Dylan Gambardella and Justin Lafazan get #NGS2018 off to a running start.
Dylan Gambardella and Justin Lafazan get #NGS2018 off to a running start.

As always Next Gen Summit kicked off with fantastic energy and enthusiasm. Justin Lafazan and Dylan Gambardella welcomed everyone new to the community by giving them a moment to introduce themselves to whoever was next to them. Young entrepreneurs from across the globe gathered at Convene to collaborate for a weekend of networking, panels, and talks about how to be the best entrepreneur possible.

Swan Sit mentoring entrepreneurs after her talk.
Swan Sit mentoring entrepreneurs after her talk.

Swan Sit, VP of Global Marketing at Nike gave one of the early talks where she discussed barriers to innovation at large organizations. Her presentation consisted of thoughtful perspectives on connecting the various channels of engagement to maximize value to customers. For two hours follower her talk, she met with and advised entrepreneurs, The energy was infectious around her and is typical of the types of experiences I’ve come to expect of the Next Gen Summit.

Brennan Stark, who is working on the “I Choose Extraordinary” documentary spent some time with me talking about my entrepreneurial journey. Our interview centered around thinking big and taking risks. We discussed the challenges of starting a creative agency while still in school, choosing to leave graduate school, and overcoming all the obstacles along the way. We concluded with my current role at Voltage Control. Our mission is to help businesses bridge the knowing doing gap and to apply human-centered design methods that allow them to build better products and experiences. We look forward to seeing the documentary and are thankful for Brennan and his team for including us.

“This conference makes you feel unstoppable. Everyone is passionate about the businesses that he or she has started, and when you add the fact that we all want to help each other succeed, we are so powerful.” — Rachel Gross, Director of Outreach for Next Gen Summit

The Voltage Control booth at Next Gen Summit 2018.
The Voltage Control booth at Next Gen Summit 2018.

Tayo Rockson, alongside female entrepreneurs and artists, led my favorite panel “How to get Women and People of Color into Entrepreneurship and the Arts”. The phenomenal conversation consisted of the accounts of unfortunate encounters these underrepresented indviduals face daily. The discussion was thoughtful and explored some uncomfortable topics. How can businesses build inclusive environments for women and people of color in genuinely diverse ways? We can all agree that an invitation to the conversation is not enough unless we are truly willing to change our behavior. After the panel, I shared the Voltage Control Diversity & Inclusion Resource Cards with the group. Attendees especially liked the list of Austin based VC’s that have a proven track record for investing in underrepresented founders.

Interactive VIP Networking

At the interactive VIP Networking event, we each pitched our offerings in lightning rounds asking for what we need from others in the NGS sphere. We all gathered into smaller groups of eight or less, where one person was the “Cowboy” that pitched who they are and their current hiring needs. Those who were not pitching, wrote their name, number and if they could help on a card and would give it to the Cowboy. After the group ran out of suggestions, the Cowboy would rotate and find an open group and repeat the process. Everyone in the small group was able to interact with a large number of attendees in a very engaging way. Now equipped with all of these fantastic new connections, it was up to everyone to follow up and get what they needed. This activity reminded me of several of the Liberating Structures that we utilize in workshops at Voltage Control.

“I love all the new people that are coming into Next Gen Summit. It’s inspiring to watch them experience this for the first time. Justin and Dylan could do this conference without the speakers, simply because of the power of networking provided by the conference. It’s the highest concentration of young entrepreneurs in one spot.” — Paul McNeal, Co-Founder at CryptoMarket360

Next Gen Summit 2018 had over 700 attendees from across the globe.
Next Gen Summit 2018 had over 700 attendees from across the globe.
The team at Newchip and I discussing diversity. credit: BrandonCaptures
The team at Newchip and I discussing diversity. credit: BrandonCaptures

Newchip is an aggregated marketplace of online fundraising platforms that make it easy for casual investors to gain equity in startups. Ryan, Travis and the team are from Austin and just closed a $2M funding round. Congrats to the entire team, we look forward to following your journey as you continue forward.

Morning Brew continued a successful day of spreading the word about their business newsletter. Alex Lieberman and his team at the Brew help entrepreneurs to stay in the know with important business news. Alex gave me great advice about maximizing time at conferences by focusing on the little interactions. I don’t usually sign up for newsletters, but the focus on business trends and relevant updates adds a lot of value and has become a great way to kick start my day.

Attendees visiting our neighbors
Attendees visiting our neighbors

Easy Point helps companies who frequently travel to optimize their credit card rewards programs. Easy Point understands your travel needs and generates a personalized travel plan for your year. These travel rewards experts understand how to reduce time spent and increase returns. Zach and Cameron can guarantee that they will return at least 2x your cost in point rewards.

I had a pleasure telling visitors about Voltage Control Workshops. credit: BrandonCaptures
I had a pleasure telling visitors about Voltage Control Workshops. credit: BrandonCaptures

At the annual Pitch Contest, ScholarMe stole the show. They are a new college financing platform for students to better control their finances via low-interest debt and scholarships. Students can submit a single application for thousands of scholarships and loans that ScholarMe aggregates into a single portal. The crowd loved the concept and personally resonated with the problem that they are trying to solve. I wish that I had ScholarMe when I was going to school. Their future looks bright! They were even awarded Recognition of Excellence from the State of New York. Congrats to the team at ScholarMe!

After the pitch competition, Jeff Hoffman the Co-Founder of Priceline.com led the last talk of the conference with a presentation on investment and the importance of execution. Justin and Dylan closed the conference with a thank you to the amazing community, and with that, Next Gen Summit 2018 was in the books. I look forward to next year and how we can continue to help support the NGS entrepreneurs.

Thank you to everyone who visited the Voltage Control booth throughout the weekend, and we hope to see you next year!

See you next year at NGS!
See you next year at NGS!

Voltage Control is an innovation workshop agency founded by Douglas Ferguson, an Austin-based entrepreneur and technologist with over 20 years of experience. With his unique combination of expertise in technology, product strategy, and design thinking, Doulas offers trusted guidance to companies who want to jumpstart their product or project with an impactful innovation workshop. Based in Austin, Voltage Control designs and leads custom innovation workshops and Design Sprints, as developed by Google Ventures.