Nation's top young entrepreneurs come to Detroit for Forbes Under 30 Summit

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Thousands of the world's most successful young entrepreneurs are heading to the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Detroit, where they will hear leading entertainment, sports and business figures discuss how they hustled their way to the top.

The Under 30 Summit brings together more than 7,000 attendees from more than 70 countries to the Masonic Temple for the event running Sunday through Wednesday. The summit, sponsored by Rocket Mortgage, will include hundreds of sessions, a private music festival, a Republican presidential candidate debate, industry-focused programming tracks and a diverse food festival.

Forbes Under 30 Summit was announced to be held in Detroit Oct. 27-30 at the Masonic Temple.

More than 200 speakers are expected to talk on topics including robotics, art and design, transforming the marketing industry, technology and cybersecurity, gaming, solving a financial crisis and how to build a billion-dollar company.

Featured speakers include Serena Williams, world-famous athlete and CEO of Serena Ventures; NBA all-star Kevin Durant; actors Antoni Porowski and Olivia Munn; Olympic figure skaters Adam Rippon and Michelle Kwan; Detroit Pistons star Blake Griffin; founders of major companies like Anthony Casalena of Squarespace, John Krafcik of Waymo, Jon Oringer of Shutterstock and Palmer Luckey of Oculus VR. 

"It's truly a celebration of the under-30 community in all types of fields from food to fashion, to AI," Sherry Phillips, senior vice president of Forbes Live, told The News Friday. "More than 20,000 apply to be on the list each year and we're excited to showcase this incredible lineup."

Sunday kicks off with women and wellness panels, entrepeneur showcases and a nighttime music festival with Normani, The Chainsmokers, 21 Savage and Quavo.

Monday will feature 20 content areas with panel discussions, fireside chats and lots of networking opportunities, including a start-up hub with the Under 30 scholars and a lunch break with Williams. At night, the Forbes event will take over 10 different high-end restaurants in the city, ending with a bar crawl at The Belt. 

Tuesday they head back into the Masonic, with Durant headlining and focusing the day on entrepreneurship and innovation.

The event was held in Boston the last three years and Phillips said it was easy to move to Detroit after falling in love with the city, and especially, the people within it.

"We thought our attendance was going to be down for being in the Midwest, but to our surprise, our attendance is up 27% year over year .. we thought it would deter some people but we're excited to see how the audience has shaped out," Phillips said. "This city has an incredible story to tell and we wanted to amplify it."

In recognition of Detroit's rebirth and the role played by entrepreneurs, the summit will return to the Motor City in 2020 and 2021, organizers said.

"Detroit was built on innovation and we are seeing a resurgence of that entrepreneurial spirit as our city comes back," Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement. "Forbes’ decision to bring its Under 30 Summit here for the next three years is another great sign that Detroit is being recognized nationally and internationally as a place where ideas can be cultivated and developed to change the world."

Notable moments


  • How to untangle the worst problems at 2:30 p.m.
    Hear from four founders and executives (including, Kaitlyn Sadtler of Section for Immuno-Engineering; Jeni Britton Bauer, founder of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams; and Tara Reed, CEO of Apps Without Code)  on what entrepreneurs and inventors can do to get unstuck from even the stickiest of problems.
  • Local spotlights:
    Yelitsa Jean-Charles speaks as the founder of Healthy Root Dolls at 3:30 p.m.
    Keysha Camps, GM executive and Under 30 alum, talks in a show-and-tell on the most promising robotic minds at 3:35 p.m.
  • Getting down to business with Olivia Munn at 4:10 p.m.
     Actress known for her roles in HBO's "The Newsroom" and "X-Men: Apocalypse" talks on balancing passion and purpose. 
  • One-on-one with Blake Griffin at 6:30 p.m.
    Entering his 10th NBA season, the six-time All-Star and Detroit Pistons player will talk on moonlighting as a standup comic.
  • Music fest kick-off at 7 p.m. including Normani, 21 Savage and The Chainsmokers.


  • The Under 30 Presidential Debate 10 a.m.
    "The Republicans Seeking to Oust Trump" is the first presidential debate hosted by Forbes that brings together three candidates running against President Donald Trump in the GOP primary — former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, former Rep. Joe Walsh, and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld. The one-hour debate will question the candidates on Trump's policies, the future of the two-party system and America.
  • CMOs from Ally, Target, Quicken Loans and GM speak to how to make decisions with impact at 10 a.m.
  • Detroit through art and design at 10:30 a.m. with directors from GM and Shinola.
  • Cloud & CyberSecurity at 12:10 p.m., where your data is going with four founders of security companies.
  • Lunch with Serena Williams and performance with Detroit Youth Choir at 1 p.m.
  • How to build a billion-dollar company with founders of Shutterstock and Squarespace at 3 p.m.
  • Solutions to the student debt crisis at 3 p.m.
  • Using farming as a tool for urban reclamation with Nicole Lindsey, co-founder of Detroit Hives, at 3:20 p.m.
  • A keynote conversation with Bastian Lehmann, CEO of Postmates, at 4:45 p.m.


  • Yoga and tea with Michelle Kwan at 10 a.m.
    Tuesday will be starting on a yoga mat led by the two-time Olympic medal-winning figure skater.
  • One-on-one with Quavo at 2 p.m.
    Forbes Senior Editor Zack O'Malley Greenburg will join Quavo, co-founder of hip-hop group Migos, to discuss fame and fortune.
  • Under 30 Summit Hackathon from 2-5 p.m.
    Forbes and the Cleveland Water Alliance host Erie Hack, an innovation challenge that questions technology solutions to challenging water problems. Sign up to participate.


  • Forbes Under 30 Service Day at 11 a.m.
    Detroit's young people will be able to develop and pitch ideas for Future Projects and then present in a pitch competition at the Boys and Girls Club, 16500 Tireman St.

See the full program online at

Twitter: @SarahRahal_