As Forbes Under 30 Summit winds down, plans start for next year

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — As Forbes leaders wrap up their four-day Under 30 Summit on Wednesday, organizers are already looking to attract more people to the Motor City in the coming years.

Nearly 10,000 people attended the Forbes Under 30 Summit that began Sunday at the Masonic Temple. Visitors came from 70 countries to hear leading entertainment, sports and business figures discuss how they hustled their way to the top.

People gather as Randall Lane, chief content officer and 30 Under 30 founder at Forbes Media, left, has a conversation with Pistons power forward Blake Griffin  at the Forbes Under 30 Summit a in Detroit on Sunday.

"We're already seeing how we can take it up a level," said Randall Lane, chief content officer and 30 Under 30 founder at Forbes, told The Detroit News on Wednesday. "The city really showed out this year and most of our visitors had never been to Detroit. All we kept hearing was 'wow, this city is really happening.' "

The summit had been held in Boston the last three years but, in recognition of Detroit's rebirth and the role played by entrepreneurs, the summit will return to the Motor City in 2020 and 2021.

"We knew how amazing this city was because we spent the last year planning it and to be able to share that with the world has been gratifying," Lane said.

More than 200 speakers spoke on topics including robotics, art and design, transforming the marketing industry, technology and cybersecurity, gaming, politics, solving a financial crisis, and building a billion-dollar company.

The lineup of speakers included athlete Serena Williams, CEO of Serena Ventures; NBA all-star Kevin Durant and Pistons Blake Griffin; actors Antoni Porowski and Olivia Munn; Olympic figure skaters Adam Rippon and Michelle Kwan; and tech-company founders like Anthony Casalena of Squarespace, John Krafcik of Waymo, Jon Oringer of Shutterstock and Palmer Luckey of Oculus VR.

Organizers said they thought this year was a success, but are reworking the agenda for next year to bring people back.

"Key is connectivity and we are already working on more break out groups and finding topics that can create circles around a common interest," Lane said. "We also want to focus more on Detroit.

"One of our mottos is to be able to leave our host city better than we found it. To really make change, we need to reinforce it. That's why we always end on a giving back day."

On its final day Wednesday, the summit gave back to the Boys and Girls Club of America on Tireman, where they had students enter a pitch competition with The Future Project.

The summit was seen as a must-attend event by local entrepreneurs like Jason Lees of Lansing.

"I think what was most valuable about the conference was the networking opportunities," said Lees, 24, founder of Clarifii, which creates products to prevent water droplets on camera lenses. "We were surrounded by high-caliber people and I was able to choose to attend talks for my interest, which was talks on how to raise money. I gained a lot."

Devin Joyce, CEO of Passion8 Event Management, came to Detroit from Cleveland for the summit. She was an exhibitor in the Forbes summit last year and this year participated in the programming. 

Joyce, 30, said she has family in Detroit, but hadn’t previously experienced the city.

"From the aspect of downtown, I haven’t been back since things have been revitalized," she said. "The street art is amazing."

Joyce said that she came to this year’s event with an agenda: connecting with brands outside Forbes. She felt activities were disorganized and some amenities that were marketed didn't come through. 

"It’s been just kind of a disappointment," she said.

Hussein Alghumgham, a system analyst at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, said he enjoyed that the summit was less lectures and was mainly run by dialogue.

"It seemed really natural and conversational," said Alghumgham, 41, of Detroit. "One of the best times was when we went out to a social gathering and had another session happen organically where we all just talked about our achievements and how we got there. There needs to be more of those moments."

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

Staff Writer Christine Ferretti contributed.