What happens when you get one thousand of the world's leading thinkers, gen-Y entrepreneurs, social activists and entertainers on a cruise ship in the Bahamas for a week? It's called Summit Series, brainchild of 25 year old Elliott Bisnow, and they're calling it the new Davos.
As CEO of Freelancer.com, the world's largest outsourcing marketplace, I was lucky enough to be invited as a guest speaker at last week's "Summit at Sea".
The attendees I met from Australia included Stuart Craine, CEO of Barefoot Power ... and Andy G, the host of Australian Idol.
Headline topics were Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Revelry, Altruism, Arts and Personal Growth. As Josh Zabar, Chief Samurai of the Summit Series says, "Summit Series engages the world's most dynamic dreamers and doers through curated events and initiatives designed to make the world a better place."
On board was Richard Branson (Founder & President of Virgin Group), Peter Thiel (CEO of Paypal, early investor in Facebook and future President of the United States), Peter Diamandis (Founder & Chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation), Sir Ronald Cohen (Founder & Chairman of APAX Partners and Social Entrepreneur) and Gary Vaynerchuk (Founder of Wine Library and the future owner of the New York Jets).
The talks were eye opening, mind blowing and inspiring. Invariably each encouraged every Summiteer to go out and change the world, build global businesses and create social good.
Sean Stephenson "the Three Foot Giant", who is confined to a wheel chair due to a bone disorder, is a motivational speaker on a quest to banish self-doubt and insecurity from the world. By the end he had the entire audience jumping out of their seats to hug each other.
Scott Parazynski, NASA astronaut and the only person to have both flown in space and summited Mount Everest, gave a memerising talk about his adventures, the end of the US government's space program and the future of private enterprise in space.
Peter Thiel gave the first candidate speech for the upcoming 2016 US Presidential Elections. Elsewhere, Capt. Dustin Ripley, F-15 fighter pilot and top gun instructor from the US Airforce spoke about leadership under fire.
In terms of activities you could go shark tagging hammerheads with the University of Miami, meditate with Lama Tenzin, the spiritual advisor to the Dalai Lama, or sit by the pool with the bikini clad MTV generation.
On the last day, the Celebrity docked at Coco Cay, a palm studded island in the Bahamas. Here I found myself giving a talk under an umbrella on the beach to a group of Summiteers before joining Josh Zabar (another Summit founder) running a dance party going off on the other side of the island.
Under a tower emblazoned with a banner typical of those through the conference "LEAVE NOTHING UNATTEMPTED", several hundred people partied the last day away.
Providing entertainment throughout the long weekend were Steve Cohen (the 19th century parlour magician from the Waldorf Astoria in New York), American rock jazz pianist ELEW, Imogen Heap, with the party to end all closing parties featuring Axwell from the Swedish House Mafia. After Grammy award winning The Roots blew the speakers on the upper deck of the Celebrity Century, Damon "Tuba Gooding Jr." saved the day with a 15 minute sousaphone solo to an audience that was by now going mental.
The Summit Series started in 2008 when Elliott and his team of six decided they wanted to do something radically different with their lives, make a difference to the world, meet young entrepreneurs like themselves and have a lot of fun in the process.
Josh described what they are trying to achieve, "The community we serve is at the heart of everything we do: a collection of artists, entrepreneurs, activists, philanthropists and rock stars. Through an annual conference and community-based digital platform, we set the stage for these people to forge lifelong friendships, spawn new business ideas, tackle world issues, and in turn, make our world a better place".
The Summit Series started as a 20 person ski trip to Utah, and grew steadily with conferences in Riviera Maya, Mexico and Miami before it exploded in 2010 in Washington DC.
This is where it all began for me, with a crazy phone call a year ago from Jeff Rosenthal, the Summit Series' Co-founder and Chief Community Builder. An invitation only event, Jeff personally calls each attendee to have a chat and provide a personal invitation. When I took the call, I thought Jeff was mad. As he puts it, "The Summit Series is the Large Hadron Collider for the most awesome people in the world".
I was about to find out he was spot on. DC10, held in May last year, took the Summit Series to a completely new level. With keynote speeches from the likes of former US President Bill Clinton, Ray Kurzweil (author, inventor and futurist) and Ted Turner (founder of CNN, media mogul and philanthropist), the Summit Series went into overdrive.
I was lucky enough to speak on the topic of crowdsourcing in one of the hundred or so speaking slots. There were six competing tracks including Tibetan Dream Yoga Master Ken Von Roenn talking about Lucid Dreaming in my timeslot.
I still remember the end of the conference there was a charity auction. Amongst the auctioning of aid visits to Haiti and deep sea submersible trips to the bottom of the ocean, Elliott noticed the audience was littered with celebrities and decided to host an impromptu charity auction.
Seconds later, a surprised David Blaine (the American illusionist) and Kristen Bell (the actress) were auctioned off for tens of thousands of dollars. So many people bid on the Haiti mission that an impromptu dance party broke out on stage as everyone went up. In all they raised $340,000 for Invisible Children in the space of 30 minutes.
If you think that sounded good, this year they blew DC10 away with the Summit at Sea.
Justin Cohen, the Summit Series', COO apparently became youngest guy ever to charter a cruise ship, the Celebrity Century.
Anthony Adams, a 30 year old NYC based activist, artist and entrepreneur is an example of the attendees of the Summit Series. He's the CEO of Credit Covers, which sells patent pending skins for credit cards and the founder of DetentionSlip.org, America's top underground school newspaper (and Time Magazine Top 25 blog). His latest mission: to get to space through a series of trades in the vein of One Red Paperclip. Starting with a toy spaceship, he hopes to trade his way to a ticket on the Virgin Galactic with Branson when it shortly starts commercial flights.
The attendees I met from Australia included Stuart Craine, CEO of Barefoot Power, which provides solar powered LED devices to the world's poor, and Andy G, the host of Australian Idol.
For me, one of the highlights were the exciting conversations I had with some of the social entrepreneurs who were working hard to increase incomes from $1 to $5 a day in some parts of the world. They were amazed that we could potentially increase this tenfold if an internet connection was present which would allow them to work on Freelancer.com.
Where to now for the Summit Series? I told Jeff Rosenthal to beat this the next one would have to be the "Summit in Space". In the meantime, they're focused on building out "The Collective", which is an ultra-exclusive Facebook site that everyone from the Summit is hooked into. Sort of the Bat Phone for the new generation. In addition they are now running a series of Summit Impact Trips; a series of short holidays that young entrepreneurs can take that will also bring social good to the world by helping those in need.
Matt Barrie is Chief Executive Officer of Freelancer.com and BRW Entrepreneur of the Year.