21 Savage, Serena Williams, The Chainsmokers: My experience of attending the world’s largest event for young leaders and creators

On Oct. 27, 2019, the most well-known business and technology magazine, “Forbes,” conducted its sixth annual Under 30 Summit in Detroit, Michigan. I got the opportunity to attend the summit, partially sponsored by the Forbes Under 30 Scholars Program, which selects 1000 top-performing college students from across the US to attend the Under 30 Summit for free of cost. The event itself was conducted in the Masonic Temple in downtown Detroit.

In total there were 227 sessions over four days, 200+ speakers and 9000 attendees. The event officially started on Oct. 27 at noon with a session on resumes and cover letters. The speakers ranged from the officials from General Motors to the founder of The Detroit Writing Room, a coaching service in downtown Detroit. 

The next major session was focused on the presence of women in the field of Entrepreneurship. It started with a spoken-word performance by poet Natasha Millers, then introduced speakers such as actress Sophia Bush and the CEO of Detroit Blows, Nia Batts. They spoke about how they’re using their influence from Hollywood to impact the haircare industry. There was then a 10-minute mini-session on sexual wellness by CEO of Lora DiCarlo, Lora Haddock, who shared her experience with being rescinded of an innovation award for her team’s sex toy which was claimed by judges to be inappropriate. It was a very motivating session for the attendees as the founder of the company described the setbacks she faced and how she eventually made her company a great success.

After various other sessions that were focused on promoting STEM among girls across the world, there was another major session by world-renowned actress Olivia Munn. She talked about mental health and how she manages to balance personal life with her passion. “The problem isn’t aiming high and missing,” Munn said. “It’s aiming low and hitting. If you keep aiming low you will stay down there. But if you keep aiming high you will eventually get it.” 

The first day ended with a private concert that included artists such as The Chainsmokers, 21 Savage, and Normani. The pre-concert panel included Blake Griffin, a professional basketball player for the Detroit Pistons of the NBA. The concert began with a 30 minute long show-stopping performance by Normani. This was followed by a performance that everyone was most excited about – 21 Savage. 21’s entrance made the crowd go haywire. He started with songs from his “Issa Album.” This 30-minute performance was then followed by the final performance by the duo The Chainsmokers. After 30 minutes of hip-hop, this EDM performance was absolutely loved by the audience and everybody enjoyed by dancing and reacting to the songs. Stage visuals were absolutely striking and just added to the artists’ performance.

The highlight of the second day was none other than the world-famous athlete Serena Williams. In her talk, she said, “If I’m the boss, I’m going to give other people opportunities that normally wouldn’t have had opportunities. Because I know what it’s like.” She also discussed her clothing line and her views about the fashion industry, specifically aimed at women’s fashion. 

This day had some other world-class influencers such as CEO of Squarespace, Anthony Casalena, CEO of Shutterstock, Jon Oringer, and more. Casalena described how he started with an initial budget of $30k and started doing everything on his own. Talking about partnerships, he said, “We’ve always partnered with people we felt were aligned with the brand and who authentically liked our product and we thought could help promote it.” 

A part of the event was completely dedicated to topics like AI, technology, and coding. The speakers were from tech companies including Microsoft and Xnor.ai. There was another event focusing on creating apps and websites without coding, that included CEO of Webflow, Vlad Magdalin and Tara Reed, CEO of Apps Without Code. Later in the night, there was a 3-hour-long 21+ Bar Crawl which went through 5 different bars across downtown.

The highlight of the third day was the startup-pitch competition. Five startups had to pitch their ideas to judges which included Dhani Jones, CEO of Petram Data, Jon Oringer, CEO of Shutterstock, Nobel Prize Winner and Yale Professor Robert Shiller, and Heidi Zak, Co-Founder of ThirdLove. All the five startups were top-notch but the final prize of $250,000 was shared between two winners.

In addition to that, the attendees got the chance to see NBA All-Star Kevin Durant. People enjoyed the 30-minute long session with the basketball player who talked about his company Thirty Five Ventures along with his business partner, Rich Kleiman. After the session ended, Forbes had another surprise for the attendees: a one-on-one session with Quavo from the Grammy-nominated group Migos. 

The last day was a wrap-up session that included workshops on leadership and similar skills. Overall, the event was a great success. So great, in fact, that Forbes announced tickets for the next Under 30 Summit on spot itself. They offered a 48-hour-long super-early-bird discount on tickets for the Forbes Under 30 Summit to be conducted again in Detroit in 2020. 

I would highly recommend everyone to attend this event. It allows one to gain exposure and see and learn from people they admire and are inspired by. Apart from that, it allows you to network with and meet new people. I personally met a few writers and influencers there and was able to share my book with them that allowed me to network with them and stay connected.