group. In a few months, it’s going to select participants in its first fellowship program, which will take place over the summer. And later this year it plans to launch in San Francisco.
CodeNow’s curriculum uses tools like Hackety Hack (for programming basics) and Lego MindStorms (for robotics). It involves a combination of weekend sessions and online coursework, as well as a boot camp (held over the longer school breaks or on consecutive weekends) with “intensive training” in Ruby.
One goal of the program is to turn students into programmers. Founder and executive director Ryan Seashore said that of the 10 alumni who have now graduated from high school, three have gone on to study computer science. At the same time, he said that the program has benefits “even if a kid never writes a line of code after our program.” That’s because they’ll have training in how to “think logically” and are “no longer fearful of technology.”
Even though the program started (and will continue) in D.C., Seashore has moved to New York, and it sounds like he can be more ambitious with the NYC program, admitting more students, holding more classes, and launching the fellowship program.
“There was a real need and desire for a program in D.C. — the financial support was just harder to come by,” Seashore said.
Speaking of CodeNow’s fellowships, they will be awarded to the best students in the first two NYC cohorts, and they’ll include a full-time stipend for six weeks of software development training and work. Between their initial CodeNow training and the fellowship, Seashore said participants will receive “300 hours of in-person training,” and CodeNow will also try to connect them with internships at “awesome tech companies.”
I haven’t attended any of the sessions, but Seashore sent me a few of testimonials, just to give me a taste of the students’ enthusiasm. An 11th grader named Tahara said her “favorite part of the weekend was waking up for CodeNow.” Mamadou, a ninth grader, said, “My favorite part was attempting and writing codes to get the lights to turn on and off for the arduinos.”
When launching in NYC, Seashore said CodeNow received more than 250 applications, from which the team selected 13 girls and 12 boys. Seashore said CodeNow accepts applicants from all five boroughs of New York, and it provides subway cards to help the kids get to the training sessions in downtown Manhattan.